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'3D Dot Game Heroes' a one-dimensional homage

May 26, 2010

By Daniel Barron - G4 Canada

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3D Dot Game HeroesFor those who grew up with a Nintendo Entertainment System and played the original 'Legend of Zelda' in its entirety over and over again, a visit to the original adventure across Hyrule is only a Wii Virtual Console download away.

For everyone else too young to remember Link's first adventure, there's 3D Dot Game Heroes.

Though many will call it a throwback to the introductory Zelda, 3D Dot Game Heroes is probably more accurately described as a remake. The characters and art style are of course different, but short of that, this is virtually the exact same game. Heck, with the character customization tool, you could even be using a hero who is the spitting image of Link in all his green garb glory.

The plot - which involves an evil force that is threatening the aptly named Dotnia Kingdom after years of being sealed away - is paper thin, and is nothing more than an excuse to set you off on an adventure to slay monsters and conquer dungeons.

It's clear from the very beginning that developer Silicon Studio isn't trying to hide the fact that its game borrows heavily from The Legend of Zelda. It's constantly poking fun at itself and the 8-bit genre in general, providing plenty of laugh-out-loud moments.

3D Dot Game HeroesThe game can be best described as an action adventure with RPG elements. Dotnia Kingdom isn't massive like so many current open world games, but by forcing the player to backtrack throughout the adventure, it seems much larger than it really is. Many areas aren't accessible until you've earned a certain item, while other sections contain stronger enemies that spell almost certain death unless your character is sufficiently levelled up.

Levelling up isn't done by simply earning experience points though. You'll find items and weapons during your travels that make you a more formidable foe to the evils peppered throughout Dotnia Kingdom. You'll be using a sword as your main weapon, but not only will you find different blades throughout your adventure, you'll also be able to pay a blacksmith to make it larger and have it deal greater damage.

The temples themselves follow the exact same outline as the Zelda template: enter, find map, find special weapon, unlock boss door with boss key, defeat boss, earn heart container. The temples become increasingly difficult, with multiple floors and plenty of traps that are sure to tempt plenty of gamers to throw their controllers. Thing is, they may be tough, but they're not unfair, and they're no more difficult than anything found in a Zelda game.

The bosses are a little uninspired though, and interestingly, many don't even require the use of the special item found in its respective temple to be defeated (a Zelda staple). Victory comes down to buying a lot of life potions and going on the offensive.

3D Dot Game HeroesThough the main storyline is quite routine with the visiting of one temple after another, there are a lot of things to do to help break up the monotony. For instance, residents of the different towns you'll visit have many side quests for you to complete. They aren't particularly exciting or original though, and many amount to fetch quests.

There are also some fantastic minigames to help break up the action. Dash Circuit is a racing game of sorts where you try to complete a lap on a closed course as quickly as you can. Blockout is essentially Arkanoid with a human barrier. Block Defense, meanwhile, is the best of the three. It's an easy-to-learn, difficult-to-master tower defense game that's utterly addictive.

It's a shame these minigames can only be accessed by talking to certain characters in certain villages during the campaign, though. Having them featured as unlockables that can be played from the main menu, for instance, would make them an even greater addition.

There are a few more nagging issues with 3D Dot Game Heroes that keep it from being great. Though it has a save feature that allows you to record your progress at almost any time (something unheard of in the 8-bit era), there is still a lot of tediousness.

For instance, simply traversing the map can be a real pain, because often your character can't simply jump off of a cliff down below. Often, you'll have to travel in a large circle, doubling back just to access a wall that needs to be bombed or to reach a character you'll want to talk to. Jumping to towns or temples instantaneously can be done by purchasing special 'wind wings', but it's still a matter of killing enough enemies to earn enough money to buy the wind wings in the first place.

Many will argue that this is simply part of the charm of playing an 'old school' game. Really, though, nothing about it is charming.

3D Dot Game Heroes3D Dot Game Heroes does earn points for how it looks and sounds. When Dotnia Kingdom goes from 2D to 3D in the first few minutes of the game, it instantly draws in the player. Everything is made up of exaggeratingly large pixels, with enemies bursting into dozens of tiny pieces that scatter on the ground when the hero attacks them.

A nice throwback to games of yore is the amount of colour used in 3D Dot Game Heroes as well. Bland neutral colours that are used so often in the 21st century are replaced by a large helping of brilliant looking primary colours. Water, meanwhile, sparkles as its waves move about, adding a touch of realism.

The score is fantastic as well, with plenty of memorable music that sounds like cuts that didn't quite make it into past Zelda games (that's meant as a compliment!).

So, though there may not be a lot of originality in 3D Dot Game Heroes, it's a worthy homage to one of the most beloved games of the 8-bit era. It's not without its aggravations, but for anyone desperate for a retro gaming fix, this will satisfy the craving.



3D Dot Game Heroes
Format: PlayStation 3
Publisher: Atlus USA
Developer: Silicon Studio
ESRB Rating: E for Everyone 10+
Official Site:

Rating: 7 / 10

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