Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance Review
Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance is a great addition to the series as Kingdom Hearts fans celebrate its 10th Anniversary, thanks to the game’s new features and the well designed nature of the worlds but unfortunately Sora and Riku’s latest adventure has some errors that need to be fixed.
Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance is a continuation of Kingdom Hearts II and it revolves around Sora and Riku having their Mark of Mastery exam but instead of a menial fight against each other, Master Yen Sid decides to send them off to find the seven sleeping keyholes within their dreams. When they succeed, Master Yen Sid will decide who becomes Keyblade Master. Sora and Riku, however, are separated into two parallel dreams so they must face this journey alone. If the story sounds confusing to you, there are journal entries detailing the general plot line of past Kingdom Hearts games (once unlocked) and Dream Drop Distance so if you’re a newcomer, you should be able to understand what is going on.
Throughout Kingdom Hearts 3D’s story, it is exciting to watch Sora and Riku grow to becoming powerful warriors and it definitely feels like they’re stepping up to become Keyblade Masters. It only makes you wonder how Kingdom Hearts III will be presented when it reaches consoles and Dream Drop Distance is definitely a preview of what’s to come. By the way, the story of Kingdom Hearts 3D definitely leads up to Kingdom Hearts 3. Dream Drop Distance’s story is well told through world class voice acting and well directed cutscenes but in this outing, the story feels grander in terms of action.
To speak of the worlds in particular, Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance has a varied list of places for Sora and Riku to visit. From Tron Legacy to The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Square Enix is sure to please many Disney fans. Final Fantasy enthusiasts, on the other hand, will be disappointed with no mention of the franchise’s characters at all. In consolation, Sora and Riku do meet the cast of The World That Ends With You so there is a resemblance of Square Enix in this game.
This Kingdom Hearts features the same gameplay styles we all know and love but this time, there is a new mechanic called Flowmotion which provides a much more action packed experience. In Flowmotion, you can bounce off walls, swing on lampposts and whirl around enemies. This aspect makes Kingdom Hearts’ gameplay feel fresh and this mechanic needs to be placed in future games in the series.The command system, despite being easier to navigate around than the original, is clunky to control on the Nintendo 3DS itself. With the D-Pad being far down in the bottom left, it is sometimes difficult to scroll through skills in battle as you switch between the D-Pad and the thumb stick; this will lead to quite a few deaths. Another issue is the touch screen functionality. At certain points, you will have to use the touch screen to “dive” into the ground and use a specific ability. At times, these segments do not respond to your touch and feel clumsy in the process. However, this function is an inventive use of the dual screens of the Nintendo 3DS and help immerse the gamer into the experience when it works correctly. In addition to the dive and Flowmotion systems, Dream Drop Distance also includes Sora and Riku joined by creatures called the Dream Eaters. Throughout the game, you can create these monsters to fight alongside you and as they gain new abilities, so does the player. It felt strange when characters such as The Three Musketeers and Sam Flynn weren’t in your party but they are incredibly useful in battle. They can combine with Riku into different forms and help Sora by joining together to use special moves. It also feels satisfying when building up your Dream Eaters’ stats and abilities.
On a portable device, skills are much easier to navigate through compared to the original command system in Kingdom Hearts but it would be great to return to the old command menu design when the series comes back to consoles. One feature I do not want to see in future games, however, is the “Drop” system. In Kingdom Hearts 3D, you will have to switch between Sora and Riku but it does not give you the choice to continue on for long periods of time with one particular character; it forces the player to change. As one sleeps, the other is awake and when the player is fighting a boss, the Drop system could switch to the other keyblader. When coming back to that boss fight, you find out that this feature erased the progress you made in that battle. This can be incredibly frustrating and could be easily fixed in a patch. You can also use Drop-Me-Nots but there are only two available per battle. Dream Drop Distance, much like Birth By Sleep, uses the deck command system, which enables you to choose up to 8 skills on the fly. Overall, Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance plays well but it would be great if it had a better control scheme and a slight tweak to the drop system so it wouldn’t take the player out of boss battles.
The sound design is remarkable and like many other Kingdom Hearts games before it, the music by Yoko Shimomura, is wonderful to listen to. While battling, every sound effect is correct and nothing feels out of place within the worlds of Dream Drop Distance. Most of the music from previous entries are present, which isn’t a terrible thing at all but there are also reworkings of beloved sound tracks such as “Traverse in Trance” which sound excellent on the 3DS. However, some of the themes such as Tron: Legacy’s music are bland and are annoying to listen to but most of the new songs Yoko Shimomura has worked on are just as great as her previous works. The teams behind audio design for the Kingdom Hearts games should give themselves a pat on the back because they are the ones who give this series so much immersion and alongside Yoko Shimomura, Kingdom Hearts will continue to succeed in terms of audio.
Lastly, this Kingdom Hearts 3DS entry should be credited for its immaculate detail on Disney’s workings but sometimes these beautifully designed worlds feel empty. The environments of Dream Drop Distance are designed to look exactly like the movies they come from. In the Country of the Musketeers, Square Enix has brought the comic book art style to life and it looks stunning on the 3DS’ screen. Even the Mont Saint-Michel has been recreated in the game! Unfortunately, these worlds feel incredibly empty and there are no inhabitants walking around these surroundings. This takes me out of the experience that Square Enix wants to immerse me in. In Birth By Sleep, for example, the three protagonists (Ventus, Aqua and Terra) visited Olympus. In one area, you enter an empty town, which looks similar to the scene in Hercules, where Phil and the Hercules are trying to make their way through a bustling street. In Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep, there is no one selling watches, bustling around or shouting out loud like in the movie. There is no atmosphere. Nothing. This is a problem Square Enix needs to address for their future titles. Besides the atmosphere of the game, Square Enix also needs to fix the lag that can happen when too many enemies are on the screen. This can become an issue because sometimes when the lag occurs, you are not able to heal yourself in time when it returns to the normal frame rate. I am sure that this can be fixed in a future patch. Despite the lag, this is the most detailed 3DS game to date with exuberant worlds to explore and a solid graphical engine to boot.
In conclusion, Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance is an excellent entry in the series because of the new action packed Flowmotion mechanic, a gripping story and an attention to detail for the game’s overall sound/visual design. So what are you waiting for!? Purchase the game from your local retailer or online for $39.99 or get the Mark of Mastery Edition for $54.99!
Overall Score: 36/40
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