Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance 3DS
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Released on 20-Jul-2012
With the tenth anniversary of the Kingdom Hearts approaching, so is the epic conclusion of the series. Dream Drop Distance serves as the opening chapter of the final conflict, with King Mickey and Yen Sid preparing for an impending threat by testing Sora and Riku with the Mark of Mastery exam.
Sora and Riku are sent into the Sleeping Worlds, to meet friends and face enemies never before seen. Will they successfully complete their task and be deemed true Keyblade Masters?
- Dual protagonists – Play as the two most popular characters of the franchise, Sora and Riku.
- Free-flow action – Enjoy fast and effortless movements while interacting with the environment and performing acrobatic attacks.
- Brand-new creatures – Dream Eaters inhabit the Sleeping Worlds, and are split into two categories: Spirits and Nightmares. Recruit over 50 different types of Spirits as allies to fight alongside Sora and Riku.
- New Disney worlds – Much-loved Disney worlds and characters make their series debut, including The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
- Story progression – With updated looks for Sora and Riku, and the impending conflict made clear, this title is a big step forward in the series.
Once Upon A Time
Dream Drop Distance, the latest Kingdom Hearts game, is everything fans of the Japanese action role-playing series could hope for and a little bit more. The seventh instalment in the franchise sees players taking on the roles of dual protagonists, Sora and Riku, the two most popular characters in the Kingdom Hearts universe, as they prepare to battle foes old and new.
The story focuses on Sora and Riku's bid to master their Keyblades, mythical weapons that play a crucial role in an ongoing battle between Darkness and Light. Yen Sid, the powerful sorcerer from Disney's Fantasia, puts the young pair through a Mark of Mastery exam they must pass to become Keyblade Masters and counter the impending return of Master Xehanort, the game's main antagonist, who believes that darkness need not be rejected if it can be controlled.
Those new to the series, which is a collaboration between Disney and Square Enix, can get caught up to speed using Memoirs, a series of optional cutscenes that fill in key points in Kingdom Hearts' rich back-story. The game also includes a handy database that expands as the player advances, with entries providing important bits of information about characters and locations.
A Whole New World
As in previous series entries, players spend the majority of their time bouncing around different Disney-inspired worlds chatting to various characters from Final Fantasy games. Players will visit locations including The Country of the Musketeers, Tron: Legacy's The Grid, Pinocchio's Prankster's Paradise, the ancient Paris of The Hunchback of Notre-Dame and many more beautifully realised Disney locations.
As part of their trial, Sora and Riku are separated from each other and sent to different areas where they're required to defeat malevolent Dream Eaters, creatures born from darkness which eat dreams and plant nightmares. At the same time, benevolent Dream Eaters can be recruited as computer controlled partners to provide combat support and provide Sora and Riku with new abilities.
Battles generally revolve around tapping the A button for standard attacks and the X button for special ones, while the Y button can be used to perform new free-flowing moves that use the surrounding environment. If you're in open ground, pressing the Y button will perform a simple dodge roll, but rolling into a wall, a column or an enemy sees you cling to the object or foe in question before giving you the opportunity to choose a follow-up action, be it attacking or evasive.
Utilising Dream Eaters successfully is the best way to get the upper hand in tough battles, as they can be used to execute link attacks in which both of you team up to deal out major damage. Each Dream Eater has its own link attack, which is generally an over-the-top special move that not only keeps your character out of the firing line but also makes short work of enemies.
Boasting gorgeous graphics, a fantastic soundtrack, hours of full voice acting and a cool battle system, we think Dream Drop Distance is the best Kingdom Hearts game in years. Colourful, imaginative and above all good fun, it's a dreamy debut for the franchise on 3DS, and the Kingdom Hearts sequel fans of Square Enix, Disney and the series have been eagerly anticipating for years.
- Satisfying combat
- An engaging story
- Unique worlds to explore
- Story can initially be a little overwhelming
- Lots of reading required to stay on top of events
- No multiplayer
When one thinks of Square Enix games, the mind goes immediately to Final Fantasy, Hitman and Tomb Raider - big in size and big on drama. But over the last few months, the publisher has released out three games for the 3DS which really emphasise a fun factor sometimes missing from their more serious titles.
