Sometimes you manage to catch a little lightning in a bottle when you combine nostalgia and humor. Sometimes it brings back good memories and other times it can make a new trend. Where does this game fall in and will it stand the test of time to be its own nostalgia.
Story The story is simple enough if you have managed to play any sort of action RPG from the eighties. You are a hero, you are off to save the world and you will do a lot of things over and over again. What makes this slightly different is that the game doesn't take itself seriously and it shows. From the tongue in cheek references to the over the top characters, you will certainly not have a problem in accepting this game, if you know the jokes.
Gameplay Standard gameplay from your typical eighties action RPG game. You move with the left stick/d-pad and attack with the standard buttons, one being your normal attack and the other being a secondary weapon or magic. The difference is that instead of just managing to stay healthy to have a powerful weapon, you can upgrade the soul weapon you have to do greater damage and the size to nearly take up the screen.
And what a weapon it can be (if you manage to stay healthy). Your sword is a master of space consumption and will do a healthy chunk of damage, but it comes at a price. The upgrades can be expensive and you can be fooled into thinking that bigger is better. I learned this the hard way myself, don't fall for that trap! The nice addition to this concept though is the ability to "swing" your sword; by pressing the attack button and giving your directional control a little move, you can actually swing the sword at a 45 degree turn, allowing for the ability to take out an approaching monster from a safe distance. It is clear that the programmers had this in mind as they certainly try to force you into this, sometimes it can be very frustrating if you manage to take on some of these enemies head on.
Towns are standard fare for an homage to the action RPG game; there is an inn, an item store, a weapon place and a few treasure chests nestled in with all of the random and crazy quests that you can do for the crazy people of Dotnia. Dungeons are also standard fare, having traps and puzzles to sort out in order to unlock the path as you play along. Sometimes they are quite easy and sometimes they can be quite frustrating. It is this balance that manages to make this game more appealing as you play it, making it not overly challenging but still easy enough to push onto the next dungeon.
Graphics and sounds Simple in its complexity. There are sometimes where the words less is more means a lot and in this case, less of the poly and more of the pixel gives this game great form and function. Sure, it looks a little odd to be running around as a 3D version of a blocky hero but it still will give you warm and fuzzies as you see your hero (either taken from the standard sprites available or one that you created) running around slashing people with their large sword. What a sprite editor there is! While it does take some time getting used to, there is a depth there that is worthy of playing around with. Heck, you can even take the pre-existing sprites and adjust them to your liking, learning by backwards engineering, as it were.
The sprites in Dotnia are amazing but what makes the scene is the sound. The music is quite catchy and may be a little repetitive but that is ok because you will be humming those tunes to yourself as you go along. The rest of the game manages to capture the blingles and chimes of the older games to heart, allowing for some great moments and some warm smiles as you manage to find the apples, recover a lost artifact or find something important in a chest somewhere. It is all seemless and quite agreeable.
Staying Power While there is no need to go through and do an expansion or DLC in this instance, this will be the birth of a new series for sure. From Software can easily crank these out, perhaps doing their take on the Dragon Quest (Dragon Warrior for those in the US) franchise. While it might get a little old and long in the tooth, it can have the distance and staying power, for sure.
Overall Yes, I have heard the outcries that this game rips off the Nintendo franchise that starts with a Z almost sprite for sprite, action by action. While it is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I do not see 3D Dot Game Heroes kicking that Z game out of its place in history. iF anything, it is doing what it can to celebrate that games place and try to remind people how good games were before the need to have voice actors, long movie style cutscenes or large tomes called strategy guides. It is a simpler game made with complex equipment and I would have it any other way!