It seems like a loyal tradition for Square-Enix to release at least one Kingdom Hearts game in each portable console. These spin-offs, while very good for the most part, have only prolonged the wait for an official third entry in the series by most fans worldwide and such is the case of Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, the first title in the series available for the Nintendo 3DS which comes as a very good action-RPG title with great visuals and sound, decent gameplay and a very confusing storyline, which already seems normal for the franchise.
Kingdom Hearts 3D takes place sometime after Kingdom Hearts 2. In it, Sora and Riku must take on a test called the “Mark of Mastery” to become true Keyblade Masters by unlocking some sleeping Disney worlds. The curious thing is that the game actually has two different adventures. One for Sora and one for Riku and you literally play them both at the same time using the “Drop” system. There’s a bar active at all times that keeps getting smaller and smaller as time passes. When it runs out, the character you’re using at the moment will “fall asleep” and you’ll immediately take control of the other in his adventure. This can be a little annoying because it can happen in the middle of a battle or when you’re too concentrated in something else with one of the guys. Fortunately, the game allows you to find and buy and item that resets the Drop bar to its original size.
Graphically, the game is very good. As it usually happens with Square-Enix games in portable consoles, the textures are cartoony but they fit perfectly with how the game is supposed to look like, the frame rate and anti-aliasing are also very good, even when you play with the 3D effects fully on. Kingdom Hearts 3D’s graphics and visuals are a blast. The animations look very smooth as well. This franchise has always tried to mimic the combat of Final Fantasy’s cut-scenes and Advent Children in gameplay and it’s always done a great job with it. Sora and Riku move gracefully as they attack their enemies.
During the game’s story, Riku and Sora will visit many different-looking worlds from Disney movies like Hunchback of Notredame, Tron Legacy and Fantasia. Each one has its own art style, areas and layout and they’re very cool. The negative thing would be that they’re kind of linear which gives little room for exploration and sidequests in the worlds.
In sound, I can say the game is fantastic. As usual with these “Final Fantasy brothers” games, the soundtrack is incredible, with tunes that perfectly mix what Kingdom Hearts is supposed to be like, a mix between JRPGs and Disney. Each song resembles either a common Square-Enix soundtrack or a Disney movie and surprisingly, the result is very satisfactory. Each character is voiced greatly as well, which is very important given the deep storyline the game has. The storytelling is a little confused especially if you haven’t played or don’t remember key events from the previous games in the series. Fortunately, most characters sound good and will try to make the story have sense, in its own way.
The game is filled with many cartoony but cool sound effects for almost anything. Square-Enix seems to have recreated the Disney worlds in a very good way while adding sounds for the flashy attacks, magic spells and other abilities for all characters and bosses.
In gameplay, Dream Drop Distance has both similarities and differences to the previous games. The combat for example is very much alike; you have a button for attacking with the Keyblade, using skills and spells, blocking and jumping. You move Sore and Riku with the analog stick, control the camera and switch targets with the shoulder buttons and select skills and spells with the D-pad. This last thing is very annoying sometimes because you have to stop moving to select a skill and sometimes it can be frustrating to get hit by a boss or another enemy because of it.
Movement is very much alike but KH3D uses a new mechanic called “Flowmotion” that allows Riku and Sora to gracefully jump and dash from almost anywhere and use many objects to their advantage. It is activated by rolling into a wall or object and is especially useful for getting around the worlds quickly, but it can be used to attack enemies as well as there are different ways to deal damage from Flowmotion moves.
Each world also has a mechanic called “Reality Shift” that allows for the use of the touch-screen in the 3DS to do something different in them. You can trap enemies inside bubbles and make them explode to deal damage, create light rails across stages to ride on them and even attack enemies via a very funny comic featuring Mickey, Donald and Goofy. These Reality Shifts happen very fast and are very useful every time they are available.
Unlike other games in the series that have the main protagonist be accompanied by Donald, Goofy and other Disney characters as party members, KH3D offers you with a bunch of “Dream Eaters”. They’re some kind of Pokémon-like creatures you can create if you have enough items and the recipe. Some of them look like cats, birds, rams and even dinosaurs and each one is different with its own abilities and stats. They level up along Sora and Riku and can be used to unlock cool abilities like extra HP, elemental resistances and even skills for the Keyblade. You can also play some silly minigames with them via touch-screen to raise your synergy with them and their performance in battle. But truth be told, the vast majority of them aren’t very strong and you can’t rely on them to deal much damage or cure the player character.
Besides Flowmotion and Reality Shift, the game has many Keyblade skills and spells to use like the usual Fire, Thundara, Blizzaga and the like. Most of them work differently and have their own attributes so switching between them often is a key aspect in emerging victorious in the battles, which can be very hard especially if you play in Proud Mode (Hard) or Critical Mode (Very Hard).
In terms of replay value, the game doesn’t really offer much in terms of sidequests and end-game content. In fact, the only things you can do are find more Dream Eaters, level up in a fun arena minigame for them or simply play the game again in a higher difficulty to try and get the secret ending.
The only real negative thing about the game is probably the storyline. It’s very confusing and uses too many references to the previous games. To understand the plot, it will be necessary to go through all the other games or simply read their plots in a wiki or other websites. Otherwise you’ll most likely finish the game without having any idea of what the hell happened. This can make many players stay away from the game but truth be told, after you understand what happens in it, the plot actually does make sense in its own way. And trust me; the storyline in Kingdom Hearts is very, very good.
In short, Kingdom Hearts 3D is a great game and the first major RPG in the 3DS made by Square-Enix. The graphics, sound and gameplay are very good for the most part. It has an excellent combat system and visiting the Disney worlds is really fun. As a portable RPG game it does a great job and right now it could be easily called the best RPG in the 3DS. I totally recommend it.
- Great graphics and 3D effects.
- Catchy music.
- Excellent combat.
- Tons of skills and spells to choose from.
- Beautiful and varied Disney worlds.
- The Dream Eaters aren’t very useful in combat.
- Very confusing storyline.
- Not much to do after you finish the main story.
- Drop system forces to change characters in mid-battle.
- Graphics and Visuals…….…..9
- Music and Sound Effects….....9
- Replay Value…………….…..7
- Overall Score……………….. 8.5 / 10