Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance - The long waited prologue to Kingdom Hearts 3 is here!
Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance is the seventh installment in the Kingdom Hearts series, and it is the game that acts as a prologue to the long awaited Kingdom Hearts 3. Not only is it the first game to feature Sora as the main character since Kingdom Hearts 2: Final Mix +, it is also the first Kingdom Hearts game to be released on the 3DS, and the first to advance the story beyond the ending of Kingdom Hearts 2. Still, how does Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance hold up? Is it a fun game? Is it a must have for Kingdom Hearts fans? Well, the short answer is yes, but it really isn't as simple as that.
The Story of Kingdom Hearts:
Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance really is not a simple game at all. Although the game does in fact have it's own story, just about every aspect of the game stems from the past. In other words, if you have NOT played all of the Kingdom Hearts games released as of date, you will be missing major chunks in the story, which WILL make later events in this game hard to understand. Even so, the story goes as followed... (Note: This section will include spoilers for past games! If you wish to know only about Kingdom Hearts 3D, you may skip this section.)
The Keyblade War -
Many years ago there was a legendary power known as Kingdom Hearts. Kingdom Hearts was the heart of the world, and the source of all light; however because of it's great power many people wanted it for themselves. After creating weapons called "Keyblades" (which were based off of the χ-blade, the key to Kingdom Hearts), humans went to war with each other and a great battle broke out. This war became known as the "Keyblade War."
After many long and hard battles, the χ-blade was destroyed, the world broke up into many smaller worlds, and Kingdom Hearts sunk into the deepest darkness never to be seen again. Years later, after realizing the mistake of the Keyblade wars, Keyblade warriors choose to pick up the blades once again, but this time to use them to protect the light rather than destroy it.
Birth by Sleep -
Many, MANY, years later an older keyblade Master, named Master Xehanort, is training his young apprentice Ven. Although Ven showed very much promise, he refused to use the darkness in his heart to his advantage, and because of this he was of no use to Xehanort. After extracting the darkness in Ven's heart to create another being named Van, Master Xehanort decided to take the broken Ven back to a world called "Destiny Island" where he would spend the rest of his days. Well at least that was the plan.
Soon after arriving at the world a new born baby's heart reached out to Ven's broken heart and filled in the gap in Ven's heart. This new born baby was none other than Sora. Now that Ven's heart was restored with pure light, Xehanort once again had a use for him, and decided to take him to train with his once good friend Master Eraqus. Although at the time Master Eraqus was training two young keyblade warriors himself, named Terra and Aqua, he gladly accepted to take Ven in under his wing, and watched as the three young keyblade wielders became close friends.
Later on, after finishing their training, it was finally time for both Terra and Aqua to take their Mark of Mastery Exam (a test one must take to become an official Keyblade Master), but unknown to them, something was about to go terribly wrong. After sensing the darkness in Terra's heart, Master Xehanort decided to interfere with the exam in order to bring that darkness out. In the end, Terra failed to keep the darkness in check, and Aqua was the only one to pass the exam just like Xehanort had planned.
After the exam was over, Master Eraqus gets ready to talk things over with Aqua, but after receiving a call from Master Yen Sid who warned him that the Princesses of Heart were in danger, Eraqus decided to give Terra another chance. If Terra were to travel to the other worlds and protect the Princesses of Heart, he too could become a Keyblade Master.
Knowing that this is his last chance to prove himself, Terra heads off to save the Princesses of light, Ven chases off after him (despite Master Eraqus forbidding him to leave), and Aqua leaves to find Ven and bring him back, and to watch Terra has he takes his "second" test. These three leaving their home world is the key event that set the rest of the series events in motion.
Over time as they battle the creatures known as the Unversed (which are creatures created and controlled by Van), Terra is lead to believe that darkness is power by Xehanort, Ven discovers that his soul purpose was to create the χ-blade, and Aqua can't do anything but watch in horror as her two best friend's lives are torn apart. After Terra is tricked into fighting Eraqus, who is then killed by Xehanort, he decides to rejoin up with his best friends, and all three head off to the Keyblade Graveyard to put an end to Xehanort's plans; however, they fail.
