Review: Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance
Being a huge Kingdom Hearts fan, I was counting down the days for this game’s release. I watched it go live in Japan, then stopped myself from viewing all the spoilers that fled across the web and waited. When my pre-order of the game showed up at my front door I almost didn’t know what to think. It took a while to sink in that the game I’d been waiting over a year for was finally in my grasp. But after I played it, I sat there processing it even more. My reaction to Dream Drop Distance was mixed, and it took me a couple months to comprise a review for it. Now, let’s see if I can do it justice.
This was probably the game’s biggest downfall. Many alterations had been made in Kingdom Hearts 3D’s gameplay from that of other Kingdom Hearts titles. While some of these changes were for the better, others admittedly brought it down.
The player will alternate between Sora and Riku through each of the seven worlds. Paired with your HP bar is a Drop Gauge, which will gradually go down throughout gameplay. Once this bar is empty the player will go into Bonus Time, where you’l have thirty seconds before you switch to your other character. You may also choose to switch between Sora and Riku whenever you’d like by going into your menu (or pause screen during battle) and selecting “drop.” The Drop Gauge does make for a very unique gaming experience, but it can also become a hindrance. It can be somewhat hard to keep track of where you leave off in each world by switching frequently between characters, but that’s not the worst part. If during a boss battle your Drop Gauge reaches zero and you’re forced to switch characters, when you resume the battle the boss’s HP will return to its original state. This can become very frustrating, but can be avoided by adding an item called Drop-me-not. This will recharge your Drop Gauge and delay your switch of characters, making it pretty possible to complete a battle without switching.
The gameplay is similar to that of Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep in some ways, but differs greatly in others. The command deck system from Birth by Sleep returns within this installment. You can compose your deck of favorite commands to use during world travel with options such as Quick Blitz or magic like Cura or Firaga. The player will travel through each world composed of different Disney themes, through courtyards or castles and even underwater. Enemies, known as Dream Eaters, will appear throughout different areas, which you can defeat with the typical hack-and-slash with the use of your Keyblade weapon, using the command deck, reality shift or flowmotion. The two latter choices are all-new to the Kingdom Hearts series. Reality shift becomes available from time to time, and each one differs between worlds. By pressing the X and A button simultaneously, the player will go into reality shift where you’ll be given instructions on how to perform it. If done correctly, greater amounts of damage will be dealt upon your enemies. You also can unlock various abilities doing this, such as chains for easy transport. Flowmotion is available throughout places other than battle, as is the reality shift, and is even required to reach high places throughout some areas in the game. By pressing the Y button and hitting into walls, poles, enemies, et cetera, the player will go into flowmotion. You can kick off of walls, wall-jump to reach higher places, slide across banisters, chains and all sorts of things with great speed. When flying into enemies it is possible to shoot them across the room, damaging itself and other enemies it crashes into. This feature can be useful in some areas throughout the game, but also adds to confusion. With all the different features throughout the game, there is a bit of a learning curve to playing Kingdom Hearts 3D as opposed to other titles.
Another addition to Kingdom Hearts 3D would be the ally Dream Eaters called Spirits. If you’re a pet lover and enjoy games such as Nintendogs, then you’ll probably love this feature. For those that are hard-core role-playing gamers that are in it for the adventure and problem solving, chances are you’ll hate it. I am one of the latter, but it’s pretty hard to neglect taking care of your Spirits if you are to get far within the game. You’ll be given recipe ingredients, almost like synthesis material, to create various Spirits. Once created, you may have up to two in your party, and another on standby in case you’d like to switch for any reason during battle. To care for your Spirits you “bond” with them, which means petting them on the touch screen using your stylus. You may also feed your Spirits to help them gain abilities, along with train them using various mini games. It is possible to avoid this step in the game, but in order to unlock abilities for Sora and Riku, such as HP boosts, attack boosts and magic hastes, you’ll need to earn Link Points by using and caring for your Spirits. This step was a bit for me to grasp, namely because I am not a fan of taking the time to interact with pets.
The rooms are massive, which leaves lots of space for the player to explore. The worlds, however, are incredibly short. The mass amount of cutscenes within each one increase the feeling of being short as well. The player has the option to skip these cutscenes if they so wish, and the game is still relatively easy to follow with key points mentioned on the touch screen.
There is a great variance in the difficulty throughout the game. A part of this will depend on your level, but I also noticed an inconsistency throughout the game. All enemies and bosses seemed exceptionally easy throughout the game, being able to defeat each boss within only one try. However, the game’s difficultly increases dramatically upon the final world, with the final bosses being only a tad shy from impossible in comparison to earlier battles. This is something I do not see often within the Kingdom Hearts series. In general, the difficulty level increases with the player’s skill, slowly becoming harder as they reach the end of the game.
These were some of the best in the series, and possibly the best within all Nintendo 3DS titles. The cutscenes were in excellent quality, with facial animation and a movie-like quality. The opening to the game is also in HD graphics, which could hardly be anymore spectacular. It is possible to see the definition in the characters’ teeth! There were some places--namely the credits--where the screen would appear “fuzzy,” but this is pretty minor and hardly something that one could complain about.
Kingdom Hearts has always featured an amazing soundtrack; Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance is no exception. The music in this game is beautiful, moving yet sad in many appropriate places throughout the game. There are also many remixes from original Kingdom Hearts titles, which was pretty fun to hear.
Lasting Appeal: 5/10
The only real reason that I continued playing is because a) it is a Kingdom Hearts game, and b) I was curious to see how the story ended. Because Dream Drop Distance is a spinoff title and is not a major installment in the series, very little significant story is present except for the last chapter of the game. The story here is interesting, but not much more than that. A lot of the plot was quite predictable. That, or it wasn’t all that thought-out. Previous Kingdom Hearts games seemed to do a better job of conveying story, including in the Disney worlds to travel through. The story within each world seemed surreal and surface, not delving very far past the main dilemma within each world.
After completing Kingdom Hearts 3D once, there isn’t much more in it that would make the player want to pick it up again. You do have the ability of creating and leveling up your Spirits, along with earn the different trophy awards (you acquire a trophy by completing various tasks in the game, such as using 50 reality shifts, collecting all the treasure chests, et cetera). Other than that, there isn’t much replay value.
Perhaps it was because I waited so long for this game’s release, but I was sorely disappointed by Dream Drop Distance. This game is drastically different than other titles throughout the series, removing a lot of qualities that made me appreciate the earlier games and releasing others that didn’t appeal to older audiences. This might open doors for younger players, but in turn will likely send other older ones away. It was a Kingdom Hearts game, so for that alone it was brilliant, but it certainly wasn’t the best Kingdom Hearts title in existence. Having played all the games within the series, I would have to painfully say that Kingdom Hearts 3D is my least favorite. Still, it was an enjoyable game and an excellent RPG, but I feel that it failed to fill the gap that many gamers desired.