With a tale of friendship and loyalty put to the test, Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance strikes gold on the Nintendo 3DS. Featuring gameplay between the franchise’s most beloved characters, Sora and Riku, the game follows the two heroes as they undertake their exam for the Mark of Mastery. Xehanort is putting the last pieces of his plans together, and with the help from some unexpected visitors, the two heroes must drop into the Sleeping Worlds and unlock the Keyholes. As in previous instalments, KH3D puts you on an adventure that spans over multiple Disney-themed worlds, with several cameos from the Final Fantasy series.
A new feature that Square Enix have included is the DS game “The World Ends With You” (I seriously recommend buying it). The most promising addition to the game are the new mechanics that seamlessly blend exploration and action. Flowmotion is the exciting and strategic way to either travel from A to B, or to build a chain of attacking enemies. It allows players to utilize the environment to dodge enemies and execute special attacks. Flowmotion reinvents the real-time RPG battle system, but also retains the flow of casting spells and using items that Kingdom Hearts is known for. Those familiar with the game in the series would know that traversing the maps would take time, but abilities like jumping across buildings, bouncing off walls and spinning on poles will have you at your next objective in no time.
Another new addition to Dream Drop Distance is the Drop system, which forces you to switch between Sora and Riku’s storylines after a certain amount of playtime has passed. The mechanics can be somewhat annoying at first, however, once you get used to its abrupt nature, it can be used to quickly reconsider your strategies. The Command Deck system first seen in Kingdom Hearts has made a welcome return in Dream Drop Distance, allowing players to collect and equip different abilities for easy access in battle.
As usual, these abilities have a cool down period, ensuring you don’t harp on the same magic attack over and over again. It’s a handy system, especially when you need to quickly heal in the middle of that one tricky boss fight or switch to more effective spells on the fly. The ability to customise your deck gives the player more freedom to change the way they choose to fight, whether they focus on spell casting from a distance, or close-quarters attacks.
Alternately, the game uses the system’s camera and AR functionality to allow you to interact with your character’s Dream Eater - a virtual pet that replaces teammates like Donald and Goofy and offers assistance during battles. Using the stylus to pet your Meow Wow as it rolls around your coffee table is quite adorable and even petting your lovable Dream Eaters for a minute or two builds your affinity with them, which can greatly improve their performance in game.
If you are new to Kingdom Hearts, I strongly recommend reading the Wikia pages or watching walkthroughs of Kingdom Hearts 1 & 2, to get you up to speed with the story. At times it can prove challenging to understand, but at the end everything should make perfect sense, all coming together in an epic game-ending climax.