3D Dot Game Heroes Hands-On

We slay bunnies and other foul beasts in From Software's upcoming 3D adventure game.

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Some of you may take a quick glance at 3D Dot Game Heroes and have words like "rip-off" or "clone" spring to mind. While the game may remind you of classic action adventure games that may or may not involve a nameless boy armed with a sword and boomerang, 3D Dot Game Heroes is an homage or, as publisher Atlus put it, "a love letter" to the memorable retro games of the past. There's no denying that the gameplay is all too familiar--that everything to the world, music, and story is something that has been done before--but it's never been done quite this way.

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3D Dot Game Heroes doesn't take itself seriously. You can tell immediately by the storytelling and the dialogue when you chat with non-player characters that are scattered throughout the world. As the hero that is destined to save the kingdom of Dotnia, you must seek out six sages and their respective orbs to protect the kingdom from evil. The colorful world of Dotnia was in 2D 8-bit, but the king felt that 2D was boring, and it was time to enter a new era--one in 3D. So now, you're exploring a 3D world from an isometric perspective as a pixilated 3D hero.

Your hero can be customized, pixel by pixel. Several templates are available to choose from, but if you want to play as an animated golf ball, you can, or you can play as a tree stump, depending on your preferences. As long as you have the patience and know how to piece the little blocks together into a cohesive shape that resembles something, then you can save the world of Dotnia as Donkey Kong if you like. You'll have to create six templates, one for standing, a couple for the walking or attacking animations, and another that is labeled "hurray," which is essentially your victory pose. Regardless of who or what you decide to play as, there are enough references to other games for you to feel that wave of nostalgia, especially during loading screens, which been have redone for the North America version to include familiar games.

Like certain games of the past, you're directed to one dungeon after the other and must trek across the map to find the entrance. Once inside, you're breaking pots, avoiding traps, and slaying skeletons or scorpions all to find little keys that will ultimately lead you to an even bigger key that will lead you to the final boss, which guards a sage or orb or both. You'll also come across new weapons on your adventures, like a boomerang, and even though we didn't quite finish the third dungeon, it was obvious with all the pillars outside that there will be some sort of chain or whiplike device to help you travel across gaps.

Villages located throughout the world give you an opportunity to rest or purchase items like healing potions, bombs, or additional arrows. Inns are conveniently located near temples so that you can set your revival points. Otherwise, you'll be bumped back to the king's palace, which is smack-dab in the middle of the map. If you die when you're in a dungeon, however, you'll just start again from the entrance and your progress will have been saved. Your health and magic will also be full again.

Lawn mowing has never been easier.
Lawn mowing has never been easier.

Cracks that you find in walls or outside should always been blown away by bombs because you'll never know what you might find. Healing pools, free money, and other stuff could be hidden for you to discover. We stumbled across the From cave, where the NPCs inside had some amusing things to say about From Software's previous game, Demon's Souls. Most of the time, NPCs don't offer anything useful in regards to your quest. For example, we interrupted a guy who was urinating by a tree and peed on himself, which was good for a few laughs, so it's worth talking to everyone just to see what they have to say.

3D Dot Game Heroes may not be visually impressive when compared to other fully animated 3D games out there, but it's done well. Water effects and depth of field have also been added to make the pixilated characters pop out. It's fun to listen closely to the melodies and sound effects as well, because you may find some key tunes or noises that will take you back. Look for 3D Dot Game Heroes when it is released exclusively for the PlayStation 3 on May 11.

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