The long awaited Kingdom Hearts game for the 3DS is finally here! Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance takes place directly after the events of Kingdom Hearts 2 and Kingdom Hearts: Recoded where Sora and Riku are asked to come to the Mysterious Tower where Master Yensid tells them they will be taking the Mark of Mastery to prepare for the return of Xehanort. For people who are new to the series, the Mark of Mastery is a test where keyblade weilders prove if they have what it takes to be considered a Master and Xehanort is the antagonist in Birth By Sleep and might be more of a threat then anyone could have realized. For Sora and Riku's test they are sent into Dream Worlds in search for the Seven Sleeping Keyholes, in order to awaken then from their slumber.
On Sora and Riku's test they will encounter new and familiar worlds, as well as new and old allies. The newest called Dream Eaters which appear as both Nightmares which devour happy dreams and are the enemy of the game and Spirits who attack the Nightmares and become your allies much like Donald and Goofy were in Kingdom Hearts 1 and 2. Did Square-Enix pass the test or did they flunk out giving us our Mark of Mastery Exam find out now?
Story: Well I already went into detail in the beginning on what the story is, but what I would like to say here is the unique way the story is told. You play as both Sora and Riku as they travel between the many sleeping worlds like; The Grid (Tron: Legacy), Symphony of Sorcery (Fantasia), Prankster's Paradise (Pinocchio), and many more, and as you play, one characters scenario will be different from the other and you might not see the same environments or characters. For example in the Country of the Musketeers, based off of The Three Musketeers movie staring Mickey, Donald, and Goofy, you will go to a windmill as Sora only and never see that area as Riku. Now you can play as one character the whole time up until a point. At that point it will make you play the other character to catch up so you will be able to see the whole story fold out. The story alone in my opinion is what always makes Kingdom Hearts games stand apart from every other game. The problem with this entry is for people who are just starting Kingdom Hearts for the first time because they would be being completely lost. Now Square-Enix did put a nice system in the game called the Memento system, which at vital points in Dream Drop Distance where a cut scene would reference another game in the series, a journal entry would appear that tells you what happened in all the past games. I still feel that even with this system it might be still confusing for newcomers to the series, so beware of that if you are new to the series.
Gameplay: Every new entry in Kingdom Hearts they always add a new gameplay mechanic while keeping the familiar combat for veterans of the series. Because of the popularity of the Command Deck in Birth By Sleep and ReCoded they brought it back once more in this game. The newest mechanics in the game are called Flowmotion, Reality Shifts, Dive Mode, and Dropping. Flowmotion is a quick and easy way to navigate the map and attack enemies with the press of the Y button. This enables you to jump between walls, grind rails, fling your enemies into others, and get the drop on them from above. This is a great new mechanic that makes combat and navigation faster then its ever been and definitely one of the highlights of the gameplay. Reality Shifts are activated when a pink lock-on marker appears on the enemy where you will take them to your bottom screen and perform a minigame based on the world, and killing them while hurting others around them. Dive Mode is how you enter worlds which is a departure from the Gummi Ships, while diving you play a minigame which consists of collecting certain items or killing a certain number of enemies or a boss and once accomplished you will be placed in the new world. If you fail you will not enter the world and must try again. The Drop gauge is what keeps you from going too far ahead in the game with one character where once it runs out you will automatically switch out to the other character. The only problem with this addition, and something to watch out for, if you are in a boss battle and you drop just before getting the final blow, you will have to fight them from the beginning with full health once you come back to that character! I discussed a little about Dream Eaters and the Spirits you have with you at all times, these guys can be leveled up and by going in their Ability Link menu you can gain new abilities by spending points just from playing games, petting, feeding or fighting enemies with them. I can't tell you how much fun it is raising your Dream Eaters by playing games with them and petting them by using the touch screen, it will keep you entertained for hours with all the Dream Eaters you can collect. You can also use one or combine your Dream Eaters in combat to go into another more powerful form to take out your enemies faster but there is a time limit on how long you can stay in the form. The worlds might be interesting and new but a downfall to the worlds in this game, is that they feel 10 times bigger compared to worlds in past games. This provided with very little help on where to go sometimes can get quite annoying and might make you from exploring more often even though you want to get on with the story. Gameplay is a great change of pace for the Kingdom Hearts series while keeping it similar enough where any body who played one before can easily pick up. Even with the tutorial at the beginning of the game and Memento system newcomers can be easily welcomed into the world of Kingdom Hearts!
Audio/Visuals: If you know anything of Kingdom Hearts games besides Square-Enix and Disney joining forces you should have heard about the beautiful music that is in the game. As I type this review I'm listening to this game's soundtrack because it is that amazing, here is one of my favorite songs from the game, its from Prankster's Paradise based on Pinocchio:
I can't describe how great the music is all I can hope is you'll take my word and take a listen to the soundtrack where ever and whenever you can!
For the visuals I was surprised on how it looked on the 3DS, it was beautiful and visually stunning and was completely surprised when I booted it up for the first time. I played the game entirely in 3D and it didn't bother me, surprisingly, because it usually does since I wear contacts, and the game looks even better with it on so I highly recommend you use it when you play. All the worlds are stunning visually as they are taken straight from the movies and its first noticed when you are outside Sanctuary (church) in La Cite Des Cloches based on the Disney movie Hunchback of Notre Dame! This game is easily visually on par with Birth By Sleep with its bright and vibrant colors and interesting enviornments!
Conclusion: This game is definitly one of the better games in the Kingdom Hearts series, whether you came for the story, want to take care of your Dream Eaters, or to listen to the music, this game has what you want. For the people who only want to play the numbered games, I feel sorry for you cause when Kingdom Hearts 3 comes out you will be lost, because the story in this game is one of the most important besides Birth By Sleep. I highly recommend this game for owners of a 3DS, Kingdom Hearts fans, and even for the people who haven't played a Kingdom Hearts game before.