The lights are on
Recently, I played and beat Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance on the Nintendo 3DS and after a few days away from the game I think I have formed a good idea of how to describe it to interested buyers. I will begin with the story.
Story: The story begins right as Kingdom Hearts' main protagonists, Sora and Riku, begin a test placed upon them by the Disney character Yen Sid (the Sorcerer from "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" in the Disney movie Fantasia) dubbed the "Mark of Mastery." For those of you who are new to the series, Sora and Riku are what the series calls Keyblade Wielders which means what it literally sounds like, people who wield swords that are designed to act as not only weapons but also keys. This "Mark of Mastery" is a test Keyblade Wielders must go through before they can be titled Keyblade Masters. As GI put it in an article for a former Kingdom Hearts game, it's basically like when Jedi Apprentices become Jedi Masters. Yen Sid gives Sora and Riku this challenge because while they both have accomplished great things in the series so far, neither of them have had any "real" training in his opinion and pretty much states that if they both travel to seven Disney worlds, only then will he declare them Keyblade Masters. Once they achieve this rank, Yen Sid believes they will then be ready to take on the series' constant antagonist, Master Xehanort, who was a Keyblade Master that succumbed to darkness. That is all I'll share about the main story.
For those who have never played a Kingdom Hearts or maybe have only played a few of the games, the game offers a summary of all the key events in each of the previous games when something happens in KH3D that pertains to that required knowledge. This makes this entry a little more open to newcomers story wise and saves you some trouble of searching for whats happened so far on the internet if you become interested.
The story itself may be interesting to KH fans but I can see how throughout the majority of the game, it may come off as a little to typical. One thing newcomers should be aware of is that the KH series has no issues with professing its belief in the power of friendship and while this idea may charm when it involves Disney characters, it can grow stale. Thankfully the two characters you will play as have different personalities so the "my friends are my power" blows can be softened when you see how Sora and Riku handle their interactions with other characters differently. Sora is the type of character where if you're his friend, you can do no wrong even if you do something to hurt him. His smile can be contagious but his ignorance can be overwhelming. Riku is more of the straight-man where, for the most part, conversations are serious albeit a little too "woe is me" at times, for the most part in the beginning. The drop system in the game allows you to interchange between these two so once you've had a little too much of one guy, you can get a perspective with the other.
Gameplay: Combat in this game is a dream, no pun intended. Its got the basic KH real-time fighting and has brought back the command deck which allows you to use special abilities on the fly. As well as this, the new method of mobility named Flowmotion is just as fun to use in combat as it is to get around. You can zip around the battlefield and retreat when you need to but as much fun as I had with it, mishaps show their ugly head when your battling a boss in close quarters. You may accidentally activate Flowmotion when you roll into a wall causing your character to enter, admittedly a very brief, animation that may allow your enemy a free hit. However, this occurrence was very rare in my playthrough but is still something to be mindful of.
The game also features the new mechanic of Dream Eaters which are basically the "Collect 'em All" hook. You find the ingredients to make different Dream Eaters and then train them to build your own stats as well as learn new abilities. They certainly add to the replayability and also the strategy of the game, since different ones give you different abilities while equipped. With their designs and personality, they fit in well with the KH universe.
Remember the drop system I mentioned earlier? Well, while it was used well enough with the story and in concept, it hampered the gameplay for me. All to often I would find myself in a boss fight only to be forcibly placed in the shoes of the other character, later to return to the former character and have to restart the boss fight from the very beginning. The game gives items and abilities to reduce drop time but would it have been that difficult to make it so you wouldn't have to drop during a boss at all?
Visuals & Sound: This game is one of the better looking games on 3DS and the music lends itself well with the environments. The characters' voices all have their own personalities and I wouldn't describe any of the acting as mediocre or bland. That doesn't mean the characters are amazing and can't get bothersome, but just that their voices lend well to their personality
Overall I give this game an 8.00. It can certainly be a fun game at times and as a long-time KH fan I would say it delivered. However, it wasn't without its flaws with the drop system hampering my gameplay at times and like any game, it will slowly but surely lose its luster (I say that knowing it is inevitable but currently I am still having fun with the extra content after beating it). For you newcomers you may be dissuaded by the somewhat kiddie dialogue between characters at times, but if you can look past the occasional bad lines you will find a deep story about two friends looking out for one another and maybe even a warmth from the end experience. Of course, if none of that sounds appealing, the gameplay is still there and offers a fun ride for owners of the 3DS. So to conclude, is it perfect? No. Is it near perfection? Probably not. But as far as a KH fan should be concerned, this is a welcome entry and to 3DS owners who aren't really KH fans but are looking for a new game, I would strongly recommend checking out the demo on the Nintendo Shop and seeing what all the hype is about.
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