150 of 163 people found the following review helpful
on August 2, 2012
I've been a fan of the "Kingdom Hearts" franchise for a while, but even the most devout followers have begun to grow weary of its publisher's practice of shelling out prequels, in-between-quels, and all-over-the-place-quels. In all of these games, the gameplay remains fundamentally unchanged, with the exception of "Re:Coded", which was otherwise a disappointment in my book. It seemed that, on the surface, Square Enix was simply jumping on the 3DS bandwagon and shelling out another half-baked entry in order to stall before people tore down their door and demanded Kingdom Hearts III already. Regardless, I decided to give this the benefit of the doubt, and I'm pleased to announce that this is the best game in the series since "KHII". In fact, it may arguably be the best entry yet.
We join Sora and Riku after the events of II and "Re:Coded". Riku is playing for the good guys again, teaming up with Sora to take on the Mark of Mastery exam. This involves them travelling to various worlds in order to find hidden keyholes that will prove their meddle as true Keyblade Masters. The plot is a welcome change of pace from the treacly sentimentality of "358/2 Days", the rehashed narrative in "Birth By Sleep", and the confused logic and pacing of "Re:Coded." Nomura and all others involve certainly listened to the critics when it came to the story in this entry, and gave us what we wanted: a true follow-up. Much in the vein of "Chain of Memories", "Dream Drop Distance" expands on world of the game without losing its focus, and never gets lost trying to pander to fans. The result is the most focused game yet, and one whose story is filled with enough emotion and excitement for any gamer to enjoy. That being said, it's best to be familiar with the franchise before tackling this one. Newcomers may feel a little bit lost.
My main concern about "DDD" was definitely the gameplay, given that it hasn't really changed in several years. All fears have been put to rest now, due to the fact that the dev team definitely took their time with making a fun and balanced experience. The level-based hack-n-slash we're used to is still here, but it's aided by the addition of a new system called "Flowmotion." This is a snazzy way of saying that Sora and Riku now fancy themselves to be masters of parkour. The real surprise here is that Square Enix managed to slide in a new gameplay feature without turning it into a convoluted wreck. Flowmotion works fabulously. Within a few minutes of playing, you'll be grinding off of rails, using enemies as pommel horses, and careening off walls hundreds of feet in the air. Doing this allows you to deliver devastating special moves on enemies. Every enemy encounter, and especially every boss stage, transcends typical button-mashing battles and turns into something more visceral and downright fun than I ever expected from this franchise.
The other addition is the "Drop" feature. You'll be playing as both Sora and Riku in this game, as they battle through parallel worlds to find the hidden keyholes. This works in a very unique way; you have a time with each character, as they experience different narratives in the same worlds. You have to beat the world with both characters in order to truly beat it and progress the story. This is less cumbersome than it sounds, and is in fact a very interesting way to approach handling both characters. You can also jump to another character early by using the "Drop" button on the pause menu. This can be handy if you get to a good stopping point in one character's progression. Getting to experience both characters' unique perspectives is a welcome change in pace for the series.
Another worth mentioning, if only for a few sentences, is the addition of Spirit companions. Much like the world-specific partners of previous games, these animals fight side-by-side with you and can be teamed up with for a special attack. However, it works in a similar fashion to the "Shin Megami Tensei", where you collect certain components of the monsters, then combine them in order to create them. Depending on how many components you have, you can alter the strength and abilities of the monsters. You can have three with you at any given time, and I highly recommend you do so. These partners are very helpful, and fun to customize and level up. The interface for leveling them is very similar to a virtual pet simulator by way of "Final Fantasy X"'s level system. It's not too complicated, but not overly simplistic. Just the right balance of strategy and fun make this a worthwhile component to an already great game.
Graphically, this is the best-looking game in the series, without a doubt. Having played several 3DS titles, I can firmly say this is the prettiest one yet, and clearly demonstrative of what we can expect from Square Enix in the near future. Environments pop to life with dazzling use of textures and shadows, and everything blazes forward with no drop in the frame rate. From Notre Dame to The Grid, these are beautiful renderings of iconic settings, some of which have never been visited in the franchise before. The only negative is, unfortunately, the uneven use of 3D. Frame rate has a noticeable drop when the feature is used in some areas, yet flows smoothly in others. While the effects are nice and all, I would recommend only using it for cutscenes. The game actually stands very strong on its own graphical merits, and the effects steal the thunder a little bit.
Haley Joel Osment (remember him?) turns in another show-stealing performance as Sora, enough to make one wonder why he hasn't just decided to become a full-time voice actor already. The rest of the cast is predictably great, as is the music. The soundtrack once again spans a variety of styles, implementing the techno and trip-hop found in "The World Ends With You" when its characters are on-screen. There's nothing more to say, really, given that people already know Square Enix excels in this department.
