Kingdom Hearts is a series that is currently celebrating its 10th Anniversary, and what better way than to release a new game for the franchise. Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream, Drop, Distance] provides new plot threads for the series’ next installment, quick fun gameplay, and a chance to visit new Disney worlds that are featuring for the first time in the series.
The game’s story deals with Sora and Riku going for the Mark of Mastery test to become Keyblade Masters in preparation for an incoming threat. Many moments in the game’s story actually occur through flashbacks, which is a fun difference than the straight story telling of previous entries in the series. Players are traveling to different worlds to awaken the seven Sleeping Keyholes to wake those that slumber and prepare to face Xehanort, the main antagonist of the series.
Young Sora and Riku start off in Destiny Islands, their home world, and take a raft out into the ocean at the start of their journey before interrupted by Ursla. From there players are given a chance to learn the controls of the game and are then brought to Traverse Town, hub town from the first game. Fans of The World Ends With You will enjoy how the characters are integrated into the story while still being part of their own franchise.
Each of the worlds feature streamlined versions of their respective world’s stories that are also fleshed out through flashbacks such as Tron’s world. It is also interesting how the story for both Sora and Riku cross over to affect each other even though there is no direct interaction between the two characters. Some of the worlds’ stories suffer a bit due to being streamlined for the portable nature of the game. Not sure if this is intentional since the worlds are considered to be dreaming but it is something that would have been nice to see the worlds and their character given a bit more depth
The story for the game does require some knowledge on previous entries of the series but fortunately the game also provides quick dossiers on each game in the series. Some plot elements can at times feel confusing without some understanding of plot points not brought up in these dossiers.
Toward the end of the game some interesting plot twists come up and some characters return in new ways. Those that have played all the previous games will get the most out of the story as it makes sure those players have got it memorized. Many of the Disney worlds are also brand new, which will be a treat for those familiar with the series and shows that the game is not full of reused assets from previous games.
The music in the game is just as impressive as previous entries of the Kingdom Hearts series. Many of the songs are remixed versions of previous songs in the series or songs from Disney movies but they have been put together in a way that give the songs a unique feel. Kingdom Hearts 3D makes use of music at the appropriate times during story, exploring, and battling moments. Afterall, nothing is better than battling baddies to the soundtrack from Fantasia.
Many of the voice actors have returned and provided voices for all the characters. Mickey is also fully voiced and the new voice actor of the Mouse sounds just as good as the previous. Players familiar with the series will not have to worry about disjointed voices between games due to a changing of voice actors. It is also impressive how the voice actors from The World Ends With You provided the voice work for their corresponding characters in this game.
The game makes use of many gameplay elements that have been introduced throughout the series. Those familiar with Birth By Sleep will be familiar with the return of the deck system from that game. Players will be able to set a certain amount of attack abilities, magic and physical, and movement based abilities to give access to different skills and commands in battle. There is also the option to create several decks to swap between inorder to prepare for varying situations. But, this is something that I personally never use much in any of the Kingdom Hearts games though I like having the option.
A new feature to this game is the impressive Flowmotion system. Flowmotion allows players to traverse areas quickly by bounding off walls, grinding on rails, and spinning around poles to get some extra momentum. The system also plays a role in battle allowing Sora or Riku to bounce off walls, rails, poles, and large enemies to unleash some powerful attacks or avoid being attacked by getting away quickly. While Flowmotion is very useful in battle, it seems the designers thought out the system very well to allow it to not be effective in all situations that required some strategy to be incorporated into battles.
Another new gameplay mechanic is the Reality Shift that allows player to interact with certain objects in a world to perform an action that is unique for each world. In Traverse Town you can shoot explosive barrels at enemies or in the world of Tron you can turn turrets against enemies or into money shooting turrets, afterall who doesn’t want a money shooting gun.
