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3D Dot Game Heroes PS3 sticks so close to source material that it reminded me of frustration and tedium rather than nostalgia.
It's so late, and all I want to do is go to bed. The faint sound of drilling enters my ears, which means the rail maintenance workers are passing by and the sound will rapidly grow from faint to Richter scale 8 - one major drawback to living so close to the Central line.
I tune myself into the jaunty, heroic music of 3D Dot Game Hero, focusing in on the green and blue pixels glowing in the dark. I come to a decision: I will persist with 3D Dot Game Heroes. I will not give up.
I really wanted to like this game. It's made by From Software, the geniuses behind the enigmatic Demon's Souls. It's also eye-rubbingly gorgeous, at least on a technical level. Everything in its world looks like an intricate Lego creation. An solid game engine and quirky, staccato animation make it impressive and charming. I want to show it to people, just to show them how clever it is.
3D Dot Game Heroes is an odd, undeserved kind of self-priding. It's a brazen homage to a treasured gaming franchise, Zelda.
Yet it's an incredibly demanding, challenging game - just like Demon's Souls. But unlike that game there's nothing to really hook me into it beyond the challenge itself.
It tries to be a homage, but ends up being more of a tribute band.
My current quest for instance will take me to a desert cave towards the south-east. I say towards the south-east, but it's practically 100 miles away, and just getting there is a challenge in itself. 20 minutes later I enter the dungeon, and promptly die. Then I die again, and again, and a few times more.
It's not that I don't get the adventure, dungeon puzzler thing, because I do. I spent my formative years playing Link's Awakening and A Link to the Past, heck, I even made time for Wind Waker during my gaming outage at university. But there's nothing here that gives me a reason to invest.
It tries to be a homage, but ends up being more of a tribute band. There's the same gradual acquiring of tools and weapons - magic, boomerang, crossbow, hook-shot and so on - the same formula of exploring dungeons to find a treasure, and the same nomadic movement from town to town. That would all be fine if there was anything distinctively unique, but there isn't. It's just a retro Zelda game not made by Nintendo. Heck, even the music is essentially a very clever play on the iconic Zelda theme. If you squint your ears just right.
The problem is that Nintendo is doing this homage itself and doing it much better with their own Zelda games. It's a series which hardly evolves, so there's little room for a tribute band like 3D Dot Game Heroes to wedge itself into.
That actually makes me feel kind of guilty because it's a very well designed game. There's nothing wrong with it, and it's technically staggering. The puzzles are clever, and it has all the Zelda hallmarks.
To appease my guilt of my disconnect, I resolve to play A Link to the Past tomorrow.
But I play so many games that I've become more demanding. 3D Dot Game Heroes tries hard to be like a game I love, but never delivers the new tricks I'm after and all I'm doing is smacking it round the head with a rolled-up newspaper and demanding it perform a new trick.
That doesn't solely reflect on me as a returning gamer, but as a grown man in a consumerist society I can't give my time. I'm a giver-upper. I demand novelty. Way to go, me.
I want to like 3D Dot Game Heroes. But the original Zelda still looms too large in my return to gaming. What it does do though is remind me of how good these games can be. To appease my guilt of my disconnect, I resolve to play A Link to the Past tomorrow.
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