Giant Bomb Review

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3D Dot Game Heroes Review

3
  • PS3

An oddly reverent homage to the original Legend of Zelda, 3D Dot Game Heroes is enthusiastically nostalgic fun with a unique graphical twist.


 Flame temple... fire. Got it!
Rarely has a game danced the razor's edge between loving homage and flagrant copyright infringement--and gotten away with it--like From Software's 3D Dot Game Heroes. This PlayStation 3 title is, for all intents and purposes, The Legend of Zelda, from the broad structure of a hero tasked with recovering powerful artifacts from a series of themed temples to the rousing, adventurous tone of the overworld music. You will do battle with many abstract enemies,  armed primarily with a simple sword and shield combination, from a mostly overhead perspective. You will earn access to boomerangs and bombs to aid in your adventure. You will have a fairy companion. You can kick chickens, to catastrophic effect. At one point, and I swear I'm not making this up, you might stumble upon a cave inhabited by a guy whose only apparent purpose it is to tell you that "it's a secret to everybody." 

I cannot stress this point enough, as the Zelda connection is one of the primary defining characteristic for 3D Dot Game Heroes. Even after you read this review, you might play 3D Dot Game Heroes, and be shocked at just how directly it cribs from Zelda. Other than Darksiders--which, to be fair, keeps its inspiration sourcing limited to Ocarina of Time--you will be hard-pressed to find a game more directly informed by Nintendo's 8-bit adventure classic that wasn't developed by Nintendo itself. 

And yet it's set apart by a certain self-awareness, as well as a visual style that takes the chunky 8-bit aesthetic and makes it three-dimensional, if just barely. It's hard not to be at least a little bit charmed by 3D Dot Game Heroes, though that charm has its limits. If you're not already fairly bananas about classic Zelda, or are at least nurturing an abiding affection for the square-wave sounds and butchered grammar that now typifies Japanese console games from the 1980s, 3D Dot Game Heroes might be a harder sell. It's not that this is a subpar Zelda-style adventure, and I think 3D Dot Game Heroes does a decent job of justifying its $40 price tag with a length that's reasonable by modern standards, it's just that the differences are more flash and gimmick than anything truly meaningful.

 Dotnia, before polygons got all trendy.
One key differentiator between 3D Dot Game Heroes and its inspirator is the fact that, to put it rather plainly, you're not playing it as Link. Instead of rolling as some knock-off green-clad elf lad, the look of your character is up to you. You can choose from a pretty deep stock library of character models, which include fantasy tropes like scruffy young adventurers, gallant knights, and dark mages, as well as more non-sequiturial stuff like a shark's fin made to look like it's poking up out of the ground, plus a number of characters from past, unrelated From Software games. If you're really dead set on rocking pointy ears and a green tunic, there's a simple polygonal editor that lets you design your character from the ground up. I personally lack the patience to make anything worthwhile with the editor, though I thought my swirling nightmare of random shapes carried its own charm.

That 3D Dot Game Heroes gives you the choice to swap out your character model whenever you load up the game speaks to just how little stock the game puts in its narrative, other than as a vehicle for some extremely mild satire. You'll see references dropped to other classic NES games like the original Metal Gear, and the citizens of Dotnia, 3D Dot Game Heroes' Hyrule stand-in, are perfectly aware of the fact that, years ago, their land used to be two-dimensional.

The familiarity of the Zelda-inspired gameplay in 3D Dot Game Heroes is offset by a very peculiar 3D visual style. Everything in the world appears to be constructed out of big fat blocks, mimicking the low-res quality of 8-bit visuals, which are married with modern elements like lighting, physics, particle effects, and an extremely pronounced depth-of-field effect. It's an interesting blend of old and new that makes these piles of blocks look and feel somehow more real. Similarly, the soundtrack weaves between blippy synthesized sounds and a full, orchestral-sounding score.

If you look past the tricky visuals, something that's admittedly pretty hard to do, you'll see a game that's operating on a lot of borrowed charm. There are differences, such as the fact that, when you're at maximum health, rather than shooting out an energy projectile with your sword, your sword becomes comically huge in a way that would put Cloud Strife to shame. It's different, and in an absurd way, but 3D Dot Game Heroes is still so deeply referential that a lot of it doesn't really work if you're not already in on the joke.
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Edited by effjay

Hmmm. I've been watching this game for a while, wondering whether or not to purchase it. I'll probably rent or trade for it first.

Posted by 2Crisis

so close :(

Posted by Creamypies

Hmmm... I thought I was sold on this... not so sure anymore.

Posted by DBrim

I'm totally digging this game after about four hours. 
 
My favorite part is the name "Master SantaFunk".

Posted by AlwaysAngry

I just look at the pictures instead of read reviews.

Posted by ISmoochyI

cloud strife

Posted by Ryax
still getting it.
Posted by Evilsbane

Yea I can agree with this, its a 4 out of 5 "If your in the mood for it" so yes i find this fair, still can't wait to rent it.

