3D Dot Game Heroes Review

For gamers reared on Nintendo’s action/adventure titles of the late 80s and early 90s, the concept behind Silicon Studio’s 3D Dot Game Heroes is what dreams are made of. This PS3-exclusive title is built entirely around homage to the Big N’s Legend of Zelda franchise — a painstaking emulation of the series’ two-dimensional entries in high-definition 3D — and seems to want nothing more than to be a love letter to those games and their fans. It succeeds at this and more, providing a nostalgic and enjoyable trip through the Kingdom of Dotnia. Despite its best efforts, though, it falls short of the source material in both substance and design.

The most striking thing about 3D Dot Game Heroes is its unique visual style, which presents a Lego-like world constructed out of millions of tiny, cubic blocks in an effort to express a pixelated 2D world in three dimensions. Everything from foliage, to buildings, to weapons, to characters, is composed of these little blocks, but because this is a modern-era game, lighting, mapping, and depth-of-field effects are skillfully implemented, giving the game an incredibly inviting, what’s-old-is-new look. The game’s use of just a few frames to animate its character models creates a stop-motion appearance that only adds to the aesthetic appeal, as long as the occasionally dipping frame rate remains steady.

3D Dot Game Heroes

Converting a two-dimensional virtual world to 3D is a theme that pervades not only the game’s visuals, but also its minimalist narrative. Throughout the adventure, characters make mention of the Kingdom’s shift from 2D to 3D, and self-referential lines of dialog poke fun at the notion of such a project. Other parts of the game’s humorously localized writing are lifted directly from the classic titles it parodies and honors, and the overall story is essentially the same core Zelda tale gamers have come to know and love: An evil-doer threatens the kingdom; an ancient hero’s descendant embarks on a quest to stop him; the hero battles through X number of well-guarded, labyrinthine strongholds scattered throughout the world, collecting one sacred artifact from each; the hero uses the collective power of these items to defeat the ultimate foe; the people of the Kingdom live happily ever after. It’s within this familiar framework that the game unfolds.

Fitting somewhere between The Legend of Zelda and A Link to the Past (and perhaps a good replacement for the franchise’s black sheep, The Adventure of Link), 3D Dot Game Heroes lets players discover Dotnia’s little secrets at their own pace, throwing them a map and a variety of adventurous, 8-bit-style tunes to explore by. Cracked walls reveal caves containing unknown treasures, warps send the hero to previously unreachable locations, isolated NPCs provide special, useful items, among other things. Between the game’s seven temples and the key events that increment the plot, it is this exploration and discovery that makes 3D Dot Game Heroes‘ world a great place to play in. Unfortunately, Dotnia is relatively small, and aside from a few retro-styled minigames, there are fewer fleshed-out side quests than one might expect. Players can scour the land and will enjoy unearthing its secrets, but will find significantly less content there than can be found in something like the 19-year-old A Link to the Past.

Grass Temple Boss

The dungeons themselves, which are huge components in games of this genre, are lengthy and entertaining, but never grow to be highly complex. The puzzles remain fairly straightforward throughout, so the challenge lies primarily in the many enemies and other hazards inside each one. These obstacles will surely send the hero to his or her doom on multiple occasions, likely too frequently and potentially frustrating to the ill-equipped adventurer. Temple bosses, also formidable and imposing, leave something to be desired. Unlike Zelda games, the handful of secondary weapons (bow, boomerang, bombs, grappling hook, etc.) are not required to defeat any of the boss characters, only to get to them. Each major battle is simply one of sword-based attrition.

The dungeon settings reveal other, more technical gameplay issues, as well. The game’s collision detection is actually quite clumsy, and players will often notice an enemy getting hung up where nothing is obstructing its path, or the hero’s sword getting stuck and failing to extend when it appears to have a clear line. Fitting the hero through narrow spaces can also be problematic, especially when surrounded by enemies who never fail to capitalize on an unsuccessful navigation between a rock and a hard place.

3D Dot Game Heroes

Some of these hit-box woes can be chalked up to the nature of the game’s character editor, which lets players build their personal heroes inside a cube of set dimensions. Regardless of a created character’s size, the in-game hit box remains the same, and is equivalent to the entire editing space. Otherwise, the editor is a great addition for the creative adventurer who wants to customize the retro experience, and Atlus has even set up a website where players can share their work with others. http:/www.3ddotgameheroes.com/hallofheroes/p-t.html The process is a bit tedious — transfer from PS3 to PC via thumb drive, zip up the files, upload — but the option is at least available.

At the budget price of $39.99, 3D Dot Game Heroes is cheap, nostalgic fun, and will find a very special place in old-school gamers’ hearts, but it ultimately falls short of source material that is roughly two decades old. For Zelda enthusiasts, it will be a good 2D-turned-3D romp, and remind us why that series is so highly regarded (and why we’re drooling for its 3-years-coming console sequel). For others, it is at least worth checking out; it does plenty of things right, and features the biggest swords anyone has ever seen. Ever.

3 out of 5


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Author: Eddie Inzauto View all posts by
Eddie has been writing about games on the interwebz for over ten years. You can find him Editor-in-Chiefing around these parts, or talking nonsense on Twitter @eddieinzauto.

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