Here we are, seven years after "Kingdom Hearts II" left us speechless, and we're finally given the sequel we've wanted for so long. According to series creator Nomura, "Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance" is a taste of the gameplay we can expect from the third entry. If this is truly the case, then I say bring it on. This is the best entry in the "Kingdom Hearts" series so far, and a surefire candidate for Handheld Game of the Year. If you've been holding out because of Square Enix's incessant milking of the franchise, this is the one you've been waiting for.
Ironic. In creating the best game of this stellar series, the developers have created perhaps the best 3DS title yet.
29 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on July 31, 2012
Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream Drop Distance] is an amazing game in nearly every way. There are a whole lot of things to do while on your adventure, and the worlds are large and full of places to explore.
The story is still as complicated as usual, but it's a great one that really sets the tone for Kingdom Hearts 3. If you've never played a Kingdom Hearts game before (or just need a refresh on the story), this game has cutscenes and readable reports that fill you in from the very beginning.
New gameplay elements to the series, such as flowmotion and the drop system, are intuitive and really make the game great. Flowmotion makes moving on the field, whether in battle or not, a much easier and more enjoyable experience. The drop system is a clever pacing tool that keeps you interested in both Sora and Riku's respective stories throughout the game. In addition, the command board and abilities make a welcome return here.
In battle, Sora and Riku have partners that are creatures called spirits, and they are one of the two types of Dream Eaters. There are over 50 different kinds of spirits, and as such they are quite varied in size, shape, and fluffiness. There are a lot of things you can do with a spirit that influences their stats and even their affection for Sora or Riku; for instance, you can pet, feed, and play with them in similar vein to the Nintendogs games.
The second type of Dream Eater is called a nightmare; the various types of nightmares are Sora and Riku's main enemy throughout the game. Depending on the difficulty level you choose at the beginning of the game, nightmares can be easy or more difficult to defeat.
The sound system in the game is noticeably more high spirited and festive than other entries in the series, but this is not a bad thing. Classic Kingdom Hearts tracks such as Hand in hand and Dearly Beloved make a return, while new songs still keep to the original feel of the games. My personal favorite track in the game is Traverse in Trance.
Overall, Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream Drop Distance] is clearly one of the series' best, and one of my all time favorite video games.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on August 24, 2013
Edition: StandardVerified Purchase
One of the best things I can say about the 3DS is that the hardware is amazing, allowing for a handheld gaming experience equivalent to a slightly scaled back PS2 game. This all works in 3D's favor, as it provides fans with an experience not held back by hardware limitations like the DS games were, and provides a similar feeling to the original 2 games as well as Birth By Sleep.
The confusingly named Kingdom Hearts 3D Dream Drop Distance has to deal with a powerful goal: combining the huge cluster storm of a story that has been told in the previous handheld games, and somehow tie them all together, while setting up the highly anticipated third installment in the series, no matter if it has to use multi-layered storytelling, insistent terminology of its mythology, and ret-cons. Loads and loads of ret-cons.
3D takes place after Kingdom Hearts 2, and follows directly after the secret ending of re:Coded. Sora, Riku and the gang have to deal with the fact that (spoiler alert) Xehanort is coming back. To prepare, Master Yen Sid has Sora and Riku take what is known as the Mark of Mastery exam. Unlike the one seen in BBS, however, this is different. Sora and Riku must travel to 7 Sleeping Worlds, worlds that have returned after being attacked by Heartless but are still in a "sleeping state." In order to do this, they must enter a dream state themselves. Things get... complicated, to say the least, and eventually Riku and Sora are split up and they find themselves encountering old foes and an even bigger plan than they thought.
3D takes what was already a complicated story and makes it even more complicated. New elements are introduced to advance the story, but as a result end up complicating previous events in the story to make it work. The overall result is something very confusing. Luckily, the developers realized this, and they added flashbacks and journal entries that summarize all the previous games, just in case there was something you missed. For the most part, they're not bad, and they do an okay job, but the problem I seem to have is that they never really get into the terminology and definition of the previous games. What exactly are nobodies? Why are memories so important? What is all this talk about hearts and the X-blade? It does an okay job, and by the end I'm sure you'll understand, but it's still something worth noting. Furthermore, most of the important story exposition is reserved for the very end, meaning a massive amount of the story is spent trying to figure out exactly what's going on, and then the end is spent trying to make sense of all this new info you've acquired.
If I'm making it sound like I dislike the story of 3D, I apologize, as I actually really like the story, especially near the end, when everything comes together. It introduces new elements, advances and develops our protagonists in believable and natural ways, and makes the stakes actually feel severe, which is a problem a lot of recent (ex: re:Coded) Kingdom Hearts seemed to have. It gives a lot to work with for the third game, and makes me excited to see the path they go down.
Gameplay wise, there's very little to complain about. It's Kingdom Hearts. It plays like Kingdom Hearts. It uses a slightly simplified command deck system from BBS. Keyblade upgrades are the same. Kingdom Hearts 3D is different in two matters, however: Flowmotion and the Dreameater system.
