Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance Review

by Stephen Heller Featured

12 Comments 27 Votes 2606 Views 26/07/2012 Back to Reviews

Magical underpants and lasers.

What Dream Drop Distance Got Right
  • + Flowmotion combat is stunning
  • + Drop system between Sora & Riku is great
  • + Reality Shift mechanic works well
  • + Takes advantage of the 3DS capabilities
What Dream Drop Distance Got Wrong
  • - Player controls are clunky
  • - Platforming elements still feel off
  • - Confusing story and bad pacing at times
  • - Constant mementos for newcomers

The Kingdom Hearts series is truly something special; not only is it the biggest cross-over project in gaming history, pairing up classic characters from the Disney warehouse with those from Final Fantasy, but avid fans follow ever morsel of information pertaining with the keenest of eyes. It's almost like a cult, a secret society where one KH player to another simply understands an unspoken bond and mutual respect for the JRPG epics, instantly breaking the silence as they discuss every intricate moment of the series to date.

I was not a member of this exclusive cult, until this review I had never touched the franchise in any form, although I certainly was a keen observer. Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance brings forward some staggering changes for the series, but can it live up to the expectations of fans?

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Dream Drop Distance brings back Sora and Riku, two of the franchise's most beloved characters, who both appeared back in the very first title on the PlayStation 2. This time our two heroes are currently sitting the Mark of Mastery exam, which sets them on an adventure to save parallel versions of seven different worlds from forces of evil. If they pass they will be crowned as true Keyblade Masters, with enough knowledge and experience to tackle the return of Xehanort, one evil dude who is threatening to destroy the world. No pressure at all!

Straight away players will be thrust into the magical world of Kingdom Hearts, a masterful mash-up of Disney environments and Final Fantasy throwbacks that create unique experiences no matter which camp you're more focused on. The environments are always colourful, fresh, exciting and a pleasure to explore.

One of the new mechanics that has been introduced is the Drop system - a mechanic that forces the player to switch between Sora and Riku after a certain amount of gameplay passes by. Each of the famous characters has their own version of the parallel universes to explore, with overlapping storylines that eventually build up to an unforgettable crescendo.

The problem with that however is getting to that final moment. With so many overlapping moments and parallel universes, the story often becomes shambolic to a point where even experts in the KH universe will have trouble making sense of it all. It doesn't fall in a complete heap, and towards the end it falls back into line, but the road to clarity often makes questionable detours rather than logical steps.

Flowmotion is another new feature introduced this time round, allowing the player to utilise the environment in real-time to effect combat. Adding a new element of strategy to the real-time combat, players can launch themselves at poles, steps and other environmental advantages to perform dodges and special attacks. Flowmotion may create some exciting new combat elements, but it can also be used to travel great distances in a short amount of time, launching from buildings to new areas at tremendous speeds.

Dream Drop Distance also employs a new feature called Reality Shift, which allows the player to use the touch screen to bend certain elements to their will. Items such as barrels will light up when close enough, and then you can enter Reality Shift mode, flinging them at your enemies with precision. It's an exciting concept and it works well, offering yet another layer of depth to the combat.

When it comes to utilising the capabilities of the 3DS, Dream Drop Distance excels. Using a combination of AR and the 3DS cameras, players can interact with their Dream Eater (a virtual pet acquired during the game) in their real world, creating emotional bonds and levelling up their abilities in the real world.

The art style is simply divine, screaming with charm at every corner, employing the very best of Disney and the Final Fantasy franchise."

Graphically, Dream Drop Distance looks phenomenal on the 3DS screen. The 3D effects are subtle but invigorating, the frame-rate never skipping a beat, regardless of the intense action that fills the screen. The art style is simply divine, screaming with charm at every corner, employing the very best of Disney and the Final Fantasy franchise. The audio is also something to be marvelled at, one of the best audio experiences we've had on the system thus far.

