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3D Dot Game Heroes: A Chip Off the Old Pixel
Company: Atlus

As much as our friendly PR reps probably don't want to hear this, I rarely - if ever - come out of a conference call wishing the game were either already spinning around in my console, or at least riding the truck to our mailbox. 3D Dot Game Heroes is a different story entirely.

I've been playing games for a long time and even though I enjoy more "modern" games, games from the 8- bit era will always hold a special place in my heart. I couldn't tell you the number of times I've replayed the original Legend of Zelda, but could count on my right hand the number of times I've completed Twilight Princess - once. 3D Dot Game Heroes is part homage, part parody (homarody??) of older games, like the original Zelda.

This may be memory-soaked nostalgia talking, but 3D Dot Game Heroes's visual style is an immediate attention-grabber. Everything is constructed of small 3D cubes. From a top-down perspective, the game could be easily mistaken for an 8-bit game (albeit a very pretty, HD 8-bit game... but the look is there), but then the perspective switches to an isometric view, completely changing the game's landscape. Trees, houses, even water reflections are crafted with blocky skill. Even animation comes off in simple, two-framed cycles. It's a complete nostalgia trip for older players, but has just enough graphical panache to get newer players interested.

You're even able to leave your own mark on the game by creating your own pixilated hero using the in-game character editor. Like the saying goes, if you can dream it, you can build it, though in a slightly reduced stature and detail. In our short demo, we were able to see everything from a traditional knight to a tank and even Domo-kun. The number of creations possible is, at first, a bit intimidating, but I can't wait to see what people come up with.

3D Dot Game Heroes's appeal goes beyond looking like a spruced-up 8-bit game. Gameplay is nearly ripped from every action RPG to hit the NES. Your blocky protagonist's quest begins with an all-to-familiar trek into the woods to regain a legendary sword to help rid the world of evil once again. Your sword, or swords as the game plays out, isn't your typical "hit the enemy next to you" variety. Depending on your health and the type of sword, you can extend its reach to hit enemies nearly on the other side of the screen.

Though a screen-clearing sword may sound like a one-way ticket to an easy game, it isn't. For one, a super-long sword is reserved for a character at full health and it will take you more than a few hours of exploration before you can hope to uncover one. Different swords also have different abilities and drawbacks. For example, the long sword can only hit in four cardinal directions, denying you the ability to pull off a devastating circle-slash move. Another, stubbier weapon, can shoot powerful laser blasts.

3D Dot Heroes gives you free reign of the entire kingdom of Dotnia from the start, allowing you to ford your own way through your adventure. There are dozens of secrets to uncover, from special shields to life segments (apples) to new swords. Aside from special items uncovered in specific dungeons, there's nothing to guide you to these extra-special goodies, so exploration is encouraged and nearly always rewarded in some small way. Completionists can even attempt to collect monsters in their bestiary by beating them over the head with the book.

Older gamers will likely find 3D Dot Game Heroes more appealing at first (like I said, I wish the game was in my PS3 already), but it oozes enough charm that even younger players should want to check it out.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker
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