If you’re the type of gamer that squealed with delight seeing the huge list of retro RPG game included on last years Mega-Drive compilation, this game is most definitely for you. In-jokes to the genre are the norm here along with a long list of frustrations and an almost inevitable argument between fans (and probably lawyers) about it being a homage or rip-off of some Nintendo game with a green midget.
The games unique twist is the updated retro graphical style. The story explains it in an amusing way, as the old 2D Kingdom of Dotnia is rarely visited anymore so they revamp their world into ‘3D’ to get with the times, hoping everyone will love them again. It’s not ‘put on glasses’ 3D, everything is made from cubes instead of squares. The whole story would probably fit on a beermat (evil guy stealing orbs, kingdom threatened, you hero).
Paying homage to the genre is all well and good, but some elements that were a bit annoying 15 years ago may test your patience more than ever today. The stylised updated 8-bit era music is charming for about five minutes, but after hearing the same tune for two hours in one of temples you’re ready to lose it. But hey, Final Fantasy XIII is just as guilty.
The temples are made up of a series of linked rectangular rooms that are hard to navigate as most of them look the same and once you’ve done the first temple you’ve seen them all really. You’ll spend most of your indoors time looking for keys and moving blocks to solve puzzles. Moving around the game world outside is better as you’re pretty much allowed to go anywhere once you pick up the grappling hook to swing across gaps with a wooden post on the other side. Naturally you can’t jump on or off ledges to reach a higher or lower path. The map only displays a rough layout of the maze-like world so you may have to travel in the opposite direction to your destination to try and find a way through. Just wait till you get to the desert, just a maze of dead ends and constantly pressing L1 to bring up the map, hoping desperately that you’re a little closer to the next temple.
Freedom to go anywhere is nice, but you might end up wandering aimlessly if you don’t pay attention to the dialogue telling you where to go next. After completing one of the temples I forgot where I had to meet someone between play sessions and the mission indicator was still pointing at the temple. Turns out it was an inn a few miles away. Just a line in the menu would have been nice. So any bits of info you pick up on the way for side-missions or hidden weapons might be worth jotting down somewhere. No not a mental note.
There’s no levelling up as such, but you can use money to lengthen, widen or improve the swing or piercing strength of your sword *stop laughing, how else am I meant to say it!?*
Sword attacks are aimed up, down, left or right, but they can also be swung in an arc which is the best attack as it’ll get the bastards in-between. It can be a little bit clunky as it easily collides with any nearby objects and often swings up instead of right and vice versa. Using the d-pad might work better for some players, namely those that look at analogue sticks with a sense of disdain and fear.
Rack up a few kills and *sigh* your sword grows to epic proportions, like half the size of the screen size epic. Obviously this makes life a lot easier, especially when taking on multiple monsters. Get hit once though and it’s back to the comparatively cocktail stick-like cricket bat sized blade. Luckily you have a shield to block attacks, although the first biscuit tin lid is rubbish so splash the cash at the store as soon as you can for the first decent sized one.
Early on your magic skills are used for revealing hidden clues and reflecting magic attacks, but you’ll start to earn decent attacking ones like the quake-style move. Items dropped by enemies and found in smashable urns vary from money, magic, health, arrows and bombs. The game can be cruel though, showering you with instant health apples when you’re already full and only giving you arrows and bombs when you’re close to death. Die in a temple and you’re dropped off at the front door, but with any doors unlocked remaining so and all items intact. So not all bad, but it can still be a bore trekking back to where you died, getting lost again on the way.
It’s worth mentioning that you can build your own character and edit them whenever you want. There are quite a few pre-made ones too (no green guys with hats though). The best of which has to be this bizarre tribute to the French footy legend, Zinedine Zidane, complete with bald patch.
As you might have guessed 3D Dot Game Heroes is unapologetically old-school and aiming for players that fondly remember the old Zelda games. Even retro fans may get a little frustrated though at some of the elements that really should have been tweaked a little such as the awkwardly unresponsive combat and exasperating map design.
- Boss fights are entertaining
- A nice idea to ‘cube-out’ the old flat graphics
- Can pick it up for less than £25
- Outdoor areas hard to navigate
- Clumsy combat
- Too retro for its own good?
The Short Version: While you can see a lot of love for the genre has been poured into this game, some of the old annoyances haven’t been ironed out enough. With few side-quests and a repetitive set of main missions it’ll test the patience even the most stoic retro purist.