It's dangerous to go alone. Take this.
I have been looking forward to this game. At this point, anything considered “retro” that makes my radar somewhere has me interested and drooling. Retro Game Challenge, Rocket Knight, even the compilations of games I've owned for years like the Sonic Ultimate Genesis Collection are ready for play (I type that looking back and forth from my DS cases to my loose Genesis carts). I'm just a lover of the classics. So when I heard about 3D Dot Game Heroes and saw a few screenshots, I started thinking, “I will need to own this, methinks.”
[image1]In case you're completely new to this hobby, let me explain. The premise here is simple: The world has been placed into an armageddon-sized jeopardy situation from an evil force that controls a powerful ancient magic. And... I wish it was deeper than that but there isn't even a princess here to save. Oh, and you're followed by a fairy who's less helpful than an empty bottle of health elixir.
The whole experience is filled with throwbacks to the classic dungeon-crawler, so much so that there's very little here that can stand out on its own. I can fully appreciate the aesthetic appeal (“I go nuts for pixelated butts!”, Peach told me once), the old-school over-world, and even the lines that were – let's be honest here – copied and pasted into the speech bubbles, but... well... it's just Legend of Zelda. And in and of itself, there's nothing entirely wrong with that.
After all, if you're going to emulate a great game for a massive fan base, it's really about as big as it gets. To top it off, all of it is about one slip-up away from a MASSIVE Nintendo lawsuit: apples instead of hearts, orbs in the place of the descendants of the sages, even the weapons you pick up are as close as can be (boomerang, then bow and arrows, then bomb, etc... and don't forget that Flame Wand, you'll thank me later), right over the magic abilities given for each orb you collect.
Truth be told, as amazing as the original LoZ and especially Link to the Past were (and how well they hold up today), this is almost completely secondary. The over-world map feels so similar to LttP that I started getting flashbacks of the fun spots to flip into the Dark World. Problem is, 3DDGH is built more like an in-between between the original and LttP; only six dungeons plus the final boss dungeon keep it from being too long, and there's only really so many
heart containers apple life shards and magic bottles to pick up.
[image2]However, there are notable exceptions to the plagiarism copying. Small Blocks are scattered all over the world, and they're worth collecting if you want all of the swords. And it's worth it to seek out the swords, as each has a different set of statistics and levels they can reach with the upgrades available in the blacksmith shop. Some get stronger than others, some longer, some spin after you press the attack buttons or attack beyond rocks and trees via the pierce statistic.
There's also a character creator, with which, being the nerd that I am, I was able to make myself a 3D version of Fire Luigi, modified so he wasn't always facing one direction or the other. The editor is simple and straightforward, which is good for people with absolutely no visual talents whatsoever (hey, I write for a reason). Just a turn of the right stick moves the field to another axis. Move the pixel to where you want it to be, tap a shoulder button, and it'll fill in another color. It's so easy, a cave gamer can do it!
It's so blatantly obvious that this was made with love for Nintendo's legendary franchise, but the more I play it the more I'm reminded that I own a SNES. I can play a game that's so much deeper and more engrossing with a blocky gray cart that's been in my room for years. And, just in case I didn't have it, I just have to find my cousin's Wii. Or pull out my GBA and pop in that port.
[image3]When the game you're emulating is basically everywhere, it doesn't help people to pry themselves away to play more of a game that's just done with the same caliber. Except maybe for the music, which is surprisingly good here and can stand on its own, but once again is completely derivative of the source material. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery I know, but where does cloning fit?
A big problem with this game (and one that I doubt has ever happened to me in a Nintendo product) are the bugs. There are some that are basic ones, like occasionally in a temple you can go down a flight of stairs on the wrong side of the case, but there are times that the game will outright lock up and force you to restart your PS3 completely. It might just be me, but I had to do that multiple times throughout my playthrough, and each time had me muttering profanities. Each time it happened, the louder those profanities got. If it truly was a one-time kind of thing it wouldn't be worth mentioning but having it happen a handful of times is just inexcusable.
But when the game's working as it should, it's an enjoyable – if bland – experience. There are a ton of in-jokes, sure. But when you've heard them all before, it feels less like a tribute and more of a “we ran out of interesting things to say for ourselves”, and when you haven't heard them you won't get them anyway. Maybe I'm just jaded in my old age, but remember when games used to be all original and stuff? Those were the days...