On the whole, Dream Drop Distance is a great game, however there are some crucial flaws that stop it from being the very best of the series. I've already touched on the confusing story progression, however the constant mementos are simply a burden for newcomers. When first starting the game, players have the option to play through mementos - essentially flashbacks that act as tutorials are forced upon the player every ten seconds, completely breaking any pacing the original story holds. It's not a major flaw, but it certainly can be annoying.

The controls aren't the best either, even when using the CirclePad Pro attachment. Camera controls feel wonky, as does general movement during action sequences. The uncertain controls are only more apparent during sections of platforming gameplay, where the game often feels unresponsive. It's hard to gauge angles and distances at times, which can lead to moments of frustration.

The Final Verdict

If you are already a member of the Kingdom Hearts cult, then you have already picked up the game at 9am and won't be reading this review until days after your first playthrough. However if you're a newcomer to the series like I am, don't let your lack of knowledge hold you back. Despite some minor flaws, Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance is a fantastic RPG adventure that will take you to some magical new highs, some unforgettable new lows and back to a thrilling conclusion. If you're looking for a title that shows what the 3DS is capable of, you simply can't pass this one up.

By Stephen Heller - Bio

Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance

Platform: DS
Similar to: Kingdom Hearts
 
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Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance Australian Release: Out Now

Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance Review Comments

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I hope for your sake you got this one right. The KH faithful are not kind. I have felt their wrath before :P
cant call something clunky just because you're shit hey
Nice review Heller! But there are a few things I have to criticize.

The problem with that however is getting to that final moment. With so many overlapping moments and parallel universes, the story often becomes shambolic to a point where even experts in the KH universe will have trouble making sense of it all. It doesn't fall in a complete heap, and towards the end it falls back into line, but the road to clarity often makes questionable detours rather than logical steps.



This is how it is with alot of Kingdom Hearts games go. The plot is confusing, yes, but it's left open and has you anticipating the next installment. This is a bridge game to the 3rd installment, so it's not suprising that this does that.

The controls aren't the best either, even when using the CirclePad Pro attachment.

Really? I think the Circle Pad Pro makes a good difference. 360 degree angle turn on the camer with the right stick, and it places the controls back into what it was like on the consoles.

But then again, I never have understood the compalints with the camera on the series, so maybe it's just me.

But I honostly think the controls are the complete opposite of what you said and are easy to use with the CPP, without it it's a bit more like the other Handheld KH games and awkward to use.

Tsunamo said:Nice review Heller! But actually it's terrible and you're all wrong [Rage]



Fixed.
lol and dont take that comment as my raging blind fanboy coming through

i just disagree with the clunkyness of the controls/camera

im finding this one of the least enjoyable entries in the series so far with my trip through traverse town. the drop system is pissing me off, and I'd much rather play the game at my own pace, and not be forced in to replaying much the same segment of a world immediately after i completed it with whoever i reached it first.

birth by sleep did this better. (where you more or less did that with 3 characters) because you played through a whole storyline before revisiting rehashed worlds.

DDD has you replaying it immediately, with almost no difference. (chest places are the same for instance) though some slight detours that seperate them in the worlds. nothing interesting enough to hold me personally.

as for the dream eaters, i feel no attachment whatsoever, eto heartless, nobodies and the unversed. it seems shallow.

and imo the pacing is whack. i agree with that. long segments of smashing through enemies with both sora and riku, then you reach (at least in my case) the boss/story elements with them at the same time. not enough time to defeat the boss. it serves as a meaningless interruption imo.

on the topic of dropping, the fact they share items and abilities is ok, but its kind of irking me that when i find a new command for sora/riku place it in my deck and then drop, i have to then put it in to the others deck.

bleh
Holy shit, 9.0
wow. I need.

Ben said:Fixed.

I was trying to be polite :P
From what I've played so far this review seems fairly accurate.
You are spared from this KH cultist's wrath.
Thanks @Blob, I appreciate that!

Tsunamo said:

Ben said:Fixed.

I was trying to be polite


The thing is, to people who don't play KH 8 hours a day 365 days a year like you do, the camera is shitty and the story is horribly disjointed.
lol camera isnt shitty

story is ****ed though
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