The main reference is quite clearly a tribute to Zelda games of the past. From Software tends to dance across the line between reference and rip-off, however, but for once that’s not necessarily meant with an accusatory tone. Being that the “borrowing” is part of the game’s intention, it feels more appropriate to a tribute than the usual negative connotation that comes with the term “rip-off.”
Given the open editor to making your hero, you can even create a Zelda rendition with which to travel about Dotnia fulfilling your mission. Or, if you choose, you can pick one of the various ready-made characters that include everything from the hero of the trailers to a chubby Santa Clause. Atlus essentially wants all your desires fulfilled, because you can create any blocky form your creativity can design.
All charming qualities aside, 3D Dot Game Heroes as a game in and of itself can hold its own. I wasn’t initially too engrossed in the game. Dungeons were full of tricks, and the boss levels challenging, but I didn’t feel too enthralled to make my next trip to locating a different dungeon. Once I familiarized myself with more tools to allow me to explore more of Dotnia, and more abilities with which to tackle the increasingly difficult dungeons, I became more aware of how much fun the game could be. I was appreciating the experience of nostalgia that surfaced from every facet of the game. These included the top down camera view, the variety of enemies and abilities I gathered to fend them off with, and finding my way around the puzzles and traps laden across enemy-infested dungeons.
The hefty fights are the most intriguing parts of nostalgia from 3D Dot Game Heroes. From Software delivers an attempt at making the controls over your hero during fights as well rounded as possible. Whatever move you might feel the need to conduct, Silicon Studio seems to have incorporated. You can dash outward with your sword extended in front of you, swirl your sword about to catch multiple foes in your line of fire, and wield additional spells and tools in battle. The most useful of them, however, is the epic sword at its maximum potential that you might have seen in screens or trailers. When your hero’s health is full, your sword spreads out to the full extent of the screen in ridiculous proportions, chopping down everything in sight. The blacksmith in town can increase its size from the length to the width, and even increase its level of strength or give it unique abilities like shooting out laser beams.
Your abilities apart from wielding your main weapon are mapped out on an adjacent button on the PlayStation 3 controller, and can be cycled through with the right trigger. That makes calling on them in the heat of battle not as efficient as you might hope it to be. Either way, your boomerang, grapple hook, bombs, and various magical abilities that are gathered along the way prepare you for both getting the full exploration experience out of Dotnia as well as tackling some of the stronger and more fickle foes. Most enemies can be defeated with the swish of your awesome sword, but others will require special tactics. Magic wielding enemies, for instance, will not be harmed with your physical attack so you’ll have to cast a magical reflection buff to use their spells against them.
Ultimately there are essentially two ways to play 3D Dot Game Heroes. You can decide to take the expansive world of Dotnia for all it has to offer, or you can skip directly to intruding on each dungeon in search of the 6 orbs. There are a plethora of side quests to embark on, and secret treasure chests to be uncovered. It’s very possible to spend hours exploring Dotnia, especially given your inevitable return to already explored areas armed with new methods of getting across obstacles. If you prefer to focus on the grueling battles that make up 3D Dot Game Heroes, tackling the dungeons (provided you can find them) will still provide hours of scrutiny against finding keys to locked doors, passageways to blocked off treasure chests, and a means by which to kill the boss at the end of each dungeon.
Each dungeon gets progressively harder and rife with more puzzles to decode and traps to avoid. Some will entail placing statues over buttons in a particular order to open a door, while others require acrobat-like abilities to leap from one wooden pole to another. Even outside of the dungeons, puzzle traversing will be involved. You’ll be going through portals in the shape of caves and wandering hedge mazes laden with traps all while avoiding constantly spawning enemies. The game never bores in this regard, so long as you don’t get frustrated with your search of the entrance to the dungeon in question.
Although I was keen on discovering each tiny reference embedded in both the storyline and the gameplay of 3D Dot Game Heroes, I ultimately came to appreciate the difficulty of the dungeon explorations the most. Although exploring Dotnia became a colorful and varied experience given the juxtaposition of so many different environments, I was most excited when I finally reached the next dungeon and was prepared to have my mind and skills tested. Overcoming the obstacles that require everything from fighting to timing a hook shot amounted to the most fun aspects of the game and what was most fun about Zelda. Overly pixilated graphics and catchy old school tunes are charming, but charm can only maintain so long. Even with the laborious task of finding each dungeon, you’re rewarded with rooms of challenges and hidden items with met expectations of an epic boss at the end of each dungeon trip.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.
3D Dot Game Heroes is as charming as the trailers may have led you to believe. The price you pay for your trip across memory lane, however, comes with both the good and the bad of retro gaming. So, while you can enjoy a refreshingly challenging battle with your epic weaponry, you may not enjoy the painstaking process of wandering about an array of confusing pathways to find the next dungeon. Ultimately you might find the price is right at $39.99.
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