After a long hard battle with Xehanort, Terra loses his body to the evil Keyblade Master, Ven and Van merge to form the χ-blade, and Aqua is forced to fight her friend and hopefully free him from Van's control. Sadly nothing goes as planned. Although Terra's soul, which was now inside his armor, managed to stop Xehanort, and although Aqua was able to bring Ven back to normal, Xehanort still manages to get away with Terra's body, and Ven's heart is shattered.
Determined to save both of her friends, Aqua decides to lock Ven's body away in the Land of Departure, which in the future becomes known as Castle Oblivion, and she sets out to find Terra and bring him back who has apparently appeared in the world known as Radiant Garden. After arriving in Radiant Garden, Aqua confronts, the still fused, Terra-Xehanort who apparently has no memories of what had just happened. Still with no other option, Aqua finds herself in a fight, which ended with Terra-Xehanort losing and falling into the realm of darkness. Unable to watch her friend fall into darkness like that, Aqua then decides to dive in, and use she decides to control her armor to save Terra and bring him back to the realm of light. Soon after the portal closes, and Aqua finds herself trapped. In the end, Terra-Xehanort takes on the identity of Xehanort, Aqua remains trapped in the realm of darkness, and Ven's broken heart finds its way to Sora where it now rests.
Sora's First Adventure -
Ten years later a young boy named Sora and his friends, Riku and Kairi, dream of traveling to other worlds. After the "heartless" (which are creatures created from the darkness in someone's heart) of Xehanort, going under the name "Ansem," appears, Sora's friend Riku is tricked into opening up the keyhole of their world, and plunges it into darkness.
After receiving the legendary Keyblade (which Terra originally passed onto Riku back when they met ten years ago), Sora finds himself battling his way through mobs of heartless in a strange world known as Traverse Town. Although at the time Sora really didn't know what was going on, he soon found himself mixed up in some major events that not only effected him, but the entire universe as well. After meeting up with Donald Duck and Goofy (who were sent to find Sora by King Mickey), Sora finds himself caught in the middle of a battle between light and darkness, and he is the only one who can save them all.
It turns out Ansem plans on opening the worlds hearts to darkness to gain access to the Door of Darkness which leads to Kingdom Hearts, and Sora must use his keyblade to close off the heart of each world. On top of all of that, Sora finds out that Kairi's heart has gone missing, his home world was destroyed, and that Riku has been tricked (and taken over) by Ansem and now fights on the side of darkness. Still even after losing his heart himself (which he removed himself to return Kairi's heart), Sora manages to save each of the worlds, take down Ansem, and seal the Door to Darkness with the help of Riku, and King Mickey.
Chain of Memories and 358/2 Days-
After waking up in a strange world called Twilight Town, a young man named Roxas finds himself standing in front of a mansion with no memories of his own, and being recruited into some organization by a man in a black robe. This man was named Xemnas, the nobody of Xehanort. Nobodies are created when the heart is removed from the body, which then leaves an empty shell behind (one that cannot have feelings), and Roxas just happens to be the empty shell of Sora.
Although at the time Roxas really didn't know what was going on, he soon found himself as the 13th member of the Organization XIII (which was made up of nobodies, including the nobody of Braig who was one of Xehanort's right hand men), and he was given the job of collecting hearts. Although he himself doesn't know it, Roxas is Sora's nobody and because of this he has the ability to summon the keyblade which is the only weapon that can destroy heartless and collect their hearts. The Organization XIII plans on collecting enough hearts to create a Kingdom Hearts, which would then in return allow each of the members of the organization to have hearts again.
After befriending Axel, and the new 14th member named Xion, Roxas slowly began to settle into life at the organization as he went about his daily routine of collecting hearts; however all of that was soon about to end.
Around the same time, some members of the organization were sent off to a strange place called Castle Oblivion to find "something" (Ven), and to bring Sora in. By using a strange girl named Namine, the organization members rewrote Sora's memories, and slowly lead him to the top of the castle. After taking out each of the organization members that got in his way (with the remaining being killed by Axel due to them being traitors who tried to capture Sora for themselves), Sora finally found himself at the top of the castle and face to face with Namine.
