Atlus Gives Us a Glimpse of 3D Dot Game Heroes

February 18, 2010

From Software has been on the minds of many gamers recently, with their critically acclaimed and brutal take on the dark RPG genre, Demon’s Souls. This year they’re coming back into the realm of PS3 exclusivity with a more light-hearted title, 3D Dot Game Heroes. We were given the chance to sit in on a streaming online demo presented by Atlus’ manager of PR and sales, Aram Jabbari, and what a fine demo session it was! I have to get this out of the way first – I was slightly curious about 3D Dot Game Heroes before this demo, but it is going to be a definite part of my May game play sessions afterward. Yes, it looks that good!  Hit the jump to find out what was showcased during this demo

Things started off with the character editor, which looks rather robust. You can create just about anything you can imagine here, all in a 3D retro-gaming style. You’re presented here with a 3D space where you can create your character any way you see fit. There are a wide variety of colors to choose from, as well. While you can’t be incredibly specific, like putting in your own hexidecimal code or anything, you do have quite a few color options, so there will be a color pretty close to what you’re looking for. The only issue is that, once you get into the game, certain items your character uses, such as a shield, may clip through your character, depending on the way you design it.

What can you do with your creation, you ask? In addition to using it to play through the game, obviously, you can also share it. There won’t be sharing over the PSN, but you will be able to transfer your creations onto a USB drive or other portable storage, move it to your computer and upload it to the game’s hub site. Because all the character creation data is region-free, the site will allow a mix of unique creations from all areas of the world, which adds an international flair to the game.

Also, right from the get-go you can definitely tell the music, much like the rest of the game, is a throwback to classic 8- and 16-bit titles of the past. While the music in and of itself is a nostalgic trip to my younger days of gaming, the specific parodies and references throughout the game go that extra mile to really make this retro action-adventure quest stand out. The loading screens themselves are each a parody of various retro games’ box art, such as CluClu Land, TMNT, Doom, Lemmings and dozens more. Speaking of loading…this is one game where you will want to sit through the loading screens, so the hard drive install is not mandatory. There is an optional install that will clock in at approximately 1.5GB if you wish to go that route, but it was strongly recommended that you not. If you do and you miss getting a good look at those loading screens, each one you unlock throughout the game will appear in a gallery that you can browse through and show off, so you can get a better look at them.

The North American version of the title will be getting more initial content than the Japanese version did. All the DLC that has been given to Japanese players via the PSN will be available on the disc at launch here, including almost twice as many pre-made starting characters that you can pick from instead of designing your own. In addition to that, there will be some North American exclusive content available on the disc, as well. Unfortunately, at this time, there is no new DLC planned for either region, but this may very well change, you never can tell.

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Given all the hysteria every time a game’s text can’t be read on a standard definition TV, such as the recent issues with Mass Effect 2 text, it was nice to hear and see that text size, speed and even the font are all adjustable at any time within the game. While the game is optimized for HDTV play, it should certainly be easily played on an SDTV, as well. Speaking of visuals and optimization, through the online video feed I had a hard time seeing much of this, but there is incredibly attractive real-time lighting and atmospheric effects, dynamic shadows and realistic water (with reflections!). It really all looks pretty amazing. It seems to be a game of contrasts, where the premise is that it takes you back to the retro-gaming of old, but still uses the power of the PS3 to give us incredibly detailed visual effects. It all works together nicely.

As you explore the world you get a very Zelda-like vibe, especially in dungeons. During the course of the game you must collect seven orbs, which are scattered around the world in seven huge dungeons. The dungeons are filled with puzzles, from the simple to the mind-bogglingly complex (is that a word?). You don’t just clear out a dungeon and be done with it, though. Each dungeon has areas that you can’t get to right away, and you can see these on the very detailed map that you’re provided. You will eventually find keys to open these areas and then get the opportunity to come back and explore some more, finding new secrets, enemies and loot. So, it really pays to explore in this game, especially if you want to find all the weapons and make the most powerful character possible. Another interesting thing about dungeons is that the bosses you find inside can be fought again at any point by resurrecting them.

