Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance review – Dreams can be your worst enemies

Imagine a time before Kingdom Hearts. Who would have ever thought a franchise like Final Fantasy would ever team up with a juggernaut like Disney? Well, it happened. Kingdom Hearts was a game that quickly became a big hit. It was a mixture of story, easy battle system, and timeless Disney characters that helped the game to become one of the best gaming experiences ever.

Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance takes place right after the events of Kingdom Hearts Re:Coded, King Mickey and Master Yen Sid have learned the truth of Master Xeonhart (introduced in Birth By Sleep) and decides it is time to prepare Sora and Riku for the upcoming battle by taking the Mark of Mastery test. Together Sora and Riku must awaken Seven sleeping key holes from slumber by themselves. To do so, they must enter the dream world.

As soon as Sora and Riku wake up they find themselves in their younger forms, similar to how they looked in Kingdom Hearts. You then get to choose which character you start the game with. Sora meets Neku Sakuraba and Riku meets Joshua (both from another Square Enix title, “The World Ends with You“) who teaches the duo how to use their new partners called Dream Eaters, which they use to fight other Dream Eaters. Later, Sora and Riku run into people wearing the black robes that members of the Organization XIII wore in Kingdom Hearts II.

Everything you know about the Kingdom Hearts battle system is still intact, and the Command Deck returns. While Sora and Riku have similar styles, they also have unique skills only they can use. As you progress in the game, you get more slots to equip skills and items to use in battle, and after it’s used, they’ll require some recharge time before they can be used again. Dream Eaters also join you in battle and are AI controlled to help you fight.

While Sora and Riku share items and Dream Eaters, you are free to equip them to your preference. First off you can use augmented reality cards to unlock new Dream Eaters. You can create new Dream Eaters by using items you’ve collected by defeating enemies, finding recipes or randomly mixing items. You also get to create a unique team of Dream Eaters with unique skills and abilities you unlock by taking them to fights and playing with them using the 3DS touchscreen….wait what?

You didn’t read that wrong, to best explain this, think of the Nintendogs series. You can pet your Dream Eaters, feed your dream eaters and play games with them, which will raise their affection level, overall level and skill points, which allow you to unlock new abilities and stat bonuses for battles.

Also new is a dive mode that has Sora and Riku entering a mini game where they have to meet certain requirements to enter the new worlds. Each character must complete the dive to move forward, which is similar to the Gummi ship games from the first two games. Inside Sora and Riku can attack, move around and shield themselves while unlocking powerful spells to attack enemies. If your HP hits 0, you head back to the start.

Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance adds to the complexity of the series by bringing back some faces you thought you would never see again from the KH series. It’s a way to further the story and build up the next epic story and surprise.

The Good

Great usage of the Nintendo 3DS abilities and graphics, which could rival the PS2. The amazing soundtrack with plenty of remixes.

We finally get some new worlds. In previous titles we returned to many of the same worlds, but I love seeing new worlds and characters from other Disney series. Some of my favorite Disney movies were represented very well in this game like Notre Dame, Sorcerer’s Apprentice, and The Three Musketeers, not to mention an updated version of “The Grid.”

New to this game is the Flowmotion system, which allows Sora and Riku to use walls, rails, poles and other scenery  to jump off and bounce around, leading into powerful attacks which can be used constantly without the need of a skill. It probably is the single most useful skill you can use in the game, as it can help you avoid damage and get some powerful attacks in. Outside of battles gets you around stages quickly, being able to jump, dash and wall climb without the need for high jump or float skills.

The Bad

Another game using child Sora and Riku? Since Kingdom Hearts II, we have seen most younger versions over and over and while the beginning and end cut scenes show off their older forms. The game tries to explain why the younger versions were used in the dream.

Aside from “The World Ends with You” characters, there aren’t any other Square characters in this game when visiting other worlds. Instead portals exist allowing you to access other people’s Dream Eaters or face challenges. The names of the portals are usually characters from Final Fantasy games, which from the ones I found, all came from character’s playable in Theatrhythm Final Fantasy.

The story took about 18 hours to complete at about level 36. Thanks to Flowmotion and Dream Eater techniques, I found myself easily taking down enemies and bosses with little to no problems. The final battles did give me a challenge, but in the end, you will deal with some very short worlds for both Riku and Sora and move on to the next one.

The drop system! Honestly, it can be very frustrating at times. I could deal with it from the start to about the sixth world. Dropping can not be avoided and you can choose to manually drop or wait until the drop counter hits 0 and are forced to drop which is beneficial before big battles. If you are in a regular enemy battle and you drop, the moment you drop back to that character they will leave off where you were in the fight. However, if you are in a boss battle and drop, even if the boss had 1 bar left, you start from the beginning of the battle. I found out the hard way during one of the last boss battles in the game, and man was I mad.

Hearing Passion and Sanctuary for about the dozenth time…

Final Thoughts

The Kingdom Hearts stories have always been a bit complex. It tries to tie in loose ends from one game to another while giving you more questions. If you haven’t yet, you should play the previous games. Overall the game does what it is meant to do. A secret boss and secret ending can be unlocked by doing some extra work on normal mode or by completing the game via proud mode. You can also work to collect all the Dream Eaters since there are quite a few to add hours to your game.

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