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3D Dot Game Heroes is a classic 2D Zelda game, but on the PS3. I was keen to find out whether it was still fun to play the lead using this 1986 formula or whether we've moved on from the simplicity of those early adventures.
I expected Dot Game Heroes to ape the Zelda classics of the 8 and 16-bit era, while playing more like a modern game. In reality though I found few concessions to current conventions other the rather clever graphical update. If you can imagine taking those top-down 2D RPG games and simply realising everything in the third dimension, that is what Silcon Studio have done. This means that objects continue to be blocky, characters are poorly animated and the world lacks any real height variation, but strangely this is what initially provides its unique charm.
I've not played the eighties Zelda games and so I don't have deep levels of nostalgia to cloud my judgement. That's not to say that I'm not familiar with the conventions here - I've played many games like this. I know enough to realise that the number of elements borrowed demand there to be solid game beneath the plagiarism.
Obviously, you don't get to play as Link, but even here, there's a way to right that inconsistency with the 3D character modeller, which lets you create pretty much anyone that could be realized by arranging tiny cubes. If you were one of those people that created sprites using graph paper and coloured pens, then you can probably imagine how this works. This, especially in the third dimension is unfortunately beyond my dressup gaming skill, but there are numerous examples of the creativity of others on the official Website.
These can be downloaded and used in your own game, but there weren't any copyright infringing avatars last time I checked. Even without downloading new characters, there are plenty of alternatives ready to be used on the disc, with several bizarre inclusions including a tank and a shark. Whilst none of this makes any difference to how you play the game you can at least dress up in an endless variety of outfits.
My emotions were all over the place playing 3D Dot Game Heroes.
The plot is kept simple, requiring you to recover six magical orbs from six increasingly difficult boss-guarded dungeons. You start out with a sword and shield, but quickly get a boomerang, a bow and something resembling a hook-shot called a wire rod and these will all probably sound familiar to you. Regardless of whether the mechanics are a facsimile of other well known games, discovering the item that let me explore areas previously inaccessible still elicited that familiar sense of joy. By the time I was using bombs to blow holes in cracked walls though; I was hanging out for something a little more original.
On that front there are slim pickings, but amongst the inventive touches, there is a magical device that displays hints at certain locations. This proved particularly helpful with the many puzzles that require statues to be arranged on switches in the correct configuration. You can even take screen grabs, which I found invaluable when my goldfish memory failed me.
Whilst my adventure started out pretty easily since my sword was big enough to take up most of the screen, the number and resilience of the enemies quickly made things much harder. By the time I was in the third dungeon, the Game Over screen was a regular feature of play. Thankfully, you restart at the entrance and the progress made so far isn't undone, although the labyrinthine nature of latter strongholds does mean a lot of backtracking, which I do find frustrating and is something absent from most modern games.
3d Dot Game Heroes doesn't provide enough depth to allow me to feel engaged with my quest or character.
In contrast to the difficulty I had getting to the bosses lair, once there they were surprisingly easy to beat. I found it disappointing that in the main they didn't require any special tactics to defeat, which for me shows a lack of inspiration given the number of tools in my kitbag.
My emotions were all over the place playing 3D Dot Game Heroes, starting out on a high as I enjoyed the unique graphical style and classic references. This continued until the difficult third dungeon, where joy turned to frustration. But this was soon forgotten again once the wire rod opened up new areas of the map to explore. As soon as I was back into though, I found things starting to grind again with too much familiarity - and too few genuine opportunities to explore.
Climbing back into this world, even in 3D, was in the end too much for me. Since those old games, I've learnt to expect much more from these experiences. Whereas granting new clothes and equipment used to generate a fizz of excitement back then, I need something more engaging and original now.
Back in the eighties, the characters were as two dimensional as the levels but it didn't matter. Bring this to me in the modern world - even with an extra dimension - doesn't provide enough depth to allow me to feel engaged with my quest or character. I want to play games that let me experience worlds from the eyes of interesting characters, here though I'm ultimately left wanting the real Zelda experience.
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