Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance, the series seventh entry and in addition the game that celebrates Kingdom Hearts 10th anniversary. That’s right the one thing we never knew would go together, has won our hearts over the last year, Disney + Final Fantasy. In this game we finally advance the plot from Kingdom Hearts Re:Coded and tie in the previous six games together thus pushing the story into its next stage. Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance (from now on referred to as KH3D) has to do with Sora and Riku obtaining the Mark of Mastery title for themselves, so they can become “true keyblade masters”. This title was first mentioned in Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep, where only Aqua was bestowed the title over Terra. Yen Sid says this title is one of the keys to defeating Kingdom Hearts main antagonist, Master Xehanort.
Platform: 3DS/Genre: Japanese Role Playing Game
Developer: Square-Enix / Publisher: Square-Enix
Much of KH3D’s story is done in “a dream plane” of the worlds, where Sora and Riku must find Seven Sleeping Keyholes (all a part of their test). From there on you visit the all but too familiar Traverse Town, with a new twist, followed by five new worlds, and a special surprise last world where everything starts to come together (and one that many KH2 players will recognize). Venturing through the worlds, you are “followed” by a mysterious hooded figure who is strangely accompanied by Xemnas [for Sora] and Ansem Seeker of Darkness [for Riku]. This character seems to be causing a ruckus in each world, releasing Dream Eaters, but his true intentions are revealed later on in the game. What turns from being just a simple Mark of Mastery exam, turns into a much deeper scheme that Sora and Riku must stop, without even knowing that they are a part of it! Without spoiling too much, all Kingdom Hearts characters make an appearance, from Xion, to the Birth By Sleep cast; but oddly enough the only character to not appear in this entire game is Kairi* In addition, those hoping for Final Fantasy mainstays in Kingdom Hearts, like Squall/Leon or Cloud, will be disappointed as the Final Fantasy portion was left out. In their stead is that of the popular DS game, The World Ends With You, who are used in Traverse Town, although don’t play as major of a role as the Final Fantasy characters do.
A nice addition the game added was that of “Mementos”. Mementos are basically all the videos from Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance that you unlock, but include the Flashbacks that happen during certain videos. You always have the option to skip them, but for newbies who are lost from the story and don’t like reading the internet can always read about the past games in the Chronicles tab. While not as detail-oriented, it does answer a few questions to people who have not played former games.
The real big changes in Dream Drop Distance are that of the gameplay. Gameplay reminiscences that of Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep, in that of using the Command Decks. For those not familiar with the Command Decks, they act as your physical and magic “commands” (say Cure) and are used upon pressing the X button. It is sort of a special attack that after use requires a charge time, with some faster than others. What KH3D added was something called “Flowmotion”. Flowmotion is basically two things, a new way to attack and a faster way to explore more areas. Activating Flowmotion requires you to dash on a wall, onto a pole, or grind on rails. By doing such actions, you are filled with a pink aura and your speed dramatically increases, allowing you to search areas faster or jump to higher ground. The flowmotion is only active as long as you dash off more walls and poles, otherwise it goes away. Do not worry though because it can be activated at any time. Flowmotion attacks are activated when you press the attack button from dashing off walls, grinding, etc or by rolling into a larger enemy and tossing him into others. Flowmotion attacks do a lot of damage but also increase your drop time.
Another addition to gameplay is that of the Reality Shift. This is different for each world you travel, but as you press X and A you do something that “shifts” reality in the world. For example, in Traverse Town your Reality Shift would be that of a launch technique where you send either enemies or barrels into each other, but launching them into others. Reality Shifts always require the use of your touchscreen and can be done at certain times. (Some keyblades allow for more reality shifts).
To keep adding to the gameplay aspect of KH3D is that of the titular Dropping. Yes, KH3D really does include a Drop Time system, because you alternate playing from Sora and Riku (no real differences in combat versus that of Birth By Sleep).The Drop Time is a bar located on your screen that signals how much time left you have until you drop to either Sora or Riku. You can also freely drop at any time and enemies can also “damage” you to speed up your Drop Time. In addition, you also Drop to each world. Think like in Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts 2 the Gummi ship where you freely fly and destroy almost everything in your path. Dropping to each world either requires you to defeat a certain amount of enemies, collect a certain amount of prizes, or defeat a boss.
Last but not least in the changes for gameplay have to do with your new partners, the Dream Eaters. While they are your enemies, you can unlock recipes to create more Dream Eaters, so in turn your enemies become your friends. You start the game with one and learn all about training your Dream Eater, not only through battle, but with toys and petting them. Dream Eaters help you unlock abilities and help you fight enemies. Dream Eaters also have a special attack, where, depending on your Dream Eater, they can do massive damage and protect you from death. The abilities that you unlock are something that all Kingdom Hearts fans know of like Combo Plus, Leaf Bracer, etc. with the help of the Ability Link. Ability Link’s are built from you fighting with your partner and leveling up over time; the more you fight the more Link Points you get the more abilities that are unlocked. Like all Kingdom Hearts games, you can only have two partners to help fight with you, but you can constantly change your party.
Dream Eaters also have a special mode called Flick Rush, which in essence is a side minigame involving your Dream Eaters. Here you can compete with friends or the AI and send your team of three Dream Eaters and fight against other Dream Eaters, using the abilities that they use on the battlefield. By doing so, you unlock special points you can use to buy better abilities or items (to create more Dream Eaters) from a special counter. This area is found in Traverse Town.
The rest of Kingdom Hearts gameplay is simple RPG elements, such as leveling up, changing your Keyblade for more magic or strength and learning more action commands (such as High Jump).
The one thing that is always guaranteed to be amazing in Kingdom Hearts is the music. Music in Kingdom Hearts, is just fantastic, and really touches your heart (no pun intended). From hearing classic Disney tunes/songs, to Kingdom Hearts own original scores you will feel like you were actually in that Disney World.
For a side note, the World of Fantasia is probably one of the most well done levels, including music-wise I have ever played. The entire level is “soundless” except for that of the orchestrated tune of Fantasia. Attacking monsters adds more music to the already beautiful symphony and just playing the level and hearing Fantasia play brought an instant smile to my face.
One problem I had with Dream Drop Distance is that of the replay-value. While the replay-value is moderate-high; the fact the game does not start off with critical mode and forces you to replay the game after unlocking it, was a pain. If you want the secret ending, enjoy playing the game twice. For those who wanted to know the difficulty of the game, know that it is probably one of the tougher Kingdom Hearts games out there, about third or second, but still not as tough as Birth By Sleep (especially because Aqua stinks).
Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance is another fantastic entry into the Kingdom Hearts series and is a definite must play for RPG fans and 3DS owners. From active live RPG combat, a great story, and tons of extra content, KH3D will make anyone jump ship into the Kingdom Hearts series and cry waiting for the games next entry, Kingdom Hearts 3.
From my personal playthrough I found that the Dropping was a very dumb feature, as three times (and twice during the final boss) I dropped in the very END of the fight and had to redo the entire thing because of this feature. In addition, while Flowmotion was cool for exploration purposes, in battle you can still be hurt doing your combinations (which you cannot end) so get ready to die many times because of Flowmotion.
-Smooth action-RPG combat
-No critical mode to start/forced replay
-Dropping will constantly get in your way
-Flowmotion is more of a liability than an asset.
*Expect another KH blog coming up!
Michael Troina writes features and reviews Nintendo games for Analog Addiciton. When he’s not writing or playing games or sports, he’s out at his job at the Daily Bugle taking pictures as the web-slinger we all have come to love…either that or he’s getting sandwich saving one world at a time. Find him anywhere with this flavors.me/michaeltroina