Parent Talk: 3D Dot Game Heroes is rated E10+, thus acceptable for the concerned parent with its colorful, cartoon-ish landscape, humorous (but kid-friendly) dialogue, and goofy characters. There’s mild violence, but absolutely no blood or gore. Monsters just “pop” when slain. The budget-level price also makes this a tempting buy for the gaming household.
Sony and Microsoft fans can brag about excellent online services, great third-party support, and wonderful download content, but Nintendo’s loyal can boast of the famous trifecta of Mario, Metroid, and The Legend of Zelda. Over the years we’ve seen countless games spawned by these franchises, and more often with great results (like the cult PS1 hit Alundra). PS3 and Xbox 360 owners received a pleasant surprise earlier this year with the excellent Darksiders, a pleasant homage to the gameplay popularized by the 3D Legend of Zelda games. Now PS3 owners have a clone 2D Zelda titles with the release of 3D Dot Game Heroes.
Thankfully, 3D DGH does more than simply imitate the Zelda formula. The gameplay is solid, and better yet, pays homage to retro gaming in general, full of hilarious dialogue and references. Zelda hasn’t been replaced, but merely celebrated.
The Great: A fantastic 2D/3D adventure. 3D Dot Game Heroes features a vast overworld containing several towns, NPCs, dungeons, and secrets. Liken it to popping in an HD version of a classic top-down adventure game. The goal is simple: traverse the world, talk to the townspeople, and enter dungeons to find treasures (as well as an orb representative of that dungeon). Throughout the adventure, you kill enemies with a vast array of tools (i.e. boomerangs, bombs, etc) and find secrets around every corner. Aside from the campaign, there are several side quests to accept and other areas to explore. 3D DGH plays just like a classic NES game.
+ Fantastic style. 3D Dot Game Heroes doesn’t compete with games like Heavy Rain where realism is concerned, but instead wears a unique style. The game was designed intentionally to transition from a pixelated 2D presentation to a “forced” third dimension—something the developers frequently point out/make fun of in the dialogue. Everything has a blocky, Lego-like appearance to it. Still, cool next-gen features sweeten the deal: depth of field blur, creative lighting and camera tricks, and more. The effects are impressive enough to make an HD gamer crack a smile, while simultaneously pleasing the retro-enthusiast.
+ Cool music. A pseudo 8-bit/synthesized soundtrack completes the retro experience. The main theme even sounds inexplicably similar to the Legend of Zelda music! The sound effects are intentionally retro as well. Every bit of the presentation helps complete the sense of nostalgia.
+ Character creation. The character models are simplistic and somewhat crude, but a full character editor is a great feature. Fans have already made dozens of avatars, like Legend of Zelda’s Link and even Mega Man. Avatars can be changed whenever while playing, and in some cases, a different character can gain access to secrets. In one case, a female avatar can acquire a life shard that a male couldn’t. Creations can be traded easily too, by storing them on a USB device.
+ Value. The adventure lasts around 20 hours, but an array of mini-games (racing, tower defense, an Arkanoid-clone), the character creation feature, and New Game + option sweeten the pot for an already good deal.
– Lack of direction. The lack of hand-holding encourages exploration, but sometimes it’s annoying or downright frustrating when there’s no clear direction. Some indication would’ve been nice. Dungeons are marked on the map, but sometimes you won’t understand a place is blocked.
– Derivative. It’s easy to see 3D Dot Game Heroes’ intentions. It’s for the retro-gamer and Zelda lover that’s moved on from Nintendo. Still, I occasionally wanted to play the game I think spawned this. 3D Dot Game Heroes is very good, but doesn’t surpass Zelda. To be fair, the unique features help the game stand on its own, but it’s impossible to deny the inspirations.
– Poor story. This isn’t too surprising given DGH emulates an NES game, but something more substantial would’ve been appreciated. The objective is to save the kingdom from a bad guy, and find the orbs necessary to do it. Perhaps a lacking lead character impacts this, but you can still enjoy the game.
3D Dot Game Heroes is a great game. It’s at a budget price, offers great value, has a unique visual style, and a level of humor and wit that should instantly appeal to dedicated gamers. Still, the lack of direction and déjà vu may cause loss of interest. Despite that, I give the game a thumbs-up. 3D DGH accomplishes its mission, and while Nintendo fans may be bitter, Sony gamers that want a quality adventure should pick it up. Again, this isn’t about replacing Nintendo’s venerable franchise, more so celebrating it.