|3D Dot Game Heroes|
|MtAMinutes to Action||3|
|Buy from Amazon|
Retro revivals are all the rage nowadays. In the era of the low-budget downloadable games market, everybody's digging into their past to give a classic a fresh coat of paint or create a sequel with old-school flare. The former provides a proven template onto which shiny new graphics can be applied, while the latter guarantees interest from lifelong fans who long to experience that same magic like it were new again.
3D Dot Game Heroes is a retro-styled installment in Nintendo's famed Legend of Zelda series, albeit one that was developed by a different company and published for a different company's hardware, and it would be slapped silly with copyright infringement lawsuits if the word "Zelda" appeared anywhere in it. From Software, known for its Armored Core series and the recent hit Demon's Souls, doesn't just take a page from Nintendo's book: the book gets Xeroxed from cover to cover. Almost everything in 3D Dot Game Heroes feels like it was stolen from The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, from the plot to the controls to the stage designs to the items and everything in between.
We tend to view knockoffs as inferior, bitter, envious versions of the genuine article. Does 3D Dot Game Heroes lack the essence of its explosively-popular inspiration, or does it manage to work a little magic of its own?
(minutes are in bold)
00 - I select NEW GAME with the passion of ten fiery suns. What's this? I get to choose my character model, or I can create my own if I want to! I'll go with the standard blue viking-looking dude, "FRUM." But let's name him "DUDE." That's far more fitting for an awesome adventurer such as myself.
02 - Disturbing news! The dark orb was stolen by Fuelle, a Dark Bishop with an evil plan! Monsters are re-emerging. Will the hero return?
03 - Play time. Everything's all sepia-toned, guess this is in the past. A warrior (the Hero of legend?) declares to leave the sacred sword in the sacred forest. Guess that's my job.
04 - The cave is to the north, says he. Screens scroll exactly like classic Zelda even though the whole area's already been rendered in gorgeous block pixels. Bunnies appear! Surprisingly they are attacking me. Even more surprising, the sword I wield takes up the entire screen when I swing it, exploding the bunnies into tiny blocks and leaving blocky coins behind.
05 - Holy crap, the sword is literally the size of the entire screen. It can wipe out all enemies in the area with one swing if I turn the hero as he thrusts the blade.
06 - I come into a clearing and am acknowledged by two stone golems. "Long Live Dotnia!" says the warrior, placing the sword in a stone.
07 - "Wake up Sleepyhead!" DUDE is woken up by an innkeeper. He wonders if I dreamt about about slaying monsters. Apparently true heroes dream about slaying monsters, and in 3D. A soldier approaches. The king requests my presence at the castle!
08 - We're in the king's court! The king requests that I get the legendary sword. Nobody's found it, even though it's just two screens north of town...but apparently it's mine to find, as I'm a descendant of the hero who first wielded it. Given the choice, I refuse to help. The king thinks I'm joking. I try to refuse my destiny a few more times, but eventually give in.
09 - "It's dangerous to go alone, take this!" It's a sword! And a shield! The sword is puny compared to the hero's, but I can swing it around my whole body quickly.
10 - A court servant says that Princess Iris has apparently gone to search for the Dark Orb and gone missing. Sounds like I've got a blocky maiden to rescue.
11 - R1 guards with the shield, says one soldier. With this valuable advice, I go into a cave. It's a fairy cave! They'll soothe my weariness, though I be not weary.
12 - I follow the path I took as the Hero earlier, eagerly cleaving rabbits as I go. I got a Playstation Network Trophy for killing something! There's a sign in the middle of a mound. "You found this sign? You're good! - Sir Signe"
13 - Blocked a bunny's vicious charge attack. I got another PSN trophy! There are also tree stump monsters that take an extra hit to kill. Apples appear from enemies, looks like they refill health.
14 - I've come upon the two golems, and they attack! They hop around and do little else. After two hits, they hop long distances, making them hard to catch. Another PSN trophy: "Worthy Opponent!"
15 - I found the sacred sword! Pull it out? "NO." A voice says "What? You came all the way here to NOT pull it out!?"
16 - Gave into destiny again and pulled it out. A fairy appears! "The true hero has finally emerged!" says the fairy, named Lee. I am delighted that Lee agrees that "DUDE" is a fitting name for a hero. Lee swears she'll be useful.
17 - "Obtained the Ancient Sword!" PSN trophy. Time to return to the King. The sword seems to have lost some of its length and girth sitting in the cold forest all these years...
18 - One bunny produces a sword icon upon death. "MAX" briefly appears above my character's head. I know not what it means, and before I can start speculating, it disappears.
19 - Back in the castle chatting with my new best friend The King. "Find the six orbs and six sages!" he says. "NO," I reply. "I understand how you feel, but that answer doesn't advance the story! You could have guessed that!" I like this king a lot. There are apparently six aging temples, and I'm told to head to the Grass Temple in the west first.
