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Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream Drop Distance] - 3DS Review

Game Info
Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream Drop Distance]

3DS | SQUARE ENIX | 1 Player | Out Now
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10th August 2012; By Patrick

Imagine, if you will, that you decide to make a cake. Something goes wrong in the mixture, but you decide to cut your losses and put it in the oven to see how it turns out. You wait for a while and remove it, and it looks like it should -- until you start to bite into it. Your fork sinks through it like nothing is there, until about two-thirds of the way in where it simply stops. You keep trying, but it's so dense that it's almost impenetrable. In a way, this is a perfect representation of the story in
Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream Drop Distance].

    3D is the seventh iteration in the series to come out in North America, and marks the 10th anniversary of the series. If you think that the series might be saturated, here's a list of games released in Japan: Kingdom Hearts, Kingdom Hearts Final Mix, Kingdom Hearts Chain of Memories, Kingdom Hearts II, Kingdom Hearts II: Final Mix+, Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days, Kingdom Hearts Mobile, Kingdom Hearts Coded, Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep, Kingdom Hearts Re: Coded, Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep: Final Mix, and Kingdom Hearts 3D. It's the twelfth entry to the series in ten years, unless you count Re: Chain of Memories, the PS2 remake of Chain of Memories that launched as part of Kingdom Hearts II: Final Mix+, in which case it would be the thirteenth. And among the thirteen titles, there has not been a Kingdom Hearts III. A lot of people are growing impatient with these so-called "side stories", but my problem is different. They have used a lot of these to needlessly complicate the main story, to the point where 3D becomes almost incomprehensible for those who haven't done their homework and played the previous entries in the series.

The game provides Chronicles at certain points in the game that serve as refreshers on the plots of previous games in an effort to alleviate these concerns. Unfortunately, it's pulled off relatively poorly. It literally just gives you what is effectively an essay, pulling you out of the game in a huge way. Not only that, but it's also confusing, and expects you to know the Kingdom Hearts event timeline ahead of time. And to top it all off, the way it tells you the story isn't as good as what the games themselves do, but is enough to make your playing the other games significantly less enjoyable.

    As I alluded to in the beginning, the story is very end-heavy, with almost a solid hour of cutscenes ready for you at the conclusion of the game as it attempts to explain the entire series to you in a new way (by using the much-maligned practice of retroactive continuity, or "retcon"). However, not only are cutscenes skippable for those who don't get into the story that much, but the gameplay is absolutely stellar, albeit with one caveat with regards to the control scheme. The game "supports" the Circle Pad Pro in the same way that Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater 3D supports it -- requiring it for fluid control. The camera gets mapped to the second Circle Pad, or the shoulder buttons if you do not use the accessory. When using the Circle Pad Pro, the game actually controls and feels exactly like the control system used in Kingdom Hearts II, except with the amazing battle system used in Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep and Kingdom Hearts: Re: Coded. The result is a fluid gameplay style that takes the best from every previous game.

At the forefront of that is the Flowmotion Battle System. This allows for a lot of flashy moves such as wall jumping, throwing enemies into each other, and swinging around on poles. Every motion is incredibly easy to pull off, though even with the 3D turned on all the way, it can be hard to judge ahead of time exactly what the game will lock onto to as there is seemingly no way to influence its decision other than facing your expected target and hoping for the best. Flowmotion is coupled with another new system: Reality Shift. Reality Shift will
literally pull you out of the game to play a quick mini-game on the Touch Screen. This can vary from catapulting a barrel, to touching highlighted words as they appear, to playing a somewhat poor rhythm game. However, in most instances, Reality Shift simply damages enemies around you.

Kingdom Hearts 3D, you play as both Sora and Riku, aided by creatures called Dream Eaters as you fight against Dream Eaters. You read that right. There are two types of Dream Eaters: friendly and unfriendly. Unfortunately, there were definitely times when I got confused as to who was on my side and who wasn't. You can change the colors of your Dream Eaters (often so subtle that it's rendered near-pointless), play with them both in a black and empty environment as well as in the real-world with AR support, and effectively treat them as pets in a nintendogs-style game.

    Omnipresent throughout gameplay is a Drop Gauge that slowly decreases. Once it reaches zero, your character falls unconscious and you move to the other one regardless of where you are. Some people seem to find it irritating due to the fact that you can drop in the middle of a boss fight and then have to redo everything, but given the fact that the game lets you Drop manually, I was always able to do it just before a major fight and never found it bothersome in the slightest. In fact, it's an excellent way to make even grinding feel enjoyable and tense.

This game features a wide variety of Disney worlds, including
Tron: Legacy, Pinocchio, The Three Musketeers (2004), and Fantasia. The Fantasia world steals the show, with gorgeous and vivid visuals, and the orchestral pieces straight from the film itself (most notably The Sorcerer's Apprentice and A Night on Bald Mountain). Even with five new Disney Worlds to explore, however, this game ends up feeling like one of the shortest ones yet. The entire game took me just nine hours on the hardest difficulty my first time through, including the time it takes to watch every story scene -- and that's according to the Activity Log, not the game.

    The 3D and graphics are amazing, as is the soundtrack, and the game is oozing quality. However, for once, I feel I simply cannot recommend this as an entry point to the series. In fact, even with the excellent gameplay mechanics and with it being a generally solid package, I'd go so far as to warn anyone who hasn't played a previous game to stay away from it completely.

22/30 - Good

Gameplay 8/10 - Excellent controls, fluid gameplay, Flowmotion and Reality Shift add variety, almost requires a Circle Pad Pro, some Reality Shifts dull
Presentation 10/10 - Sound and music excellent particularly in the Fantasia world, graphics great, 3D effect stunning
Enjoyment 2/5 - Routinely pulls you out of the game, limited to fans at this point, overcomplicates even the most basic plot points, gameplay still fun
Extra Content 2/5 - Augmented Reality and a nintendogs-esque mode, still a narrative-driven experience through and through

Equivalent to a score of 73% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System

Review by Patrick

Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream Drop Distance]
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