The Rarity of Parody in Gaming: 3D Dot Game Heroes

One thing that’s kinda rare in games is parody, especially the parody of actual game mechanics. Rarer still is when the results can actually be called “great” on their own, which is why I’m actually surprised at 3D Dot Game Heroes.

I think we can cite a lot of games with dialogue or writing that specifically calls out game design and the industry in general. What’s rare however are true interactive parodies of gameplay. Oh we have homages and throwbacks, but not very many ones made for the purposes of comedy.

Almost the only recent example I can think of is the first No More Heroes with its open-world exploration meant to parody urban free-roam games. Some were willing to forgive the boring nature of that part of the game because they got the joke, but not everyone who got the joke gave it a pass for not being fun on its own merits.

3D Dot Game Heroes was made for almost no other purpose than to call back to the early Legend of Zelda games. Nearly its whole identity is the cross it forms between the original Legend of Zelda and A Link to the Past. Despite that, I actually still think it’s a really good Zelda clone.

This game really does hit the tenants of what made the older Zelda games good mechanically. The combat is fun and challenging, the dungeons feel truly dangerous, and the exploration feels rewarding. Honestly, 3D Dot Game Heroes for the most part just feels like a new top-down Zelda.

Ironically I say all this after putting down Darksiders –the real popular Zelda clone, for having “no soul of its own”. It might be the fact that Darksiders doesn’t really have the same sense of exploration, it might be the fact that it tries so hard to have God of War’s combat. Whatever it is, I feel like playing other games when I’m playing Darksiders.

I think the real reason I’m enjoying 3D Dot so much is because we haven’t really had a game like the top-down Zelda titles on a console in almost 20 years. On top of that it’s a rare modern example of a real game that requires me to apply myself instead of just pressing whatever buttons the cinematic experience tells me to. I don’t even mean that in a “this is a hardcore oldschool game” way, but simply as Cliffy B put it “systems interacting with systems”.

This is a weird way to put it, but whenever I ask myself what most modern games are about, the typical answer is whatever’s happening in the cut scenes scripted sequences. Whenever I ask myself what 3D Dot is about, my answer is whatever I’m actually doing in the game. The same goes for From Software’s own Demon’s Souls.

In my opinion the game also manages to deliver enough of its own flavor. The look of the game is a weird one with its own ironic elements that can’t just be described with the word “8-bit”. The joke is of course “8-bit graphics in 3D”, but I find it odd and funny that the game bothers with realistic lighting and post-processing effects more akin to Killzone 3. It’s like they were trying to make a photorealistic depiction of a Lego set. The music in 3D Dot is also really good in its own right. Even it isn’t 100 percent chiptune, just informed enough by it to feel like an oldschool soundtrack.

Really though, how many times have you seen say, an action movie parody that actually manages to be a good action movie in its own right? That’s sort of what 3D Dot has become for me in the gaming sense.

BULLETS:

  • I never realized how many fighting game characters had absolutely ridiculous stances: http://t.co/RzxbcoR2 I still can’t get past Robert Garcia’s stance from Art of Fighting 3.
  • One of the things that really get’s to me is when Japan get’s superior box arts for western games. Check out what Katsuya Terada did for Prince of Persia on the Super Famicom: http://t.co/AViF2YP3
  • Cowboy Bebop will soon be on Blu-Ray in Japan: http://t.co/EuUD4e8n. Sure it’ll be $500 ($250 for the standard edition) and has no English, but I’m hoping that means they’re saving it for a separate English language release. Despite Bandai ceasing all North American DVD and Blu-Ray releases earlier this year, they gotta realize the demand for this show.
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2 thoughts on “The Rarity of Parody in Gaming: 3D Dot Game Heroes

  1. [...] it the western equivalent to 3D Dot Game Heroes if you will. DeathSpank is both a sound hack n’ slash as well as adventure game that asked a bit [...]

  2. […] some reason the parody game I keep comparing Evoland to is 3D Dot Game Heroes on the PS3. Both use parody in gameplay elements and end up featuring genuinely good game design on […]

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Stephanie Carmichael

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