The video game sprite is very quickly becoming a thing of the past. They began dying out sometime in the late 1990s when Miyamoto introduced Mario to 3D. However, what would have happened if the decidedly retro looking sprites were to be introduced to a world where blocks have three dimensions instead of two? Atlus' latest release, "3D Dot Game Heroes," looks to answer that while paying homage to some of the greatest games ever made.
"3D Dot Game Heroes" is a top-down adventure game, the likes of which haven't been seen on a console in almost two decades. The game tells the rather humorous story of the troubled kingdom of Dotnia and the rise of the dark lord that threatens their peaceful way of life. One hero has come along who can take down the evil bishop Fuelle who hopes to reawaken the Dark King Onyx who is imprisoned inside of a dark orb. By seeking out six sacred orbs from six sages "Dot Game"'s hero will be able to use their combined power to restore peace to Dotnia. Sounds really familiar doesn't it?
The first thing any experienced gamer is going to notice about "3D Dot Game Heroes" is that it is very similar to Nintendo's classic, "Zelda." And, without a doubt, it is. However, "Dot Game Heroes" layers on additional gameplay elements and a fresh new look that makes it clear that this is a separate game that's inspired by the classic, and not a rip-off. However, there are many similarities; weapons, plot points, in-jokes, music, or puzzles, frankly, you're going to be surprised this hero didn't wake up on a beach, without a sword, not knowing who he is.
It's All About The Sword
Instead of placing the emphasis on leveling up your character like most modern-day RPGs, "3D Dot Game Heroes" takes a different approach, offering the player the opportunity to upgrade and customize their sword instead. While that may not be an entirely new concept for games, "3D Dot Game Heroes"' gameplay places a huge emphasis on your heroes' sword, mostly because it's such a big part of the game, literally. When your hero has full life, their sword shows it by virtually taking over the whole screen. Players can pay the blacksmith to lengthen, widen, and add beams or other special features to their blades, creating some of the most devastating weapons ever wielded in a game. However, if you take one hit, you're back down to your puny standard rapier.
So Many Heroes
"Dot Game Heroes" knows that there's always room for more than one hero, which is why they don't restrict you to just one playable character. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with playing the game as From Software's default hero, Frum, players have the option to play as one of the numerous pre-created heroes, each with their own class, strengths and weakness, or even create their own. From Santa to a Succubus, the heroes on the disc are both creative and funny, but its only the players imagination that restricts them when it comes designing their ideal character. Additionally, Atlus has set up a website, the "Hall of Heroes," where players can upload and share their custom heroes.
Missing Items and Storylines
"Game Heroes"' story is very linear, and you're not likely to miss out on a dungeon, or not pass by the next village, but, as if it were taking cues from other modern-day open world games, there's a lot you can miss out on if you don't explore. There are a host of items, swords, and shields that are hidden throughout the world, and while they aren't necessities for completing the game's main story, they can be ridiculously helpful. The problem with all of these items is that there's virtually no way your standard gamer is going to know where or what to look for them unless they're playing with the assistance of a walkthrough. There's a good chance that most of the people that play "3D Dot Game Heroes" are going to miss out on some of the best items in the game, and even an alternate ending.
For being such a huge factor in the game, you'd think the developers would have perfected the swordplay under all circumstances. There are numerous points in the game where you'll be expecting for your blade to reach all the way across the screen, but something will appear to obstruct it, preventing it from hitting oncoming enemies. If there was something in the way when this happened, I wouldn't be complaining, but more often than not there's nothing there.
No Death Penalty
In a demonstration that proves that "3D Dot Game Heroes" was, in fact, developed today, there is one fundamental thing missing from this game; a penalty for dying. Aside from being transported back to your last restoration point, usually an inn or the entrance of a dungeon, the player isn't penalized at all for dying. When you respawn you'll have full health, making it almost smarter to die in some situations than use your precious health potions to save you at the last second. It's a modern way of thinking applied to an old-style game, taking the punishment out, and making things a little too easy to keep on playing.
"3D Dot Game Heroes" goes above and beyond what any other game has done to appeal to fans of retro adventure games. Sure, you can compare it to "The Legend of Zelda" and "A Link to the Past" but in the end, it's more of an homage to those titles than anything else, pulling inspiration from their characters, gameplay and mechanics, but not directly copying them. It comes together as both a trip down nostalgia lane mixed with a modern-day, uniquely stylized take on a classic genre.