The lights are on
From Software's 3D Dot Game Heroes is a complete homage to the 2D Legend of Zelda games, so much so that it would have been considered more than an imitation if it had released 20 years ago. A few other classic NES-era games get referenced, but Zelda is what the entirety of this release is based on.
If you've played a 2D Zelda game, then you've played 3D Dot Game Heroes, but with a game-changing item. 3DDGH's catch is that it's retro. From the moment you start the game you're shown a minimalist story: you play a hero who, having done his duty, lays his sword to rest in a forest. You then take control of a new character, some time later, who is sent by the king to retrieve said sword so that you can stop a great evil again. The kingdom of Dotnia has recently made the jump to 3D, and that caused a break in the big bad's prison.
After the short introduction you will receive the ancient hero's sword, which automatically feels overpowered, taking up a very large chunk of the screen with each swing. As I played with the blade, I was fairly certain its strength and size would be reduced in moments. I was partially wrong. In various Legend of Zelda games, having full health makes beams shoot from your sword. In 3DDGH, having full health gives your sword a much longer reach and width.
The king then sends you on your fetch quest: travel the kingdom to find each of the six dungeons, defeat the monsters inside, gather each of the six orbs, and receive a blessing from the wise mages who were left to watch over them. Simple enough.
The game strictly follows the classic Legend of Zelda formula: much of the world is blocked off from you, or else the enemies too tough. Each dungeon contains an item hidden within that will not only let you conquer the dungeon, but also unlock more of the world.
Speaking of the world, there are plenty of items hidden in it, from "apple pieces" that extend your life when you get 4, to brand new sword that you can use. In fact, there are several dozen swords in the game, and each can be upgraded in various categories (like length, width, and strength) by a pair of blacksmiths in return for gold, which there is never enough of.
Also in the world are many NPCs, who you can talk to to get new quests (write them down; there's no in-game quest list) which you can complete for certain items.
Apart from being a solid, yet difficult throwback to classic games, 3DDGH offers nothing new except a character builder that lets you build whatever you want. From the start of the game you can change your character from the hero to one of the many pre-built choices, like a robot or a shark or a robot shark.
This game is fun, and for those wanting one more classic fling, you can't go wrong. This is also one game where you'll want to go in without a guide. It's not the official "proper" way to play it, but it is the way you would have had to back in the day.
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