With a name like this, you can’t really take it seriously.
And there you have it, 3D Dot Game Heroes from Silicon Studios is a game with it’s tongue firmly placed in it’s cheek. But let’s discuss the silliness later, and start at the beginning.
Available exclusively on the PS3, 3D Dot Game Heroes is two things. Firstly, and most importantly perhaps, it is an old-school, action, role-playing game, the likes of which has been seen so many times over the years. Secondly, and I am going to say most interestingly, it is a game with a unique graphical style. Everything within the game is made of 3D pixels, from the backgrounds to the main hero. It is from here that the name 3D Dot comes and it actually describes it really well.
Set within the pixelated world of Dotnia, the story follows a tried and tested route of a hero coming across a legendary sword and saving the kingdom from evil. All pretty standard stuff really. The player will wander a gloriously stylised world, fighting monsters and exploring dungeons with their comically oversized sword.
The graphics style is the first thing that will stand out about this title. Everything is made from coloured cubes to provide a three dimensional pixel sprite style. The player even has the opportunity to make their own hero from scratch using the simple editor, and then share these creations with friends. If that is not something that is of interest, there are plenty of ready made characters to choose from.
Although offering a distinctly retro feel, the looks are not without their modern effects. The draw distance is fabulous, with things in the far background looking hazy and slightly out of focus. defeating a monster will provide the player with a little shower of pixels on the screen as the monster dies, in a similar manner to defeating adversaries in the current Lego games.
I have already mentioned the comically oversized sword. This is dependant on the players health. Although it is always big, with full health and the various upgrades that can be bought throughout the game, the heroes sword can become so large that it almost fills the screen. It really is a very impressive sword.
The player will come across other weapons during their adventure, each one offering a solution to a particular problem. The boomerang, bow and arrow, even bombs can be found and have their uses. Some of you may now be thinking that you recognise this game?
Can anyone say “Legend of Zelda”? Whilst over the years, LoZ has been paid tribute to and loosely copied many, many times, never before has it been so blatantly ripped off. How the developers have managed to get away with this, I am not sure. But it may have something to do with the silliness that I mentioned before. 3DDGH seems to be acknowledging that it is a copy and mocking itself in the process. Simple little things that players of Legend of Zelda will appreciate, can be found throughout the game. The fairy is called Lee, for example, and appears to be rather overly enthusiastic about the whole hero worship thing (it seems so impressed that the player can manage to spot a huge red button in the middle of the room)
Everything about the game seems to scream Zelda, from the weapons that can be found to the dungeons and the world itself. From a personal point of view, this is all good. Many hours were lost to Legend of Zelda and I have no problem with any game that does such a great job of copying everything that made LoZ the game that it was. But I can also understand that not everyone has played LoZ, in fact I am even willing to believe that there may be some out there that played it and didn’t like it. For these gamers a lot of the inside jokes will be lost and there will be no burst of nostalgia.
But hey, it’s not all retro tribute-paying and laughing at itself. The game offers a few more modern mini-games, all hidden around the world of Dotnia. Using the dash boots, the player can compete in races around certain map areas, trying to get a decent time. There is an Arkanoid style game where the player has to bust the bricks by bouncing a ball from their shield. There is even, to my delight, a tower defence style game hidden in the world. Prevent the waves of enemies from reaching the end of the path.
So, we all know what we are getting here. But how well does it actually play. I am not going to say that it is perfect. The constant wandering around Dotnia does not seem to have the same appeal as maybe it did in Loz. The dungeons are all very similar and the puzzles are not exactly mind-meltingly hard. After the initial novelty factor has worn off, there may be a period of monotony as the player travels to a dungeon, solves the dungeon, defeats the boss and then starts again. Rinse and repeat. The over world traveling can become tiresome as the maps and the locations you have to reach can become confusing and have you wandering for ages.
But I implore you to stick with it. This period of monotony does not last forever and the player will soon find themselves dealing with some truly devilish dungeons. This is where the gameplay really excels, maybe in the last third of the game, and makes everything that came before worthwhile.
A lot of people will be salivating at the prospect of playing such a gorgeous looking game. Others will be whole heartedly yearning for a return to the glory of LoZ. But there will be some out there who are left simply wondering what all of the fuss is about. The game is targeted towards those that remember LoZ and, whilst a few newcomers may play the game and enjoy it, they will be the ones who get the most out of 3DDGH. Certainly not for everyone, but those “in the know” will love it.