Title: Kingdom Heart Dream Drop Distance
Developer: Disney, Square Enix
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Game Type: 3DS
NA Availability: Retail
EU Availability: Retail
Kingdom Hearts is one of those Square Enix franchises that I really love. Honestly, when someone first told me about it, I had doubts. “The Main Character uses a sword that looks like a key. It’s awesome”. When I heard that, I was just thinking the person was a nutcase. What a weird way to describe an RPG. It’s true, but it really didn’t help pique my interest. It wasn’t until I realized there were Final Fantasy cameos in the series that I finally jumped into it and really started loving it.
As great as Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II were, my favorites of the franchise have always been the handheld titles. My first KH game was Chain of Memories, and Birth by Sleep Final Mix still holds as my favorite of the series. So, naturally, when Square Enix came out with another portable entry, I was intrigued. I’ve been through the game multiple times, so here’s my review of Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance!
This game is as close as we’ve gotten to “Kingdom Hearts 3” in terms of timeline. While Birth By Sleep did an outstanding job of adding to the mythos and proving that portable titles could be even more fun than the full console titles, it was a prequel. Many fans were wanting to know what happens after the events of Kingdom Hearts II, preferably in the form of the third numbered entry in the series. This isn’t that, but it bridges the stories of II and III.
Due to the events of the destruction of the final bosses of Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II, it is known that Xehanort will be coming back to threaten the light of the universe, and the forced of light must prepare for that threat before it happens. As such, the keyblade master known as Yen Sid summons Riku and Sora to undergo a set of trials to become true Keyblade Masters. They are then sent into seven sleeping worlds to awaken them as well as test their abilities against monsters known as Dream Eaters.
The story of Dream Drop Distance isn’t the epic tale Kingdom Hearts fans are wanting, but it does a wonderful job at weaving together an overall plot that bridges Birth by Sleep to the rest of the series. It also represents a few new worlds very well, particularly the world themed around Fantasia. That world is one of my favorites and most unique worlds in the entire series. It’s not an award-winning plot, but it does quite a bit to keep you entertained. You just need to know the backstory to be able to understand it.
Like the rest of the games, Dream Drop Distance is a 3D Action RPG with platforming and rail flying elements. It does have some unique things thrown in, such as racing combat and others in mini-games. However, as a game, it is best described as an ARPG with platforming elements thrown into the mix as you’ll be fighting enemies and platforming throughout most of the game.
The game’s progression goes pretty much the same as it does in I, II, and BBS. You have a World Map with various worlds you can visit along with difficulties, giving you a general idea of what order you should tackle them in. While you’re there, you have free roam around areas as you encounter story scenes, fight enemies and bosses, and collect treasure. As you clear stories in worlds, new ones open up, and you continue until you get to the end of the game. Veterans of the series should be very familiar with the system.
The two main features in this that they’ve added are Dives and Drops. Dives are how you enter each world. In the first two games, you had a Gummi Ship you had to use to travel from world to world, fighting enemies and collecting items on the way. Diving is very similar to this, but you’re flying as Sora or Riku in a very rail-flying fashion with objectives. These objectives could range from collecting items to defeating a boss. This is something that was missing from Birth by Sleep.
Dropping is the most unique, but also controversial feature in the game. You basically drop between using Sora and Riku as you play the game. Basically, you have a Drop Gauge as you explore and fight, which eventually runs down and out. When it runs out, you switch to the other character while giving benefits you’ve earned to their session. Basically, you’re on time limitations that automatically boot you when it runs out.
Dropping has positives and negatives. The point of this is to give you a balance between both characters and complete their stories simultaneously. As opposed to Birth by Sleep’s approach, where you did different story campaigns for different characters. However, it can really be frustrating at times. If you explore and get into the mood to just fight for the heck of it, you can easily get to the point where you lose sight of the gauge and you’re forced out of fighting. Or, you could be almost all the way through a tough boss, and it forces you out, only to resume the boss at Full HP again, when you go back. For RPG fans that enjoy doing more than just rushing towards objectives, this feels like more of a hindrance than innovation.
The two other additions they made were Spirits and Flow-Motions. Spirits are essentially a party member crafting system. You don’t have AI partners with you at all times in the form of Donald, Goofy, Mickey, etc but the game gives you some options. You can obtain recipes and materials as you play to create Spirits. This is, essentially, creating friendly versions of enemies you’ve faced that will join your party and fight alongside you. They also allow you to link with them, powering you up temporarily. This is a nice improvement to Birth by Sleep’s system of almost always having you on your own but in select story battles.
Flow-Motion is what makes the game so much fun. Every time you roll into a wall, light pole, building, or any other part of the environment, you enter Flow-Motion. This lets you zip and fly around environments to get places faster. It also enhances combat, letting you reach new heights and have new combo skills to fight enemies that can’t be fought with just commands like Strike Raid and Zero Gravity.
Actual combat mirrors the combat used in Birth by Sleep. You have normal attacks you can use, but also a Command Deck of recharging skills that you use to fight with. As you progress the game, you’ll get new commands you can equip to your deck, from Strike Raid and Sliding Dash to Cura and Spark. This is just like how it worked in Birth by Sleep, except that DDD doesn’t have a Command Crafting system. You have to earn commands by buying them from Moogle Shops or finding them in chests.
As far as time is concerned, the game lasts about 23-25 hours for the main story. Aside from crafting spirits and a single optional boss, there isn’t much else to do once you’ve beaten the story campaign. While games like 1, 2, and Birth by Sleep gave you practically half a dozen secret bosses and countless mini-games to do, Dream Drop Distance has a surprisingly small amount of replay value. The story is still on par with the length of the other games, but those used to having a lot to do after will be disappointed.
Controls are something that are really nice with the game. Dream Drop Distance utilized the Circle Pad Pro, so New 3DS users will be able to utilize the C Stick for camera controls and the ZR button for a much more means of locking onto enemies.
Aside from this, you can flip through commands with the D-Pad and move your character with the Circle Pad. A enables you to use a normal attack, B letting you jump, X letting you use a command, and Y letting you guard or dodge. Start and Select let you pause or go into the customization menu.
The only difference for normal 3DS owners is how to lock onto enemies. With the New 3DS, you use ZR to lock onto a target. On the original 3DS models, you have to hold down both L and R. Also, the default control scheme requires you to move the camera with L and R, while on the New 3DS, that is done with the C Stick.
Visually, the game looks exceptional for a Nintendo 3DS game. It’s not quite on par with the in-game visuals of Birth by Sleep, but it makes up for this by having quick load times. The scenes are almost on par with the graphics of the first game and scenes from Birth by Sleep, and the gameplay visuals are just a bit below.
Performance is also done pretty well. The load times are a lot shorter than Birth By Sleep’s loading times were, and the frames stay nice and smooth throughout the game. I don’t remember a single time where the frame-rate dropped down past the normal flow.
Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance has everything a series fan is looking for. While the new Drop system seems a little more of a hindrance, everything else about the game is fun, deep, and has plenty of that Square Enix and Disney magic in its system. Any Kingdom Hearts fan with a 3DS needs to add this to their library.