After explaining to Sora how she had rewrote his memories, Namine puts Sora, Donald, and Goofy to sleep for a year in order to return his memories to what they once was; however there was still a problem. Without Sora's original body, Roxas, he would remain in a deep sleep never to awaken.
Meanwhile in the Castle's basement, Riku finds himself being guided by Ansem, and King Mickey as well, through the darkness in his heart. In the end Riku finds himself face to face with a man named DiZ (who was pretending to be Ansem), who simply wants to help Riku deal with the darkness that is still in his heart. After a quick chat, Riku decides to dive into the final world of his heart and confront Ansem for a final time. In the end Riku manages to seal the darkness away, and he sets out to walk down the "road to dawn."
Back at the organization, everything is falling apart for Roxas. Xion, who has discovered that she was a puppet created from Sora's memories, has ran off, and Roxas himself has begun to question the organization himself. Deciding not to stay, Roxas decided to abandon the group, leave his friend Axel behind, and find Xion himself. Sadly his plans end up failing when he finally finds Xion who tries to kill him. With no other choice, Roxas fights Xion, and watches as she dies in his arms. It turns out Xion knew that Roxas would die himself if she continued to exist, and that the whole battle was just a trick to get Roxas to finish her off.
Filled with rage over what the Organization XIII had done, Roxas sets off to completely destroy it once and for all; however he was then stopped by Riku. Knowing that only Sora himself could stop the organization, Xion used Roxas' body to give Riku one last message, a message telling him to stop Roxas and revive Sora.
By using the darkness he had once locked away, Riku decided to release the darkness to take on the form of Ansem, and bring Roxas back to Namine and DiZ.
Kingdom Hearts 2 -
After being asleep for more than a year, Sora, Donald, and Goofy once again found themselves setting out on an adventure to save the universe, but this time from the Organization XIII. Throughout their adventure they once again team up with familiar faces, battle the rest of the Organization XIII members, and fight to return piece to the worlds once again. The Organization still has plans of finishing Kingdom Hearts to complete themselves, but at the same time that isn't their only goal.
Later on Sora once again reunites with Riku and Kairi, he learns of his nobody Roxas, and Kairi's nobody Namine (which he had completely forgotten about during his year long rest), and he also finds himself face to face with the REAL Ansem, DiZ. It turns out that Terra-Xehanort, who Ansem took in after he found him in Radiant Garden without any memories, had lost his heart which caused the creation of his heartless (going under the name of Ansem), and his nobody Xemnas.
In the end, Axel destroys himself to allow Sora and his friends to get into The World that Never was, DiZ blows up the Kingdom Hearts Xemnas made (trapping himself in the realm of darkness in the process), Sora and Riku stop Xemnas, and everyone goes back to their home worlds safe and sound. The universe has been saved, "Ansem" is gone, Xemnas is gone, and everything is as it should be... At least that's what Sora thinks.
Leading up to Dream Drop Distance -
While in the realm of darkness, Aqua finds herself face to face with Ansem who explains to her how a young boy is fighting hard in the realm of light to save everyone, and when she asks Ansem the young boy's name, she can't help but cry. Ten years ago when she first met Sora, she told him to always stand by his friends side, and keep them on the path of light. After finding out that he did in fact take his advice, she is filled with hope that one day, he might come save her as well.
Meanwhile, after exploring a data version of Jiminy journal, King Mickey learns of the connections to Sora's heart (Terra, Ven, and Aqua's connections), and decides to send Sora and Riku a letter telling them to come to Master Yen Sid's tower. It turns out that since Sora and Riku defeated both Ansem and Xemnas (the heart and nobody of Xehanort), Xehanort would be returning, and Sora and Riku still aren't ready to fight him. Both Mickey, and Yen Sid agree, it is time for both Sora and Riku to take the Mark of Mastery Exam. And so, Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance begins.
Dream Drop Distance -
In Dream Drop Distance Sora and Riku both must enter the realm of sleep and wake the worlds that are still sleeping in darkness. If they find the seven sleeping keyholes, the worlds would then return, and both would be named Keyblade Masters.
The Gameplay of Dream Drop Distance:
Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance is what one might call a "standard" Kingdom Hearts game. The game uses the standard set up of exploring worlds, going through Disney story lines, and fighting mobs and mobs of enemies, but at the same time the game greatly expands on the gameplay.