Flowmotion is similar to the reaction commands from 2, but with more emphasis on movement and (as the name implies) flow rather than a button that just lets you do cool things. Flowmotion is an interesting idea itself, but I found that the more I continued playing the game, the less I used it. Getting stuck in Flowmotion makes you more vulnerable to enemy attack. It's main benefit is that it's a quick way to do some damage, but it won't do you much good if you get killed before you finish it.
The Dreameater system seems to be this game's replacement for Donald and Goofy, as well as a mix of a Pokemon/Nintendogs system. Basically, throughout the game you gather supplies and recipes to create dream eater companions, each with their own set of skills and inevitable cuteness. With these, they can fight with you, heal you, and do special limit attacks similar to the Drive forms from 2 in a way. Also included is a mode where you can play VR games and have a giant petting session with your Spirit Dreameater. They're very interesting ideas, and maybe it's just because I didn't play the game right, but it sort of seems superfluous in a way. I couldn't really see any benefit to participating in it, and for the most part I didn't have the desire to. My main focus in the game was Kingdom Hearts, not the Nintendogs system that comes with it. Then again, to each their own. I'm sure there's some that love it and really got into it, and it's really a rather well made gamemode, but it just wasn't something I was interested in.
Another change is the drop system. The game shares a campaign with both Sora and Riku as playable characters, but rather go the BBS route and have you play each character's story separately, 3D has you switch between characters while you're playing. I mean literally. Next to your health bar is a meter that slowly decreases over time. When it reaches zero, you switch over to the other character exactly where you are. The drawback is that this happens against your will everywhere. Even in boss fights. The aggravating thing about being dropped in a boss fight is that when you return, you have to start the entire boss over again. There was a time where I so close to defeating a boss, only to suddenly be dropped before I could get the final few hits. This ended up with me having to replay the boss fight 4 additional times past that fact. Surely they could have devised a way to either return you as you left off in the boss fight like they do everywhere else in the game, or turn off the drop meter as soon as you enter a boss fight.
Luckily, the drop system isn't all bad because of the DP upgrades. Throughout the game, as you slay enemies you get what are known as "Drop Points." The drop points are a currency that can be used to purchase temporary advancements, items, and slowing down of the drop meter when you switch to another character. This is a mechanic that can, with enough motivation, can be abused enough to where if you feel under powered in a boss fight, quickly drop, collect some DP as the other character, use the DP to upgrade whatever you want in the drop menu, and then face the boss as the original character.
The worlds of Kingdom Hearts 3D step the bar. It's refreshing that the 7 Sleeping Worlds (minus Traverse Town) are all based off of previously unused Disney properties, meaning that for those who have grown tired of Agrabah or Olympus Collesium can finally get some kind of change. All of the worlds are rather fun to play, each very interesting in its story and design. Special mention goes out to the levels based on Fantasia. The lack of sound and the use of orchestra music, as well as famous imagery from the film, makes it one of the best levels Kingdom Hearts has seen.
If I did have one gripe about the worlds in 3D, it's that they feel far too small. Most of the time worlds amount to a handful of separate areas where you simply go straight, fighting enemies along the way. The end result makes most of the worlds feel slightly repetitive. It would be nice to see some wider areas, or some more complex areas like Traverse Town. Although, to be fair, it is already pushing the limits of a handheld system, so I'll cut it some slack in the size regard.
Reading this you may get the impression that I think 3D is a very flawed game. While the game certainly does have it's flaws, I'm jmerely nitpicking it in comparison with the others. In reality, it's one of the best games available for the 3DS at the time being, and a very worthy Kingdom Hearts game. For the most part, it closes up the Handheld Saga well and gets everything ready for 3. Highly recommended.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on September 27, 2012
The Kingdom Hearts series has always been one of my favorite video game series, so naturally I had to pick this game up. I have to say I really liked this one, especially seeing as every other KH on a Nintendo system (Chain of Memories, 358/2 Days, and Re:CODED)... well, they sucked.
This game plays more like the PSP title Birth by Sleep than it does 1 or 2, with the Command system acting as your main source of nonbasic physical strikes, magical attacks, and items. The new Flowmotion combat is pretty to look at at, as well as the Reality Shift mechanic, but I usually ignored these gimmicks unless a boss fight required it. As for the Dream Eater system, I had no love. Your Spirits (good Dream Eaters you have obtained through a synthesis process similar to Item Synthesis in the originals or Command Fusion in BBS) will serve little combat aid in the attacking department, the Link Attacks are just another gimmick that steals real strategy away from combat, and the fact that half of your passive abilities are linked to what Dream Eater you have equipped really bugged me.
Let me elaborate on this. All abilities have to be earned through completing a Spirit's Command Chart. Each Spirit has a specific chart, each with unique abilities to unlock. Think along the lines of Final Fantasy 10 or 12's system. Certain passive abilities, like Once More and Leaf Bracer will be both characters' forever once you unlock it with either character (which is cool), but Stat-Boosting abilities, like Attack Boost, Fire Screen, Reload Boost, and Magic Haste will only be yours if you stick with the Spirit. You can equip up to 3 spirits at once, meaning you can diversify your Stat abilities a little once you've completed a Spirit's board, but that itself requires either sticking with the same Spirit for a lot of gameplay, or really obnoxious minigames. Either way, I was upset I couldn't max out my characters like I took the time to do in BBS.
