When the summer started, I was excited about three Square Enix titles on 3DS.
Theatrhythm looked different, but a short time waster. Heroes of Ruin looked like a dark-horse RPG title. However, Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance showed the most promise.
It looked like a return to the fun the console KH games featured without the weird gameplay mechanics portable versions had. And, early on, it even seemed like it would be. However, one feature hampers that whole experience: the Drop.
Before I even get into the story, I want to focus on the Drop, which could be one of the worst features implemented in a game lately. The game has you controlling both Sora and Riku as you venture to various Disney-themed worlds like usual. The Drop feature, though, implements a countdown you’ll probably never pay attention to.
At least you won’t until you wonder why your control of Sora disappears. That’s right, the Drop feature is a time limit that forces you to switch between Sora and Riku when time runs out. Sure, they try to ease the pain by letting you spend points to power the other person up or give them items, but it doesn’t change the fact that you could be far into a level then be forced to switch to another character on a separate world. This means that big plot points or reveals can be quickly lost as you have to start a new world with someone else.
Sure, you can switch straight back, but the game starts you at the last checkpoint you hit. This means progress you made may be lost and force you to retrace your steps. In addition, this means that bosses you almost had beaten will be at full health as the battle restarts. Why this couldn’t be frozen during boss battles or at least slowed down or given the option to refill is beyond me.
Anyways, getting back to the story. The story starts out sounding interesting, picking up at the end of Kingdom Hearts Re:coded. Sora and Riku are told by Yen Sid that to become Keyblade Masters, they must undergo a test. However, you’ll soon find out the test is what they’ve been doing all along: go to different Disney worlds, defeat anything that comes your way with a keyblade and restore peace to the world.
It should be noted here that Sora and Riku don’t play the exact same worlds. They’re in different parts of the world, but I won’t explain how as that gives away an early plot point.
The game contains both new and old Disney worlds. New worlds include Hunchback of Notre Dame, Three Musketeers, Tron: Legacy and Fantasia.
A few of the new worlds show up early on. However, it should be noted that these are also some of the blandest stories you come across, as it’s almost a poor-man retelling of the movies they’re based off of. However, be sure to stick around, as it does get a lot better as you progress.
To get to worlds, you’ll utilize the Dive Mode instead of the Gummi Ship. Dive Mode has players floating towards a gate at the end attacking enemies and building up specials to use. To unlock the gate, you normally have to collect a set amount of stars or beat a certain amount of enemies. Like the Gummi Ship, this is a mode I could take or leave.
The combat is the same combat that the console versions featured, allowing you to jump, slash and cast spells as you run around. The Command Deck is also back to allow you to use abilities or skills. Added to the game, though, is a new Flowmotion system that makes use of walls, poles and more as you swing around them, glow pink and get the ability to launch a special attack.
Unfortunately, the combat is also hampered by the same thing the console version was: the camera. You can use the control pad attachment to control the camera. Otherwise, you’re stuck moving the camera back and forth with the LT and RT. Still, the combat is great enough to make this simple a small bother, and not a deal-breaker.
Most enemies can simple be hit to death, with bigger enemies just taking a few more hits or a Flowmotion special. It should be noted, though, that bosses are more cheap than anything. They really follow no set patter, and will launch highly damaging moves without care, destroying your character quickly.
Another new feature is the game is the addition of pets known as Dream Eaters. You can have up to three Dream Eaters equipped at once (two attacking, one getting experience). The Dream Eaters are actually enemies you find in the game, but you can basically build any of them along as you have enough materials and the right recipe. However, you can also experiment to build them as well.
The Dream Eaters also will built up to a Limit Break as you beat up enemies. The Limit Breakers can either be used individually from a Dream Eater or together for a more powerful attack. In addition, the type of Limit Break changes depending on the character you’re using.
As your pets level up, you can get Link Points that can be used towards skills that can augment your health, attack or other stats, or give you new abilities that you can equip. While this sounds great, after I finally got some healing abilities I ignored most of the other abilities I unlocked. It’s not that they weren’t good, but I found myself relying on healing to stay alive most of the time and let me deal out the most damage.
To increase Link Points, experience and more you can also pet the Dream Eaters or play mini-games with them via items you can find or buy. This feature is strangely cathartic and relaxing. It’s interesting to see what different actions the Dream Eaters will perform when being petted, yet it increases their EXP or LP at the same time. I just wish this would have been used more.
Unfortunately, the Dream Eaters come at a price. No longer will you have Goofy or Donald or other Disney characters follow you. In fact, you barely see Goofy or Donald, mainstays in the series. Given the choice between the two, I would have rather have stayed with the Disney trademark characters.
Graphically, the game looks impressive for the handheld. You’ll instantly recognize Traverse Town and the Disney worlds as you go through them. In addition, the soundtrack and voices are also good in the game, with all the big names returning for their roles.
Flowmotion is an interesting addition.
Combat is simplistic yet good.
Game is enjoyable to play most of the time.
Drop feature is a terrible addition.
Can’t have the Disney characters in your party.
Some of the new levels are uninteresting.
Overall, I’m torn on how to score this. On one hand, the game has some good fundamentals and interesting additions. On the other, some additions come close to destroying the fun that can be had. Kingdom Hearts fans will be able to look past the flaws and still find an enjoyable experience in Dream Drop Distance. However, random 3DS owners looking for a new game may get quickly annoyed, leaving a fun game behind.
The Disney world’s look vibrant and unique, and the characters look good as well.
Sure, there are some nice features here, but the Drop feature really drags this down.
The soundtrack is good like always, and the voices are also enjoyable.
There’s an unlockable difficulty at the end, as well as some optional battles and such along the way.
Just as you’re really getting into a character and enjoying the game, a Drop comes along to make sure that doesn’t happen.