Like past games in the series, Dream Drop Distance is an action RPG that focuses more on skill than actually leveling up; however unlike most Kingdom Hearts games, this one actually features two stories that are told side by side with the use of the Drop system.
When playing a bar at the bottom of the screen will always be going down as time goes on, and once this bar this zero you will be forced to switch between the characters. In Dream Drop Distance you will follow both the story of Sora and Riku, and both stories are key in order to continue on with the overall story. In other words, although you CAN switch between the characters freely, you cannot advance in one character's story without advancing in the other character's story as well. Worlds are grouped together, and you can switch between the worlds at any time to play their story, but you cannot move onto the next group of worlds unless both characters have completed the group they are on. Still since both characters play very differently, playing the same worlds twice never gets old.
The Combat System, Command System, and Flow Motion -
Although both characters fight the same way, they actually have their own styles, and unique set of moves. While pressing the A button will cause the characters to use their standard attack combos, both character's fighting styles are in fact completely different. Sora fights just about the same way as he has always fought with a mix of slashes and jabs, but Riku's fighting style is more along the lines of the fighting style seen in Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories. Each one of his attacks are aimed at a vital point of the body, and because of this they are a bit stronger, yet slower than Sora's. Still these basic combos aren't even HALF of this game's combat system.
Like in Birth by Sleep and Re: Coded, Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance uses a version of the command deck system which basically allows you to customize your characters attacks. Throughout the game you will receive attack commands which cover a wide verity of attacks. While some commands are magical attacks (such as fire, thunder, gravity), and other attacks are melee tyle (such as strike raid, and sliding dash), there is also a wider verity of support commands, and action commands as well.
Each command in the game has its own use, but at the same time you are very limited to which commands you can use and when you can use them. When you first start the game you are given a limited amount of slots in the command deck, but as time goes on that command deck size is increased which allows you to equip more commands at a time. Even so there are hundreds of commands to equip (including command items such as potion), so you really have to manage your deck and only bring along the commands that you know will be the most useful. It really just comes down to your play style though.
The second type of commands (besides the attack/item/supporting commands) are action commands. Action commands are commands that you equip directly to your characters that give them different abilities. While at the start of the game you start out with basic commands (such as the ability to jump), others can be unlocked, as well as improved versions of the default ones. From high jump to, special effects that can be equip to your block that allows you to counter, there's a wide verity of actions that can be equip, so you can really customize your character to fit your play style.
Although the command system is really nice, and it adds a lot of depth to the gameplay, it isn't anything new, and it isn't quite as advanced as the command system seen in Birth by Sleep (which allowed you to level up commands, and create new ones by mixing them together). Still the good news is that the flow motion system makes up for it!
Flow motion is a brand new system that not only evolves the battle system, it takes Kingdom Hearts to a WHOLE new level! By jumping and pressing the Y button, Sora and Riku can perform an air dash which will allow them to pull off what is called "flow motion." If Sora and Riku hits a wall, or runs into a pole while air dashing (or even dashing on the ground), they will begin to glow and they can perform special actions based off of whatever it is they hit. If they hit a pole they will begin to swing around which will allow them to either shoot off of the pole, or use it to attack, and if they hit a wall they can either wall kick off of it, attack, or shoot off of it as well. By using a series of swings, jumps, and air dashes, both characters can actually take parkour to the extreme, and basically fly!
From jumping up walls to climb massive skyscrapers, to bouncing between walls at high speeds, there really isn't any limit to what you can do with the new flow motion actions, and they have become a major part of the gameplay! While climbing and flying allows you to explore the, now MASSIVE, worlds (which are no longer linear paths, but worlds with areas to explore both above AND below), grinding on rails allows you to speed through areas at crazy high speeds, and colliding with enemies allow you to pull off brand new flow motion attacks. Although you can use a flow motion attack by coming off of a wall jump, or by grinding on a rail and hitting A, other attacks can be performed by using flow motion dashes on enemies themselves, and the attack you do often depends on what type of enemy you are attacking.
The system really is a GREAT improvement which brings new life into the series, but at the same time the flow motion moves can be pretty cheap. They are fast and easy way to kill enemies, and it is a very easy system to abuse. Even so exploring the new massive worlds as you jump and fly across the screen is pure fun, and it never gets old!
