Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream Drop Distance] Review – Where Balloons Destroy All

Disclaimer: This review is based off a play through on Proud Mode. The review also does not take into consideration the supported Circle Pad Pro as I do not have a way to get one easily. Also, minor spoilers warning – I’ll try and keep it as clean as possible but be prepared for some.

Square Enix continues its expansion of the Kingdom Hearts story with the seventh game in the series, Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream Drop Distance]. Kingdom Hearts 3D (KH3D) follows the story of Sora and Riku as they go on their quest to become Keyblade Masters. They must awaken seven sleeping keyholes to complete the quest. Throughout the quest they will meet many new friends along with some old ones.

After an initial visit in Traverse Town where you meet up with the cast of The World Ends With You and get your initial tutorials, you will be able to make a choice between the worlds of Hunchback of Notre Dame, Tron: Legacy and Pinocchio. While each world follows their initial movie, they do all have their small quirks.

While I haven’t watched Hunchback of Notre Dame or Pinocchio recently, I have definitely watched Tron: Legacy recently. One major problem I spotted here was that at one point in the movie, there is a scene where Quorra loses her left arm below the shoulder. However in KH3D they didn’t show that this happened to her, they just showed that she was passed out and needed her data “fixed.” This was quite annoying to see this not properly represented in the game after the time I’ve spent watching Tron: Legacy.

A world I felt was greatly represented was the Fantasia world, though even that I still had a small annoyance. The music was absolutely brilliant in this world and even had my mom (who loves Fantasia) enjoying this part of the soundtrack. The visuals here are also great and pay good tribute to the movie. However, Sora’s boss here nearly had me wanting to rage quit the game from how frustrating it was, which leads me into the next point.

KH3D features a “Drop” system to switch between the two characters. Essentially you are on a timer for how long you will be playing as that character. You can get various bonuses and abilities to slow this down but you will still eventually be forced to drop to the other character. While it seems like a good idea in concept, far better than the concept they used in Kingdom Hearts Chain of Memories (as well as Re: Chain of Memories), it can get quite aggravating. You can be fighting a boss and you’ll suddenly get the notice that you are in “Bonus Time,” which is an extra 30 seconds you can use to obtain more drop points to get more bonuses (or just more munny) when you switch. However, if you end up running out of “Bonus Time” you will be forced onto the other character and when you swap back, any progress you had made on that boss fight is reset. Of course, any progress they had made on killing you ISN’T reset. This tends to lead to many situations of the boss being at 5% health and then you having to redo the entire fight when you drop back.

Another system they brought back from Kingdom Hearts Re:Coded was the system of a “upside down boss fight.” Now thankfully this was only in place for one boss, but to me, that was one boss too many. In Re:Coded this boss was literally making me sick to my stomach and this feeling returned for 3D. The good news is that thankfully it wasn’t used as heavily as it was for that one particular boss in Re:coded, and that it did fit in more with the storyline of that world this time.

For KH3D they added the system of “flowmotion,” a system that will allow you to easily move around the area and deal some decent damage to enemies. However, as I progressed in the game, I found this system more a hindrance than an asset. Several times I’d be trying to jump onto a small platform and I’d graze against a wall, triggering flowmotion. This would cause me to bounce off the wall as the game “thought” I was trying to get around quickly, and in turn would cause me to miss the platform. For use in battle it is more a pain to setup than it is worth it, as one of your options is to roll into an enemy (a larger one) and spin around them. Often times you will miss the enemy completely and just roll around looking silly. The same thing happens when trying to hit a pole to flowmotion off of it.

The ability learning system is a huge mish-mash of systems from other Kingdom Hearts games, though the two that stand out the most to me are the ones of Birth by Sleep and Re:Coded. KH3D features the ability “equip” system with a mix of a board on your various Dream Eaters that you can spend “Link Points” on to learn abilities. However, you will only keep the non-support abilities (support abilities such as Once More, Second Chance and Combo Plus) if you have that particular Dream Eater equipped. This can make it quite annoying to get the abilities you want and you will find your stats/abilities fluctuating a lot as you find your perfect setup.

The Dream Eater system is a decent replacement for actual party members, but they don’t replace them completely. As you progress and get “larger” Dream Eaters, you will find yourself getting shoved around by them and perhaps even getting blocked out of a doorway by one. As mentioned before, each dream eater has its own board and you must earn “Link Points” to progress. At certain points you may be barred by either a level gate or a link with them so many times gate.

