Review: Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance
:Beautiful graphics, Entertaining combat, Dream Eaters add a new level of strategy.
:Horribly convoluted plot, drop mechanic is annoying, bosses are frustrating, Disney worlds are bland.
Sora and the gang return for this 3D follow up to Kingdom Hearts II, but was the wait worth it?
<p dir=”ltr” style=”text-align: left;”>Back in 2001, no one would have thought that a Disney/Final Fantasy mash up would work except for Square Enix. Fast forward to 2012 and we’ve seen the series has had two successful console outings and a plethora of handheld side games. Now the Nintendo 3DS has the honor of capturing newcomers and fans alike with Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream Drop Distance]. So, how does it fair?</p>
<p dir=”ltr” style=”text-align: left;”>If you’ve never played a Kingdom Hearts game before or have had a decent amount of exposure to the series, prepare to be super confused about all the events happening in the game. The story is horribly convoluted, especially so for newcomers. If you’ve invested time in the series and effort into understanding it’s nonsensical plot, you might be better off than others. However, by the end of Kingdom Hearts 3D you’ll be wondering what the hell it is that Square Enix is trying to do with the series. That’s not to say it’s all bad though, as the game does have a Chronicle mode that summarizes the plot of all the past titles. On paper this idea sounds great, however considering how complex and complicated the story already is, it’s not very beneficial in practice.</p>
<a href=”http://panicgamer.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Kingdom-Hearts-3D-Sora-Riku.png”><img title=”Kingdom Hearts 3D Sora Riku” alt=”" src=”http://panicgamer.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Kingdom-Hearts-3D-Sora-Riku-300×218.png” width=”300″ height=”218″ /></a> You’ll be playing as both Sora and Riku in Kingdom Hearts 3D.
<p dir=”ltr” style=”text-align: left;”>The game has you playing as Sora and Riku. Both of these characters visit the same worlds that are alternate universes of each other. In each of these worlds, different events happen and you’ll find yourself playing more as one character than the other. Take for example in The Grid world, where Sora’s story arc was a lot shorter than Riku’s. Riku’s had about two or three cutscenes and story heavy elements and Sora’s had none.</p>
<p dir=”ltr” style=”text-align: left;”>The main draw of Dream Drop Distance as compared to the other titles is that it has you’ll be playing as both Sora and Riku in their own campaigns. However instead of playing them separately the game forces you to play the concurrently. This doesn’t really work out as intended due to the drop mechanic being poorly implemented.</p>
<p dir=”ltr” style=”text-align: left;”>During the middle of your game as one character, you’ll be dropped out and into the other – without the ability to save or complete whatever tasks, battles or boss battles you were doing previously. If you’d want to continue playing as a certain character, you can always press the ‘drop’ button on the touch screen to switch back to the previous character. You can also use items called drop me nots which prolong your time with that one character.</p>
<p dir=”ltr” style=”text-align: left;”>Although these are nice features to have that make it easier to deal with, it begs to question why the drop mechanic even exists at all. Instead of adding urgency and intensity to the game, it causes frustration, especially when you’re fighting a boss, only to be dropped out in the middle of the fight. Once you rejoin that character, be prepared to fight the boss at full HP once again.</p>
<p dir=”ltr” style=”text-align: left;”>If you’re not interested in the plot, the good news is the gameplay is pretty entertaining. The combat basics are borrowed from Birth By Sleep (the PSP prequel), with the game allowing for players to have a command deck that lets them customize what kinds of physical and magic abilities they want to use. For example, you might customize your deck with cure, fire, blizzard along with two or three physical attacks. The more you play the more slots you’ll unlock for these commands. Unlike Kingdom Hearts 1 and 2, you aren’t able to level up Sora and Riku. Both the characters are leveled up automatically and your abilities are unlocked, based on how you level up your Dream Eaters.</p>
<p dir=”ltr” style=”text-align: left;”>Dream Eaters are your party members throughout the game. As you progress, you’ll unlock more items to craft more Dream Eaters and you’ll unlock recipes to find out what items you need to create different Dream Eaters. By creating more Dream Eaters, you unlock more abilities or your character. When you level up your Dream Eaters, you can unlock more abilities for them in their ability links menu. Doing this gives Sora and Riku more commands and abilities at their disposal. This feature adds an interesting bit of strategy to the typical Kingdom Hearts formula. You can also play mini-games where your Dream Eaters level up – one is a lot like Nintendogs which has you tapping on the screen and playing with your Dream Eater, and another is called Flick Rush.</p>
<p dir=”ltr” style=”text-align: left;”>Flick Rush is a allows for you to use teams of three of your Dream Eaters against an opponents. You can fight computer controlled foes or fight against people via a wireless connection (local). You can exchange medals that you win from Flick Rush with the Moogle shop for prizes and unlocking command deck items and abilities for your Dream Eaters.</p>
<a href=”http://panicgamer.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Kingdom-Hearts-3D-Gameplay.png”><img title=”Kingdom Hearts 3D Gameplay” alt=”" src=”http://panicgamer.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Kingdom-Hearts-3D-Gameplay-300×218.png” width=”300″ height=”218″ /></a> Flow Motion is the new combat system mechanic introduced in Kingdom Hearts 3D