Heroes of Ruin, Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance compress a lot of great gameplay into small and energetic bundles. And with the imminent arrival of the 3DS XL... well, those bundles aren't quite so small any more. In fact, Square Enix were so keen to show these games off on the larger screen of the 3DS XL that a community event was put together recently in London, inviting local 3DS gamers to come along, try them out and play together, via social media and other fan-connections. We got the invitation, too, and were keen to see just what an event like this - and the games themselves - would have in store.
There was something of an eclectic mix of people in attendance, with younger female making up a big part of that mix, and all becoming fast friends by the sounds of the chatter that we picked up on - and admittedly joined in with. Well, when you hear someone say they've caught all but nine Pokémon, that's a conversation you want to be part of!
Indeed, there was a great sense of community there - people trading tales, as well as all sorts of items in StreetPass (which also led to the odd jealous comment about the headgear of people's Miis...), and even though there was a lot of playing individually, there was a real sense that these people were playing together. A great atmosphere all round.
Many gamers brought their own 3DS consoles to simply join the fun, but there were plenty of 3DS and 3DS XL units set-up to try out Square Enix's recent output. The nature of the event meant that a full session on each game wasn't going to happen, so we, like the other players, simply dabbled, dipping in and out of each one and seeing just how they looked on the 3DS XL.
First up was Heroes of Ruin, a game which would really benefit from getting really stuck in. The first 'proper' RPG to come to the 3DS really suited the larger screen of the 3DS XL, especially when three of us decided to quest together. There was almost no sense of clutter or chaos when all of us were on-screen and fighting foes together. The pace of the game really flew on multiplayer, which made a later single-player attempt seem to drag a little as a result. The use of the lower touchscreen as your ever-present map was an obvious addition to the genre and became second nature as the game progressed - and provided a hint at how great games of this ilk will be on the Wii U.
To find out more about Heroes of Ruin, check out our full review
Next up was Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, the latest part of the shouldn't-work-but-does Disney/Japanese RPG hybrid series. The thing that really stood out was the use of 3D in the environments your adventures took place in - there was a real sense of depth as you made your way through corridors, round corners and up and down stairs, and the colours and graphics pop from the screen, especially on the 3DS XL. It made great use of both screens for everything from special attacks using the stylus, to inter-level animal rearing using the cameras for a fun AR experience.If we had a criticism, it was that this was game that really didn't benefit from the dip in-dip out gameplay that this session dictated.
To find out more about Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, check out our full review
Finally, we got our hands on Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy, the 25th Anniversary rhythm game based on the epic music of the Final Fantasy series. And what a treat! This was just, plain and simply, lots of fun and perilously addictive in the way that only great mini-games are! The gameplay is simple to pick-up and so fun you don't mind that there's not really that much variation, and the graphics are on the right side of cute. Throw out your cynicism and pick-up your stylus, because this will become your new guilty pleasure, especially if you're a fan of the series. Of the three games, this was the one that really didn't matter if you played on the 3DS or 3DS XL - it was equally fun on both!
To find out more about Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy, check out our Editor's Choice selection
All in all, this was a fun few hours. We got to try out some great new games and a great new handheld alongside some faithful and enthusiastic 3DS gamers, and a great time was had by all. If you ever get invited to an event like this, don't hesitate to RSVP "yes"!
Once Upon A Time
Fair warning: if you like games with a nice simple story that you can follow by paying vague attention to a couple of cutscenes, Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance probably isn't the game for you. If, on the other hand, you love the sort of epic tales of destiny and heroism that Squaresoft does so well, and you love games that demand your full attention for hours at a time, then you'll want to dive right into this brilliantly dense manga Disney mash up.
Wake Up Call
We start with Sora and Riku, the heroes of the previous games, being told by their mentor, Yen Sid (geddit?) that to save the universe from the evil Xehanort they'll have to pass their Keyblade Master trial. This means visiting an all-new selection of worlds pulled from classic Disney stories and bringing them back to life. These worlds are "asleep", you see, and overrun with vicious critters called Dream Eaters.