As you explore, you’ll run into numerous different enemies, all of which can become a part of your bestiary by beating them over the head with a book a certain number of times. In your bestiary you’ll have detailed information about them, as well as a 3D model to check them out in more detail. You’ll also, no doubt, want to chronicle your adventures by taking screen shots, which you can do very easily. You can share these, as well, and show off your characters’ exploits to your friends around the globe.

One of our readers asked about a level or dungeon editor. Unfortunately there are no plans at this point, but Mr. Jabbari did point out that there is somewhat of an easter egg in the game that makes reference to a dungeon editor that was being worked on for the title, but the developers didn’t have time to finish it and dropped it in favor of polishing the other aspects of the game. Just like DLC, there’s always hope, right?

What also was of interest to me, given the frenzy around the fact that Final Fantasy XIII has no towns, is that you definitely have standard RPG-like towns in this game. These towns have NPCs to talk to, people to see, inns to sleep in, shops to visit, chickens and evil bunnies to slaughter. You name it, it’s there in these towns.

The game play elements of 3D Dot Game Heroes are nice, for sure, but again, the stand out has to be the fact that this entire game is a love story developed from the ground up for all those classic games of the past of which many of us have fond memories. The development staff at From Software definitely did their homework and parodied just about every popular classic game imaginable, including Western titles – they don’t just stick to the likes of Dragon Warrior or Final Fantasy.

Now, some of you are probably wondering about the difficulty and you’re not alone. When the topic came up, I posed the simple question, “As difficult as Demon’s Souls? More? Less?” Mr. Jabbari said it was definitely not as difficult as Demon’s Souls, but it did have its moments. In normal mode it is no cakewalk, but it is accessible enough that a less dedicated player can enjoy it. There are two harder modes, however. There’s the aptly titled “From Mode”, which is basically a hard mode, with twice the amount of enemies and stronger enemy attacks. Then there’s your “Splunker Mode”, which is an incredibly insane one-hit-and-you’re-dead adventure. So there is definitely challenge, although much less than we’ve expected from From Software as of late.

The game is pretty deep, and there is no lack of things to do at any point. There are three complex mini-games: a tower defense game, a racing game and a brick-breaker game. Some aspects of these games are exclusive to the North American version, as well. These are seriously games in and of themselves, which you can spend hours and hours on, they aren’t just short little shallow side games. Speaking of time spent, this game will likely take you about 15-20 hours on your first play-through, but if you’re fast you can probably complete one trip through the adventure in about 10 hours.  3D Dot Game Heroes does have a New Game+ that carries over many facets of the character and game that you played through once.

All in all, I’m now very excited about this game and I look forward to hearing more about it in the months leading up to its May 11, 2010 release date. Unfortunately, there are no pre-order bonuses or collector’s editions planned for release, but it will come at the cool Atlus-like price of $40, which is nice for such a deep, full-featured PS3 title. Look for us to cover this game as we get new information. I’d also like to take a moment to thank Atlus for the invite to their demo sessions today, and for Mr. Jabbari for putting up with all our questions and nostalgic babbling. It was a pleasure.

I’ve put some exclusive screens that Atlus sent out to only attendees of the streaming demo (which I’m sure won’t be “exclusive” for long), so take a look and enjoy!

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Chad Awkerman

Chad joined the DualShockers staff in mid 2009 and since then has put much of his time into covering RPGs, with a focus on the Japanese side of the genre, from the obscure to the mainstream. He's a huge fan of iconic games like Secret of Mana, Final Fantasy VI and Persona 4 yet enjoys the smaller niche titles, as well. In his spare time he enjoys experiencing new beer, new foods and keeping up with just about every sci-fi show on television. He's married to an intelligent, beautiful Southern Belle who keeps his life interesting with witty banter and spicy Cajun cooking.

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