“Kingdom Hearts 3DS: Dream Drop Distance” review

Calling all Keyblade wielders!

It’s time to take up arms and dive into the latest iteration of the “Kingdom Hearts” franchise. “Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance” on the Nintendo 3DS continues the story of Sora and friends dealing with darkness in the worlds of Disney.

While the game is a continuation of what happens after “Kingdom Hearts 2”, it is in no way the all-elusive, reportedly non-existent “Kingdom Hearts 3.” It’s more of a set-up to what will happen in “KH3.”

This time, Sora and Riku are given the task of passing the Mark of Mastery and opening the seven keyholes of the slumbering worlds. All the while, a mysterious boy is causing havoc throughout the worlds, making Sora and Riku’s test that much harder.

As simple as it all sounds, the inner workings of the story can make you scratch your head at times, but it’s nothing a 2nd playthrough can’t fix.

To help tell the story of both characters, the game incorporates the Drop system. After playing with a character for a while, the bar next to the HP bar will begin to empty. After it does, Sora or Riku (whichever character you are currently playing as) will fall asleep and the story will switch over to the perspective of the other character.

At first it can be a bit frustrating, but it becomes easier to handle as time moves on. The only big annoyance is when you’re facing a boss and your Drop meter runs out making you leave the battle and focus on something else. Luckily you can force Drop at any time to go back to that boss fight and you can use the Drop-Me-Not item to prolong your play time as Sora or Riku. This is an intriguing way of going about the story, making sure that no character’s story is neglected and it does a great job of it.

Players can link with Dream Eaters to boost attacks

If you’ve played any “Kingdom Hearts” games in the past, chances are that you’ll be very familiar with the combat system this time around, and this is where the “Kingdom Hearts” series comes to shine.

With every new installment in the franchise new elements are added, but the basic concept of combat is kept the same. In “KH3D,” You still have the same free-flow-esque type of combat that the series is known for while also bringing back the attack commands that “Birth By Sleep” brought to the table.

This time around, Flowmotion is the big star of the combat. Using the X button, players can send Sora and Riku flying through the levels, spinning on poles, jumping off of walls and leaping tall buildings in a single bound. This also adds to combat, and with that a new level of strategy and excitement.

Veering off a building, bouncing off a wall and then dash-attacking into an enemy makes you kind of a badass.

Another aspect new to the franchise is the story. Since it takes place within Sora and Riku’s dreams, Donald and Goofy can’t be part of your party, but in their place come the Dream Eaters. Sort of like Pokemon, players fight with these creatures by their side. Each Dream Eater has a different archetype – some heal and others attack with magic or physical attacks. Players gather items and synthesize new and more powerful Dream Eaters.

With the Dream Eaters, your characters can also grow stronger. Leveling them up unlocks new commands and stat attributes and abilities to help strengthen your characters, adding more to the level of depth. All in all, the gameplay aspect is solid and very fun, and will definitely bring you back for more if the story doesn’t already.

Sora vs. Rinzler

Now, a big part of a “Kingdom Heart” game is the worlds and characters you meet along the journey. This time around, we’re treated to worlds like The Grid from “Tron: Legacy” and The Symphony of Sorcery from “Fantasia” and their respective characters. So, Sora & Riku will meet the likes of Sam Flynn, Quasimodo, Esmeralda and many others.

The worlds and characters are represented well here and add to the experience. One group of characters to make exceptional note of is in Traverse Town. Riku & Sora meet the gang from The DS title “The World Ends With You.” Neku, Rhyme, Shiki, Beat and Joshua are brought back to the spotlight with fully voiced monologues. After only being able to read their thoughts in their original game, it was great to hear the conviction they carry in their lines.

While the story may be a bit hard to understand and there may be some platforming issues here and there, the game is a note-worthy addition to a franchise fans have come to love. The game does a good job of adding to the rich story and set up for the final battle and the real “Kingdom Hearts 3.” You know, if that ever comes out!

“Kingdom Hearts 3DS: Dream Drop Distance” gets an eight out of ten from me.

Now we play the waiting game for the next one to come out….