Format: Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: July 31, 2012
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
ESRB Rating: E10+
There is perhaps no storyline more confusing than Kingdom Hearts. In 2002, we were presented with a Disney RPG crossover that blended in Final Fantasy cameos and cool action gameplay. In 2012, we have a game that is a touch lighter on the Disney characters, the Final Fantasy characters in name only, and gameplay that perhaps introduces too much at the same time. That aside, the epic of Sora and Riku continues as they protect the worlds from the machinations of Master Xehanort.
Story / Presentation
Credit goes to Square Enix for the effort, the last ten years have seen a series of seven games that strives to tell one continuous storyline. While the story may not be as cohesive as one may expect, the effort is laudable. The litmus test for newcomers to the series is this: before pressing start sit and watch the opening cinematic. Do you find yourself scratching your head at the nonsense and JRPG characters? If you have not played at least half of the series' games, you may need to crack open a wiki and freshen up. Otherwise, you can tune out the main elements of the storyline and just enjoy the gameplay. There's an option to do that, too. As you progress, you will receive memory fragments that will make no sense to the newcomer, but the Kingdom Hearts fans will enjoy the references.
The obvious rubric of Kingdom Hearts games on portables is how the current game stacks up to the original PS2 chapter. In that respect, Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance delivers. Traverse Town while somewhat barren is colorful at night. The character models for Sora, Riku and the villainous Dreameaters are very detailed considering style and platform. As a nod to the end of Kingdom Hearts II, we see the adult versions of Sora and Riku in flashbacks. The centerpiece for this game is the Drop. This is the main method of transportation to the seven different worlds. Obstacles and enemies fly past in 3D as the gamer whizzes down in a sh'mup.
Music and Sound
An orchestrated "Simple and Clean" greets gamers in the opening cinematic. The usual sweeping scores and Disney laced themes are present in the stages. The voice acting is well down and evokes emotional responses, and the battle sound effects are as visceral as a Dynasty Warriors game.
The gameplay of Kingdom Hearts is expanded and incorporates some old and new ideas. Central to the conflict in the game's story is the creation of "Spirits". These are creatures that are counter to Dreameaters, which serve as the Heartless or Nobodies from games past. These Spirits are created with recipes which players receive through the course of the game or by purchase at Moogle shops. Once created, the player can raise the Spirit's affinity by feeding and petting. Flow motion battles keep the action zippy. The touchpad is incorporated by staggering foes or approaching barrels and sliding down. Doing this enters a sling shot mode which can be fun, but is usually hampered by the perenially problematic camera.
Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance is a welcome addition to the 3DS library. It's not very friendly to newcomers of the series, however, long time fans will find lots to love in the callbacks and character development of Sora and Riku. If anything, Dream Drop Distance is a great tease for Kingdom Hearts 3 and a possible The World Ends With You sequel.