20 - Yukking it up with some soldiers. One fears that the world will end before he can get a girlfriend. You and me both, buddy...
21 - I head west towards the temple. A quaint little little town comes into view. Maybe I'll brag to some townspeople about my enormous blade before I head to the temple.
22 - A small cave outside of town...it's a money well. A sign says good things come to those who throw 20G down the well. Stupidly, I do so. I got an arrow back! But I don't have a bow...
23 - Apparently the village is called Raejack Village. A girl pacing around in the grass lets me know that it's harder to clean in 3D. Another thinks her dog may be human somehow perhaps.
24 - Let's head to the item shop. Some pretty good wares...I bought an iron shield for 100G. It stops spears, which apparently my wood shield doesn't do. Someone outside asks, "Wanna know the infinite money code? Just kidding, earn it yourself!"
25 - I enter the blacksmith's shop. Apparently I can lengthen, widen, add damage, add spin, beam, piercing, or "special" to my blade. Every hero could use a longer blade...I got an achievement for upgrading! Full life is needed to use the full length sword.
26 - Someone mentions a guy named Dic, and warns not to get sucked into his schemes. Sitting outside an inn is a blue slime ball, "Blusey the Slime," who dreams of becmoing a human someday.
28 - Enough talk, let's head west of town. Oh no, spiders! They hop into the air and can't be hit, only when they're on the ground can they be properly squashed. A treasure chest sits nearby...I got small block! Why is that notable? Literally everything is made of blocks, so why is this one important enough to be hidden in a treasure chest?
29 - Critical hit! I guess critical hits do double damage at random. A small building with columns appears. It's the Grass Temple, appropriately small outside but large inside! Lee notes that the next door is closed, so there must be a hidden gimmick somewhere. A switch is in plain sight. Lee is shocked that I noticed the switch and knew to step on it. "You're so talented!"
30 - OH NO SCORPIONS AND RED BLOBS. The scorpions are particularly fast, but I make short work of them. Vases sit nearby, begging to be smashed. I hear their pleas and graciously decimate them.
31 - A door with a keyhole...and a switch on the other side of a small, uncrossable stream. If only I had something to hit it...
32 - In another room sits a treasure chest, it holds a key! I use it in the other room.
33 - There's a chest surrounded by big blocks. Bats swarm the room. I kill four blind animals, and Lee suggests one of the blocks may be pushable. Smart fairy, one gives and surrenders the treasure chest. I got a key!
34 - Skeleton soldiers! They're quite inept. A treasure chest appears upon their, um, death? It's a Map! And a damn good one, it's quite detailed.
35 - Used the key in another room. Lee warns that my puny shield can't block magic beams! I must use my "amazing evasion skills" to dodge them! I'm not that skilled and get hit a few times. The sword is a shriveled shadow of its former self...
36 - Switches on the walls. One's already pressed. The other produces a chest, surrounded by blocks. I find the one that gives way and receive a Boomerang! It can stun enemies and pick stuff up.
37 - One enemy produces a yellow apple upon death. Is it health, or magic maybe? Who knows. I hit the previously-unreachable switch with the Boomerang. Treasure chest appears, got a key!
38 - Enemies seem to reappear in the temple after killing them once and leaving the room. Some random enemies also have crowns floating above them, though I don't know what they do.
40 - A room with four switches. I wipe out the enemies inside and press them. Treasure chest...I got the Boss Key! But this room has a door that requires a regular key, which I don't have.
42 - I heroically slay some seemingly-harmless blob creatures. Got a key! Movable blocks block a pathway, let's find the secret one...oh, I've blocked the pathway itself. I'll just leave and come back and try again.
43 - Made my way through. "Glory shines upon one who banishes the darkness." Sounds like as good an excuse as any to kill some bats. I got a small piece from a treasure chest! Still don't know what these "small pieces" do.
44 - The dungeon crawling continues, more scorpions, skeletons...Boss door ahead. Lee: "That switch looks different, should we press it?" I'm a hero, damn it, when do I NOT press a switch? The floor panel changed, it's all psychadelic now. Is it a teleporter? Yep! Leads back to the entrance.
45 - Haven't seen a save point yet...are there save points? I pause and see "Save" in the menu. Saving any time is neat. I enter the boss's chamber...the camera pans to a more modern closeup cutscene view. It's a giant snake, shooting some kind of snake projectile beams! I try hitting it's face, but to no avail. It seems angered and shoots more projectiles.
46 - Lee: "You must have noticed weak spot, master! It's tail is glowing!" Yes, with all the subtlety I expect from a Zelda game.
47 - I gradually wear the snake down from tail to head. Once I destroy its head, seemingly much faster despite not having a body to move it around, an apple tile descends into the room, along with lots of coins. "LIFE UP GET!" My health bar increases by one heart- I mean apple. I head into next room.