Reality Shifts -
Reality Shifts are another mini game type feature which was included that works both as a puzzle solver, and another way to attack. If an enemy is knocked out or stunned, sometimes you can use a Reality Shift to finish it off! Reality Shifts are used by using the touch screen, and they play out differently depending on which world you do them in. While in Traverse Town Reality Shifts are simply you aiming and launching enemies/objects with a type of sling shot, other worlds feature little timed mini games. Although Reality Shifts do slow down the combat system, they can be quite fun to pull off, and sometimes they are key if you want to advance through the world.
The Dream Eaters:
The worlds in Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance are worlds that Sora and Riku must awake from their sleep, and because of this they are cut off from the rest of the world; including the heartless. Dream Eaters are creatures which show up in worlds dreams, and well, eats them. While most Dream Eaters are "Nightmares" which eat dreams and cause problems, there are also "Spirits" which are friendly Dream Eaters which can form a bond with people, and help them out in many different ways. If Sora and Riku want to make it though these sleeping worlds, they will need these Spirits help.
As you fight Nightmares throughout the game, they will drop different items which can be used to create friendly Spirit versions of them, which will then act as your party members through the game. Each Spirit requires a different amount of materials to create, but by using more than the required amount Spirits can be created at higher levels than they normally start out at, and you can also create them with a command to boost their stats as well. For example creating a Spirit with a fire command will boost it's resistance to fire, while creating one with a potion command will cause it to be born with extra health. These boosts are pretty nice, but in the end, they really don't matter that much since you will be leveling your Dream Eaters up.
Once you have created a Dream Eater, or three, or fifty, you can then put them in one of your three party spots which allows you to gain their bonuses while in battle. Although there are in fact three party slots, only the first two Dream Eaters will appear along side you in battle, while the third will simply just give you stat boosts and bonuses, and this is very important to keep in mind. While some Dream Eaters are strong fighters and can provide you with buffs, others are best left out of the battlefield and should simply remain as a support style Dream Eater (which is safe and sound in the third slot). Since Dream Eaters can in fact DIE in this game, you really have to make sure your Dream Eaters are well suited for battle, and if not, you better make sure you can save them in time (by pressing the A button as fast as you can when standing next to them), or else you will lose them forever. It can be a bit of a worry at first, but as your Dream Eaters get stronger, most of them will prove that they can handle themselves just fine.
Besides just serving as party members, Dream Eaters actually play a much larger role in Dream Drop Distance. Dream Eaters are a lot like virtual pets, and like most virtual pets, they need to be taken care of. By selecting "spirit" from the main menu, you can interact with these virtual pets, and help them become stronger. While simply petting and poking your pets will increase their heart level with you, and rarely their LP and EXP, you can also play mini games with them to increase their stats as well. While one mini game has you tapping balloons as they fly at the screen, another has you searching for treasure in an area that is created from your 3DS' camera, and another has you pushing your Dream Eaters around underwater as they try to collect items. These mini games are a great way to boost their stats, and they can be quite addicting as well.
Each Dream Eater has a different set of abilities and skills to go along with it, and by spending LP (which you can gain from petting your Dream Eaters, fighting monsters, and playing mini games) you can learn them. While some "abilities" are simply commands which can be unlocked, others are stat boosting abilities which take effect when that Dream Eater is in your party, and others are abilities which stay with you no matter what.
Because of this system it is very important to level up your Dream Eaters so you can get new commands and abilities, but at the same time it also makes it very important for you to manage your Dream Eaters as well. Since some Dream Eaters provide some very nice stat boosting abilities, it's a good idea to keep them in your party, but at the same time these Dream Eaters may be weak and not make the best party members to bring into a fight. Basically you yourself have to find an even balance between useful "party member" Dream Eaters, and useful stat boosting Dream Eaters as well.
Flick Rush is another new "mini game" brought into Dream Drop Distance which is a sort of battle arena for your Dream Eaters to fight in. In Flick Rush players battle other Dream Eaters (computer, or other player's if you connect via local wireless) using the Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories style of combat.
