I'm a nostalgic person, so right away 3D Dot Game Heroes appealed to me. Never before has there a game so diliberate in its ripping off of classic titles. Every ounce of Game Heroes has been almost directly lifted from someone or something in the videogame past. What it adds up to in the end may not quite be what the developers were hoping for, but it ins nonetheless a fun experience that survivors of the good old days will likely enjoy.
An evil force is threatening the world, and you the descendant of the great hero from the past, are sent on a quest to stop it. In other words, it's every other fantasy game ever made. No, that's true, Game Heroes is Zelda. From the game's music, to its gameplay and visual style, it is just a top down style Zelda with different characters and a Lego-esque paint job. Honestly, they could have called it Lego Zelda, and no one would have been the wiser. They obviously changed some little things. While the overworld theme is obviously made to be reminiscent of the Zelda theme, it is distinct. Your health meter is made up of apples, rather than hearts. When your health is fully charged, your sword just gets bigger and more powerful rather than shooting laser beams across the screen.
It's still as close to a direct clone as any game has gotten. You plod around a vast over world. You fight your way through challenging dungeons filled with monsters and puzzles. Each new dungeon yields a new weapon or ability, and upon beating the boss monster at the end of the dungeon, you're gifted with an expansion to your health meter. It so openly copies Zelda you can't even criticize it, because it's obvious that's what they trying to do. Zelda isn't the only franchise it borrows from. Game Heroes is a send up of several old franchises, ranging from Dragon Quest to Street Fighter. In theory, it's a feast for nostalgic gamers of the 80s and 90s. In practice though, this portion is a bit disappointing. While it literally cuts and paste memorable moments and scenes from other games, it does so in entirely unmemorable ways. The biggest problem is that Game Heroes lacks any self awareness. It would have worked better if these moments were used to poke fun at the old titles they originate from. As it is, they're just there. Most often the feeling that accompanies such nods is more along the lines of “I guess that's kind of cool.”
This aside, it cannot be emphasized enough that Game Heroes is still great fun. The gameplay is solid, and the visual elements, while really close to the Lego games still comes across as interesting and unique. It also boasts one of the best character creations systems ever. While you can play with any assortment of pre-made avatars, you're free to build your own and you can literally make any kind of character you like. I, for instance, played the game as Peepor, a baby viking chicken. With enough patience and creativity you can make just about anything. 3D Dot Game Heroes is not quite everything it was intended to be.
Many of the elements included blatantly for the purpose of nostalgia fall flat. That said, the game as a whole is a solid and attractive effort that will entertain fans of old school gaming. It's simple, and no frills, but it's fun. The only thing that you could really fault it for is not being as good as the game it draws the most from: Zelda. Game Heroes is good but it unfortunately falls short of the old Zelda games. So while I wouldn't say not to give this a try, if you haven't played A Link to the Past, you'd be better off giving that a spin. It's cheaper and infinitely better. Of course, that might just be nostalgia talking.