Over ten years ago Square Enix and Disney brought us a combination of characters from two different series and put them into one game. Some found the combination weird and stupid, while others were blown away by how well these characters were brought together and thrown into a massively intriguing story that has since then left a place in our heart. The game that was brought to us over ten years ago was Kingdom Hearts and since then nine games have been released for the series and the series has been critically acclaimed as one the strongest series in gaming. Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance was just released for the Nintendo3DS and I choose to take a gamble with playing a handheld Kingdom Hearts game again, even after some disappointing experiences on handheld versions I took the gamble and now I will be sharing my experience of it with you.
Dream Drop Distance begins with Yen Sid sending Sora and Riku through a Mark of Mastery Exam to become Keyblade Masters in order for them to handle what is coming. To pass the exam Sora and Riku must reawaken seven worlds that have been destroyed by the heartless, but have been restored and are now in a deep sleep. In the story you will visit some classic Kingdom Hearts worlds such as Traverse Town and Tron, but you will also visit some new worlds such as Hunchback of Notre-Dame and the Three Musketeers. To me personally with the worlds you visit I felt that Square Enix did a fantastic job putting these world into a handheld format. Even though you will be returning to known worlds they've expanded them by adding new zones and bosses that have never before been seen in the series. For the brand new worlds I felt very excited take part in playing through these worlds as both Sora and Riku. While Sora and Riku don't fight side by side in these worlds you take turns going back and forth between characters playing out the story of each world. The story at time does become confusing and hard to follow, but then again so does every single game in the franchise. To help refresh your memory of the story the game offers moments where you can read about the events of past games when a particular game is mentioned in the story.
One particular aspect of the story I very much enjoyed was the ending of the game (NO SPOILERS ARE BEING GIVEN) due to the fact that it takes a different road as to how it ends then the past games. Overall I very much enjoyed the story and it left me craving to play Kingdom Hearts 3.
One of the key aspects of Kingdom Hearts was the mechanics of the game. This included the combat system, the controller layout, and the menu layout during combat. Dream Drop Distance kept the standard combat menu that was seen in past handheld games, but this one felt more solid than the last ones did. I don't know if it was me getting used to the layout of the 3DS or what but I enjoyed the on screen setup. The combat and movement to me hasn't felt this solid in a handheld Kingdom Hearts since Chain of Memories. The use of the joystick, right hand buttons, and bumpers felt remarkably like a console controller. The complaint I did have with the controller layout was when changing spells or abilities with the directional pad it left me standing still during combat due to the fact of my thumb being used for the joystick and directional pad. I unfortunately did not get the chance to use to circle pad pro so I can't give any insight as to how it works with the game.
One that that has changed in Dream Drop Distance is that instead of fighting the heartless you face a new enemy known as dream eaters. The change of enemies is due to the fact that the worlds are stuck in the state of sleep. While you are these dream eaters you can create your own versions known as spirits to be your companions. As you travel through the worlds you collect items and recipes that can be used to create bigger and more powerful spirits. You can purchase these items from the vendors or simply find them in chests or as drops off enemies. Some of these items are much more rare and harder to find than others, but with them you can build a pretty powerful group to along side you.
Combat for Dream Drop Distance is set up both similar and different than past games of the franchise. When fighting as Sora or Riku you have an action bar that holds special abilities and items that are available at any time, except during the cool down timer of each ability. You fill the slots with potions, items, and combat maneuvers. The variety of maneuvers is a great addition to the combat of the game. With these maneuvers you can mix them together with the newest addition to the combat system of the game, free flow.
Free flow is a movement option where you can go into a gliding state and grab onto environment pieces and glide across sections of the world and even throw yourself into a combat move against enemies. I was a bit worried at first about how this would work out for the game, but I have to admit it was an awesome mechanic that made the game that much more enjoyable for me.
One last mechanic I wanted to talk about from the game is called drop gauge. In order for the game to balanced with you playing as both Riku and Sora they added a drop gauge where you are under a time limit as one character and when the limit was reached no matter what you were doing you would switch characters. They are ways to avoid this like buying a potion called "drop me not" and as you took it the timer would add time to play. I think this addition was a good to keep people from not playing just one character the entire time, but it did become frustrating when you were fighting off a mob of enemies or in the middle of an intense boss fight.
One thing I always look for especially in a Kingdom Hearts game is the sound and music. Kingdom Hearts games have always been known for some fantastic music pieces that set the atmosphere of the game very well. True a lot of the music is generally disney music based on what world you are in, but I always do my best to pay attention to the music that isn’t disney. Dream Drop Distance has some classic returning songs from the franchise and a couple of new additions to the music portion. The music like always seems to set the tone and atmosphere of the game so well. As you can probably tell I wasn’t dissapointed by the sound department and even with listening to it through the 3DS speakers it came out fantastically.
Overall Dream Drop Distance is a game that brought back memories of discovering the game series for the first time as a kid and just having fun. The story kept my attention so much that at the closing moments of the game I was craving Kingdom Hearts 3 more than ever. It was announced as well that this was the final installment of the series before the long awaited Kingdom Hearts 3 is released. The mechanics felt like something I never would have imagined for a handheld installment of the franchise, even with the new additions I enjoyed it very much. And last but not least the music once again grabbed my attention and left me wanting to put all the songs on my mp3 player. Overall Dream Drop Distance left me very much satisfied and actually wanting to play through it again on a harder difficutly. This game once again showed me why this game series has a place in my heart and why I’m looking forward to the long awaited Kingdom Hearts 3.
GAME SCORE 9/10