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Avatar ImageGamer Limit Review: 3D Dot Game Heroes
By: | May 21st, 2010 | Playstation 3
PS3 |Review

Today’s video game retail landscape is laden with powerful graphic engines and faster gameplay that focus on the bigger, better, and stronger. With that in mind, From Software and Atlus took a chance with 3D Dot Game Heroes (DGH).

It openly defies the industry majority by *almost* perfectly recreating the gameplay of The Legend of Zelda; while adopting the visual style of Patrick Jean’s “Pixels;” combining them into a stylistic and charming 3D adventure that inoculates players with wonderful nostalgia, but teeters on the fine line between flattery – and plagiarism.

DGH opens with the king of Dotnia decreeing that his nation changed from 2D to 3D. The world inflates in an adorable pop-up sequence, but the pixels forgo the evolution into polygons (the king pressed B, of course). The end result is a surprisingly prodigious world built entirely of giant pixels; a visual style that channels the humor and charisma of the 8-bit era, but fits comfortably in the HD scene.

It’s impossible to describe, verbally, so just take a look at the pictures included in this review. It’s beautiful retro-loving, and it looks even better in motion.

If it wasn’t for this disgustingly charming presentation, DGH would go down in history as purely a LoZ clone. Everything from the music – which sounds like rearranged LoZ tracks - item acquisition order, dungeons, and health and mana bars, cry copyright infringement. However, DGH implements a few changes, and flexes its modern muscle, to try and find its own place in its mentor’s established legacy.

A full life bar will grant the hero an extremely large sword, and access to abilities like spinning (activated by turning your hero while attacking), wider and longer blades, and more damage. This displaces the healthy hero cavalier attitude with caution as you must keep the health bar full for maximum power. This is easy to accomplish during the first half of the game, but the later dungeons and monsters are fierce competitors that will vehemently consume your health apples.

Included is an intuitive and elegant editor that lets players create heroes for their dangerous quest. It consists of a large box that lets you build the character pixel by pixel. Players customize their characters’ standing pose, walking pose (consisting of two different frames), hurrying animation, and two attack animations; building a fully functional character to use in the game.

However, its simplicity doesn’t limit its capabilities. The models are built from single pixels; players can create almost anything. The best example out of the box is the shark.  It moves around the map as a dorsal fin, but attacking causes the shark to leap out of the ground and spew…well a sword.

The robust editor continues Sony’s Play, Create, Share motto they started with LittleBigPlanet; players can upload their best creations, and download their favorites from other players. It offers little more than personal customization, but running around as Ekans, or any other zany creation, goes a long way to lengthen your experience with the 8-9 hours of gameplay.

Players can also customize their experience with changes to the camera angle, or by smoothing the pixelation. The camera angles offered are limited, but they help gamers that might find the default camera a little too close or far. Let’s just say, the smoothing option makes the game look more like a glorified NES title: small changes, but options nonetheless.

DGH does its best to inject a bit of its own personality into the tried-and-true gameplay of LoZ; unfortunately, the wonderful motif and self-aware humor aren’t enough to keep it from feeling like the game you played 24 years ago.

DGH knows this, and embraces it, but experienced gamers will find that the nostalgia wears off quickly, and newcomers may be put off by the limited – however well-aged – gameplay. It’s a good alternative for Sony-lovers that never played the original masterpiece, or players looking to save a few dollars.

Rating Category
10.0 Presentation
The pixelated world of Dotnia is all sorts of flattering adjectives. It's hard to describe, yet even harder to look away from.
How does our scoring system work?
6.0 Gameplay
It's intentionally a Legend of Zelda clone, and while it has aged well, we've been playing variations of it for almost 24 years.
6.5 Sound
The tracks fit well within the game, but because they are so similar to LoZ, they sometimes feel stolen.
7.0 Longevity
A character editor and extra difficulty mode provide extra incentive to play past the 8-9 hour mark.
7.0 Overall
3D Dot Game Heroes is fun for a while, but its nostalgia factor wears off too soon, and gamers are left with a title that is more fun to look at than it is to play.

  1. Dotonia reminds me of Blobonia.

    Great review!

  2. This game is the best thing since the SNES. I prefer it to the original Zelda games, and that’s coming from a hardcore Nintendo fan here. It is just plain amazingness, stuffed into a bluray disk, and packaged for us to buy at the wonderful pricetag of $40.

    I spent all last weekend playing it, and plan to repeat that for this weekend.

