Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Review: Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance

Okay, this is really one of those games that I have been holding off on, and for too long I might add.  Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance is the next installment in the Kingdom Hearts franchise, and is the first game in a while that actually advances the story after Kingdom Hearts 2 for the PS2.   For ten years we have seen the adventures of Sora, Donald, Goofy, and Riku.  After all these years, you would think Square Enix could come up with something new for once (not that this is such a bad thing).  For the most part, Kingdom Hearts is still Kingdom Hearts, yet they did try to do things differently; some things for the better, some for worse.

The story takes place after the events of Kingdom Hearts 2, and Dream Drop Distance is the game that advances the story and begins to set up the stage for, possibly, Kingdom Hearts 3.  Players do not need to have any previous experience playing the Kingdom Hearts franchise to understand what is going on, since the game does provide summaries and character bios that do help ease newcomers into the whole complicated plot, but I recommend playing as many of the previous entries to truly understand what is going on.  KH1, KH2, and KH: Birth by Sleep are the games that newcomers will want to at least play to get the most out of the story.

Xehanort is the main villain of the whole franchise, but our heroes do not stand a chance against him, so Master Yen Sid (did you know that Yen Sid is Disney spelled backwards?) prepares a set of trials for Sora and Riku, called the Mark of Mastery.  If they pass this test, Sora and Riku will obtain power that could stand a chance to this new threat.  So, our heroes set off on a journey to prepare themselves for the danger that lurks ahead.

The game plays very similar to Birth by Sleep.  The command list is now just a list of actions that you can activate by scrolling through them with the D-Pad.  Considering how small the D-Pad on the 3DS is, this can be a little awkward at times, and can lead to some complications in the middle of battle.  Luckily, you can set one of your actions to a shortcut so that you can quickly heal yourself in the middle of battle.  There are some differences to battles now:  With the push of a button, you can perform moves that are called Flowmotion.  Sora and Riku use the environment, and sometimes enemies, to perform powerful moves that are great for crowd control.  This gives combat a breath of fresh air, which was something that was needed for the franchise.

Normally in the Kingdom Hearts universe, our heroes are accompanied by partners of some kind. While Donald and Goofy previously assisted Sora, now we have the Dream Eaters.  Think of Dream Eaters as a pet of some kind.  These pets can be leveled up so that they can give new abilities to Sora and Riku.  They can help you out in a pinch in combat as well.  As your Dream Eaters land hits, they will build up a meter, which, once maxed out, can give a random attack to Sora, or a complete change in fighting style for Riku.  If you have both Dream Eaters' meters at max, you can unleash even more powerful versions of these abilities, with different combinations doing different things.  Because they aren't exactly majorly significant to the gameplay, it doesn't welcome experimentation, and players might use the same group of Dream Eaters for the entire journey. (Even though I got the Mark of Mastery edition of the game that came with some powerful Dream Eaters via AR cards, I had the same Dream Eaters throughout the whole game).

I am going to touch on this next point really briefly.  Everytime you go to a new world as either hero, you need to complete a mini-game called a Dream Drop.  These mini-games are extremely easy if you just need to collect a certain amount of points before time is up, but sometimes you have to fight a boss.  Sometimes, this can be annoying to do, considering at how poor these segments are.  You have to dodge a series of attacks, and then the boss lowers its guard so that you can attack it.  In order to attack, you need to lock on, and then lunge to attack.  Sadly, the lunge has a habit of missing its mark, wasting valuable time needed to whittle down the boss's health.

One final bit of gameplay that I must cover is the Drop system, which is where the "Drop" in Dream Drop Distance comes from.  To put it simply, this is a sort of timer that shows how long our heroes can stay in the world for.  If time runs out, time freezes around you, and your character goes to sleep.  You then play as the other character, and this cycle repeats itself.  While switching between characters, you can purchase upgrades such as Attack Up, Defense Up, etc. with the points you earned while playing through runs.  These upgrades are only active on the run they were purchased for, and any unused point get converted to Muny.  This mechanic is annoying at first, but I believe this exists so that you can play as both heroes evenly, and advance the plot evenly as well.  You need to play as both Riku and Sora and complete the various worlds in order to unlock additional worlds.  The good news is that you can extend your time in worlds by using an item that replenishes your Drop meter, or you by purchasing an upgrade in between Drops to make the Drop rate go down, extending your playtime as that character for a good while.  It takes me about two Drops to complete a world, but it is possible to complete a world in just one Drop.

In conclusion, Dream Drop Distance was not a bad game, but it was not as spectacular as other Kingdom Hearts games.  Then again, maybe it is just me getting older and losing interest in the franchise as a whole.  Either way, despite the hiccups along the way, this game was not that bad.  It certainly did the 10-year-old franchise some justice.  Let us just hope that the future holds much brighter things that focus less on gimmicks.

Find Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance on ebay | Amazon

Released: 2012-07-31
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix


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