Review: 3D Dot Game Heroes

Linking to the past
By MADDY MYERS  |  May 25, 2010
3.5 3.5 Stars


3D Dot Game Heroes | For the PlayStation 3 | Rated E for Everyone | Developed by Silicon Studios | Published by From Software
The story of 3D Dot Game Heroes’ kingdom of Dotnia might ring a few bells. An ancient hero of old defeated an evil king by trapping him inside one of six magical orbs. Years later, a thief steals the orb, and you’re sent on a quest to retrieve it. You travel from dungeon to dungeon, fighting mythical monsters with sword and shield. Eventually, you gather more items, like a bow, a boomerang, bombs, a hook shot, and boots that make you run really fast.

Sound familiar? That’s intentional. 3DDGH bills itself as a loving parody of Zelda, with a few references to Final Fantasy, Castlevania, and other classics thrown in. 3DDGH even includes a fannish fairy sidekick, sarcastic villagers, and a synthy eight-bit soundtrack. The king of Dotnia has upgraded his kingdom to 3-D, so everything looks as if it were made out of little cubes instead of pixels, but Dotnia’s design will definitely remind you of Hyrule.

These in-jokes might not be enough to prevent you from throwing down your controller in disgust while muttering “rip-off” — so if you’re a Zelda purist who wants nothing but the real thing, steer clear. Although 3DDGH claims to be a parody, it’s better described as a Zelda sequel from an alternate universe — new puzzles and dungeons, same execution. The weird part is that the game’s on the PS3 instead of the Wii. Maybe Nintendo didn’t think this take on its famous franchise was very funny.

In spite of all that it’s “stolen” from its predecessors, 3DDGH innovates in some areas that Zelda never will. For one thing, you don’t have to play as the Hero of Time archetype if you don’t want to — and if you do, you can be either male or female. You can also play as a Princess/Prince, or a Scholar of either gender. Each class and gender selection provides a different ratio of health and magic points.

The game also includes complete appearance customization. You can modify an existing model from a gallery of pre-made characters, or you can tailor-make your character from the ground up; the latter is time-consuming but fun. You can create a hero who looks identical to Link from Zelda, or you can play as an armored tank, an alien, a bucket — whatever you feel like building.

If you are playing as a bucket, you’ll look funny swinging a sword around. The sword will be hilarious in any case, since you can level it up to an absurd degree. Eventually, it’ll get so big, so long, and so powerful that it will pulverize every enemy on screen whenever you draw it from its sheath. If the game weren’t so gender-neutral, I’d be giggling like a third-grader at the obvious implications.

The catch is that your sword can achieve super-powered mode only if all of your hearts are full. Well, actually, they’re not hearts — instead, you get little apples to represent your health in this game. Totally different from Zelda!

Although the character customization and ridiculous swordplay are fun novelties that distinguish 3DDGH from Zelda and other old-school RPGs, that might not be enough innovation to keep you interested. But there are also seven dungeons, and they’re not easy. If you’re here for the jokes and the parody elements, you’ll leave unsatisfied — only a deep love of Zelda-like puzzles will see you to this game’s end.

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