- Format: 3DS (version reviewed)
- Unleashed: Out Now
- Publisher: Square Enix
- Developer: Square Enix
- Players: 1
- Site: http://www.kingdomhearts3dgame.com/
Kingdom Hearts 3D (Dream Drop Distance) is the newest release in the popular RPG series that mixes Square Enix style with Disney fluff and exists to further bridge the overly long gap between Kingdom Hearts 2 and the eventual release of 3. This game does come across as the final road block between we, the players, and the proper sequel we’ve been waiting for finally being release and somewhat suffers as a result.
With the likes of Birth by Sleep (PSP) and other games in between even avid fans my not remember where Kingdom Hearts 2 left off. Oh, did we say KH2? You better have played the extended cut of it since that is apparently canon story too. Anyway, Sora and Riku are preparing for their final confrontation with Xehanort – not to be confused with his Nobody called Xemnas or his Heartless called Ansem. Confused yet? Tough. In KH 3D Sora and Riku are tasked by Mickey Mouse and Yen Sid to enter a dream world in order to take part in an exam to crown them official keyblade masters, rather than remaining self taught as they have been so far.
Even ignoring the contained Disney story parts in each visited world (which only have hints of the ‘real’ story mixed in at parts of it), such as Tron, The Three Musketeers and Hunchback of Notre Dame, all KH 3D does is confirm how much of a tangled, convoluted mess the real story has become. As a fan of the previous main games and the actual story hidden behind vocal annoyances like Donald and Goofy (who thankfully are barely seen or heard in this game) even we struggled to follow what was going on because we hadn’t played every single game released after KH2 (including every remix of every game released after it). Though you can boil the story down to very simple good against evil principles the mess you need to sludge through and are expected to understand makes getting into this game a chore at times.
More than once Sora or Riku would react with “It’s you!” upon meeting someone in a dramatic moment, triggering a “Eh, yeah, who were you again?” reaction from us. Written flashbacks trying to sum up whole games in a paragraph or two helped a little, but not a lot. If you are a die-hard fan this may all be moot, but if you aren’t or are simply new to the series then you will be thrown in at the deep end with very little support.
We have spent so long complaining about the mess of a plot because the gameplay is largely the same as previous games and is effective enough. Rather than have Disney themed team mates assisting you in open battles in which you can button mash attacks or use selected skills and magic attacks, you are teamed with Dream Eaters that you can customise and create from recipes. It’s a bit like Pokemon and functions well enough. The downside is that you can only have two active Dream Eaters and one passive one that doesn’t join you in battle and you only have access to the abilities and buffs (more HP, more defence, etc.) that you have learned from them. If you swap them out you lose those buffs, meaning you need to relearn the basic stuff from whatever stronger pet you’ve decided to start using. Sora also has unique attacks he can perform with his chosen team, whereas Riku fuses with them into various forms that give him unique move sets.
You are constantly switched between playing as Riku and Sora. Whether you like it or not. A timer constantly ticks down while you play as one and when it reaches zero you are switched to the other regardless of what you are doing. In the middle of a fight? Maybe even a boss fight? Maybe even a break between one cutscene to the next? Tough. You’re switched. If you did get switched in the middle of a fight you get to start it over. It’s an astonishing choice not to simply let you chose when to switch or set it so that you don’t switch in the middle of a fight, yet this seems to have been overlooked for a mechanic that instead comes across as extremely annoying.
The seven or so worlds you will visit are small and only differ slightly between Sora and Riku (though their story cutscenes are often different). There’s also little incentive to level or take part in side activities except when you are grinding to face the last set of bosses the game throws at you, as everything prior is too easy. The 3D offers nothing in particular and touch pad ‘Reality Shift’ commands usually just amount to overpowered attacks you can use to breeze through basic battles.
While we remain fans of Kingdom Hearts as a whole, this game did little to encourage that opinion. Birth by Sleep was a superior side entry in the series, but really the franchise has been getting dragged out and milked for far, far too long. Our opinion in this particular case is, unless you are desperate for a forgettable tangled mess of a game to play on your 3DS, that you just wait for Kingdom Hearts 3.