Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance Review
Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance has finally launched stateside and I could not get to Gamestop any faster. The Kingdom Hearts series has been one of my favorite since the first game and I’ve stuck with it through the ups and downs. As a fan, I’ve seen merit in every title but I understand when a game doesn’t have too much going for it. For instance, the gameplay in KH: Chain of Memories was god awful and while 358/2 Days impressed me with its ability to bring the KH world down to a smaller scale, it was not a particularly good game. So going into Dream Drop Distance, I had high hopes but tried to temper them by remembering that it was still only a 3DS title and I shouldn’t expect console like quality from it. Imagine my surprise when I dove into the game and was greeted with the most worthy successor to the Kingdom Hearts title to date.
The story is a direct continuation of Kingdom Hearts 2, Sora and Riku have been summoned to Master Yensid’s castle where they must prove they are ready for the impending threat on the worlds by completing their Mark of Mastery Exam. In order to pass, they must enter the realm of dreams and unlock the 7 sleeping keyholes to wake the worlds from their eternal slumber. Through the game, Sora and Riku are separated by a mysterious man in a black coat who players of the previous games would recognize immediately. I’m not going to come right out and say it just in case. While the plot follows Sora and Riku opening the keyholes in true KH fashion; breaks are taken between worlds to show us what’s happening in the waking world while Sora and Riku are away. Shocks and twists abound and fans of the series are in for a fantastic story, rivaling any KH game we’ve seen thus far.
Dream Drop doesn’t waste any time throwing you into the action, the tutorial is a boss battle getting you reacquainted with the basics of KH gameplay. The, “attack, magic, block,” mentality has been completely overhauled, the world itself is now your weapon. Through the new flowmotion system Sora and Riku bounce from wall to wall launching powerful attacks right from the get go. I was worried after playing the demo that this would make regular attacks obsolete, I mean, why use basic attacks when you can jump around launching supers left and right? However, the combat flows seamlessly, Sora can bounce off a wall, onto a rail, do a special attack off the rail, follow up with a combo, and depending on what skills you have set to the command deck, follow up with a powerful finisher. The reality shift mechanic also provides a new way to harm baddies unique to each world. There are so many options for beating down dream eaters that combat never feels stale, and enough skills throughout the game that you always feel like you’re growing.
Your skills work from the command deck and you can always buy new ones from moggle shops, but unless you spend some time really exploring the new partner system you won’t get your hands on the best attacks. The good dream eaters who fight alongside you are known as spirits, and by helping them grow and playing mini-games with them you unlock status buffs and special skills. This started off a little confusing but after toying around for a while it became a fun and interesting way to beef up my characters. However, I can see where this new system may not appeal to everyone, and the mini-games can get tiring after a while.
Platforming has never felt better with the flowmotion system. Dream Drop creates expansive worlds with nooks and crannies to explore, but you do it at the speed of light by dashing, jumping, and generally looking awesome. The worlds are all completely original, even the ones that have appeared in previous games have their own new areas that take full advantage of the flowmotion system. In this area of the game I have no complaints, it is polished, well thought out, and overall pleasing to play. At times I got turned around, dashing around quickly you can lose track of where you are and where you’ve been, but with a quick look at the mini-map it’s easy to get your bearings.
Graphically I’m not even sure where to start when talking about this game. It’s easily the best looking thing on the 3DS to date but even that doesn’t do it justice. Usually when I play my 3DS I spend some time with the 3D on but it will become distracting and eventually I turn it off and try to focus on the game. With Dream Drop I haven’t turned off the 3D once. This game takes advantage of the system’s 3D in a way not many other games have, it feels completely natural. The soundtrack follows suite with previous KH titles but can get redundant. However, excellent performances from the KH cast and a very good Jeff Bridges impersonator make a recipe for success. There’s only one problem, this is a game you may want to play with headphones. While the sound quality is good, the 3DS speakers really don’t do it justice.
With so many mini-games and different ways to improve your characters, along with the obligatory ending scene that can only be obtained through meeting numerous conditions throughout the game, Dream Drop Distance will keep you playing for a long time. This game is solid, and I think you’d be hard pressed to find someone who wouldn’t have fun playing through it. There are even recaps of previous Kingdom Hearts games for the newbies who are picking it up with no previous knowledge of the story. So to sum it up, it’s visually stunning, plenty of fun to play, follows a compelling, tear jerking story, and will keep you playing for weeks. I’m not really sure what else you could ask for from a game.
PS: If you haven’t seen Tron Legacy yet, you may want to check it out before playing this game. Most of the world is taken point for point from the movie; even featuring the exact dialogue.