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Review: Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop DistanceKingdom Hearts 3D 3DS Square Enix Kingdom Hearts
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: Out Now
Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance, peculiar name aside, is the latest and - from what the developers claim - final installment before Kingdom Hearts takes the big step to Kingdom Heart 3. DDD (Dream Drop Distance) has the challenging job of not only wrapping up the world’s longest prelude, but also has to make everything that came before it make sense narratively with equally strong gameplay to match. Does DDD succeed? The answer is a resounding – “Sort of.”
Let us get the major hurdle out of the way first: the infamous tangle that is the Kingdom Hearts storyline. The short and sweet version goes thus: Sora and Riku are called to take a special test called the “Mark of Mastery” to become official masters of the Keyblade and by extension, their own powers. All this is done in order to better prepare for the coming of the main villain behind the whole series, Xehanort, who is amassing his own army of darkness in order to plunge the world into darkness, chaos, and inevitable war. The “Mark of Mastery” test sends both Riku and Sora into the world of dreams to unlock seven worlds lost in slumber. By doing so, they will unlock a special power within themselves and possibly unlock more about their own natures than they were originally aware.
The story itself wastes no time throwing characters, terms, and past storyline events at you. For those who have played the handheld editions or at least have read on Wikipedia, the plot is relatively easy to follow. While the game does provide an extensive compendium to initiate the unfamiliar, the several pages of text can be a bit daunting to slog through and may cause many to lose patience. Which would be a bit of shame since the story is possibly one of the strongest in the series, ranking up there with Birth by Sleep and 358/2 Days. Of particular note is Riku, who the game tends to focus most of the narrative on, thus unveiling a great deal of growth and emotion for his character.
You'll notice that the gameplay takes a lot of pages from Birth by Sleep while playing. The battle system uses the command deck system, allowing for a custom line up of special attacks, spells, and items. This makes the fighting quick and fun to strategize and tweak with. In addition, there is a new feature called “free flow” which allows you to jump and zip around the environment with cool parkour-esque attacks.
The other facet to the game is your constant companions called “spirits,” which are essentially friendly dreams you can create and accompany you in your party. Each has their own powers, moves, and stat perks you can unlock via feeding, playing, and battling with them. I personally found them more enjoyable than Donald and Goofy and even more useful in battle. You can also join with them to unleash super attacks which do immense damage and various effects.
Along with the battle systems and companions, the other feature is the “drop” mechanic. In DDD, both Riku and Sora reside in parallel versions of each world they visit and as you travel through one, a gauge slowly depletes. Once the gauge is empty, you’ll automatically drop off and switch to the other character waiting in the wings. In each world, the levels layout, environment, and even bosses change between the two worlds. This leads to an interesting experience…until you ”drop” in the middle of a heated battle or boss fight (the latter of which causes the boss fight to restart); then it just becomes an annoying interruption. However, the risk of this happening can be prevented by using items and some good old fashioned time management.
Another sticky subject is the wonky camera. Without the second circle pad to control the camera, being forced to use the shoulder buttons or the lock-on camera led to one too many moments dying because of getting nailed in my blind-spot by a random enemy or boss attack.
Overall, Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance carries an excellent production value and really does take advantage of the graphic power of the 3DS. The Disney worlds are also an excellent variety this time around, ranging from Tron: Legacy, Notre Dame, all the way to old favorites like The Three Musketeers and Fantasia. Each world is lovingly crafted and an impressive sight with the 3D effects, though no magic is lost in the standard 2-D either. While DDD does struggle from being a bit backstory-heavy, it does a commendable job of paving the way for Kingdom Hearts 3…whenever that shows up.
+ The new Disney worlds are a treat
+ Battle system is quick and solid
+ Dream Eaters are a welcome addition in lieu of Donald and Goofy
- Camera is a real nuisance at times
- Story may be difficult to follow for those who’re not familiar with the handheld renditions of Kingdom Hearts
- Dropping at inopportune moments
Overall Score: 7.5 (out of 10)
While it is not without its foibles, Dream Drop Distance does enough things right to make it one of the best handheld editions of Kingdom Hearts, second only to Birth by Sleep. That is...if you’ve played Kingdom Hearts beyond the second one.
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