I finally got around to watching the trailer for 3D Dot Game Heroes in preparation for TGS, and… wow. What has happened to From Software? They used to be the company that made dense games no one cared about. Now, they’re doing crazy compelling things that cling to the niche, but not so much that they won’t cross into the mainstream a bit. First Demons Souls, now this.
Seriously, this is fantastic — not least of all because it’s exactly what I’ve wanted since I played Animal Crossing on GameCube. The structure of the first two AC games’ worlds — the top-down viewpoint and screen-by-screen progress — reminded me of nothing so much as the original The Legend of Zelda. I found myself wishing on more than one occasion that Nintendo would tweak the AC engine into a retro-style Zelda game that featured 3D graphics but eschewed 3D design. Not that there’s anything wrong with the series’ modern entries, but the immediacy and simplicity of the NES game help it remain incredibly compelling even 20-odd years later. But that’s not really Nintendo’s style, so of course it never game to pass.
Fortunately, From is scratching that itch for them. Just watch the trailer above and you’ll see a game that shamelessly — proudly, I’d say — lifts direct inspiration from the original Zelda. From the triumphant fanfare to the boulders bounding down a cliff face to the seemingly stiff but direct game controls, this is basically Zelda with a 3D facelift… but not 3D mechanics. It is, literally, Zelda in the third dimension, up to and including the voxel style that retains the NES game’s essential pixellated look. The visuals are pretty great, but I’m more excited by the underlying concept of 3D Dot Game Heroes: The concept that 3D visuals need not hamper or complicate gameplay.
I guess to some degree the licensed Lego games have already done this, but those are kind of insipid and toothless. 3D Dot Game Heroes is, after all, a From game. And that means, if nothing else, that it exists to punch your soul right in the face with its difficulty level. I, for one, can’t wait for my soul to start sporting a From-induced shiner.