3D Dot Game Heroes Preview
Much like many other kids from my generation, Pong was my very first video game. And when, at the tender and naïve age of 4, I asked my father why the “ball” on the screen looked like a square, he didn’t really have an answer. He may have said something along the lines of, “it’s the best they can do,” but I honestly don’t remember. As the industry grew, we gradually erased the blatantly boxy visuals that are downright comical to behold today. However, there’s such a great deal of nostalgia and rose-tinged childhood memories wrapped up in those archaic graphics that Silicon Studios decided to take advantage. Just about anything ‘80s is a big deal today – the retro fad remains solidly in place, from what I can see – so it would stand to reason that those entering their 30s wish to take time and fondly reflect on simpler times. Enter 3D Dot Game Heroes, a game designed specifically for the gaming vets.
Of course, anyone should be able to have fun with this one, but only those who recall the dawn of gaming will fully appreciate the spoof. First of all, you may recognize that beneath that blocky veneer, this game looks a lot like the Zelda titles of old, so you should also anticipate a similar gameplay style and setting. The story is even laced with good old-fashioned cheesiness- the evil Dark King Onyx first covered the Dotnia Kingdom (ha!) in darkness and misfortune, but a certain hero defeated the king and sealed him away in a special orb. Many years have passed since that time; the land flourishing in relative peace and quiet. But now, the Dark Bishop Fuelle has located the orb and intends to free the Dark King and bring sorrow back to the world…which is where you come in, of course. The environment is entirely in 3D by royal decree, believe it or not, as the current King believes sprites are outdated and the land should definitely make the “leap.”
In a nod to many old adventure games (but again, we’re specifically thinking of Zelda), the game will have a familiar old-school gameplay format. Your health will be displayed by apples and at full strength, your sword will grow to ridiculous size, thereby granting you more reach and power. You will also find a variety of items that will help you in your travels; objects like candles, boomerangs, and oh yes, a trusty bow can be found. But they do add a more modern tinge to the game by giving us the option of multiple (and upgradeable) weapons, which means we’ll still have some new-age flavor mixed in with that nod to ancient technology. You won’t have to worry about complex controls, though – big surprise there, right? – as you’ll really only use one button to swing your sword, another button will be allocated for item use, and you’ll hold down one of the trigger buttons to bring up your shield. You will, however, have the benefit of using the left analog stick to swing your sword in a full circle, which is something we wish we had way back when.
Ah, but it doesn’t end there; this melding of new and old continues. For example, you’ll be able to create your own character from scratch using a 3D sprite editor and every monster you collect will contribute to a growing bestiary. But defeating the creature won’t cause its profile to pop up in this bestiary; no, you actually have to bop it over the head with the book. That’s right, just get in close, smack it with the book, and that monster will occupy its rightful place in your collection. If this doesn’t put a grin on your face than you simply take your favorite hobby too seriously; this is exactly the type of feature that causes the game to be plenty endearing. So basically, you head out, battling enemies in the fields and dungeons, solving a few puzzles, all on your noble quest to stop the evil Bishop from allowing the Dark King to start a new reign of suffering. We kinda miss doing something like this in most every game we play and to relive at least a portion of the olden days with 3D Dot Game Heroes should be a pleasure.
From Software has already released this title in Japan (it came out on November 5), but Atlus will handle the distribution duties in North America. Expect to see this cute and amusing title on May 11, 2010 in the US.
11/17/2009 Ben Dutka