Other than that one MAJOR flaw, the only other thing that takes away from this game is its story. Don't get me wrong. Overall, especially the last 8 hours or so, the story is almost better than 1 and 2's combined, but it takes a long time to get going, let alone make any sense. Oh, and for those who insist they won't play any of these "filler" Kingdom Hearts games and are waiting for III... good luck!
Lastly, on another positive note, this game has the greatest soundtrack of possibly any Square Enix game to date. The remixes from older Kingdom Hearts games and The World Ends With You (another Tetsuya Nomura game for the DS, and a great game in itself were amazing, and the new tracks are to die for.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 22, 2014
My new favorite game. I was so happy after beating it that I'm writing my first review of anything ever. The story had some of my favorite writing of the entire series. I've played every single incarnation of Kingdom Hearts games (it's the reason I own half my consoles) and it hit my emotions in all the right ways. The character interactions were so fun, and especially Riku's character development was something I have been waiting for, and this was perfect. I had so much fun with the gameplay. The flowmotion technique made traveling around the worlds so enjoyable, and it let you look at the worlds differently. It was an incredibly fun way to interact with the environment. The memos make it easy to learn about past games for people who skipped a few or those who need a refresher. It has me incredibly hyped for the next game and I hope this game gets even more love because I think it was amazing.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on November 14, 2013
Edition: StandardVerified Purchase
Kingdom Hearts 3D Dream Drop Distance is a great game for any KH fan. This game takes after Re:coded, Riku and Sora are chosen for the Mastery Exam and soon the end will begin in the next game: Kingdom Hearts 3. You have to play both of them to unlock 7 worlds, battle hard bosses, recruit new allies called Spirits, and unlock certain abilities, weapons, and items to become stronger. This game had beautiful graphics, easy controls, intense boss battles, and a secret ending I cannot spoil. As a fan of KH, I want you to buy all of the games.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 2, 2013
Edition: StandardVerified Purchase
I've been playing this for just under a month (on and off), but I immediately fell back in love with the Kingdom Hearts series. Definitely one of the titles every 3DS owner should get, especially if you're a KH fan. I have to admit, the story threw me for a bit of a loop at the beginning as you're basically thrown back into the first game, but as you progress it gets much better I believe. As said in other reviews, this is the perfect game to setup for Kingdom Hearts 3.
The deck system still takes some getting used to if you never played the other DS games, but for the most part you can use the hack-and-slash from the original game more often than not. Now the new addition is the flow motion action where you can run into a wall, then bounce off or swing from a light post into a flying motion reminiscent of Sora's other forms in KH2.
My favorite part has been the added pet system. I know some people don't like or get why they added such an odd side tracking portion to the game, but honestly I don't miss Donald and Goofy much. Where only their weapons could be changed, the little dream eaters add a lot of customization to the game.
After playing this, I really can't wait until the next big portion of the game series finally comes out.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on September 10, 2012
Edition: StandardVerified Purchase
Bought for my 15-year-old granddaughter and she has hardly put the thing down since she got it. She loves it!
12 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on August 19, 2012
As a major Kingdom Hearts fan. I'd have to say that I'm rather disappointed with this installment. Contrary to the most popular complaint, I actually don't mind the recent rush of handheld Kingdom Hearts games that are putting off Kingdom Hearts 3. It's just little things - many little problems that cause it to fall short of my expectations.
First and foremost, I'm annoyed with the skill progression. To obtain skills, you must first get Dream Eaters, which help you out in battle, as you fight enemies or pamper your Dream Eaters, you get more skill points, which can be spent on skills on a board. This is like the sphere grid, if you've played Final Fantasy X. I like this style of skill progression, but the problem is, you can never get every skill. I spent a lot of time getting every ability before making too much progress in the game. And it turns out, there's many Dream Eaters to obtain. I found that if you unequip your existing Dream Eaters for new and more powerful ones, you LOSE every ability you worked so hard on obtaining, save for any spells you may have obtained. I really wish you could keep skills after you master them, like in Birth By Sleep.
Another annoying aspect is the "Drop" system. As soon as it's activated, you play as either Sora or Riku, and you work to complete certain parts of a given world, until you run out of time and you switch to the other character. Innovative, yes. Annoying, another yes. Playing as two characters makes things difficult. Normally, in Kingdom Hearts, I would spend lots of time level grinding, but the drop gauge runs out so fast that level grinding is difficult, even making progress can be difficult, but I am admittedly slow.
In any other Kingdom Hearts game, I would be at about level 20 before finishing the first world, but due to the drop gauge, I had to split and shorten levelling. Sora ended up being level 8, and Riku at level 6. It's annoying.
I realise that there's an item that gives more time on the drop gauge(drop-me-not). But that's even more annoying, because I now have to give up a valuable command just to be able to go over five minutes playing as just one character.
And the Dream Eaters are just...ugh. It's so high maintence. I often find myself periodically seeing to my dream eaters after every enemy encounter. Slowing down gameplay even more. Although the "pet management" aspect of the game is interesting, I find it annoying because I feel like it's something I have to do.
In addition, combat feels disappointing as I feel the Dream Eaters tend to do most of the work. I perfer dumb AI, like in all the other games, so I can do everything myself.
And as far as I can tell, there's no way to unequip Dream Eaters, just replace them with other ones... :(
I absolutely hate the menu layout. It's a little too transparent, making it seem to mix in with with the outside area. And the one biggest, worst thing about the menu is that it doesn't show health meters on the top screen like EVERY other Kingdom Hearts game, three characters walking on an imaginary conveyer belt with health meters below the characters is a staple in the series, they messed with the formula *tsk tsk*. You have to go out of your way to view your health meter (scrolling through menus on the bottom screen.
There's no heartless!! I know there's a reason for this, but I just can't take the nightmares seriously. For a dark and forboding name, they're awfully colorful, flashy and in some cases, cute. Kinda like giant pinatas. In fact, that's what it should be called: Kingdom Hearts 3D - Sora versus the Giant Pinatas. If one of the games can be called 358/2 days, this could easily pass for a name too.
But that's not to say that this is completely a bad game. It has some very good aspects that I like.
The game is very physics based, what with rush commands, this entails bouncing off walls and ricocheting to maintain momentum, it's definately a step up in gameplay, even if I'd rather not see it in Kingdom Hearts 3.
I originally thought I'd perfer playing as Sora. However, I found Riku's combat more fun, he's much faster and carries his Keyblade in one hand instead of two. Though I find Sora's storyline slightly better.
The gauge system is passable, as it is in many other Kingdom Hearts games, I do like the command and mp system of the main installments much more though.
The story, needless to say, is still awesome. No complaints there.
The music is just wonderful. I love that a lot of the music is remixed.
The Mark of Mastery Edition is so cool. If you didn't get it, track it down and find it!
To sum up, this is the newest Kingdom Hearts game, with a lot of stuff I don't like about it. With some good stuff, which makes it at most subpar at best. As far as I know, I'm the first ever person to give this game a less than good review, even maybe the first person not to like it.
I'm really disappointed by this, I wish my review could be better.
But don't go by me, I'm sure most of you probably disagree with me and are ready to put your troll hats on. If you like it, I'm glad you do. I just think it took too much of a risk straying too far from it's previous titles with it's innovations. Just because I don't love it doesn't mean everyone else doesn't, the game's a huge success.
I still recommend it to Kingdom Hearts fans regardless of my opinion. I plan to beat it - on beginner - as fast as I can - just for the story. And wait for the next Kingdom Hearts game, hoping it will stay true to the other games and not this one.
Okay, I finished the game. The game was really slow up to the last world, or should I say, the second half of the game. After that, it became nothing short of amazing. I really enjoyed the end of the game, it's now much better than I thought. However, if the rest of the game was as exciting as the end, I would love it, but as it clearly isn't, it's still short of perfect.
8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on August 22, 2012
I pre-ordered the MoM edition for release date delivery. I'm still playing the game since that day. I'm currently 43 hours into the game on Proud mode with 38% of the story completed. Hence, you can tell I am taking my sweet time with the game unlike other people, who just rush through it for the story. I've played all of the localized released KH games, except for re:coded (which was originally a cell phone game). Birth by Sleep was my favorite game out of the KH series, but I think Dream Drop Distance can sit right next to it.
Story: A Dream? -----
I probably don't have to repeat it here as it's been posted, said and repeated a million times, but whatever...
You get that the story's gist is: Sora and Riku must enter the dreams of seven sleeping worlds as a part of their Mark of Mastery exam in order to become full-fledged keyblade masters. However, a mysterious boy shows up trying to "incept" the exam and throw some riddles at both of them. Who he is and why he resembles Xehanort when he was a young boy, we'll find out eventually at the end. In the world of the waking, everything may seem fine on their end, but they're not....?? Remember this: "Darkness becomes light and light falls into darkness."
If you're a KH newbie, there are Chronicle entries that you can read in this game, that are unlocked as you go through it, explaining to you what happened in the previous KH games. Unlike other game series out there, KH is one big continuous storyline ala Harry Potter. So, you'll come across a plot point that won't be answered until a future game. I highly recommend you guys to Google the "KH Info Block", because that Tumblr explains certain plot details a little better than the Chronicles. The Chronicles are still alright for giving you guys a good gist of the story. If you ever think about playing some of the past KH games, go in release order. You can try the official timeline order, but things work out better, both story and gameplay-wise, in release order.
(Out of all the KH games, re:coded holds the least importance to the story so you can skip that one if you want, and watch the ending cutscenes on Youtube.)
For KH fans/veterans, the story pacing has improved a lot from its early days of KH1, CoM and 2. It is also paced a little differently than Birth by Sleep, because you're dealing with two characters who battle in separate identical worlds instead of three characters trying to find one another in three separate storylines. Overall though, Dream Drop Distance works almost just like Birth by Sleep, but you're playing the two storylines at the same time. You no longer have to switch out of one character's file just to go to another character's file. That's why the Drop system exists for that purpose, however, I'll get into that a little later.
In each world, you won't find NPCs, except for Moogles and a particular Dream Eater, that you can simply walk up to and talk to them. All of the NPC conversations are in cutscenes, but they can be replayed again in the Flashback section of your Momentos menu.
Going back to DDD's pacing a bit, each world makes you go on a "mini quest" to do something for the NPCs who live there. Thus, it is a different type of interactive feel compared to trying to find a button behind a wall in Cinderella's house. However, each world holds a moral/theme that's actually important enough that both Sora and Riku keep reflecting on them. Some people seem to not look at Sora and Riku's thoughts/feelings. They just see the Disney worlds as they are calling them "filler", but they're not. You'll also be "interrupted" by someone, or some people, in each world that is/are related to the story's main villain, Xehanort. After beating each world, you'll see the other half of the story as to what's going on in the waking world. If you've seen the trailers, you can kind of picture how the beginning of that portion unfolds.
The System -----
Like the previous KH games, you are offered three different difficulty levels: Beginner, Standard, and Proud. If you complete Proud mode, then, you can unlock Critical mode. I highly recommend Proud mode. It's an improvement mode over Birth by Sleep, where the Unversed there were very easy to triumph over after just leveling up a few levels. In other words, there was a lack of a need to grind in Birth by Sleep throughout most of the game. That was the main disappointing thing in BbS that I had an issue with. However, in Dream Drop Distance, we can grind once more with enemies that are push overs.
For the two 3DS screens, the top shows your gameplay and cutscenes. The bottom screen functions as a world's map (which can be enlarged or shrunk), access to setting up a Link portal, checking up on what you need to do (via story), interacting with the Link ability system, and doing any Dream Eater training related activity.
The menu system, itself, is just like the previous KH games, but probably the most similar to the Birth by Sleep menu system. What's new about it is the Momentos section, which I already explained above. In that section, you can view past cutscenes, tutorials and other review type of information. Very easy to read and digest.
The camera system works the same way the first Kingdom Hearts game worked, but a little more stable where it does follow your character around more. You use the L and R buttons to pivot the camera, but I don't really use it so much. Some people think the camera follows the character too closely, but it's not that big of an issue to me.
Gameplay and Monsters Galore -----
One good chunk of the physical gameplay relies on "Flowmotion" where you parkour off walls, lightpoles, stair railings, strings of light, etc. and etc. It's a little bit of what some people would call, "the battle system on crack". You can even use it to scale up buildings such as Notre Dame. However, it's not invincible against enemies. Some of the enemies will be able to interrupt your Flowmotion with their own attacks. So, you can't always rely on it for everything. If you ever do feel that Flowmotion is overpowering you, you do have the option to turn it off in the menu. However for me, I'm completely fine with it as it's fun to use and makes traveling through the big worlds much easier. You'll also be able to unlock the normal platforming abilities in this game. How you choose to use both systems are all up to you. You have the option to turn off abilities in your Command menu section.
Update 1: Sorry, forgot one thing. Reality Shift. It's a system that involves both the air and the ground. When you're near Dream Eaters and objects, like barrels, a group of flashing pinkish/purpleish arrows show up. Slide down your stylus and you activate Reality Shift. There are different Reality Shifts per world each fitted to that world's theme. You might find some of them to be helpful when dealing with bosses and hordes of DEs.
The amount of Commands are less in Dream Drop Distance than in Birth by Sleep, but they still pack a punch. It seems that Square Osaka (- Square-Enix's division in the western part of Japan, who made Birth by Sleep -) were able to pick out some of the popular ones from BbS into Dream Drop Distance. At the same time, they invented some new Commands, which are just as awesome. Unlike Birth by Sleep, you don't level up these Commands. What you have to level up, besides Sora and Riku, are your Dream Eaters. In Birth by Sleep, you had Shot-locks and Dual Linking. In DDD, the same can still be seen when you link up with your Dream Eater. Certain Dream Eater abilities look exactly like Shot-locking. Just minus the target icon.
Dream Eaters are indeed cute and colorful looking residents of the dreaming universe. There are two kinds of Dream Eaters. The ones that are good are called "Spirits". The bad ones are known as "Nightmares". Despite their appearances, the enemy Dream Eaters do get really powerful and menacing if you're not too careful. Their A.I.s are MUCH better than Donald and Goofy's so that's how good they are to you. Sometimes, I would let them battle some DEs for me in order to succeed in a "Special Portal", where I'm not allowed to get hit more than two times. (Portals will be explained later.)
