Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance is the most recent handheld entry for this beloved series, and a direct sequel to Kingdom Hearts: Re: Coded. It follows protagonists Sora and Riku as they undertake the Mark of Mastery exam. Passing this exam will allow them to be deemed true Key Bade masters, and give them the power to overthrow the villain Xehanort. There are 7 different worlds that our heroes need to save. Each world has a parallel version, meaning the characters are split up at the beginning of the game so each version can be saved within their own campaigns.
Having never played a Kingdom Hearts game before, I found the story quite convoluted and hard to follow. Although the game does try and make up for this by giving the player the option to recap on past Kingdom Hearts events. It’s a nice feature for newcomers, and also for series vets who may just need to freshen up on their KH knowledge before delving into the meat of the game.
KH 3D is an action RPG, and combat is one of the areas the game is able to shine. It’s fun and fast paced, with the ability to pull off different combos, whether it be using the normal attacks at your disposal, or the different special and magic attacks you have in the arsenal too. It allows the combat gameplay to remain fresh throughout the adventure.
The introduction of ‘Flow-Motion’ adds a different element to the gameplay. It allows you to interact with the environment to attack your enemies, whilst also giving you the ability to access secret areas which would otherwise remain out of reach. It takes some time to get used to, in order to take full advantage of it’s potential, but one I was able to grasp the nuances of it, I’m hoping it’s an element that will be used and expanded upon in future Kingdom Hearts games.
We are also introduced to the Dream Eaters in KH 3D. These act as sort of a virtual pet, which will fight beside you throughout the game. They require love, care and nurturing for you to get the very best out of their abilities. This is coupled with use of the 3DS’ AR function, which allows you to use the camera to play with your Dream Eater in your own environment, whether you are playing on the bus or train, or just want to see your companion running around on your carpet at home.
One addition to the game, which I found quite jarring at first was the Drop system. This system is quite unique, as whilst you are in control of either one of the characters, you are playing against the clock. It doesn’t matter what you are doing, whether it be exploring, or in an epic boss battle, once the timer reaches zero you fall asleep and take control of the other character. I believe this has been put in place to refrain the player from neglecting either campaign. However the option is there to make your character ‘Drop’ whenever you want so you can always go back to the boss battle which ended abruptly. The system again gives the game a more fast paced flow to it, which I believe a lot of gamers will appreciate in the long run.
Graphically, the game looks really good. The Disney characters look just as they should and the environments are colourful and vibrant. The 3D gives that added depth to the surroundings which is always appreciated. I can’t really fault the way it looks. It’s nice to look at faithful recreations of some of these Disney worlds, it’s very nostalgic, especially for somebody who has never played a KH game before. The characters are also fully voice acted with gives some added depth to the immersion of these beautifully created worlds.
I had some issues with the camera, due to the fact that the majority of the combat sections take place in close-quarters, and because the original 3DS’ screen is quite small, it can make scanning the environment for enemies more of a problem. This was rectified somewhat by using the Circle Pad Pro, which the game supports. Allowing you to use the 2nd circle pad to rotate the camera. It still remained awkward at times, but not as much as trying to play without it.
Overall I enjoyed my first venture into the Kingdom Hearts world and wouldn’t mind playing some of the other entries in the series, especially the console games to see where it all began. Hopefully we can expect a HD collection, as well as an official announcement of Kingdom Hearts 3 in the near future. For now though KH 3D: Dream Drop Distance is an extremely strong 3DS title. It’s an absolute joy to play, once you learn the intricacies of the combat systems, and the audio is wonderful. It’s a game that fans of the series will be proud to have in their library. It has it issues, but I believe it does more than enough right that the fun isn’t diminished.