With apologies to my favorite Disney character, Donald Duck — that actually was my initial reaction when I first heard that Japanese developer Square was creating a game called Kingdom Hearts. I just didn’t see how Square could mix its trademark art style with Disney characters in a way that made sense.
The lesson as always is: I’m an idiot.
In the years that followed, Kingdom Hearts has developed into a pretty solid franchise with multiple games that grace home and portable consoles alike. To be honest, I must say that I’ve lost track of all the games at this point. As its fans wait for the next major installation known as Kingdom Hearts 3, however, Square Enix is throwing in one more chapter to tide gamers over. That would be Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance for the Nintendo 3DS.
Now I understand if some of you might be a wee bit leery of another “side story” and think that this could be some glorified cash grab that milks the popularity of Kingdom Hearts. That would be a mistake, however, as Kingdom Hearts 3D is arguably one of the stronger entries in the series. A quickie cash-in this surely is not.
If anything, one can even say that this feels more like a serious dry run in preparation for Kingdom Hearts 3. One reason is the arrival of a completely new mechanic that freshens up the tried-and-true Kingdom Hearts gameplay, which admittedly is starting to feel a little bit stale. The new addition is called “Flowmotion,” which allows players to use the environment to either improve movement or land attacks on enemies. Lampposts, walls and rails, for example, can be used to zip across stages or boost up to reach higher areas. They also can be used to catapult into enemies and give them a good smack. Heck, even large enemies can be used to trigger Flowmotion attacks as well.
Another key addition is the “Drop System,” which admittedly can be a love-hate type of thing. Basically, it forces you to switch between characters Sora and Riku within a certain time as they traverse worlds separately. For the unaccustomed, the switches can be jarring as they can occur even during boss fights, which could be frustrating. For others, it can provide a nice change of pace, though you really won’t know which camp you’ll be in until you experience it yourself. Meanwhile, monster game lovers will appreciate the ability to train Dream Eaters and have them assist you in your quest.As enjoyable as the game mechanics for Kingdom Hearts 3D can be, however, it does have its share of niggles. These include the occasional wonky camera angles and platforming issues. Flowmotion, while fun, can take some time to get used to as well.
Newcomers to the game may also feel left out of the loop as Kingdom Hearts 3D does not exactly offer much explanation or previous context about past games. The latter would have been especially helpful given all the games that have been released for the series.
Even with its issues, however, the strengths of Kingdom Hearts 3D outnumber its niggles and make this an enjoyable romp overall. Even if you haven’t tried a Kingdom Hearts game, you should still give this a shot if you like the 3D action-adventure genre. And if you’re a Kingdom Hearts fan, well, what the heck are you waiting for?
For more about portable games and apps, make sure to check out our Portable Gaming Hub.KINGDOM HEARTS 3D: DREAM DROP DISTANCE
- Platform: Nintendo 3DS
- Cost: $40
- Final rating: 4 stars out of 5
- Official site: http://kingdomhearts3dgame.com