Dream Eaters also play an important role in the game aside from being enemies that have to be faced in each world. Beside enemy Dream Eaters there are another kind known as Spirits. Spirits actually work as part of your party since Donald and Goofy are sitting this one out. They can be nurtured, played with, and developed to become stronger and more effective in battle. Once a link gauge is filled, Sora and Riku can merge with a Spirit to enter a powered up mode or merge with both to unleash devastating attacks that.
Collecting mats to create more Spirits is actually fun and collectors will have a blast. Three spirits available show up on the bottom screen with only two that actually assist in battle. The third one can be swapped in and out on the fly from the 3DS touch screen, which allows for various battle parties to be made without having to go into the Spirit Menu. Sometimes it does feel like the Spirits do not always assist in ways that would be useful in battle.
Players have a Drop gauge that measures the amount of time remaining until there is a forced switch between characters. By gaining Drop Points players can buy bonuses for the character being switched into such as attack and defense boosts. I like the fact that this mechanic rewards players for switching characters and not trying to play through with only one character then focusing on the other. Sora and Riku also play differently and gain abilities that the other cannot use giving a unique feel to each character.
The game controls for Kingdom Hearts 3D vary based on use of the Circle Pad Pro. Without the add on, the game controls similar to Birth By Sleep where players would press both shoulder buttons to lock on and each shoulder on its own to rotate the camera. The problem with this is the 3DS shoulder buttons are difficult to hit easily in comparison to the PSP’s larger shoulder buttons. This made locking on a chore until I played the game with the Circle Pad Pro that throws lock on unto the Z-R button. The camera also controls better with the second stick of the Circle Pad Pro.
World travel is simplified in this game and players are set on a hub of worlds to choose from. When players first enter a world they have to Dive, which is a minigame similar in some ways to navigating a gummy ship but has requirements that must be met to complete the Dive. Players can then Dive into worlds at any time after the initial time to try to get a higher ranking and unlock some useful items to use in the game. Diving is a nice twist on the entering world mechanics and works as a nice way to break up the pace of exploring worlds or fighting enemies all the time.
There are also a bunch of side activities for players to take part in that include some treasure hunting, completing challenges that appear on the map, chasing a gallant frog across worlds to battle, and the ability to battle Spirits in the Pokemon-eque Flick Rush Mode. The challenges are fun since it has players trying to meet various goals such as not using certain abilities or defeating all Dream Eaters within a certain amount of time. They can be easily started by standing over the spot in the map and tapping on it to begin the challenge.
The difficulty of the game doesn’t play a large role until later on in the game when the enemy levels are higher. If players stay a few levels above the requirement for a world then there should be no issues in defeating bosses and enemies. But when at or under the combat requirement, the game makes sure to let players know they are not up to snuff unless players make use of all skills and blocking techniques.
The graphics for this game look almost completely similar to those of the PlayStation 2 games minus the slightly higher resolution textures. There are also tons of flashy effects to show off the Flowmotion system and other skills. Use of 3D in this game is impressive but the game looks just as good when the 3D is turned off. I do wish the 3DS cameras were better as the Spirits standout against camera images in the Spirit Menu. But this minor gripe can’t take away from the impressive visuals of the game.
Kingdom Hearts 3D is a game that does a ton right and keeps the formula of the series interesting with the introduction of new gameplay elements. I wish that the game’s camera controlled better without need for the Circle Pad Pro but with the peripheral the game controls fantastically. The story is what you would expect from the franchise’s stronger games even though the stories in the worlds visited seem to take a minor hit. Also the game may not be an easy one for new players to start on but its dossiers on previous games helps. Sound and graphics are great with not much to find wrong with either and very little completely reused assets from previous titles.
Those looking for an RPG with a fun battle system, great music, and a chance to explore Disney worlds will want to check out this game. Fans of the series will be able to rank this game high up on the list of Kingdom Hearts titles. Also, fans will want to put in the extra work to unlock the hidden ending that sets up the plot for Kingdom Hearts 3. This is one of those games worth getting a 3DS for, but it also shows why the 3DS should have a second circle pad built into the system.