Retro gaming has been seeing a lot of love lately. Games like Megaman 10 and Final Fight: Double Impact have breathed new life into their respective series; re-releases of classics like Wolfenstein 3D on XBLA and PSN and the plethora of games out via the Wii’s Virtual Console have introduced a generation of younger gamers to gems that they may have missed out on the first time around. It is in that vein that the people at From Software have given us their latest creation: 3D Dot Game Heroes.
3D Dot Game Heroes is an overhead action RPG in the same light as the Super Nintendo classic, Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. In fact, the similarities between the two games are striking: you begin the game as the descendant of the legendary Hero, summoned by the King of Dotnia to rid the world of an evil wizard bent on resurrecting the fiend that fell at the hands of your ancestor ages ago. In order to do this, you must traverse the kingdom seeking out the sages who helped the Hero seal him in his dark prison before. Your journey takes you through dungeons filled with monsters to be killed, puzzles to be solved, and new weapons to be found.
Sound familiar yet? It should to anyone who is familiar with the old Nintendo-born hero tale. And while the comparisons can most certainly be made between the two franchises, 3D Dot Game Heroes takes the genre to places that Zelda fans could only dream of. My personally favorite way in which they upgraded the system is with the sword mechanic. As you collect coins throughout the course of the game you can upgrade your swords, for a price. You can pay to make it longer or wider; or you can give it attributes that are only available through upgrades like a piercing mechanic that allows you to swing through walls. That is incredibly helpful because of the normally sudden “clang” you hear when your sword stops just short of killing the baddies you’re aiming at. But there’s a catch to all of your upgrades: they only work with full health. That’s right: if you’re missing a mere half of an apple (apples are the measurement of HP) none of your sword’s mighty enhancements work and you are left with a feeble stump of a weapon. I’ve actually found that during the dungeon boss battles if you are hit once and your sword is rendered ineffective that you might as well sit back and wait for the words “Game Over” to drop down onto the screen.
Puzzles have always been one of my favorite parts of video games, and 3D Dot Game Heroes does not disappoint in this department. They ramp themselves up through the course of the game; the first dungeon or two will be a breeze for veterans of the genre, but by the halfway point in the game even the most experienced action-RPG fans will find themselves stymied from time to time.
Don’t get frustrated, though! I realize that I might be making 3D Dot Game Heroes sound difficult, and it definitely is to an extent. But considering it was developed by From Software, it could have been much worse. Remember Demon’s Souls, anyone? Actually, they did too. One of my favorite bits of humor in 3D Dot Game Heroes comes from the multiple characters who reference it in-game. Humor is abound in this title, sometimes in knee-slapping ways. There is a character who appears to be dying of thirst in the middle of the desert and sends you on a quest for water. I won’t spoil the outcome for you, but I’ll tell you that you’ll probably say “Awww…” and roll your eyes a little when you finally bring him some. Funny moments like that really give 3D Dot Game Heroes character and a sense of charm that is often lacking in the seriousness of the current video game market.
Speaking of character, something that I haven’t touched on yet is the wonderful character creation tool included with this game. As with everything else in 3D Dot Game Heroes, the creator is based on blocks. You are initially given a blank cube that can then be filled in however you see fit; the only limits to the character you create are your own imagination! And my favorite part about the whole thing is that you are never stuck with a character in your game. Every time you load your saved data you are given the option to change your character. This means that if you want to hop into the game right away and go back and explore the creator later you can; you are never tied to a single look or style.
Novices and experienced adventurers alike will find something in this game that they are sure to fall in love with. But everyone needs a break occasionally, and there are three mini-games included that will let you take a break from adventuring when you need it. Dash Race is a game where you utilize the dash boots to run around a set track in the fastest time possible. Blockout is an Arkanoid-style game where you can either use your sword or shield to deflect a bouncing ball into a series of blocks that must be destroyed. And my personal favorite is Block Defense, which is a tower defense game in the same light as Pixeljunk Monsters; enemies move along a set track and you have to build and upgrade towers to kill them before they reach your stronghold.
Yes, 3D Dot Game Heroes is similar to Zelda, but in the end it is so much more. It builds on everything that was good in A Link to the Past and The Minish Cap. But I certainly don’t blame the good people at From Software for doing what they did. 3D Dot Game Heroes isn’t a Zelda clone, in my opinion; it is homage to those great Zelda games of yesteryear, and it is done with respect and admiration. It is obvious to me that the developers and producers of 3D Dot Game Heroes loved those games; that love comes across in a variety of ways in this game. It has so much to keep you occupied that the price tag of $39.99 is almost ridiculous for a game this good. I promise that you will fall in love with 3D Dot Game Heroes as soon as the disk enters your PS3, and it will keep you coming back for more.