Posted by Kyou

I'll wait for a drop in price

Posted by welly

HM

Posted by Toxin066

Pretty good review Ryan. Thanks. I'll be picking this one up later this summer. My game queue is getting out of hand.

Edited by CrossTheAtlantic

Hm. This review leaves me a bit confused. Doesn't really justify the four stars. Unless it's mostly just warning. I figure most people--myself included--who are into this kind of thing will get it regardless. 
 
I didn't expect it to be much beyond a lengthy, playable in-joke. 
 
EDIT: Scratch that. It's at 3 stars which makes more sense. Did it change or was I just crazy for a second?

Posted by XChairmanDrekX

I don't know, a 3 seems kinda low.  This is kind of a surprise, I thought Ryan was digging this game.  I don't really see what's negative about it, other than the fact that it is a Zelda homage--which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Posted by MasterOfPenguins_Zell

I don't really read reviews, but after reading this I can see where Ryan is coming from. I think I'll still pick it up, just maybe not right away.

Edited by Blair

I too bought into the hype of the Quick Look.  I'll wait until it gets cheap.
 
Great review, Ryan.

Posted by Apathylad

Ryan seems pretty indifferent to the game. I guess I see his argument, saying that it's a pure Zelda homage, and offers nothing more than that. I'll probably buy it eventually, but for now I'll hold out on it.

Posted by shamanick

This review reads like a three star to me.  What I'm getting from this review, as well as others that have been written, is 3ddGH has little substance to sustain the gameplay.  This is disappointing as I was really looking forward to it.  I'll still play it within the the next few months, but it's not as urgent as it once was.  I'll keep the next month or so for RDR.

Posted by anyprophet

I've made it past the third dungeon and I'm having a hard time putting the controller down.  
 
But I have a hard time imagining anyone who's not a crazy Zelda 1 fan liking this game very much. 

Posted by Diamond

My problem with the game isn't that it's unoriginal, more that it's not an extremely good 8-bit Zelda clone.  If it was more nonlinear, and a larger world with less backtracking, I'd say it was an amazing title.  It's still quite good.  My review, btw.

Posted by AuthenticM

Why is the box art so blurry?

Edited by EgoCheck616

To people who say "I'll wait for a price drop" - Really? It's like $40. 
 
I've been playing the thing for the past 4 hours and can't get enough of it.  
Maybe it would have gotten an extra star if it included civilians being killed in an airport or some sort of Michael Bay explosion. 
 
Should have been a 4 but it really doesn't matter considering you guys were also very quick to dismiss Demon's Souls.

Edited by MormonWarrior

...and? Wow, that review ended abruptly. Kind of meandering, I have to say.
 
I got the feeling this game really is more of an in-joke than an actual super high quality game. It's too bad, I guess. 8-bit Zelda was never my favorite anyway.

Posted by DryvBy

Already bought it. I like it.

Edited by honeycut1

I thought this was coming out on PSN as well (digital download sale).  Off to amazon I go.

Posted by BenderUnit22

Great game with a fantastic sense of humor. It's a bit too simplistic for its own good and could've used a couple more dungeons (I mean, even the first LoZ had 9, this one has 7), but great value nonetheless, especially for $40

Posted by Crono

The review is pretty much was I was anticipating.  I am still interested and am just waiting for it in my Gamefly Q.

Posted by TheKbob

Already have the game now and am enjoying it.   I am through 2 dungeons and love the tower defense game (which is also a shameless rip-off, go figure). 
 
The review is what it is. I don't have a huge "thing" for old Zelda games, but I'm finding this one fun.  Running around as Dante from the Devil May Cry series is amusing to me and exploring this little title will be a good time killer.  
 
My expectations, admittedly, were pretty low.  Therefore, they were passed and thus I'm quite happy.  Your quick look sold me, as well. 
 
Keep on the great writing!  

Posted by MisterMouse

Hope they come out with a second, and fix all of the problems, and make it awesome!

Posted by Shirogane

Still waiting for my copy to arrive, or get shipped actually. Distributer messed up or something from the place i'm getting it from so it got delayed a few days =( 
 
Sounds like i'll enjoy it enough. The review pretty much says the game knows its target audience, and sticks to it. Even if that target audience isn't a particularly large crowd.
Posted by Fbomb
@Shirogane said:
" Still waiting for my copy to arrive, or get shipped actually. Distributer messed up or something from the place i'm getting it from so it got delayed a few days =(  Sounds like i'll enjoy it enough. The review pretty much says the game knows its target audience, and sticks to it. Even if that target audience isn't a particularly large crowd. "
I'm with you on this one... just waiting for my preorder to show up in the mail. From everything I've read, this is a game that was made for me, and I'm really looking forward to getting my hands on it in the near future.
Posted by Zanthox

I kinda feel like the review reads like a 4 or even a 5 with a super fan disclaimer... I dunno, I'm still super excited for it.

