It has been a long ten years since we first embarked into the magical world that is Kingdom Hearts. Ten long years since we met the Final Fantasy-esque hero Sora, and battled alongside the likes of Donald Duck, Goofy, and of course – Mickey Mouse. I can still remember my first time experiencing that great game – the amazing art, seeing characters I loved from Final Fantasy and Disney mixed together, and the fun gameplay mechanics. All that stuff was fresh and new ten years ago, but what about now? Some people think the Final Fantasy series has run its course, and Disney based games aren’t exactly in high demand – so how are they going to keep things fresh and interesting for the tenth anniversary?
In 2002 when the original Kingdom Hearts came out, it was on what you might consider the “perfect” console for it. At that time the PlayStation 2 wasthe place to go if you wanted to play a good JRPG, let alone a Final Fantasy game. Now though, Dream Drop Distance has come out on a console that couldn’t be further from the PS2. The 3DS isn’t known for dramatically deep JRPG games (at least not very many), but Kingdom Hearts 3D is a great step in the right direction of changing all of that. There is just so much that has been done right in this game, and has been done right by the franchise itself.
First and foremost, the story in Dream Drop Distance is top of the line – albeit mildly confusing at times. If you’re new to the series you can play through some optional tutorial / flashback sessions to get you up to speed on what happened on the previous games. The events in Dream Drop Distance start basically right at the end of Kingdom Hearts Re:Coded. Xehanort is still evil, and is still bent on causing general chaos to the entire universe, and it is up to Riku and Sora (now certified keyblade Masters) to stop him yet again. While veterans of JRPGs might see some of the plot hooks coming, it is still an amazingly crafted and told story that at the end sets the stage for a final showdown in Kingdom Hearts 3. While some of the un-numbered Kingdom Hearts spinoffs might not have had the greatest of stories, there is absolutely no fear of that here. In truth, Dream Drop Distance has probably one of the best stories of any 3DS game I’ve played. The only caveat to that is that you really need to pay attention to what’s going on, or you will very quickly end up scratching your head wondering what the heck is actually going on.
One of the things that has been great with all the prior Kingdom Hearts games are the locations you visit, and it’s no different here. Les Cite Des Cloches is one of the new locations that graces Dream Drop Distance, and the Hunchback of Notre Dame characters that go with the scene. Another new location (and one of my favorites) is “The Grid”. where you revisit the world of Tron. While the other backgrounds looked good, The Grid captured the feel of Tron (and I suppose Tron: Legacy) perfectly. The voice acting is also spot on, making you feel like the characters are right there. Unfortunately while the environments are beautiful, they are also empty. Places that you recognize from Disney movies that you know should have throngs of people milling about are devoid of life and activity. Granted his has been an issue with every Kingdom Hearts title prior, but I wish they could have gotten it right here, where everything else goes so good.
The core of the gameplay mechanics remain true to everything you’ve come to love about Kingdom Hearts, with a few new things thrown in for good measure. For one, you can raise you own pet Dream Eater who can help you out in various situations. It might sound somewhat corny, but in reality it is pretty fun. You can even use special AR cards to bring your Dream Eater “into” the real world, which my ten year old son really loved. Another new update to the gameplay mechanics is the addition of “Flowmotion” combat. Think of it as parkour fighting, where you can leap and bound around the environment, sliding on poles and such, and launching special attack after special attack. It’s very spectacular to watch, and while it takes a little getting used to – once you master it you won’t want to fight any other way. I wish other games had combat like this, and not some of the old and archaic systems that you find out there.
The last new addition is the ‘Drop” system, and it just adds so much to Dream Drop Distance. The Drop system makes you change between Riku and Sora to experience each of their respective story lines. What happens is that Riku and Sora are each in a separate parallel world, and they need to use their keyblades to reunite each of the worlds. They might both go through the same environments, Square Enix does their best to make sure nothing is ever stale or repetitive. Enemies change places, bosses are different, and each character’s story is unique from the other. Now how the Drop system works is it gives you as the player a short length of time to finish doing what you are doing in one character’s story, before it “drops” you into the shoes of the other character. It means you can’t just play one character’s story to completion and ignore the other, and its implementation is brilliant.
The last thing to talk about with Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance is how the 3D effect works on the 3DS. As I’ve said before, I usually end up turning the 3D off when playing games on the 3DS because it ends up being more distracting than it’s worth. I also hate having to keep the 3DS in one position and not be able to move much or lose it. In Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance though I kept the 3D on for the entirety of my adventure. This is only the second game that I can say that for. The 3D doesn’t take anything away at all, and in fact just makes the game feel that much “better”
Bottom Line: Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance is one of the best spin off sequels to the original Kingdom Hearts game, and may very be one of the best games on the 3DS platform – if only they could make the environments feel “fuller”
- Extremely high quality voice acting
- The additions to the gameplay do nothing by add to the series
- All of the characters look beautiful
- The environments are unfortunately empty
- Sometimes the story can be confusing if you aren’t paying attention
You can pick up a copy of Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance for the 3DS from anywhere games are sold like Amazon for $29.99