<p dir=”ltr” style=”text-align: left;”>The game also introduces a new mechanic called Flow Motion, essentially it lets you grind and bounce off of walls to traverse levels faster and allows for more action oriented combat sequences. It’s pretty interesting at first, however as you keep playing you’ll find yourself just repeating the same set of moves — jumping off of a wall and pressing the A button to land an attack on the ground on enemies. The problem is that enemies pop up too frequently throughout the game, making it easy to just use Flow Motion as a cop out to mashing the A button.</p>
<p dir=”ltr” style=”text-align: left;”>If you’re looking forward to seeing lots of Disney worlds and Final Fantasy characters, tough luck. Neither camp is really well represented in Kingdom Hearts 3D as compared to Kingdom Hearts 1 and 2. Final Fantasy characters are absent from the entire game, save for the Moogle shops. Five Disney worlds make up the game – La Cite des Cloches (Hunchback of Notre Dame), The Grid (Tron Legacy), Pranksters Paradise (Pinocchio), Country of the Musketeers (The Three Musketeers) and Symphony of Sorcery (Fantasia).</p>
<p dir=”ltr” style=”text-align: left;”>The first three worlds mentioned above feel disjointed and bland compared to the last two. The first three worlds really lack that Disney charm and magic, where as Country of the Musketeers and Symphony of Sorcery both excel for different reasons. With The Three Musketeers, you get that sense of Disney charm with Mickey, Donald, Goofy and Pete. With Symphony of Sorcery, little touches like the disappearance of Sora and Riku’s voices in favour of musical notes as you bash enemies is a neat touch that immerses you into the experience even more so. It’s unfortunate that these ideas weren’t implemented well into the other three worlds. You’ll also encounter The World Ends With You characters in Traverse Town, which was an interesting choice and blends in nicely to the Kingdom Hearts fiction.</p>
<p dir=”ltr” style=”text-align: left;”>It seems at this point in the series that the main draw is its own self-contained plot, rather than drawing from strong Disney stories and Final Fantasy characters. Both of those elements have taken a backseat to the Kingdom Hearts story itself. This is good news for Kingdom Hearts fans, but if your main draw to the series were either Disney or Final Fantasy – neither of you will be appeased by Kingdom Hearts 3D. Things don’t get very Disney until the end and even that is minimal.</p>
<p dir=”ltr” style=”text-align: left;”>Kingdom Hearts 3D features a ton of boss fights, most of which range from fun and downright frustrating. There are a few occasions where boss fights just feel cheap and unforgiving, especially when they’re allowed to kill you with one hit kills unexpectedly. Other times, the boss fights can be fun and charming when they’re using Disney villains.</p>
<p style=”text-align: left;”>The game features some of the best graphics to grace the 3DS so far. The 3D effect works surprisingly well, though it’s mostly just for visual pleasure rather than adding anything to the gameplay. The game is colourful and vibrant. Each of the Disney worlds are crafted with care and encompass the same magic as their movie counterparts, it’s just too bad that the tasks you do in each of these worlds is fairly dull.</p>
<a href=”http://panicgamer.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Kingdom-Hearts-3D-Sora.png”><img title=”Kingdom Hearts 3D Sora” alt=”" src=”http://panicgamer.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Kingdom-Hearts-3D-Sora-300×218.png” width=”300″ height=”218″ /></a> There’s a ‘drop’ mechanic in the game that can cause some frustration.
<p dir=”ltr” style=”text-align: left;”>Dream Drop Distance does suffer from a few technical glitches. There are a few times where you might break through an invisible wall barrier, landing into an abyss of nowhere.</p>
<p dir=”ltr” style=”text-align: left;”>The game suffers from poor frame rate during intense battles with lots of enemies – though it seems isolated to three or four areas. It’s a very highly polished title like past entries. The music in Kingdom Hearts is fantastic and definitely captures the charm of the source material. It’s some of the best music the industry has to offer. The theme has remained the same for most of the games, so it would be nice to have a remixed version in newer entries.</p>
<p dir=”ltr” style=”text-align: left;”>Although Kingdom Hearts is a highly polished title, there are a few silly design choices that bring down the overall enjoyment of the game. The drop mechanic is more of an annoyance than a strategic element and the convoluted story has got to the point where it’s uninviting for newcomers and it’s a hindrance on the enjoyment of series fans. if you’re a passionate fan of Kingdom Hearts you’ll definitely enjoy the game. However if you’re starting to grow tired of the franchise, the words ‘Kingdom Hearts III’ probably not longer excite you like they once did.</p>
<strong>Why it may be helpful for people with anxiety.</strong>
<li>Taking care of your Dream Eaters can be pretty entertaining</li>
<li>The mini-games are a nice get away from the main story</li>
<li>The music is pretty soothing during parts of the game</li>
<strong>Why it may not be helpful for people with anxiety.</strong>
<li>Tough, frustrating boss battles might cause more stress than enjoyment</li>
<li>The confusing story line might irritate players</li>
<strong>Why you should be on the fence.</strong>
Kingdom Hearts 3D provides enough fun experience for a casual play through, though if you’re a newcomer you’ll find a lot of things daunting, especially the story and mechanics. It’s also incredibly frustrating to fight certain bosses and follow the story, so it’ll only add to your stress rather than let you get lost in the game’s world, story and Disney light-heartedness.
<div style=”text-align: left;”>Review Note:</div>
<div style=”text-align: left;”>The game will be released on the Nintendo eShop sometime later this month as well. As of now, it’s a retail release only.</div>