Although you do not have direct control over your Dream Eaters, by using the cards on the bottom screen you can command your Dream Eaters to attack. Each battle requires a party of three Dream Eaters for both sides, which you can freely switch between. Since Dream Eaters have their own abilities and style of attacks, it is up to you to decide which Dream Eater you should use to fight.
As I said before, each attack is seen on the bottom screen, and it is in card form just like in Chain of Memories. While the picture on the card shows you what attack you will be using when you use the card, the number of the card shows what level that card is; however that does NOT mean that is how strong it is. Just like in Chain of Memories, if you use a higher numbered card than your enemy, your card will stop the enemy's attack and you will attack instead. By playing higher level attack cards you can break your enemy's attacks, counter with your own attack, and flat out win the battle without any problems; however the same goes for your enemy as well. If you play a lower numbered card, and the enemy plays a higher level card, your card will be broken and you will be attacked instead; however if you match their number, it will trigger a duel where you must match the cards.
Unlike in Chain of Memories, you cannot customize your Dream Eaters decks, and it is impossible to avoid using lower level cards. Still by using more than one card at once, the numbers will be added together, causing the last attack card you played to be a higher number card. The down side to this is that you will run out of cards sooner, but the good news is that it helps you counter much higher number cards when you have ran out of higher cards yourself. There is a limit to how many cards you can play at once (there is a bar that fills up below your cards showing how many you can play at once), but it really isn't much of a problem until the harder battles much later on.
By winning in the arena you will win special prizes, but at the same you also earn special points which can be spent in the special moogle shop that is set up outside.
Dream Eater Links:
Dream Eater Links is the final new addition to the combat system, and it works differently for both characters. As you battle along side your Dream Eaters a special bar will fill up, and once that bar is full you can pull off a Link.
Sora's Link -
When Sora Links with a Dream Eater, he flat out teams up with them to pull off different special attacks. This system is basically the very same party attack system that was featured in Kingdom Hearts 2, and works almost the same way. While linking with a single dream eater allows Sora to team up with it to pull off some co-op style attacks, Sora can link up with two of them at once to perform an even stronger co-op attack as well. For example, if Sora links up with Meow Wow (the first Dream Eater he gets), he will get on Meow Wow's back and ride it as it pounces on all of the enemies in the area; however if Sora links up with Meow Wow and another Dream Eater both at the same time, Meow Wow will suck up the other Dream Eater to produce an even stronger powered up version of his pouncing body slam attack. These attacks are very useful, but they really don't last that long.
Riku's Link -
Riku's Dream Eater Link is completely different from Sora's, but it's also a system long time Kingdom Hearts fans have seen before. When Riku Links up with his Dream Eaters he flat out fuses with them which changes his attack style, and abilities. For example, if Riku fuses with his starting Dream Eater he gets claws on his hands and feet, but if he fuses with a water type Dream Eater he gets a water surf board to attack with. This gives Riku many different attack styles to fight with, but just like with Sora, he can also fuse with more than one Dream Eater at once. These transformations are actually transformations taken right from the command style changes found in Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, and because of that they should be very familiar.
The Worlds of Dream Drop Distance:
Kingdom Hearts has always been known as the series that mixes Square-Enix together with Disney characters to bring us an original story mixed with the stories of the movies you may have grown up on as a kid. Well, Dream Drop Distance is no different! Although there are no Final Fantasy characters in this title (except for the Kingdom Hearts Moogle), Traverse Town does in fact feature characters from The World Ends With You, and the Disney worlds are there as well. Still things are a little bit different this time.
Like most Kingdom Hearts games, or at least Kingdom Hearts I and II, whenever you visit a world for the first time you are required to play some time of mini game, and well, this time around it comes in the form of the "Dive" mini game. While Diving you take control of either Sora or Riku as you fly through an on rail segment collecting stars for points, and often battling bosses. There really isn't much to the whole Dive system, but its slow moving controls and dashing combat system can take quite a bit of time to get used to. Dives are also graded, and by getting A ranks you can unlock items, but the grading system is extremely simple, and was made easier than it should have been. While at first glance it appears you have to "ace" a Dive to get an A rank, but in reality, all you have to do is mash the A button to dash, and pick up any stars on the way. Beat the level fast, and you get a times 1000 score bonus that is basically instant A rank.
