A long time ago, an ancient hero saved the 2D Kingdom of Dotnia. You’re his descendant and the world, now made of 3D blocks instead of pixels, is again in peril. It’s up to you to save the day in 3D Dot Game Heroes.
When you’re done talking to the King, you wander outside, grab the legendary sword (that happens to be conveniently located close to the castle), and proudly raise it above your head like an iconic video game hero who wears a green tunic. 3D Dot Game Heroes feels like a homage to The Legend of Zelda games. Not the recent games like Twilight Princess, 3D Dot Game Heroes shares more in common with the classics like A Link to the Past.
Your arsenal is taken right out of Link’s backpack. On your quest for the magic orbs you collect dash boots, bombs, and a wire rod (read: hookshoot). The temples are based on archetypical Zelda locations too. The six orbs are hidden in a desert, fire, and a water temple. A boss guards each lair and is only accessible by finding a boss room key. Before you battle an orb guarding giant bee or golem which can be broken into pieces you have to solve puzzles. Block pushing puzzles. Falling into the right hole puzzles. Conveyor belt puzzles. Zelda style puzzles.
Silicon Studios was clearly inspired by The Legend of Zelda, but they added their own flavor to the formula. The combat system in 3D Dot Game Heroes is more technical and you don’t have a spinning slash. Actually, you have a spinning attack, sort of. When you attack, your hero thrusts his or her sword. While the blade is extended you can rotate the left analog stick to swing it. You can do a 90 degree swipe, 270 degree slash or a spinning attack — if you’re fast enough. The developers also set up controls that allow players to quickly rotate weapons/spells with the shoulder buttons. You can block, cycle to bombs, blast a wall open, and switch to the fire rod without pausing the game.
Weapons can be upgraded too. At the blacksmith, you can make a ludicrously long or wide sword. Each weapon has a maximum amount of upgrades so the legendary sword you get at the beginning, even when fully upgraded, isn’t the best possible weapon. The sword grows when your health is full allowing you to hit far away rabbits and rock spitting octopi. Usually, it’s advantageous to wield a giant blade. You can hit more things that way, but in narrow corridors the powered up sword isn’t as effective since it can be blocked by a wall.
Swords are great, but they’re useless when you run into spell casting wizards. You need shader magic to defeat them. Casting reflection lets you repel spells by guarding. Normal map makes a destructive earthquake and Parallax Map reveals puzzle solutions. All of the spells, given to the hero by sages, are named after 3D techniques. Very clever!
The foes you face act as if they’re in an 8-bit game. Skeletons dash attack, if they see you. Mummies wander almost aimlessly in dungeons. Moblin-like fellows shoot arrows. All of them can be defeated with an immobilizing boomerang to the face and a couple of sword thrusts. In this sense, 3D Dot Game Heroes is simple. So simple, it’s refreshing.
Even the character edit system is easy to use. You can quickly place rows of blocks, chip away the extras, color them, and (tada!) you have a custom hero. Want to add even more detail? Edit the custom animation frames for walking, attacking, and item grabbing. Custom characters can be used whenever you load a game. So, you can be a hero, save, and change into a traveling scholar. There are three basic character types: a warrior, royalty (king/princess) and book bashing scholar with different stats to play with.
Since 3D Dot Game Heroes is intuitive and temples are marked on your map it’s import friendly. However, I’m going to recommend waiting until May for Atlus’ version. All of the video game references and parodies add extra charm to 3D Dot Game Heroes. The first town you visit is named Cornelia Village, which sounds a lot like the first town in Final Fantasy. Garuland Lake is south of that. From Software doesn’t stop at classics. Keep your eyes peeled and you’ll find Easter Eggs like “This is where the real Demon’s Souls begins.” These jokes are better experienced in a language you’re familiar with. Atlus has an excellent track record when it comes to handling humor so I’m excited to see how they’re going to handle 3D Dot Game Heroes.