So far in the 3DS’ life cycle, the current game line-up has been slim. We’ve had familiar franchises remade for handhelds, mii’s being shoved into everything and the odd gem. With the great games months on the horizon the 3DS has to have something to keep the device relevant and with the PS-VITA on the way it’s more important than ever to keep the current audience interested in the system. Dream Trigger 3D has destroyed the current archetype of system releases by being a brand new IP for a new system with gameplay mechanics previously unseen that utilise the hardware available well. The heavy risk the game has taken is a great move for the system but in this case, it needs a little more fine tuning before turning enough heads.
Dream Trigger 3D is an exclusive 3DS game developed by “Art. Co. Ltd” and the third 3DS game to date published by the Japanese Publishers “D3 Publisher”. Dream Trigger is primarily an arcade like shooter and as such has no real story. As the title represents, each level is formulated as a dreamscape of which you must navigate whilst uncovering and shooting enemies that roam around it. Due to the lack of a story the game presents how to play the game with a very long and drawn out set of tutorials. Since the gameplay mechanics are so new the tutorial has to be very concise and the game does tell you how to play very well. However the hand-holding gets a little too much the more you delve into it with parts such as the world map between worlds having its own 5-6 page tutorial when the best way to really experience and learn the game is by simply playing it.
The gameplay of Dream Trigger is outside of anything seen before. The nearest equivalent game to compare it to would be either Rez or Child of Eden. Destroying enemies to the beat of music after uncovering them with sound. The gameplay of Dream Trigger can be summarised thus: Take your stylus and press the bottom screen at parts where enemies are appearing (shown via dots on the bottom screen). Once the music beat line (think lumines) that appears across the top screen periodically hits the part where the placed dots are, the dots will give a small pulse-wave, revealing the enemies on the top screen within the pulse’s range, you then use the analogue stick to bring your character above the revealed dots and shoot them with either the L,R, A or B buttons. The brief description here doesn’t really do the game justice, it really must be played to be understood.
If that all seems like a lot to take in, that’s because it is. The game is extremely frustrating at first for a number of reasons. Holding and using the stylus in combination with pressing the buttons and moving the analogue stick takes a long time to get used to. In addition, the enemies (uncovered or not) will shoot you mercilessly with as many as 5 projectiles each which you must dodge. If you get hit 3 times in a level you’ll have to start over from the beginning, there are no checkpoints. The inevitable constant movement of the 3DS while trying to get your head around how to control the system comfortably means that you’ll often veer out of the sweet spot for the 3D effect. As a result, you’re likely have to play the first few hours in 2D to get your bearings. Finally, there are power-ups that come up that you also have to look out for whilst thinking about all of the above. If you think that because the game is on the 3DS that it’ll be casual and easy, think again. You’ll need to put in the time and effort to play it the way its meant to be played.
It’s fortunate then that after the sheer confusion of the mechanics have been overcome that the game is simply a pleasure to play. The levels become more about timing and presentation than mechanics and panic. The dreamscapes Dream Trigger present are absolutely fantastic and are arguably the best part of the game. It’s clear that the game is intended to be visually and audibly savoured and once you get into the groove you can really see below the gameplay there’s a real sense of relaxation and artistic enjoyment to be had. The games environments are very diverse ranging from technological arenas to dark blue skies to colourful fields, The 3D effect of the 3DS turns these landscapes into real examples of the 3D’s capabilities, it’s the prettiest game on the 3DS by far, the 3D also lends a hand in uncovering enemies easier and being able to time your movements to collect power-ups and shields a lot better.
The ability to really embrace and enjoy the game after getting your head around it also lends to its greatest downfall. Past the innovation and new ideas, the game is very limited. The levels don’t tend to deviate from the first one or two except for different enemy formations. Also, past the original mechanics the game doesn’t introduce anything new, meaning that each stage is a new dreamscape to look at and very little else. The game does offer quite a bit of customisation in terms of the pulse icons and enemy designs but apart from that everything is very cut and dry with very little other visual changes except for the backgrounds, of which you can’t really afford to enjoy in the later levels due to how hectic the game becomes. Since the difficulty curve is nicely smoothed out the levels tend to fly by with the only real increase in difficulty coming from increasing numbers of enemies to defeat and projectiles to dodge and with only around 50 levels to play the game ends up becoming a case of getting a better score more than anything else.
Aside from the world map mode the game comes with a few other modes including free play mode, allowing you to play levels again for a higher score, time attack mode which involves killing waves of enemies in the fastest time you can and a competitive versus mode whereby you can play online or local wireless play in a score attack mode with a twist. If one player gets a pulse that hits the other player, the enemies on the screen will attack the pulsed player only. This turns the perceived “multiplayer-free-play” mode into an interesting competitive experience that’s bound to keep players interested. In addition, the game has a selection of achievement-like challenges to complete but this only really serves to pad the game out with tasks rather than introducing any further content. Aside from those two things the story mode doesn’t offer anything new after completion except getting higher scores and better times on the already existing levels, which is fine for an arcade shooter but some extra levels and hidden secrets wouldn’t go amiss.
The game aims itself to be an arcade shooter and it performs admirably but the game tends to be a mix-up of sounds and visions with very little substance otherwise. Take away the colourful dressing and Dream Trigger will look remarkably like an innovative shooter idea that falls short in substance.
The game prides itself on its art with the dreamscapes being a real joy to look at, they’re varied and colourful and with the changes of the character to match the surroundings the game genuinely does feel different with every level. The art style and execution is honestly the best part of the game which is a shame because if the other aspects matched this would be an award winning 3DS title.
The gameplay mechanics centre around music and as such the soundtrack has had a lot of design consideration. The music gets busier the better you’re doing and there’s a varied mix of electronic beats to be had. The music only gets going if you’re doing very well though with only ambient noise otherwise so if you aren’t very good (Read: the first 4-5 hours or more) it’ll seem very dull and lifeless. A game shouldn’t have you make you work to appreciate its core aesthetics.
Dream Trigger is horrendously difficult at the start but ends up becoming very satisfying. However, this also lends to its downfall because once you “get it”, the game gets very easy and doesn’t really go anywhere. It’s like mastering a skill to the point where you can’t get any better then having nothing else to achieve, as a result; the game becomes far too easy.
The game does have a lot of challenges to complete and a few modes to enjoy past the main game but it all seems like repeats of the main game with a different coat of paint. The game had a lot of potential and with more core stages and a few hidden ones the game would have been fantastic. As it stands right now however the game seems like an extended test of the new game mechanics rather than a full game to appreciate them.
Visually and audibly, the game is absolutely fantastic, the gameplay is new innovative and fun once you get the hang of it but that’s really all the game has going for it. If a little more time was given to actual content after the new mechanics we could have seen a real cornerstone for rhythm based shooters. I genuinely hope that D3 decide to take this idea forward because for a while there I thought I was playing a potential flagship franchise.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.