48 - There's an old man. He asks if I beat the snake, and Lee enthusiastically replies "DUDE's swordplay is remarkable, of course we beat the snake!" Turns out the old man is Sage Indy of the Grass Plains. "GOT YELLOW ORB!" Indy says that orbs contain magic greater than any that could be found in 2D.
49 - "Got a Shader Magic: Parallax!" It reveals hidden floor clues and Tabula Rasa locations, whatever that means. I'm told to cast it where I suspect hidden treats may be. Indy suggests I head for the forest temple in the northwest, past the Forest of No Return. Sounds inviting.
50 - Apparently I can press square to change up my inventory, which I scroll through on the fly with L2/R2. Right now all I have are the Boomerang and the Parallax magic. Let's save after beating that snake boss.
51 - There's one room in the middle of temple that I still haven't been in. It requires a key, but I don't have one. Oh well, maybe I'll check out later. I teleport out.
52 - The land shimmers upon exiting the temple. "Return the light of peace to kingdom of Dotnia!" nobody in particular says.
54 - I go southwest on world map to explore a little, and end up at edge of rocky plains. This doesn't seem like a forest, let alone one of No Return. Let's turn around.
55 - Found a cave as I head northwest. It's called "From Cave." There is something sticky on the ground. "Got Sticky White Stuff!" That's...a little nasty.
56 - One girl screams "Yuck There's something sticky in my hair!" Guess it's that same mysteriously white stuff. There's a corpse sitting here...? It looks a lot like me. "Got a Hero's Soul!" This seems wrong, somehow. One guy says "Come on guys, this game isn't THAT hard."
57 - A sign in front of an empty room says "Development canceled." Guess they ran out of budget to fill the room with anything!
58 - I venture back outside. There's a treasure chest on raised bit of land, barely above my head level, but I can't reach it.
59 - Bees! They're actually not very aggressive. I should kill them anyway. I come upon a small building: "Wardna's house." A soldier outside warns that the game will get harder, and to remember to use my shield. There's a man standing at the bushes, oddly motionless. "AH! You scared me! Now I got some on my feet." Guess I caught him with his pants down, even though he's fully clothed.
60 - I go in the house. Inside resides the Sign Master. He tells me that Sir Signe left signs everywhere. Sign Master has seen them all, he's an expert in Signology! I wanna be an expert too! Apparently all I have to do is look at all the signs. There's a girl playing "Block Defense" but she's too caught up in it to let me play. Another friendly man, walking in place as everybody in Dotnia does, says that the Forest Temple is pitch black. Someone inside is selling wares. I bought a Wooden Bow! Seems like a steal at only 40G. Decided to get some candles for the Forest Temple as well. I exit the house. The first hour ends as I realize the man is still sprinkling on the bushes, and probably will be, happily ever after.
Minutes to Action: 3, though you can skip it and go right to the intro sequence. There's also the option to install the game onto your hard drive, but load times were very short from my experience.
What I loved: The game's tone and style. As much as it is a tribute to classic 8- and 16-bit adventure games, it also lovingly lampoons their conventions and quirks. While classic RPGs had moments of self-aware humor, the entire first hour of 3D Dot Game Heroes was delightfully tongue-in-cheek. Supporting this is the game's appearance, which looks exactly like a pixel classic with a third dimension tacked on. It's simultaneously dated and gorgeous.
What I liked: For all its homage paid to the classics, it appears to suffer from none of the problems those old games used to. You can save anywhere, rather than just at save points. The map is incredibly detailed and also easy to navigate. The menus are concise and easy to read. There's really nothing to complain about.
Video: If you like pixel art, you'll appreciate the visuals in 3D Dot Game Heroes. It's got all sorts of HD trimmings as well, and mixes a clean modern presentation with the classic blocky style.
Audio: The game's songs are a blend of orchestral and chiptune sounds. The songs, like the punchy sound effects (and most everything else in the game), could easily be mistaken for classic Zelda sound files.
Story: Be a (typical) hero! Save the (absurd) world! The game's story is more a vehicle for humor than adventure, which feels oddly fresh in today's adventure gaming landscape of serious business heroes.
Gameplay: If you've played a 2D Zelda game, you know EXACTLY what to expect from 3D Dot Game Heroes.
Challenge: Things start out fairly easy, but shades of difficulty can be seen even within the first hour.
Fun Factor: Slicing cuboid skeletons and exploring the accessible temple made the first hour fly by. If you like Zelda, you'll enjoy this loving homage.
Would I keep playing? Definitely. I've played and enjoyed several Zelda titles, but never really had the same fervor so many gamers do for the series. That said, I'm DYING to get back to 3D Dot Game Heroes and see what cheeky character is around the next corner.