Saturday, 22 May 2010

3D Dot Game Heroes - PS3 - review

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Zelda creator Shigeru Miyamoto must be feeling pretty good about himself.

3D Dot Game Heroes plays like an old school Zelda adventure, except this game by FROM Software drags 8-bit visuals into the 21st century, giving the game a unique and stylised appearance.

The game isn't afraid to wear its Zelda influence proudly on its sleeve. In fact, there are so many nods to the Nintendo series that it's easy to forget 3D Dot Game Heroes really has nothing to do with Link and his quest to save the land of Hyrule.

A mysterious ancient sword and boomerang make their appearance early in the game, while the inclusion of a bow, arrows, sling shot, bombs, health-giving fairies and chickens to chase around, makes you wonder quite how the developer managed to get away with it.

However, 3D Dot Game Heroes is more than a mere pastiche, with FROM Software throwing in a few of its own ideas, including nods to several of their previous games.

It doesn't take itself too seriously either, which is a good thing when you consider the story is whimsical fantasy nonsense, including genre staples such as a captured princess and a dark force spreading across the land.

Even thrusting a sword towards a group of enemies results in the unexpected, with the blade extending dozens of feet forward if fully powered up.

Gameplay is simple, with weapons mapped to two face buttons, while a third button is used to dash. Simplicity, though, is what the game is all about, and it's refreshing to play something that is intuitive and easy to pick up and play.

The old school design choice extends further than the game's looks - trekking through miles of wilderness between key locations is the norm and it can be annoying, especially as enemies re-spawn at every available opportunity. Die, and you'll be unceremoniously dumped back at the location of your last save.

While the camera angle can be changed when exploring the wilds, a fixed option takes over when exploring the game's dungeons. This is fine, but the dungeons are generally bland and fail to match Zelda's thought-provoking conundrums. The dungeon's bosses are also a mixed bunch, lacking spark and imagination for the most part.

But he real star of the show is the visuals. Featuring gorgeous blocky 3D characters, quaint Lego-like villages, sparkling rivers, a lovely depth of field filter, and more than enough charm to keep pulling the player through the 20 hour adventure, there's nothing quite like 3D Dot Game Heroes currently on the market.

FROM Software have even created a robust character design suite, and you can easily spend hours creating your own unique blocky character.

There are also more than 60 pre-set models to choose from, and each one can be picked when starting from a previous save.

Default hero Frum will be most people's first choice, but with a range of diverse characters to control - including a vampire, ninja, samurai and football player - it's worth checking them all out to see their animations.

The rousing musical score adds to the Zelda feel, with cracking 8-bit-style tunes ripping off older soundtracks to create a bright and breezy score which is a retro gamer's delight.

So forget about the stuffiness of other role-playing games and embrace this return to the golden days of simplistic adventures.

3D Dot Game Heroes may have flaws, but it's an absolute joy to play and Zelda fans should definitely take a look.

No comments: