E3 2012 Impressions: Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance (Nintendo 3DS)

There were a number of reasons I was excited for Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, not the least of which is the inclusion of new Disney properties, as well as appearances by characters from The World Ends With You. It still isn’t Kingdom Hearts III, but it has all the potential to contribute to the overall plotline on the same level as Birth by Sleep. So imagine how ecstatic I was that I finally had the opportunity to play it.

The E3 demo that I played allows you to choose between either Sora or Riku from the main menu, though you have the luxury of alternating between their individual stories using a feature called Drop (hence the title Dream Drop Distance). I opted for Sora’s path to start with, which placed him in the Three Musketeers universe, with the musketeers being Mickey, Donald, and Goofy. Since this seemingly takes place further in the story, it’s hard to put what is going on into context. I will say that the fact that no one seems to remember Sora during this initial scene seems strikingly similar to a plot device used many times in the franchise before. Though, again, it lacks context, so I’ll withhold judgement on that until I play the final game.

On the presentation side of things, everything in Kingdom Hearts 3D looks sharp, and far better than its DS predecessor. It still plays very similarly to 358/2 Days, so series veterans who have played that one already should be able to pick up and play this one very easily. The command deck from Birth by Sleep and Re:coded makes a return though, allowing the player to equip and recharge a set of abilities of one’s choosing. One key addition is the ability to have enemies join your side. The creatures you face in KH: 3D are no longer the Heartless, but are instead rainbow colored critters called Dream Eaters. The demo already had a couple of them fighting by my side, though I had some difficulty distinguishing between them and my actual opponents. Each one has a separate meter that fills up that enables you to perform team attacks with them, and the results are often devastating.

Also new is an ability called “flowmotion” that allows you to use your surroundings to maneuver quicker than you would otherwise. The feature was only briefly mentioned in the demo, so I didn’t get a chance to properly ascertain how it works. It is seemingly used more for getting around than it is for battle anyway, so it didn’t hinder my progress by any means.

It likely doesn’t need to be said, but if you enjoyed previous Kingdom Hearts games in any capacity, and you own a 3DS, this is shaping up to be a game you’ll want in your collection. What I played was a small sample of what was to come, though one of the boss battles in particular I encountered was fun and frantic. You have to protect a carriage carrying a princess while fending off attacks by a reptilian pursuer. Chomp attacks and fireballs that miss you damage the carriage, and you have to beat back the foe before the carriage is destroyed. Fireballs can be batted back at it, and direct damage can be inflicted as soon as the beast draws near. It was fun while it lasted, and I’m looking forward to the final product. Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance releases July 31 for Nintendo 3DS.

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