Veteran gamers will probably understand the premise behind a game like 3D Dot Game Heroes
. An outsider’s perspective, on the other hand, might be something along the lines of: “why would you want to play a game rendered in outdated graphics?” Well, for one thing, they’re not necessarily outdated given that they’re 3D (hence the name). For the other, it’s the return to the games we were raised on and a well-deserved homage that makes 3D Dot Game Heroes stand out from the crowd.
Whatever your unique history with video games has been, chances are you can relate to reminiscent tales of past games. And that is exactly what 3D Dot Game Heroes is about: reminiscing over some of your favorite games.
Within the realm of Dotnia in 3D Dot Game Heroes, you play as the hero who ventures to unite the powers of the sages lost in various dungeons in an attempt to thwart the evil plans of Dark Bishop Fuelle. Combined, the powers of the six orbs maintained by the sages were what Dark King Onyx once used to wreck havoc on Dotnia. The Dark Bishop now has plans to resurrect this king to finish what he started, thus beginning your journey as the grandchild of the hero who once banished the King to quell his power yet again. Journeying to find each orb will take you across various planes of Dotnia that lead into dungeons each prepared with a set of enemies, traps, and bosses.
For me, the most striking aspect of Atlus’ version of paying respects to the fruits of our former game industry lay most significantly in boss battles. Combat against the fiends strewn across the landscape in traveling to the dungeons wasn’t particularly a blast in comparison. And while the journeying through hedges outlined in maze-formation was certainly a charming addition that reminded me of many a trails I have taken in the virtual 90s, it was figuring out how to unlock the next door and the pattern of boss movements and the trial and error that brought me back to the couch-play days I remember.
Traveling through the landscapes are more a matter of figuring your way around, while traveling through dungeons are more a matter of unlocking puzzles around each room to move from one to the next. You’ll be caught in darkness, and locked out of rooms left to figure out how to push pillars out of the way of treasure chests or line up objects to open doors. I loved spending time in the dungeons and figuring out each new puzzle, waiting for each new epic boss level.
The storyline from what I’ve gathered for this preview isn’t too invigorating, minus what witty conversations can be had with various characters. The dilemma you are faced with in the game isn’t a particularly unique one – the world at risk from a revived enemy who can only submit to you is a tried and true storyline for many developers – but the references that adorn it make up the experience. References are indeed abound, the most obvious of which is probably your fairy companion, familiar from the Zelda series. But they’ve thrown in jokes about the industry itself, as well, poking fun at developers and publishers alike. Atlus once proposed a challenge
to gamers to identify all of the references, and it is definitely fun to make the discoveries as you come upon them and offer a chuckle in their memory.
In terms of the more logistical analysis of 3D Dot Game Heroes, the controls for gameplay are fairly simple. You begin with your sword, and quickly obtain your grandfather’s more powerful and large sword for a wider sweep of your foes. This powered-up sword does not always last, so you’ll have to be on the lookout for drops from enemies to keep them at max. As you meet the sages across Dotnia, you’ll gain other special abilities including various buffs and offensive spells. Controlling your hero involves trading between your sword and the other battle tactics you pick up along the way. So far, the boomerang I have equipped does well to stun certain enemies while dealing with a swarm of others. Overall, however, it’s the maxed out power-blade that comes most in handy, rendering the other abilities I have picked up so far pretty useless in comparison.Controlling your hero him/herself is another story. I found issue with the sweeping method of striking your enemies. Using the joystick to move your extended sword was not as fluid as I was hoping it to be, and I caught myself projecting the blade outward instead of swinging it in the 180 degree that I had meant to. Atlus also proclaimed that camera angles would be very reliable as you walked from land to land. Some corners, however, were narrow and hard to maneuver around, which was partly due to certain instances of a blocked camera view. Those damn hedges! Then again, it certainly adds to the experience I remember from being frustrated with camera angles in older generation games. For all I know, the inducing of frustration could have been intentional on Atlus’ part to make an experience more akin to the one I had when I was a small kid sitting in the floor of my basement with my N64.
The artistic direction of the game is in the right track, but the 8-bit feel seems to be more exaggerated than it needed to be. I doubt very much that all the games you remember from the 80s/90s were rendered in as grainy and blocky a format as they are in 3D Dot Game Heroes. The music, on the other hand, is very spot on with carrying the old school theme it means to project. I liked the 3D idea to modernize the 2D games from our past gaming lives, but more bright colors could have added a touch more of a pleasant atmosphere to be traversing.
The very awesome part of the low-scale graphics is that it goes hand in hand with very low load times. Not waiting 5 minutes to get to each new chapter of the game makes the overall experience very pleasurable in its easy flow.
I, as many other gamers seem to have been, had high hopes for this game when its announcement was made. I was hoping for witty banter and the sort of difficulty in gameplay that I remember from my older generation consoles. So far, however, I’ve only been enjoying the dungeon levels laden with unique expectations of the gamer in terms of both ingenuity and skill. The wit is definitely not remiss amidst the many references to retro games, and they’ve triggered smiles all around. However, I’m hoping that swinging my blade at enemies over and over won’t become too monotonous as I further my adventure, but that is yet to be seen.