Linking with your Dream Eaters causes a variety of things to happen based off who you are playing. For Sora you will get a special skill for that Dream Eater, or if you link with both, a big animation that does some decent damage. For Riku you will gain more power with your keyblade, the strength and effect depending on who/how many you link with.

You are also able to play with your Dream Eaters to “train” them, letting them get more affection towards you, more experience and more LP. These mini-games, while fun in concept, become extremely repetitive after a while. Regardless, they are a good way to take a break from the action and relax some. You can also pet or poke them to increase these various stats, but be warned, they might not like you poking/petting them in some places!

One downside though is if you let a Dream Eater die and do not rescue them in time, they will break back up into materials. While it’s good that they break back up into the materials, the fact you can lose them at all is quite unneeded. In previous Kingdom Hearts titles, your partners simply “revived” after an amount of time. I feel that this is a system they should’ve brought back for 3D, or at least have it so the passed out/dead Dream Eater switches with your “reserve” member since you can have three set at one time.

To provide you with more storyline for a particular world, or just for the game in general, they introduced “flashbacks.” These will allow you to see something that has already happened within the story. However, I felt that they interrupted the flow of the storyline at several points and weren’t introduced into the game as well as they could have been.

Another neat little mini-game I didn’t spend much time with was “Flick Rush.” The mini-game lets you pit yourself against another person’s Dream Eaters and b
attle with “cards.” The game also features multi-player which pulls upon the Nintendo 3DS’s StreetPass system. Unfortunately, this means that anyone who does not have people nearby to StreetPass with (like me) will be unable to full experience this mini-game.

For players of Birth by Sleep you likely remember the extremely handy skill “Mine Square.” KH3D brought this ability back in a way, though it’s changed. The ability is now “Balloon” (or Balloonra for a higher tier one) and you can surround yourself with balloons or gather some balloons and bounce them towards your enemy. I found this skill to be extremely fun as well as extremely useful.

I’m sure many people out there, including some of my friends, enjoy the challenge that Critical Mode brings to the game. Unfortunately, this mode is locked until you beat the game at least once. So in order for those who do like this challenge to experience it, they must have already played through the game at least once. My feeling is that this was done to combat those who did just start the game on Critical Mode instead of experiencing it first on Standard/Proud.

To unlock the “secret” ending of KH3D they made some changes to the system. In the past you had to actually 100% the game/worlds if you wanted to view it on Standard, and the secret ending was completely locked out if you played on Beginner. This time around they have made it so that no matter what difficulty you play on you will be able to unlock it. To me, this took out some of the “satisfaction” of completing the game on Proud.

One small little reference Final Fantasy fans will enjoy is the names on the “Link Portals.” These are another new system in which you can take on a variety of challenges including not using any abilities or beating all the enemies in twenty seconds. However, these also become repetitive as you will be seeing a lot of the same characters. While I did find at least one character from the first thirteen games (main series), there seemed to be a lack of variety in who you would find.

One thing Kingdom Hearts 3D suffers from that all of the handheld Kingdom Hearts titles have issues with is the controls. There simply isn’t enough buttons to support what you need to do within the game. Many times I found myself trying to lock onto an enemy while attacking and next thing I know I’m in a link with my Dream Eaters. KH3D feels like a game that would benefit greatly from two added trigger buttons that a console game would have.*

For those who enjoy optional bosses, KH3D definitely has some in it. However the one and only one I’ve tried so far was at the start of the game and apparently I “timed out” during it and he disappeared. Whenever I try and go back he is no longer there. So pretty much I blew my only chance to fight this guy right at the start of the game. Of course there are other ones available in other worlds, but it doesn’t make up for the fact I pretty much permanently screwed myself out of fighting them.

The overall story of the game is enough reason to experience Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream Drop Distance]. It adds a lot of plot onto the existing story, especially taking into account that we finally have a game that follows up on Kingdom Hearts II.

In the end, if you are a fan of Kingdom Hearts I would suggest picking up Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream Drop Distance] today. If you are new to the series, I would suggest you start from another title such as Birth by Sleep or Kingdom Hearts I.

Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream Drop Distance] Review Score: 3.5/5

I would like to take a moment to thank Square Enix North America for the review copy of KH3D! Thank you!

*: See disclaimer regarding the controls.