Developer: SQUARE ENIX
Publisher: SQUARE ENIX
Review Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Review Copy Provided By: SQUARE ENIX
Release Date: July 31, 2012
Kingdom Hearts has always been a controversial series. The groundbreaking crossover between Disney and Final Fantasy that put the franchise on the map has always been something that left gamers on the fence. Either you love the Kingdom Hearts games, or you hate them. It seems there is no middle ground. So naturally, a new, portable Kingdom Hearts game had fans wondering if the game would be awesome, or if it was just meant to tide over until whenever Kingdom Hearts 3 comes out. So was Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance a fitting entry to the series during its tenth anniversary year? Or did Square Enix drop the ball?
It’s safe to say that thankfully, Square Enix knocked the metaphorical ball out of the park with Kingdom Hearts 3D for the 3DS.
Oh, Traverse Town. It’s so good to be back.
Kingdom Hearts 3D showcases the story of returning series favorites Sora and Riku as they attempt to pass their Mark of Mastery exam to be deemed Keyblade Masters. To achieve such success and thus have the know-how necessary to defeat the evil (and also returning) Xehanort, the two heroes must save parallel versions of seven different worlds. It goes without saying that failure clearly isn’t in the best interests of the universe.
Therein lies the game’s namesake: the Drop System. This is a new feature to the franchise that basically forces you to go between Sora and Riku’s intersecting storylines after a certain amount of game time has passed. If you spend too much time as one character the game quite literally will pull you away and force you to share the love with the unused character.
It can be quite jolting at first, especially if you are in the middle of exploring a world or are busily fighting a boss. Once you get used to it though, it adds a really neat level of excitement to the game. You can’t desert one of the character’s stories and hope to beat the game, and that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Thankfully, you have the ability to drop whenever you want between the storylines. You will want to do so quite often as well, because the two paths are refreshingly different and contribute nicely to the story. It’s easy to tell that Sora and Riku’s experiences in Kingdom Hearts 3D are carving a clean path to the inevitable Kingdom Hearts 3.
Speaking of the story, fans of the franchise will find this game easy to fall in love with. The exploration of worlds evokes the same nostalgic feelings as past entries to the series, and the various cameos are just as awesome. The one down side though is how hard the story is to follow at times, especially in the beginning of the game. The pacing isn’t as rational as it could be, and it leads to some easy misunderstandings. Eventually the story does pick up and gets a lot better, but those gamers that have never played a Kingdom Hearts game before will more than likely be clueless from the get go. Luckily, Square Enix must have noticed this as they included new optional tutorials, flashbacks and chronicles, the latter of which give insight into past Kingdom Hearts and Disney plots.
One of the cooler things new things about this game though, isn’t the flashbacks or chronicles. It’s the Flowmotion combat. Flowmotion combat is a new system that allows the gamer to make the most of the environment by using it to help dodge and attack enemies with special attacks. Square Enix took their already awesome real-time combat system, and made it better with Flowmotion.
The combat is unbelievably smooth. With Flowmotion you can soar across giant gaps, up buildings, jump off light posts, and attack enemies all in one breath. You fly about at lightening speed, and it is incredibly thrilling. That being said, the new system requires practice to make the most of it. At first, you will probably run headfirst into more than a few walls. Eventually though, you’ll experience the running shoes effect from Pokémon. You won’t know how you played Kingdom Hearts without it.
Small issues like those really don’t matter too much when you consider how truly amazing this game looks and sounds. Without a doubt, Kingdom Hearts 3D offers the best-looking graphics on the 3DS to date. The character animations are incredible and the worlds and backgrounds are breathtaking for a handheld. Everything feels true and full of life.
The sound doesn’t disappoint either. Every song feels perfect to its situation, and nothing feels out-of-place. The voice acting is as well done as ever, and makes you appreciate how big of a deal good voice acting truly is.
Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance is a portable entry to the series that is able to successfully stand next to the console versions. The controls can be a tad bit wonky at times, but it doesn’t take long to get the hang of things. The best part is that the graphics and sound are among the best you will see on Nintendo’s handheld. While the story is hard to follow at first, if you stick it out it ranks among the best of the series so far. The game should not be missed.