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As a classic gamer I am always looking for games on modern day systems that hearken back to the good ole’ days of the “Bit” era. Imagine my surprise when I come across for the first time today a PS3 Exclusive that tugs at the heart strings of anyone that grew up on Legend of Zelda or Dragon Warrior on the NES. For me this game completely flew under the radar and I am hoping that many of you will be learning for the first time of this great homage to the golden days of gaming. I am speaking of 3D Dot Game Heroes from one of the most prolific makers of gaming awesomeness, Atlus.
This review is going to be ongoing and updated with each new level. To begin at the beginning let’s talk about the game. It’s graphics, story and objectives and interface. Well, let’s even go further and talk about the case. After all, this is what caught my eye while walking through my local game store. The box shows a larger than life, pixelated warrior amidst other pixelated warriors and a pixelated title. This is more pixels than I have ever seen and shows straight away the eye candy that awaits those that choose to adventure into Dotnia, the fantasy kingdom you are trying to save.
The story is very familiar to any of us who have enjoyed the earliest of 2D RPGs. It seems the Dark King had decided to wreak havoc in the once peaceful kingdom until his reign of terror was brought to an end by a great hero who sealed him in a magical dark orb. Time has passed and Tezro, the King of Dotnia has ushered in a new age of 3D. This all plays out in the introductory story that shows a 2D world very similar to the look of the original Legend of Zelda. Then all of a sudden the world changes in front of your eyes from 2D to an eye popping, drop dead gorgeous pixelated 3D world. The graphical affect is truely a site to behold, at least for us oldschool gamers.
The rest of the story begins to unfold when you learn that the Dark Orb, you know the one containing Dark King, was stolen by a bishop named Fuelle. Now once again the land is being overrun by a variety of strange creatures many of which you will recognize from days gone by. You come to learn you are a descendant of the legendary Hero that was responsible for caging the Dark King in that orb, with the help of the six orbs and the six sages. Let the game begin. No wait, before the game begins you have an opportunity to pick your hero from dozens of very cool, pre-made pixelated warriors (Yes, you can create your own too!). Once you have decided on your character and name him (I name all my dungeon heroes Bodan since my D&D days) you are ready to visit the castle and meet your highness, King Tezro. He explains the goal before you, to search the surrounding lands for the six orbs and six sages that have been banished by Fuelle. And ultimately find Fuelle himself and get your grubby little hands back on the dark orb. Oh, and you have to find the Princess who has disappeared since she went out on her own to try accomplishing the same goal.
The king gives you your first sword and instructs you to head into the forest to try and pull a mysterious sword from a rock, supposedly placed there by your heroic descendant. You leave the castle and start heading to the forest to the north. But wait, if you are like me you have to explore the kingdom first. You will come to visit and talk with the town folk of Dotnia who give you all kinds of useful and non-useful information you are used to when beginning a RPG. You will also find the weapons store, the potion store, the Inn and other familiar buildings, shops and stores you all know and love. Like Zelda, you can stab at plants to find coinage and stab little bunnies to reveal red apples which represent your health meter in this game.
Once you are through exploring you finally make your way into the forest all the while doing battle with spiders and bunnies (yes, bunnies). A nice touch is that with every enemy you defeat they shatter into tons of pixelated pieces, a very satisfying effect. And most will leave behind money or some type of power up. Enemies aren’t terribly difficult to kill in the early stage but they are giving you an opportunity to build up your coin stash. And many enemies will leave behind apples so you can immediately upgrade your health as needed. And health is plentiful in the early goings. Very quickly you will discover the sword in the stone, after what is your first mini boss battle. Pull that sword out and return to the king for further instruction.
The king now tells you to travel to the west to the Grass Temple. This is the location of the first lost orb and sage. You can think of the temples as the dungeons of Legend of Zelda. They are strewn with simple puzzles, hidden keys, push buttons and pull levers, maps and treasures. You will also come across some new enemies including the obvious slime (oh, yes, pixelated slime looks damn cool!), skeletons and bats. Once you have searched the entire temple and opened all the doors and treasure chests you will reach the last door which reveals the first level boss – a big worm. Defeat the worm and you will find the first orb and sage. And you will discover that with each orb you find you will open up new magic abilities. Sweet!
The controls and interface for DGH will be very familiar to anyone used to old school RPGs. The first thing I was glad to find out was that fighting takes place real time. It’s not turn based so you can swipe your sword while running around and defending attacks. And another very cool thing is that with sword upgrades (or by visiting the town Blacksmith) your sword can grow in length and width to nearly fill the entire screen, allowing you attack multiple enemies with one swipe. I found controlling your hero to be very easy using either the d-pad or analog stick to control your direction. Weapons are used by pressing the X-button and you can cycle through your menus with the R1 or L1 buttons. Your apples or life meter sits in the upper left of the screen and you have the ability to increase your apple count by helping the villagers when asked as they provide you life shards for helping them out. There are also some mini games thrown in for good measure although I have yet to play any. More on that in part 2 of this review.
That is where I will end part one of this review. If you can’t tell I believe this game is great. Not to hard and the graphical style never gets old. Everything in this world is pixelated and look simply amazing! If you are an old school gamer or someone wanting to take a peak at gaming’s simpler days do yourself a favor and pick up 3D Dot Game Heroes. I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed!
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