Modern games are grey, bloody and angry. Muscle-bound space marines headshot mutants and monsters from behind the best cover system since Gears of War. Everyone swears. Everyone dies. There's even - hush hush - sex.
It wasn't always this way. There was a time - not too long ago - when games were optimistic, bright and breezy. They had charm; a magical quality that cast a spell that enchanted you for hours on end. One of these games was Nintendo's The Legend of Zelda.
Demon's Souls developer FromSoftware aims to rekindle memories of those more innocent, happy-go-lucky days - and The Legend of Zelda - with upcoming PS3 exclusive 3D Dot Game Heroes. It's a game that harkens back to the 8-bit era, with retro graphics and archaic dungeon crawling that's sure to put a smile on every 30-something gamer. And it does it so unashamedly, so proudly, that it's hard not to fall for… wait for it… its charm, whatever your age.
Imagine The Legend of Zelda - the first one, on the NES. Next, render everything in 3D and drop the perspective down. Now here's the important part: DO NOT GET RID OF THE RETRO GRAPHICS. Now you've got 3D Dot Game Heroes: resplendent in high definition but distinctly old school.
The similarities are stark. The hero embarks on a quest to save the world from a dark evil. You move from screen to screen killing monsters with sword swipes. You have a shield. Your health meter is made up of hearts. There are towns to explore and NPCs to talk to. There are inns. There are magic potions. There are dungeons. There are bosses. There's a boomerang. There are switches on the walls that can only be triggered with the boomerang. There are switches on the floor. There are puzzles that involve moving blocks. There's even a bow and arrow. Cutting grass reveals cash. If you place a bomb beside a crack in a wall, the explosion will reveal a cave.
As far as video game homages go, we can't think of any more enthusiastic. Shrines to the green-clad elf boy must adorn the desks of at least a handful of the guys and girls at FromSoftware. Normally, we'd cast such a blatant copycat aside unconsidered. But here, it's the point. 3D Dot Heroes is a parody. It's all about poking fun at the adventure genre. And best of all: it works.