The Worlds -
Like in past Kingdom Hearts games, after you land on a world you will find yourself watching a cutscene, which will then serve as the basics of what you are going to do on this world. Since most of the worlds in the game are Disney related worlds, normally you'll see a scene from the movie, and from there you will follow the story to the very end.
In Dream Drop Distance both Sora and Riku actually visit different "dream" versions of the sleeping worlds, and because of this, they both see a different version of the story. For example, while Riku actually follows most of the storyline from Tron Legacy on the Grid, Sora plays through different events from the story, some of which that were not even in the original movie. This really helps keep the worlds unique for both characters, even more so when you come across worlds that have different sections for different characters, and it helps to keep the gameplay from getting old.
This time around, thanks to the flow motion system, worlds are actually a lot bigger than in past Kingdom Hearts games, and they have much more of a focus on exploration. Treasure chests are hidden in places you most likely never noticed were there, portal challenges are hidden throughout the stages, and there are also quite a few hidden enemy spawn points as well. Since you can now basically fly around the stages, you really have to take your time to explore every nook and cranny if you want to find everything this game has to offer.
The only down side to the worlds is, although they are HUGE and give you a lot of reason to revisit them, their actual stories really aren't that great. Unlike in past games, most of the stories in Dream Drop Distance actually start from the midpoint, if not later, of the movie, and then they play right up to the end of the movie. Sure there is a Sora and Riku version of each story, but some worlds can be beat within a few minutes if you simply speed run through them. Sure some worlds do last longer than others, and there are a LOT of reasons to take each world slow, but there's always one or two speed runners who will try to go as fast as possible.
Portal Challenges -
Portal Challenges are hidden portals throughout every level in the game which will offer you, well, challenges. Each challenge is left by someone named after a Final Fantasy character (Zack, Lightning, Squall, etc), and each one normally has a different goal. While the basic goal of these challenges are to simply beat all the enemies they spawn, they also give you a secondary challenge that you must complete if you want the full reward. For example one challenge may be to defeat 20 Dream Eaters within 20 seconds, while another may simply require you to use a few flow motion attacks. These challenges really do give you a challenge, and they are a nice little extra as well.
Although not all portals give you challenges, some actually allow you to use Final Fantasy character's, and other people you met on street pass' Dream Eaters for a short amount of time, but there really is a limited amount of times this is actually useful, and you may just go the entire game without ever borrowing someone's Dream Eater at all.
Flashbacks and Other Data Files -
As you play through each world both flashbacks and other data files will be unlocked in your report files. Flashbacks normally serve as a way to show you what happened on the world before Sora and Riku got there, but at times they will also show you parts of the conversation Sora, Riku, Mickey, and Yen Sid had at the start of the game. Although you do not HAVE to watch these flashbacks, they really are key to understanding the game's story. Still besides flashbacks, there are also other data files which are very important as well.
Since ALL of the other Kingdom Hearts games serve as a type of "intro" for this game, Square-Enix was nice enough to include summaries of past events which really do help if you are looking for a refresher. Although these extra files don't go into great detail, meaning you really SHOULD play the other games if you want to know what is going on, they will help give any new players at least a basic idea what is going on in the story... Sadly the same can't be said for the character files.
In past Kingdom Hearts games character files were updated as you played through the game, and they normally provided full background information about said character. By the end of the game the character files normally had a few paragraphs worth of information for you to read, and they really did help keep the story straight; however that is NOT the case with Dream Drop Distance. Although the character files are still there, they really don't tell you much ABOUT the characters. For example if you look up Lea, a character who will be added to the list early on, it will simply say "The human form of Axel, one of Organization XIII's Nobidies. He has awaken in Radiant Garden," and if you look up Axel it basically says he was an Organization member, and that he was Roxas' friend.
It really doesn't give you that much detail about each character, but at least it gives you quite a bit over subjects such as the Keyblade Wars, Kingdom Hearts, and the Princesses of Heart.
The Circle Pad Pro:
As most may know, Kingdom Hearts original started on the Sony Playstation 2, and because of this the game has always been best suited when it came to having a "full" controller. Past games, such as Chain of Memories, had to completely change their gameplay style to fit the hand held consoles, and games like 358/2 Days used the touch screen to help with the lack of buttons. Well I'm happy to say that is no longer the case here!