You're responsible for taking care of your Dream Eaters in order to level them and their abilities, up. Taking care of them are similar to Nintendogs/cats "petting the pet" effect, but these rubs and pokes are effective towards your Dream Eaters' Link Points and EXP as well. For a certain number of pokes and rubs you do on a Dream Eater, you can change their "Disposition" levels in order to unlock new abilities. What's amusing about these Dream Eaters, they each have their own personalities. Some are very happy, while others can be very moody and are easily prone to anger management problems. The pickier Dream Eaters can be harder to train.
You can also play a few mini-games with the Dream Eaters that go into their EXP level. The only slight downside for some people with the Dream Eaters are: if you switch a Dream Eater out of your party for a different DE, you lose all the resistance abilities (i.e. Dark Screen) that you gained with that particular DE. If you want them back, all you have to do is switch that DE back into your party. Despite saying all that, Sora/Riku can do pretty well with a lack of resistance abilities on hand. It doesn't bother me one bit, at least. For some other people, they just want to keep that resistance level all the way through, regardless of the Dream Eater they have in their party.
Speaking of Dream Eater resistance abilities, you'll be leveling up your Dream Eater through an Ability Link status matrix grid system. The more Ability Link points your Dream Eater gains while fighting against other Dream Eaters, the more abilities you can unlock on the matrix grid.
In Birth by Sleep, you level up Commands and fuse them together with a crystal in order to get a new Command. In DDD, you mix Dream Eater ingredients with Commands in order to create new Dream Eaters. So, the process of combining something with something else is still there. You're just not required to constantly level up new Commands to level 3 or 4. Leveling up newly acquired Dream Eaters have taken that place. You may also not be using all 50 Dream Eaters, however, in order to gain one of the completion trophies, you will need to make all 50 Dream Eaters. Before you can even make a Dream Eater, you will need to find that Dream Eater's recipe scattered about in the seven worlds.
Drop System -----
The other main component of the game's system is the Drop System, which makes you switch between Sora and Riku in intervals of 20 minutes each. There's a bonus countdown that kicks in towards the end of your Drop gauge where you can get extra items from enemies. That's if you choose to do it by any means.
When the game first came out in Japan, I was completely worried about this because I had nightmares of time limit gameplays with Majora's Mask. Even some of the Japanese fans were ripping it apart. I am seriously NOT a fan of time limits. I love taking my time and exploring the worlds of games. I could tolerate them in Birth by Sleep, but something like Majora's Mask's three day system (which can be countered by a song) was scary.
However, to my pleasant surprise, it's very very veeery easy to counter the Drop system with items that you can buy early on in the game starting at the affordable price of 40 munny. (You can buy up to 99 of them so you have plenty of time to spare.) One such item is the one in my subject line, "Drop-Me-Not", which resets your Drop counter one-two bars back. In the future portion of the game, you can also purchase a "Drop-Me-Never", which completely resets your Drop counter back to however it started.
Another way to elongate your time is by obtaining Drop Points that you get when you fight enemy Dream Eaters. During the process of "Dropping", you'll be shown a menu of choices that affect the character that you'll be switch to. One of these choices is a "Drop Decelerator", which slows down your Drop gauge in three different speeds. The more Drop Points you obtain, the easier chances you can obtain the highest level of the Decelerator.
Thus, I encourage you guys to spend a lot of time per character/world grinding and fighting DEs so you can get the desired number of Drop Points. This particularly works well in Proud mode. I hear that Standard mode is sort of easy. (For Proud, it's probably not easy to do this in the beginning of the game, but a little later on, I find that spending an hour or two in one world can net me, at least, 200 DPs easily.)
Any remaining Drop Points get turned into munny, which can be used for more Drop-Me-Nots, so it's a fair deal.
If you ever come across people constantly complaining about Dropping constantly in the middle of boss battles or exploring in their games, there is something completely wrong with this picture. Some of these people do not know that Drop-Me-Nots exist so they keep playing through the game allowing the system to Drop for them. (Thus, thinking that the game "forces" them to rush.) You can also Drop yourself any time you want in the game via save points, accessing the menu, or putting the game on pause. So, you actually have full control of how you want to play the game rather than let the game play you. Couple that with the Drop-Me-Nots and highest Decelerator level, and you can play both characters for as long as you want. You just can't progress past a certain number of worlds as one character until you beat the other character's required portion of worlds. Their stories are suppose to play out in synch. Not separate like Birth by Sleep.
I would recommend playing as one of character's world stories all out first before Dropping to another character's story and play that from beginning to end. That way, you wouldn't get that "lost" feeling of trying to remember what happened before you were there. (Though, you could consult the Momentos section just for a memory refresher.)
Other people think they can only put the Drop-Me-Not in their active Command deck and it interrupts with their battles. For me, I put my Drop-Me-Not in the second Command deck, which is void of any Commands. It's very easy to go into the Command menu, switch to the second Command deck, press the X button for Drop-Me-Not, go back into the Command menu and switch back to my active Command deck. It only takes a few seconds to do this. You can make up to three Command decks, but I think one is enough for me and some other people to go by if you like mixing up your Commands once in awhile.
