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?
Check out the official trailer!
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