Battles against these enemies use a simple but effective melee combat system of fast and heavy attacks, but don't be deceived - this is a game of often remarkable depth, and it doesn't take long before the game starts to show you how deep it goes.
There are multiple gameplay systems in Dream Drop Distance, all overlapping and intertwining. Flow Motion, for example, adds a dash of Parkour-style exploration by allowing you to flip, spin and grind around the levels. But Flow Motion can also be used in combat, turning larger enemies and scenery items into launchpads for even more spectacular and damaging attacks.
The Drop system, on the other hand, finds you switching between Sora and Riku as they follow two different paths through the game. These switches can be triggered at save points, but will also happen outside of your control whenever your Drop meter runs dry. It's more than a simple character swap, as the pair can use their collected items and "munny" currency to pass on status boosts and other benefits across the void. Travel between worlds, meanwhile, is via a dizzying minigame in which you plunge downwards, collecting stars and beating enemies as you fall.
Those Dream Eaters are more than they seem too. As well as fighting them, you can also create your own, crafting them from recipes and dream fragments left behind by defeated enemies. These Pokemon-esque sidekicks will then follow you around. Work together with them in a fight and you can trigger unique and powerful Link combos, perfect for when you're backed into a corner.
And still there's more! Your Dream Eaters are more than just in-game buddies who help you bash the bad guys. They're virtual pets, a surreal spin on Nintendogs. Stroke them, tickle them, play AR games with them using the 3DS camera - everything helps them evolve and grow into more powerful allies, while still remaining rather adorable.
It's a lot to take in, and since the game doesn't waste time trying to ease newcomers in, it can all be a bit overwhelming. Info-packed tutorials are crammed in between lengthy and complex story cutscenes, and it's almost as if the game is daring you to battle through and discover what's underneath.
Thankfully, what's underneath is quite wonderful, an action RPG bursting with charm and personality, with rich gameplay ideas smuggled inside deceptively simple button-mashing combat and exploration. The more you play, the more the wild concepts of Dream Drop Distance begin to make sense, work together and pull you in for the long haul.
Happily Ever After
This is a sprawling adventure that really pushes the 3DS hardware to the limit, taking you from the sumptuously realised old world whimsy of Disney's Hunchback of Notre Dame and Mickey Mouse's Three Musketeers, via the digital perils of Tron Legacy and the assured classicism of Pinnochio and Fantasia. Everything is fully voiced, often by the original Disney actors. As far as polish goes, this sets a high standard for other handheld games to match.
And as well as the huge smile-inducing amounts of Disney fan service, there's the mind-boggling sight of Sora and Riku's broad Final Fantasy heroism crossing over with characters from cult emo-RPG The World Ends With You. It's a combination that really shouldn't work, a soup filled with conflicting flavours, but Square's sure hand means that, like Heston's bacon and frog ice cream, it somehow makes sense in the mouth.
Dream Drop Distance is too packed with ideas, sometimes confusingly so, but that's all part of its offbeat genius. If you're willing to put in a little more concentration and effort than many other games demand, you'll discover something wonderfully, insanely unique.
Our rating: 8.0
- Stunning graphics and mesmerising 3D
- A seemingly endless number of things to do
- Bizarre and charming fan fiction mash up
- The first few hours are overwhelming
- Camera can be distracting in close quarters
- Flow Motion can be tricky to trigger
Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distanc… (18/07/2012)
Dream Drop Distance, the latest Kingdom Hearts game, is everything fans of the Japanese action role-playing series could hope for and a little bit more. The seventh instalment in the franchise sees pl…
Square Enix/3DS Community Day (18/07/2012)
Heroes of Ruin, Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance compress a lot of great gameplay into small and energetic bundles. And with the imminent arrival of the 3DS XL... …
If you love the sort of epic tales of destiny and heroism that Squaresoft does so well, and you love games that demand your full attention for hours at a time, then you'll want to dive right into this…
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