Dream Drop Distance is one of the few games that supports the Circle Pad Pro which not only adds a right circle pad, it also adds the L2 and R2 buttons as well! Although the game can be played just fine without the circle pad, by using the L/R buttons to turn the camera, it really is best when played with the controls Kingdom Hearts was originally made for. The right circle pad controls the camera angle (which can get stuck at funny angles at times), the L2 button allows you to use reality shifts without using the touch screen, and the R2 button allows you to lock onto your targets easily. Sure it can be a bit strange reaching over to press the buttons at first, but if you are a long time Kingdom Hearts fan, I'm sure you really will appreciate the circle pad pro, and its control options!
If there is one thing you cannot help but bring up when it comes to talking about Kingdom Hearts, it is the music! Kingdom Hearts is known to have some of the best music out there, and 3D is no different! From the brand new version of Hikari that plays during the opening, to the familiar songs from the Disney movies, Dream Drop Distance is packed full of amazing music, that you will want to listen to over and over again.
Along with the opening theme of Hikari, which has been given a Disney twist, other Kingdom Hearts songs, such as Dearly Beloved, have have bee remixed as well, and they have never sounded better. As soon as you hear these well known Kingdom Hearts songs play, you can't help but get a chill and smile as you listen to them play. Many of your fan favorites are still in the game, and they really do help add to the mood!
It doesn't matter if you're a fan of the Disney soundtracks, or the Kingdom Hearts originals, Dream Drop Distances easily has one of the best soundtracks to a game in a long time! Heck it's even got a few The World Ends With You tracks as well!
Is Kingdom Hearts 3D Worth it:
Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance really is a great game. For the first time in years we finally get a game where Sora is the main character, it's the first game to give Riku a true story, it features MANY different gameplay elements from the past (party attack system, Chain of Memories card system, form change system, etc), and the game really does work quite well on the 3DS! Thanks to the Circle Pad Pro it can be played like Kingdom Hearts I and II, and the 3D effect looks really nice as well! Still that really isn't where this game shines.
When fans go into this game they expect to play a Kingdom Hearts game, and because of that they have an already formed opinion of the game. They know that they are going to travel to worlds, fight enemies, level up their characters, and go through a deep storyline, but what they WONT expect is the whole flow motion system!
Flow motion really is a major improvement, which actually fixed what a lot of people might have found "wrong" with the series. In the past worlds have always been these small linear path worlds with very little exploration, but this time around they are huge! Traverse Town went from a simple town that you can fully explore within a few minutes, to a world that you might actually get lost in the first time you visit it; it really is a HUGE difference in size!
Thanks to the size worlds really do give you more reasons to replay them, but at the same time so do the rest of the extras in this game. You can easily spend countless hours playing with your Dream Eaters, making Dream Eaters, and leveling up Dream Eaters, and you can also spend hours battling with your Dream Eaters in the arena as well! This aspect of the game alone is a major time killer, and a very fun one at that!
Sure some worlds stories can be beaten pretty fast, but in the end that really doesn't matter. Even if you manage to clear this game within 20 or so hours, there is plenty for you to go back to do, and you could easily spend 100 plus hours just trying to 100% this. It really is a huge game, and easily one of the best 3DS games out there!
If you are a long time Kingdom Hearts fan, you MUST get this game (especially if you plan on playing Kingdom Hearts 3 when it is finally released), but if you've never played a Kingdom Hearts game before, you might want to skip this one. As I explained in the story section, this game really just throws you out there expecting you to know EVERYTHING that has happened in the past games, and if you have not follows the series, you will be pretty confused. Yes there are the report files that you could read to help get yourself caught up to speed, but that really isn't enough if you want to be able to truly follow the story.
In the end, the game's story is great, the gameplay is an improvement, and there are a lot of mini games to play, but the worlds' stories are pretty short, and it really isn't newbie friendly. Even so, I give Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance a 10/10!
While some people may not find it to be as good as other games in the series (after all everyone has their own favorite games), that doesn't change the fact that it is a solid entry in the series, and a solid 3DS game.