|Dev: Square Enix|
|Pub: Square Enix|
|Release: July 31, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: N/A||Fantasy Violence|
I enjoyed playing with spirits quite a bit, but the final new addition to the Kingdom Hearts system was far less to my liking. The Drop system is the mechanism by which players alternate between playing Sora and Riku. On rare occasions, control passes between the two characters for storyline reasons. Most of the time, however, a "Drop Meter" on the bottom of the screen shows how soon it will be before the characters automatically switch. The rate that the meter counts down can be increased or decreased via various methods, and time can be added back onto the meter by using up a valuable Command Deck slot on consumable Drop-Me-Not items.
Still, even with these methods of control, the Drop System creates a lot more confusion and frustration than it does excitement. The storyline of the various worlds would be better served by having Sora and Riku complete their segments in a specific order, rather than randomly depending on the drop meter. Being Dropped in the middle of a complicated area leads to disorientation upon returning to that area some time later—where was I, and what was I doing? Finally, being Dropped in the middle of a boss fight leads to great aggravation, as it is sometimes automatically restarts from the beginning when control returns to that character. I understand the motivation that the developers had in implementing this system, but it simply doesn't click, and I think it should have been left on the cutting room floor.
One consolation prize for getting lost after a poorly timed Drop is that Kingdom Hearts 3DS features some lovely worlds to explore. The graphics look great, appearing a bit crisper with the 3D turned off, but making good use of the 3D when it's on. Every world has a particular theme that is well-implemented across the level graphics, enemy selection, and minigame design. The characters are particularly well-realized, and even the digitized versions of actual humans don't descend as far into the uncanny valley as they did in Kingdom Hearts II.
The music in the game is excellent, as usual for the series, blending Disney's music seamlessly together with original tracks scored by Square Enix's all-star composition team. A particular star of the show here is the Symphony of Sorcery world based on Disney's Fantasia, which combines the game's graphics, music, and sound effects in a way that's practically worth the price of admission on its own. The voice acting is similarly solid, with particular kudos to Riku's English actor, who conveys his maturing personality quite well. Only a couple minor performances sounded off to me.
Gamers looking for a large amount of play value may find the game a bit on the short side. There are eight main worlds, some of which take longer to complete than others, and players may find themselves at the final world sooner than expected. Though the Drop System discourages exploration to some extent, there are plenty of hidden secrets to find in the various worlds. Collecting and taming spirits can also take up a major chunk of time, though much of that will be dedicated to grinding for experience. On top of these already-mentioned activities, players can participate in a side game called Flick Rush, try for high scores in some minigames, and attempt to earn achievement trophies that are found within the game.
Despite issues with the Drop System and a story that splashes merrily in the deep end of the Pool of Absurdity, Kingdom Hearts 3D is a genuinely fun game. Mixing Flowmotion into the Command Deck battle system works quite well, giving the player a wide variety of battle strategies, which in turn has allowed the developers to design more interesting and difficult enemies for the player to face. It's also an audiovisual treat on the 3DS, keeping up Square Enix's tradition of making the most of console technology. Selectable difficulty levels make this a great action RPG for players of varying skills. For anybody interested primarily in the action, activities, and likeable characters rather than in following a coherent story, Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream Drop Distance] is a great addition to the 3DS library.
Date: July 31, 2012