    • Seriously? I’ve been considering getting this, but with all the average reviews I’m just not sure.

    • @simon: I’d rate it closer to a 7.5 or 8… it definitely isn’t for everyone, and I’m sure there are some flaws I’ve overlooked because I’m in love with it so much, but if you like those retro games, this should be a must-buy game.

    • $40 is definitely the right price then, if it’s extremely familiar, and only 8-ish hours.

    • @chris: $40 is perfect… but 8 hrs is a bit short. I’ve been exploring and doing all kinds of optional side-quests that you have to do before the next temple or else you lose them and have less to do as the game progresses… I’m about 10 hrs in and still have the last temple and the boss fortress thing to do.

      If you skipped that stuff early on, then yeah… 8 hrs would probably be about right, but you also would have less health/magic/items as well (and miss out on just about all the trophies).

    • avatar Bailey

      OK . . . here we go!The big points all focus aruond building bonus, collecting that bonus which clears it out, rebuilding, recollecting, rebuilding, recollecting.There are two factors to the bonus . . . first is building up the bonus itself, the other is increasing you bonus multiplier and your Super Bonus multiplier.Bonus Pretty much every switch and target aruond the playfield grows the bonus up to a max of 30K. You’ll notice the background music change when you are getting close to maxing out bonus as a cue to get that cleared so you can start rebuilding. In addition to the random switches and targets that build bonus, there is one way to build your bonus quickly. The Spinner lane (it’s actually the exit switch on the top of the spinner lane) increases your bonus by 1,000 X the number of targets in B-A-RR-A-C-O-R-A you currently have knocked down during the ball in play. You’ll see inserts up in the spinner lane that shows you the ones you have already made. If you’ve successfully made both sets of drop targets in a ball, every shot up the spinner lane increases your bonus by 8,000. Pretty much 3 shots up the spinner lane, and you’ve re-maxed out bonus.Bonus Multiplier Completing either bank increases your bonus multiplier, which is the orange 2X, 3X, 4X and 5X inserts on the bottom of the playfield. This resets ball-to-ballSuper Bonus Multiplier Completing BOTH drop target banks increases your Super Bonus multiplier which is the green 2X, 3X, 4X and 5X inserts just above the regular bonus multiplier inserts. You’ll notice the green circle inserts just in front of the drop target banks. This shows you the progress of advancing to your next Super Bonus. You can’t stack left sides and then polish off right sides later to make up for that. Super Bonus multiplier is held through the game, and not cleared ball-to-ball like the regular bonus multiplier.Bonus Collection So you have all this bonus built up . . . how do I collect this thing, so I can clear it and start building up more bonus?!?! Well . . . the right orbit shot leads to a kickout hole on the upper left. If you complete both sets of top lanes (1-2-3 AND 4-5-6) this opens the gate and lights Collect Bonus. Total bonus collected is however many thousand, X Super Bonus multiplier, X regular Bonus multiplier. So max multiplier is 5 X 5 . . . or 25X!That’s pretty much the game strategy wise, although there are some other scoring opportunities.Target Bonus The two spot targets in the center of the playfield you can hit to increase the value. Left target represents however many thousand points, and the right target represents the multiplier. Collect that amount via the mini loop in the upper right portion of the playfield. This resets the target bonus back to base value (5K X 2, or 10,000). It is possible to build this up to 250,000 points . . . and if you have the left and right side target at the same level, the mini loop allows you to collect that value TWICE instead of just once before resetting the target value. That’s a quick 500,000 points if you can max the targets and hit that loop twice.1-2-3 Lanes advance the left kickout hole value from 30 to 60 to 90K4-5-6 Lanes advance the right spot target in front of the mini loop from 20K to 40K to Extra Ball if you have them onGame has a 2 or 3-ball multiball available. Left bank lights the left kickout hole, Right bank lights the top kickout hole (collect bonus shot). To get 3-ball multiball you have to lock the upper lock first. If you lock the upper lock and then drain, it serves you that ball to continue play, and resets your lock status if you happened to have the left kickout hole left. It’s nice to get that ball locked up in the top, and play for free’, although it’s impossible to collect bonus with that ball locked in the top, so you can only cash in with the free lock for so long.Enjoy! One of my favorite games of all time!

  3. I’m with Mark. It might not be for everyone, but the sheer charm makes it a joy to play. It’s a shame because sales figures haven’t been that strong. Support the makers!

  4. Playing Half Minute Hero was enough for me to start buying any and all of these new “Hero” titles from Atlus

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