“A love letter to gaming’s past that is well worth your attention.”
Last year, Japanese gamers got their hands on a title developed by Silicon Studio and published by From Software that didn’t push boundaries forward, nor did it make any ground breaking innovations. Instead, Silicon Studio and From Software chose to rewind time back to the golden age of 8 and 16 bit gaming with their expansive adventure game titled 3D Dot Game Heroes.
3D Dot Game Heroes bears a strong resemblance to the first few top down Legend of Zelda games, a resemblance that it isn’t afraid to flaunt and, in some instances, throw in your face.
The game revolves around Dotnia Kingdom, which was once ravaged by the Dark King Onyx. Fortunately, a hero rose up and vanquished the Dark King with a legendary sword and then sealed him away using six orbs that would later be watched over by the six sages. Skip ahead to the present time when the Dark Bishop Fuelle plans to reawaken the Dark King. The player, taking on the role of the legendary hero’s grandchild, sets out to gather the orbs and defeat the Bishop.
On your journey, you will explore six temples with themes loosely based on the surrounding terrain. Each temple will bestow the player with a new item, such as the boomerang, hook shot, bombs, and a magic wand that shoots fire. At the end of every temple the player will find an orb guarded by boss monsters, most of which will bring back memories of Zelda bosses. The very first boss is quite similar to Moldorm, a boss from A Link to the Past which resided in the mountain tower.
Story, dungeons, overworld exploration, and even the music bear a striking resemblance to the old Zelda games, so there isn’t much point in going over what we already know. Practically every feature from The Legend of Zelda on the NES and A Link to the Past on the SNES are present, so if you can think of it, then it’s in this game.
So what does 3D Dot Game Heroes not borrow from Zelda? First off is the humour. This is a very silly game that never takes itself seriously, and it’s difficult not to have even a few cheap laughs at the awkward lines of dialogue you will encounter.
An interesting aspect of the game is the ability to upgrade your swords. There are quite a few swords to obtain, ranging from a wooden practice sword, Excalibur, and even a giant fish. Visiting blacksmiths will allow you to upgrade your swords by increasing length, width, strength, and much more. Each sword can only be upgraded a set number of times before they cannot be altered anymore. It’s really quite fun to upgrade your weapons to see what sort of interesting results you’ll end up with.
Speaking of customization, you also have the ability to design your character’s full appearance. Though characters cannot be too detailed or large, this is still probably the most thorough character creation system on a console since you build your character from scratch. Imagine spriting your own characters for 2D indie game, or if classic SNES RPGs allowed you to sprite the characters over again. It’s essentially the same thing, only it’s all 3D. You can also share your creations online. I’ve played with a few user created characters and they’re a blast, especially Snake in a Box. Metal Gear fans will know exactly what that is.
Graphics are nothing short of, well, dare I say cute? Everything in the game is blocky and pixelated, though entirely 3D. Though a few characters and monsters are hard to identify, it all works well for the game. You won’t be blown away by any of the game’s visuals, but they are certainly appealing in their own creative and unique way.
The music emulates retro 8 bit music tracks, but the game does something peculiar with the music. While you can certainly hear the 8 bit influence in each track, there is a distinct modern feel to all of the game’s music. It is difficult to really pinpoint what’s going on here, but young and old gamers should be able to appreciate the music.
There are a ton of options in this game, and I was very impressed by the number of appearance altering options I was presented with. Colour and brightness sliders are of course provided, but players can also toggle the overworld grid on or off, alternate between four camera views, and more.
In terms of content, there’s a lot to do. There are dozens of items to collect throughout the world, and you’ll find plenty of side quests if you take the time to look for them. Beating the game unlocks new game modes and more as well, so there’s still plenty to do after defeating the final boss.
I really want to fault 3D Dot Game Heroes for something, anything at all, but I just can’t find anything. The game does many things extremely well, and several things are average. But bad? I just can’t find anything to gripe about.
3D Dot Game Heroes is a very complete experience and, if like me, you grew up playing Nintendo and Super Nintendo as a kid, then this game is a love letter written to your past. This is the sweetest trip down memory lane ever captured in a video game. If you own a PS3, you owe it to your inner child to get your hands on this game.