Sora and Riku are back in yet another portable Kingdom Hearts game, this time on the 3DS in the form of Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance. Now, I’ve played my fair share of KH games, and really enjoyed them, especially Birth by Sleep. They are a unique kind of fan service that only Disney and Final Fantasy fans will understand, and they’re decent RPGs to boot.
As stated above, you play as both Sora and Riku, who are tasked with completing a number of trials to become full keyblade masters. In order to do this, they must travel to different worlds and stop dream eaters from taking over the realms. As far as timeline goes, DDD takes place so far, at the very end of the series.
The game takes the deck system that was used in Birth by Sleep and adds a few more tricks to the mix. First, there is a new way of maneuvering around called freeflow. When freeflowing in combat, you can slide, air dash and use the environment to get around much faster. You can use special attacks in combat that do massive damage to enemies as well as chain combos together to take out multiple foes at one time. It’s fun, flashy and makes the combat shine. The second addition is the ability to reality shift. Reality shifts let you use objects in the world to attack and open up new areas. These employ the touch screen and allow you to manipulate things in the environment. For instance, throwing a barrel into a bunch of boxes may open up a new area to explore whereas throwing it at a group of enemies may kill them instantly.
Another new mechanic is the ability to create friendly Dream Eaters that will assist in combat. These guys basically replace Donald and Goofy. You can create new ones from scratch or by obtaining recipes. You use items that drop from defeated enemies or purchasing them at a store. They level up with Sora and Riku and can learn new abilities through spending points and unlocking new ones via a skill grid. You can also pet them on the touch screen and keep them happy by feeding them their favorite foods. It’s the ultimate Tamagotchi. When active, you can fill a bar that results in a special mode depending on which character you’re using at the moment. You can activate a link that allows Sora to ride his Dream Eaters or watch as Riku absorbs his for extra damage and faster attack speeds.
The biggest mechanic, and possibly the most frustrating, is the Drop system. You see, you don’t play with Sora and Riku simultaneously. They have their own story and interact with different characters in the same worlds. As you are playing with one of the pair, the Drop meter will decrease. When it empties, you will then have just a few more seconds until you drop. When this happens, no matter who you’re controlling or what they are doing, they will fall asleep and you begin playing as the other character where they left off. In between drops, you can gift the other character buffs and items by spending drop points that you collect from fallen enemies. That may sound like a unique mechanic, and it is, but I can’t tell you the amount of times I was in a boss battle with one character and ran out of time and lost my progress during that battle.
The ally Dream Eater mechanic is decent, but you’ll slowly start to realize that they begin to do their own thing in combat. Even when you’re low on health, your healing companion will still be attacking, and your attacking companion may not even be hitting your enemies.
As much as I like the unique story in the KH games, I feel like DDD was a little rushed. It felt like I was only in a world for such a short amount of time, and when it came time for the boss fight, I wasn’t leveled high enough to take it on. The worlds are nice, but it gets to a point where you are going through the motions and not really getting much story out of it.
The visuals are really nice, and the 3D is possibly some of the best on the system to date. This game utilizes almost every aspect of the 3DS and for the most part, never comes off too gimmicky. The voice acting is top notch, and the over all presentation is great. This is one of the best games to show off the 3DS.
I have mixed feelings with Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance. The combat is well implemented, and the freeflow really makes it fun. Even the touch screen Reality Shifts can help out in a bind. The story is there, but winds down in the middle of the game, slowly picking back up. The Drop system, while unique, is still a more annoying aspect of the game than a nice mechanic that actually helps, and the ally Dream Eaters mechanic is very hit or miss. Still, for the most part, I had a good time with the game. For Kingdom Hearts fans, you more than likely need to pick this game up. Even casual action RPG fans should give this game a shot. Just be ready to have some fun with the combat and some really nice aspects mixed with some questionable ones.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.