Bullet Hell in a blender set on 'mystify'.
Review written by
May 12th, 2011
In recent years, the special genre known as 'bullet hell' has been gaining a resurgence with re-releases of Treasure titles like Ikaruga and Bangai-O. In basic terms, these games involve the player as a very small vehicle or character up against hordes of enemies in the skies, on the ground or even in outer space. They typically tend to be 2D in nature, but don't have to be. Dream Trigger 3D takes most of its inspiration from these types of shooters, but also from a variety of other sources, including Tetsuya Mizaguchi's Rez and Child of Eden, Galaga, Battleship and even Square's Final Fantasy series with the result being something very difficult to get into, but that will reward players will to sink their teeth into it.
There does not seem to be an actual plot in Dream Trigger 3D other than shoot bad guys to win, and said bad guys come in vertical and horizontal formations similar to the classics Galaga and Galaxian. The player takes the role of numerous versions of an aiming reticule, from cross-hairs on one stage to a mystical butterfly on another. The 3D element comes into play due to the player not being able to attack these enemies from the sides or vertically, but only from their front i.e. the side that the player can't actually see. The enemies can't be 'seen' either, and the game encourages players to uncover enemies on the touch screen using sonar energy, in a similar fashion to the classic board game Battleship. In all honestly, players don't actually need to uncover enemies all the time as they can still be seen on the top screen as glowing dots that can be destroyed. Rather than feeling like Raiden or Ikaruga, the game instead feels more like using the rush attack found in Bangai-O, complete with invincibility during attack. However, players will eventually have to gain some semblance of ability over the sonar pings, as in order to gain energy to fire, enemies must be uncovered with sonar, leading to a bit of a vicious cycle. It takes a bit of practice to get used to using the sonar effectively, and it made this reviewer slap himself in the head realizing that the sonar pings can be spread across the touch screen like a minefield. It will take practice and patience to use well though, and Dream Trigger 3D has a bit of a learning curve, so don't go in expecting to become an expert right away or even for a few hours.
The graphics are rather good, though they don't come near the standards of say Pilotwings Resort. Rather than focusing on realism, Dream Trigger's stages seem to take a good deal of inspiration from Rez and Nintendo's own Electroplankton. The stages are colorful, esoteric and hypnotic, which goes well with the music. There is rarely any slowdown whatsoever, and in a nice touch, the enemy bullets are easily viewable. This is good, because players will need to eventually learn how to switch views quickly between the touch screen and the 3D screen. Speaking of 3D, the game doesn't use the effect as much as one would hope, with almost no effect on gameplay.
The music and sound effects are exceptional. The music itself works in concord with enemies occurring on-screen, adding beats to the ongoing melodies, which are largely a mix of musical genres, employing easy listening, punk and even techno to great effect. The sound effects are essential, alerting the player to uncovered enemies and sonar bombs going off. The sound designers should feel proud, as this is one of the few games in recent memory in which sound is vital to the experience.
The game has several different modes for player perusal, but the main mode is the 'story', which is mislabeled because there didn't seem to be any actual story. The story mode works in a fashion similar to both Final Fantasy X and XIII and involves the player starting on a board game like circle, representing one stage. By finishing stages, players gain DP, which can be used to move to and unlock other stages. It is an interesting approach, especially to a genre that typically goes from one stage to another in a linear fashion. Dream Trigger also features an in-game achievement/trophy system. Made up of 117 different individual achievements, these not only will keep players hooked, but wisely also unlock hidden stages when certain qualifications are fulfilled. The game also features Free Play i.e. Score Attack and Time Attack modes, each of which give the player the objectives of scoring the highest or getting the lowest time in a stage possible. As if these weren't enough, the game also features a multiplayer mode, which is basically just score attack but with the option of also fighting the other player. When a player 'dies' it isn't the end in this mode though, as the score is most important; destroying a fellow player has them respawn but gives you a huge amount of points.
Dream Trigger 3D is by no means a bad game and in many ways is a very good one. In fact it is one of the better games thus far within the 3DS launch window. Be prepared however, as getting the most out of the game will require a lot of time investment. Players who persist with it will be rewarded, but many will quit before the end of the second stage. If you enjoy games that are tough, yet fair, it is definitely worth a look.
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