'A' For Effort

Post date: Jun 6, 2011 4:14:20 AM

In but a couple months since its release, I've amassed a fairly decent 3DS game library. Granted, the software pickings at this point lack the types of knockout titles that most people are waiting for -- namely the likes of Mario Kart, Kid Icarus, or Animal Crossing -- but there have been some worthwhile game releases all the same. Pilotwings, Super Street Fighter IV 3D, Dead or Alive Dimensions, Steel Diver, and the quirky Face Raiders are all solid titles that, while not necessarily system sellers, are more than enough to satisfy the needs of anyone looking for quality software for their shiny new system.

My favorite 3DS game thus far is Dream Trigger 3D, a flawed but still enjoyable game from a small Japanese studio named Art Co. Ltd. The team hasn't developed anything all that notable, save for working with Q? Entertainment to code the PSP versions of Every Extend Extra and Gunpey. Most of the studio's output has been licensed games, from Scooby Doo to Astro Boy, which should raise a red flag from the get-go.

Yet with Dream Trigger 3D, I believe Art Co., Ltd. was allowed to spread their wings and fly where they pleased, free from the restrictions they certainly faced when developing their other games. The studio's time working with Q? is clear, as Dream Trigger 3D really feels like its in the same family as Every Extend Extreme, especially in the audio/visual department. But thankfully Art Co. Ltd.'s own direction and flavor shines through, for better and for worse, making the fruits of their labor feel like no game I've played before.

Dream Trigger 3D really has some negative aspects that are sure to turn away many players. There's no way the casual crowd would gush about a game like this. Honestly, I think most people would feel sad they spent $40 on the game. It's a crazy shooter of sorts where you have to continually send out sonar-like "pings" via a map on the touch screen that allows you to locate enemies that would otherwise remain invisible on the top screen. Meanwhile, you have to control a "craft" (or "cursor") on the top screen, moving around to avoid obstacles and get into position to blast enemies. Imagine waves of incoming enemies in Galaga that are invisible until you locate them using sonar. It's super confusing at first, and I had a lot of trouble clearing the first stage because dodging projectiles seemed impossible.

But then I realized something critical: You don't take damage while you're firing, and that opened the game up big time for me. You have a limited amount of power to fire off your weapon at enemies, though, so haphazardly shooting is probably not the best strategy. That said, your reserve refuels quickly, so you might be able to cheat and progress through stages without employing much strategy. That's definitely something of a design flaw, I suppose, though if you care about score, taking this approach to playing isn't going to be beneficial for your ranking.

Most of the stages feature similar enemy attack patterns followed by what seems to almost be the same boss battle over and over. The bosses don't pose too much of a challenge, either, and essentially you just keep pinging them until their color turns black, which is your cue to blast them. As the levels progress, you'll also face an increasing amount of basic enemies during your bouts with the bosses, but this doesn't really make things all that more difficult.

So, all things considered, Dream Trigger 3D doesn't sound all that hot, eh? But what separates it from the rest of the pack is that you can tell Art Co., Ltd. put their hearts into this one. Dream Trigger 3D was their baby, and they did their damndest with what I'm sure was a limited budget and lack of development time. Though many of the game's stages play out similarly, the visual and audio design is varied and inviting. I particularly love the game's soundtrack, which is dynamic and changes depending on whether you are moving and firing.

The game also has many of the unnecessary-but-awesome options I always love to have access to, such the ability to listen to the game's sound effects and music as well as customize the way appearance of various graphical elements. There are also a ton of achievement-like challenges to complete, like destroying every single enemy in a stage (easier said than done!). And of all the 3DS games I own, the 3D effects in Dream Trigger 3D are the tops, with a depth that makes it look like you're peering down into a well of activity. It looks amazing!

Sometimes imperfections can actually help make a game even more charming. I would even argue that perhaps Art. Co., Ltd. wouldn't have been able to create such a delightful game if they had an endless budget and timeframe. The team obviously did everything they could with what they were given, and the result is a game that is definitely worth the time of the (sadly) few who will appreciate it. If you're the type of person that can look at the uninhibited drawings of a young child and enjoy the enthusiasm and effort that can only come with the freedom of an untrained hand, then Dream Trigger 3D is for you.

In in ideal world the development team would be allowed to blaze their own game development path again soon, because it would be a shame for them to permanently return to licensed game hell. Something as unhinged as Dream Trigger 3D is a rarity, and I hope Art Co., Ltd. knows that there is at least one gamer who applauds them for their effort.