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Posted on Sep 25th 2014 at 10:11:21 AM by (bombatomba)
Posted under Saturn, Sega, Dirty, 3 Dirty Dwarves, fun

Dear RFGeneration Members, as you might have noticed over the past few months, one of our long-time (since 2009) and active members on the site, bombatomba, has had a few of his most recent blog posts promoted to our front page. Our staff has enjoyed reading his work, has followed his blog closely, and used his posts to fill in dates at times when more content was needed. We are happy to announce that bombatomba has accepted our offer to join the blog writing staff and you will be seeing more of his work in the future. Please join our staff in congratulating him and welcoming him to the RFGeneration staff!

Three Dirty Dwarves is a side-scrolling, action game, somewhat in the vein of Golden Axe/Streets of Rage, that was released in 1996 for the Sega Saturn and PC.  On the surface, it has lots of great animation, especially for the main characters, a goofy visual aesthetic, amusing sound effects, and co-op for up to three players. However, underneath beats the heart of an arcade game that never was. Be it good or bad, at the end of the day we are left with this somewhat amusing game that remains fun (with a group) yet is nonetheless flawed.  So let's go ahead and roll in the dirt a bit and explore Three Dirty Dwarves for the Sega Saturn.

Three Dirty Dwarves weaves together a story through animated cut-scenes in the intro and in between stages.  The story begins with a group of kids playing D&D who inadvertently summon a trio of dwarves by rolling a natural twenty (on a d20) before being kidnapped (ahem!) by a possible military force or government.  It is up to you to take control of one or all of the dwarves and take up arms to rescue the children. 

Gameplay in Three Dirty Dwarves resembles an early Sega arcade beat'em up. Each of the dwarves has a unique weapon (a bowling pin and ball, a shotgun, and a baseball bat and balls) with their own set of melee, ranged, and power attacks. Each character also has their own strengths and weaknesses, each with is more appropriate in certain situations and can handicap them in others. There is also a "morph" attack available, which combines all dwarves into one for a powerful attack; this "morph" is different depending on which dwarf initiates the attack.  All power and morph attacks are governed by a single meter that is powered up by collecting either d20 dice or spinning skulls that are littered liberally throughout the landscape. 

The variety of enemies in Three Dirty Dwarves is nice, and features naked ninjas with black bars over their genitalia, crazy bag ladies with tape, and nerds (to name a few).  The bosses are quite fun and  require you to attack them in a certain way whilst avoiding their attacks. These battles give the game the feel of a "lite" shoot'em-up/platformer mix.

Based solely on the paragraphs above, one could come to the conclusion that Three Dirty Dwarves is a dream come true for beat'em up fans.  Before I continue, I would like to say that this game is fun and certainly worth a play through, especially for Saturn owners that do not import.  However, there is one glaring flaw in this would-be diamond that stands out and hold it back from being a real gem: the co-op multiplayer has a very strange quirk to it that can really take the wind out of a play session.  Three Dirty Dwarves supports up to three players co-op, but you can also play it single player.  With three players, each person controls a dwarf and they must coordinate their attacks to take down bosses and revive each other (i.e., melee attacking the swooned character) while maintaining the fight. In 2-player mode, there is a single dwarf that is grayed out who can be freely selected by one of the other players.  While 2-player mode is still fun, when your character dies, you get kicked to the "spare" character, which allows the the "spare"  character to possibly be forgotten during a fight. 

In single player mode, one must juggle the available characters to make sure the optimum dwarf is used in the appropriate situation. Another caveat to this mode is that you also have to make sure that all of the swooned characters are revived and not left behind (which is possible).  Trust me, this is a very lonely feeling game when played by yourself.  If this in-game feature isn't annoying enough, even if you have three (or two players), six of the fifteen stages can only be played by a single player. This means that player-one takes control of the other dwarves while the other players just sit and watch........not fun.

There are a few more flaws in Three Dirty Dwarves, but I consider them unimportant in today's context (and considering the very low price of this game).  In retrospect, I believe that the flaws mentioned above helped to contribute to the general, passive animosity that the game received shortly after release. The animated cut-scenes are a bit cheesy and sometimes feel unnecessary, and there is only a single, two-hit combo available for each character.  The game is very short, and playing alone should take you less than an hour.  One of the biggest downfalls of Three Dirty Dwarves is that it had to stand against Guardian Heroes, which manages to do everything better.

Video by teh2Dgamer

In conclusion, Three Dirty Dwarves is a great game that should be a necessary addition to every Saturn collection. Despite the game's flaws, it is best enjoyed with up to two more friends (and a multi-tap).  While it cannot stand against the reigning beat'em up champ of the Saturn console, given its low price compared to other Saturn games, it is an easy choice for someone looking for a little beat 'em up fun.

Today's game was played upon The Fun Table. I ended up leaving the game paused for a week while I was sick and overworked, then when I picked the controller again the power failed.  Yikes.

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Thanks for the review, Bomba.  I remember how 'edgy' this game was trying to be at the time, with occasional language and a darker tone behind the absurdity.  It is truly an odd-duck, a nifty but tarnished gem appreciated by few but deserving more respect for its attempts at something a bit different.  It sounds as though, like you, I want to like it more than I actually do, but I'm glad I have it to putter around with every now and then. 

Interestingly, the Saturn library has quite a few odd-duck gems.
This game is marked on my Saturn list now. Once I get another Saturn console, I can start looking for games and this one seems to be a good balance of fun, value, and quality. Thank you for the time you spent on this!
@Boshamp: Why wait until you have a console? Wink

Great and fair review bombatomba. I really like the odd, cartoony style of this game, but good to know that there are a few hiccups in the gameplay. Still, probably a title I would pick up if I came across it at a fair price.
Anyone looking for one, I have a CIB one left...
Waaooohh, nice!  Congrats on the promotion bombatomba!

Hmm, I really need to grab a Saturn one of these days.

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