Posted by SteveV

Ryan: Anybody who is interested in this title is "in on the joke", don`t fool yourself. "Borrowed charm", it seems when it comes to this title nobody remember the word "tribute".  Games like these are hardly made anymore Ryan, that is the market it is trying to reach out to. Sadly you are narrowminded as ever.

Posted by EgoCheck616
@SteveVice said:
" Ryan: Anybody who is interested in this title is "in on the joke", don`t fool yourself. "Borrowed charm", it seems when it comes to this title nobody remember the word "tribute".  Games like these are hardly made anymore Ryan, that is the market it is trying to reach out to. Sadly you are narrowminded as ever. "
It's funny because anyone who is going to bother reading the review will already be "in on the joke". The entire argument is unnecessary and caters only to the casual crowd. A crowd that wouldn't even know what 3D Dot Game Heroes is.
Posted by manicproblematic

will be picking this baby up for sure.. 

Edited by Brackynews
@AuthenticM said:

" Why is the box art so blurry? "

Depth of field, to emphasize the three-dee-ness.
I wonder if the developers thought about redownloading their cover art from IGN, to get a watermarked copy. 
Y'know. Just for the lulz.
Posted by Rowr

i dont see that borrowed charm would be such a bad thing, especially when its borrowing from such an old style of game.
 
charm is still charm.

Edited by Linkyshinks
@SteveVice:
 
@SteveVice said:

" Ryan: Anybody who is interested in this title is "in on the joke", don`t fool yourself. "Borrowed charm", it seems when it comes to this title nobody remember the word "tribute".  Games like these are hardly made anymore Ryan, that is the market it is trying to reach out to. Sadly you are narrowminded as ever. "

I agree entirely. 
 
edit: 
 
Great to see your still around Steve, how are you doing these days, are you still eating those huge Belgian waffles?
Posted by Flikery

Don´t forget that it has a 40 dollar price tag as it is, so counting on copies on the cheap in the future could be a tad risky given the usual low print runs for Atlus games. But, patience can pay off too I suppose. Enjoying my copy, though

Posted by ghostNPC

 @Diamond said:

" My problem with the game isn't that it's unoriginal, more that it's not an extremely good 8-bit Zelda clone.  If it was more nonlinear, and a larger world with less backtracking, I'd say it was an amazing title.  It's still quite good.  My review, btw. "
I absolutely agree with this.
Posted by MartinG

I wonder what the "code" is when reviewing games like this is? That are heavy referential that is. Are they not "allowed" to be good because of the required pre-existing knowledge or what's the deal?
 
I, for one, can't wait to get my hands on it.

Posted by Rhaknar
@BenderUnit22 said:
" Great game with a fantastic sense of humor. It's a bit too simplistic for its own good and could've used a couple more dungeons (I mean, even the first LoZ had 9, this one has 7), but great value nonetheless, especially for $40 "
i agree completely. Its hilarious how just because its a homage to an old game, it automatically must be amazing. Oh its a homage to Zelda, must be a 5 star game. The game certainly has charm, but it does look way too simplistic, and short. And before you tell me "thats the point durr!", i know thats the point, it just doesnt make it a amazing game because of it.
Posted by Quacktastic
This review seems really positive for the score.  It reads kind of like 'if you like it, you'll like it.'
 
 
@Rhaknar: It actually seems like it has a lot of replay value.  Way more than Zelda 1 or 3 (both which I still own and really like).  Mini-games, character creators, a bestiary to fill-out, an upgrade system and a 'New game +'  so I don't know how fair short is.
 
Still, I haven't played it but I plan to.  That's just from what I read.
Posted by owl_of_minerva

One man's "gimmicky homage" is another man's "loving pastiche". That said, I can't fault the review as it's something that invites an inherently subjective response, it seems accurate and well-written. Glad to see GB cover this game anyway.

Posted by metalsnakezero

Nice review Ryan. While the game isn't original and some of the gameplay can be outdated it makes up for it with a nice charm, humor, and a price to boot.

Posted by MildMolasses

There's something about this review that doesn't seem finished. The last paragraph isn't really wrapping up and concluding the review. It feels like there should be another paragraph or two following it.
Posted by Kiro

This is probably the first time I've felt that the score didn't match the review text here on GB. 3 Stars seems low

Posted by KookKui

Bought it day one, game rocks pretty hard IMO. But I am a big retro gamer, so it is fun a and simple so I love it.

Posted by MooseyMcMan

I'm still probably going to get it. Eventually. 

Posted by get2sammyb

I personally think the game is absolutely fantastic. Review text is very positive for the score. If you were interested before the 3 stars, don't let this review put you off. If you were interested before you'll love it, and remember the game's pretty cheap.

Posted by mutha3

Well, this review ended abruptly.

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