3D Dot Game Heroes review

They say honesty is the best policy and I for one am not going to start lying to you now. My first experience of Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda series was Link’s Awakening on the Gameboy and I didn’t enjoy it all that much. What you have to remember is that back then when I was just 10 years old and had been absorbed by games such as Mortal Kombat. It wasn’t really until the Nintendo 64 game Ocarina of Time that Zelda became a relevance to me.

Of course as I grew older and wiser I started to appreciate the classic 2D Zelda titles a little more and now I can report that I am a very big modern and classic Zelda fan. Depending on your viewpoint 3D Dot Game Heroes for the PS3 could be described as an unashamed rip-off of the original three Zelda games or a fantastic tribute. Find out which in my review of 3D Dot Game Heroes for PS3.

Just like Nintendo’s Zelda, 3D Dot Game Heroes is dungeon focussed RPG. This basically means that game is split into two distinctive parts; an overworld which typically allows for exploration, travel & storytelling, and an underworld (dungeons) which concentrate far more on enemy slaying, item use and puzzle solving.

The story goes like this; you take on the role of a normal citizen that has little or no worldly experience but somehow seems destined to become a hero. Dotnia, the homeplace of the hero is a peaceful land that has existed happily in 2D for generations. Just like any town that goes without refurbishment for a while, Dotnia has seen its fair share of popularity dwindlement and a downturn in the tourist trade. The forward thinking King decides that urgent action is required and rather than enlisting the help of multinational corporations to fill the Kingdom with Coffee Shops and Fashion Outlets, he uniquely decides to transform the 2D world into eye popping 3D.

Wouldn’t you know it? As soon as you distract yourself for just a moment by transforming a world from 2D to 3D someone goes and steals the highly important Dark Orb that just so happens to be the seal preventing Onyx, the Dark King, from terrorising the world once again. Oh and there’s something about a princess going missing as well, but that almost goes without saying doesn’t it?

So what does all this really mean? Well not much, it’s your basic Zelda-esque story and apart from that twist with the 3D – doesn’t do anything unexpected. But this is no bad thing, one of the reasons Zelda has been popular for nearly 30 years is because the story and gameplay is nearly always the same, yet the new mechanics make it feel different in some way.

When you first start playing 3D Dot Game Heroes for PS3 the first thing that will really strike you is the visual style, yet it’s so tricky to describe. Remember the early computing days when just a handful of pixels made a character? Well imagine a whole gameworld made of those same pixels but rather than them being small flat squares like they were before, they’re now small 3D cubes. This is something you’ll really have to see for yourself, screenshots and youtube trailers do not do the game that should be running on a nice HDTV any justice at all.

So how does it play? Well if you know your classic Zelda then you pretty much already know. You control your hero from an almost top down viewpoint and he/she can only move in the basic four directions, forward backward left and right. You have a sword (other weapons also available) the thrusts out forwards to kill enemies, one difference to Zelda here is that your sword can get longer and shorter depending on your health and you can turn and slash at the same time to kill enemies not directly in-front of you, very handy. The overworld portions of the game play just like a typical Zelda game too; you’ll encounter lots of wacky characters to chat to, many stores to purchase supplies from and lots and lots of grass to cut. There are also the respawning enemies that appear as you move from screen to screen, fairy caves and all the other staples you come to expect. The 3D Dot Game Hero dungeons also follow the traditional Zelda path with multiple rooms and simple puzzles; those as basic as finding keys to unlock doors to those that require block pushing and more besides.

Ok honestly there really isn’t much to say about the gameplay, everything from cutting that grass to drinking potions has all been ripped from Zelda and it works just as well here. 3D Dot Heroes doesn’t really bring anything new to the RPG table but certainly will ignite some solid retro memories – it will take you ages and gets very difficult later on. If you want some real gaming action that doesn’t hold your hand (Modern Warfare) and have a big gold arrow telling you where to go (Bioshock) then 3D Dot Game Heroes could be for you. Oh and don’t forget about those PS3 trophies you could be earning as well!

Graphically 3D Dot Game Heroes is a real treat, those blocky 3D graphics are gorgeous to look at and the rendering quality is superb. I can imagine it’s hard to believe that a game made to look like it’s from the 1980’s can really be considered top notch by todays standards, but it’s true! In fact in some area’s there too good, when you slay multiple enemies at once and get to experience hundreds of little blocks exploding all over the show you’ll see the framerate dip, even the mighty PS3 Cell processor is being stretched in this game and on the outset you wouldn’t ever believe that to be the case – clever stuff. A wide range of locations, enemies and characters all make for a lovely looking treat – not to mention the ability to create a custom hero and share them online with others via a USB memory stick. If like me you love your retro 8 bit music then 3D Dot Game Heroes has you covered too, a lovingly crafted soundtrack has the real feel of those 8bit bippy boppy tunes but created with modern virtual instruments rather than a pre-programmed sound chip.

Is 3D Dot Game Heroes the best ever 2D Zelda game? No, but it comes close. Merging the best bits of Zelda’s 1, 2 and 3 into single classic feeling game is still a mighty feat but it’s one that feels lacking in the Nintendo mind bending dungeon magic that some will crave. The only real downside to this very fine title is a constant barrage of loading screens at almost every turn. When you move as few as three or four screens across or go inside any house, shop or cave you’ll see a short 4 second loading screen, yes even when the game is fully installed to the PS3 Hard Drive (not required). Four seconds doesn’t sound that much but when you easily see two or three loading screens in every two minutes of gameplay you have to start wondering why some sort of background preloading isn’t going on, perhaps the PS3 just doesn’t have enough RAM? Certainly 512MB’s is considered pretty poor for even a cheap PC nowadays but the Wii only has 88MB’s and can deliver a very solid Zelda experience with Twilight Princess; quicker loading and long periods between loadings too. Granted Zelda on Wii is not in gorgeous HD but still, perhaps we’ll see an improvement to this loading issue in a future title update over PSN, it wouldn’t surprise me. 3D Dot Game Heroes scores a very deserving 8 out of 10.

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3D Dot Game Heroes review

3D Dot Game Heroes review

Related: Legend of Zelda Spirit Tracks review, The Legend of Zelda Phantom Hourglass review

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