Ten Years Later and Still Strong
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: July 31, 2012
It's been ten years since the Keyblade warrior Sora first took arms into the battle between light, dark, and nothingness. When Kingdom Hearts was first released in 2002 on the Playstation 2 players were able to travel through iconic Disney worlds and encounter the popular characters from not only Disney franchises but Final Fantasy series as well. Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance marks the return of Sora and Riku as they attempt to become Keyblade masters. Although the story is difficult to follow and some plot points remain unanswered Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance is an excellent action-adventure title that utilizes the comedic dialogue, fast pace action, and memorable characters that has made this series so popular.
Kingdom Hearts 3D takes place after the events of Kingdom Hearts: Recoded and follows the franchises most significant characters, Sora and his best friend Riku, as they attempt to pass the Mark of Mastery exam. You will take control of both characters and switch between the two in time intervals called drops. Both Sora and Riku must save parallel versions of seven different worlds in only to become true Keyblade Masters in order to defeat Xehanort. Kingdom Hearts 3D remains loyal to the concepts that made this franchise great such as notorious Disney worlds to explore, appearances by Final Fantasy characters, and a strong focus on light and darkness. If you played other games on the franchise you'll be able to put up the story quickly, however if you are new then you will have to read a lot of text and probably look up information pertaining to the various flashbacks. However as a person who has played Kingdom Hearts I still found the story difficult to follow due to pacing issues that was probably used to catapult the story forward into Kingdom Hearts 3.
Unfortunately the exam doesn't go as plan and another villain seeks to control the light in Kingdom Hearts. Throughout your journey you'll experience flashbacks, visions of the future, and memorable characters. Each stage you venture into has been tailored from Disney films, such as classic movies like Fantasia and modern ones like Tron: Legacy. Within each stage you will solve problems from the movie's plot while getting one step closer to your own goal. As wonderfully animated as these stages are they offer limited exploration and most of the time you will follow a linear path. Don't expect a lot of side quests, but a card game can be played at certain places. Experiencing each nostalgic event is complemented with fantastic music that suits the environment and the battles that ensue.
Each world is populated with a diverse amount of enemies known as dream eaters. These creatures appear randomly throughout each environment and have unique abilities. Although you only control Riku or Sora you can tame dream eaters to fight alongside you by collecting fragments hidden in treasure chest, loot from fallen enemies, or purchasing them from shops. You can create these creatures by either using recipes or just randomly putting things together. To upgrade these creatures you earn points in battle and each dream eater comes with its own special attack that adds novelty to collecting them. Another option allows the player to personally manage your creature by providing actions of affection by using the touch pad causing different rewards and a lovely animation as they leap with joy.
Although your dream eaters are valuable companions Sora and Riku will do most of the fighting. Returning is the command deck system from Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep. Players will be able to collect and equip abilities and magical talents for quick access. Sora and Riku will have access to offensive magical attacks, healing spells, special attacks, and other appealing abilities that are gained through battle. After using these specific powers a cool down period is initiated, forcing players to rely on careful planning before battles instead of spamming the same move.
A new ability known as flow motion allows Sora and Riku to quickly navigate the environment. To activate this luminous ability you simply interact with the environment or enemies, allowing with quick movements such as grinding on rails, hopping on walls, swinging on poles, and spinning enemies around. Not only is these great for evading enemy attacks but within this state a specific set of attacks become available, even better is that these attacks or flow motion itself doesn't have a cool down period. Players will easily get addicted to pulling off the visually and destructive appeal of these abilities. However at time these mechanics is unresponsive on certain objects.
Another new system known as the drop system forces you to switch between Sora and Riku. After a certain amount of time as passed players will be forced into the drop system to play as Sora or Riku and continue their overlapping story. This system can get vexing as players are forced to stop one objective for another, but you can extend the period before another drop by using Drop-Me-Not. Some may find these vexing but it forces players to play both stories without ignoring one over another.
While you will be fighting and talking for most of your venture, minigames are introduced to break up the pace. Visiting a new world for the first time you are put into a dive that allows you to collect stars and defeat enemies similar to an on-rail shooter. Fans of Tron will enjoy the light cycle battles, hacking computers with the touch pad, and unscramble words. The 3D itself may not be the best on the system but it does allow for excellent depth-of-field within battles, minigames, and cutscenes.
Kingdom Hearts 3D is a wonderful addition to the franchise. Despite its problems the combat, characters, and music remain the same stellar quality that is expected. It's unfortunate that the story doesn't share the same quality as the characters themselves, but humor and charm overshadow these difficulties for the most part. Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance is a befitting return of Sora and Riku.