Note of caution: Being hit by some Dream Eaters may cause your Drop Gauge to speed up a little so that adds a teeny bit of challenge to your time management. It's not really that much of an issue when you have Drop-Me-Nots at your disposal.
The Seven Sleeping Worlds -----
You go through seven huge worlds. Some of them, you've been to before, but they're expanded. You may think you knew one area so well, but turn a corner, and you may find yourself becoming lost in it (which is good in my book). In true KH fashion, you'll find most of them to be "empty" except with Moogles and unlimited Dream Eaters/Tron NPCs. So, it's not really a surprise if you're use to this from the past KH games. The only difference here is that you won't be bumping into any standing non-Moogle NPCs. As I said earlier in this impression/review, they're all accessed through cutscenes.
For this kind of game, I don't mind there being a lack of standing non-Moogle NPCs, because they'll be in the way of the Flowmotion. Furthermore, coming across them, they'll usually say the same things over and over when you talk to them. Thirdly, I don't see any way you could incorporate non-Moogle NPCs in this game as all the worlds are in dreamland dreaming up of only the "important" characters of their respective worlds. Thus, these worlds are not the true versions of themselves. And yet, I have a feeling we can never truly know what's real or not later on in the game.
The Portals -----
There are four types of portals that exist in DDD.
One is a "Dive" portal that is used to travel between worlds that replace the existence of Gummi ships/shape-shifting keyblades. You only have to do them once per character and world, but you can replay them over and over in order to obtain certain abilities. Like KH2, traveling through a Dive portal is in the form of a mini-game. You'll come across some special Dive bosses in the midst of your travels. I enjoy the challenge of not being able to obtain the required amount of points or dying in these Dive portals. It makes you want to push your limit with what you can do.
The other three portals are Dream Eater related. One of them is the "Friendship" portal that lets you leave three DEs anywhere in the seven worlds, that will be found by other players via local wi-fi. Your DEs will be borrowed by those other players in order to fight the enemy DEs. The other portal works just like the friendship portal, except, it requires you to fight against the DEs that other players left for you.
If you don't know anybody nearby with DDD (that's like, the majority of KH players in the West), worry not. There are preset random A.I. portals that show up everywhere in the game. They all have Final Fantasy related names so you can't miss them.
The fourth portal is strictly an A.I. set up challenge type of portal that's known as "Special". Each Special portal you find gives you a requirement you must fulfill in order to make a mark of accomplishment in your Journal.
The Extra Content & Post-game Stuff To Do? -----
I previously explained that there are some mini-games you can do with Dream Eaters, while another one is the Dive portal system. The third one is the Flick Rush game, which is found in the first world (Traverse Town). It's a game that takes a little bit of patience and number skill to succeed through. Primarily, it works just like Chain of Memories' battle system, but at a faster pace and you must find a way to match up cards in order to get the upper hand. It's definitely a fun addicting mini-game. What you win from a Flick Rush round are a number of medals that can be traded in for abilities, items, etc. at the Moogle's medal shop. This is a refreshing change from seeing the Olympus Colosseum in almost every single KH game.
If you want the full experience of a game, you do your best on 100%ing the game. On top of collecting over 50 Dream Eaters, completing most of the DEs' matrix boards, and finding every single Comamnd/ability out there, there are 438 treasure chests to be found. For me, I try to find as many chests as I can while playing in the main story, rather then save it for post-game stuff. Some people do it that way, but I rather do it all before the final boss.
The amount of collectibles are smaller than how many collectibles you have to find in Birth by Sleep, but just like Birth by Sleep, there is a Trophy Shelf that needs to be fulfilled. Eighteen trophies to be exact. They are all mostly doable, except the questionable link portal trophy. So, these trophies add onto the re-playability. One of the trophies require you to beat the game in Critical mode.
As for what goes on post-game-wise, I know there is a New Game+, which is a little rare for a KH game. (Birth by Sleep touched "lightly" on this with Aqua.) I believe your Dream Eaters are carried over, but a lot of other things do not.
Yoko Shimomura, Takeharu Ishimoto, and the rest of the DDD composers, arrangers and performers all deserve a big pat on their backs for creating another golden KH soundtrack. With everything from old songs we've heard before to new composed ones, there's nothing really much else I have to say with their music. It's magic. ^_^
Overall ----- <3
DDD is easily up there with Birth by Sleep for me in the favorite KH column. It's not a perfect game, but it's fun and won my heart easily. I wish you could be more interactive with your environments, beyond what they give you here in both BbS and DDD, and be able to unlock more hidden things/rooms/secrets. Also, I wish the portal system and Flick Rush game were open to global wi-fi instead of just local wi-fi. Those issues I have are minor compared to a lot of things that I do like in this game. (And if there's anything else I notice, I'll add it in here.)
Looking forward to seeing how this game sets everyone up for KH3. :)