Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance review for 3DS

Platform: 3DS
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Medium: Cartridge
Players: 1
Online: No

There?s a pretty good chance before you even read this review that you?ll know whether or not you?re interested in what Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance has to offer. After all, regardless of platform, there?s a certain style, and definitely familiar elements, present in just about every Kingdom Hearts title to date.

But the series has definitely seen some revision, both good and bad, over the course of its seven platform entries. And while the series has, at this point, seen more play time on portables than home consoles, a lot of those portable outings have been?lackluster. Birth by Sleep, on PSP, being the major exception, to the point that it?s largely considered the best in the series.

So with that in mind, exactly how does Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance (what a mouthful), compare to the titles that have come before it? Pretty damn high, to be honest. I?d say it falls a little short of Birth By Sleep, but overall, it certainly shapes up to be one of my favorite entries in the franchise at this point.

Some of that is due to the fact that I feel like the main plot, focusing on Sora and Riku, actually feels like it gains some forward momentum. This certainly isn?t Kingdom Hearts 3, but it definitely sets things up in a way that makes you feel like an honest-to-goodness sequel is certainly forthcoming. While Birth By Sleep did a great job of chronicling the history of series antagonist Xehanort, and the whole Keyblade Masters angle, I was more than ready to revisit the cast in the present, and Dream Drop Distance really scratches that itch for me.

Another aspect that really works, and is new for the series here, is the introduction of Flowmotion. This mechanic ties into some of the limited platforming you?ll be required to do, and also features heavily into the combat system of Dream Drop Distance. One disappointing omission is the lack of fusion for the Command system that was featured in Birth By Sleep, a system I personally thought was fantastic. And while its absence here is sorely missed, Flowmotion definitely helps fill the void a bit.

Flowmotion allows you to make use of the environment, and bound off of objects quickly, often transitioning into special attacks. It?s also great for just standard traversal through Dream Drop Distance?s vast stages. You?ll come to rely on the mechanic so much, that it will be hard to go back to earlier games and see this particular function missing.

In an effort to replace the Command fusion system from Birth By Sleep, Dream Drop Distance also introduces a new foe/friend dubbed Dream Eaters. Their name ties directly into the overall plot of the game, which I won?t spoil here, but essentially they resemble Pok?mon like creatures for a quick reference point. They certainly make for more creative looking and acting foes than your standard Heartless enemies. But their friendlier aspects are more important here.

Dream Eaters are craftable, experience gaining creatures that fill the role previously held by Goofy and Donald Duck as party members. Enemies drop crafting items in the game, and you can attempt to fuse these items into Dream Eaters with or without the help of recipes. Dream Eaters also provide a way of gaining new Commands for both Sora and Riku. These are earned through a skill board, where you?ll spend earned skill points on the various Dream Eaters in order to earn new Commands, and a variety of skill boosts.

The problem with Dream Eaters comes from figuring out what they do, and which ones are worth building up. About halfway through the game you?ll realize you?ve got a lot of these little guys at your disposal, but the game does little to explain how one Dream Eater stacks up against the rest.

The menu used to access, create, and swap them out never really gives you enough information to make an informed decision without a lot of busy work and mental tracking on your end, which makes their inclusion here over the far more intuitive Command fusion and leveling of Birth By Sleep feel like a step in the wrong direction.

But on the flip side of that, it?s about the only real negative thing I have to say about Dream Drop Distance. It?s a beautiful looking game on the 3DS, and compares favorably to the gorgeous Birth By Sleep on the PSP. It?s certainly a step up from any other Nintendo handheld entry in the series (which isn?t saying much, I know), and looks pretty fantastic in full 3D. The soundtrack is also filled with a lot familiar tunes, but also some catchy new ones and a nice Dearly Beloved remix at the title screen.

And if you?re new to the series, there?s a lot of optional material in the game that?ll attempt to catch you up on the overall plot, with various text breakdowns that kick in at important points of the story. I?d say to really appreciate everything going on it?s a good idea to be familiar with the PS2 and PSP entries at least, but I think you could come into this cold and still have some fun.

So it?s certainly worth picking up, and I think most KH fans will fall in love with this entry. It certainly feels like one of the better entries in the series, and is also one of my favorite games on the 3DS right now.

Grade: A-