The top screen shows what may look like a standard one-screen shoot-’em-up that has been around since the days of Asteroids. The combat, however, is far more complex. The onscreen avatar couldn’t kill the enemies in their initial form — instead I had to drop a line of “sonar” panels (from a limited supply) that revealed their vulnerable state. These sonar panels will only launch when a timing bar passes over them, in the same way that blocks were destroyed in Lumines.
After the enemies were caught by the sonar, you could then attack by firing my avatar’s lasers and running into the enemies. If enemies were left untouched for too long, they’d explode into a barrage of lethal bullets. While it only takes a few enemies to fill the screen, the bullets moved fairly slow, allowing dexterous maneuvering to make up for subpar sonar/shooting skills.
The 3D visuals aren’t very extravagant, but they do allow for some unique gameplay elements. Particularly, powerups would start in the deep background, moving toward the screen slowly, only becoming attainable when they reached the same plane as my avatar. While the powerups can still be detected in 2D (there’s also an element of brightness that indicates if they can be picked up), it’s a bit more natural in 3D, and one of the more clever and subtle uses of the extra dimension.
Dream Trigger 3D has 50 levels spread across 10 environments. Each environment features different musical tracks (techno takes on public-domain classical music), with your onscreen avatar and the enemies changing, too. Some of the different forms for the player include a fish, a bird, a butterfly, a bio-hazard signal, and a flying creature reminiscent of the critters in Panzer Dragoon.