Developer: Silicon Studio
by: Marc Allie
Retro games are enjoying a bit of a renaissance. Retro Game Challenge and Half Minute Hero are two recent examples we've covered in Beyond Co-Op Reviews before. A new game, with roots deep in the 80s adventure/RPG genre, joins these old school new releases: 3D Dot Game Heroes.
It is clear that the developers at Atlus grew up playing 8-bit classics like The Legend of Zelda and Dragon Warrior. 3D Dot Game Heroes borrows heavily from the gameplay elements of these vintage pioneers. Some might argue that it is less of a loving homage than a blatant ripoff, but I think that's going too far. The fact of the matter is that the best video games throughout history have built upon the innovations of other games. Space Invaders beget Galaga, Breakout beget Arkanoid, etc. There are few if any real innovations in 3D Dot Game Heroes, but really, that's the appeal. It takes all the best parts of games you remember, blends them together, and wraps it all up in a shiny HD package. Quite simply, the result is glorious.
The game's graphical style is simultaneously 8-bit pixels and high res 3D. The opening cinematic explains that the land of Dotnia used to be a two dimensional kingdom, but stretched into three dimensions to become more modern. As you watch, the flat pixels stretch and change into LEGO-like forms made of small blocks. Almost everything in the game is rendered this way, and it's quite charming. The presentation is so appealing, it's easy to just find yourself wandering around looking for interesting things, mimicking the open exploration that was a characteristic of early RPGs.
The storyline is the standard "gather the objects of power, beat the bad guy, save the world" scenario. Laced throughout the tale, though, are humorous tidbits. Sprinkled here and there, you'll find tongue-in-cheek dialogue or references to other games. For example, at one point, you are told it's dangerous, so you'd better take a sword with you. A talking blue slime is found in the first village; this sort of thing happens often in 3D Dot Game Heroes, and if you're an old school gamer like me, these references will keep you smiling. The sword your hero wields flashes out across the screen when you are at full health, and it can be upgraded in different attributes like piercing, length, and width. (Insert natural male enhancement joke here.) Other weapons like a boomerang, bow and arrow, and bombs also aid you in your quest throughout Dotnia's temples. Sound familiar?
3D Dot Game Heroes allows you to choose a different hero each time you load a game, ranging from knights and mages to princesses and even a dragon. The choice isn't merely cosmetic; knights are slightly better with swords, and princesses have extra magical power, for instance. Custom heroes can be made using a simple editor, and your creations can be shared with friends. Mini-games are available at inns, including racing and tower defense. All told, 3D Dot Game Heroes is charming in its simplicity, a love letter of sorts to great fantasy games of old, and is highly recommended for fans of the genre.