Shh. Don?t tell anyone, but it?s been six years since the release of Kingdom Hearts II on the PlayStation 2. Fans of the Final Fantasy and Disney crossover adventure series have been waiting for over half a decade for a true continuation of Sora?s story. Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance comes out on Nintendo 3DS this Friday, celebrating ten years of the franchise - and while it?s still not Kingdom Hearts III in terms of story, it?s certainly the closest we?ll get in terms of gameplay.
Finally, after years of bizarre spinoff games for handheld consoles, the 3DS is home to a Kingdom Hearts
game that really feels, acts and plays like a Kingdom Hearts
game. Even if the premise is completely strange (but then, that?s not really a surprise given the convoluted, bonkers storyline to Kingdom Hearts II
Sora and Riku work together in this adventure, tasked with rescuing Disney worlds that have fallen into a ?Dream? state. Not even the Heartless can enter these closed-off universes, with the game?s key enemy being Dream Eaters. Unlike Heartless, there?s some variation in design - from cute cat/dog hybrids to weird hedgehog things and crazy bats.
During my playtest of the game?s opening hours, there are five (at least, but let?s keep things simple) new features that will make any Kingdom Hearts
fan particularly interested in this stereoscopic adventure. They all work to help keep the game fresh whilst you truck around Traverse Town and other familiar locations, mixing up the experience for seasoned Kingdom Hearts II
Dive Mode and Dropping
One of the big new additions to Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance
(not quite the longest name in the world, but certainly a contender) is the concept of Dives and Drops. You?re introduced to Dive Mode pretty much immediately, and occurs whenever Sora or Riku have to enter a new world.
Dive Mode sees you plummeting down a psychedelic tunnel collecting various items within a time limit so that you may unlock the door to the world below. You can work your way to this goal by attacking waves of enemies, or positioning yourself correctly as you fall. Upon completion, you get to choose a new move to use for next time.
Dropping applies to the switching between Sora and Riku as they tackle the same world, but in different dimensions. As you progress with one character, you?ll notice a counter that slowly depletes - when it?s empty, you get a countdown appear before the game wrestles control from you, ejects you from that particular dimension and ?Drops? you into the other character?s shoes.
You can choose to Drop before your time limit runs out, which might be handy given that there is ample opportunity for Sora and Riku to work together in their own respective dimensions to accomplish an objective. At times, Sora and Riku are able to see one another as ?ghosts? in their parallel universe, as if watching an etherial replay of events that they cannot interfere with.
The World Ends With You... and Sora and Riku
has always been a favourable mix of Disney and Square Enix IP. And Dream Drop Distance
is no different - except there?s a slight change in roster. In much the same way that Cloud, Squall and other Final Fantasy
characters were prominent in Kingdom Hearts I
, here Square Enix has Sora and Riku teaming up with protagonists from cult DS action-RPG The World Ends With You
While in Traverse Town, Sora bumps into TWEWY
lead character Neku, and quickly become friends. Neku is constantly focused on some kind of imposed time-limit, however, and refers to everyone else as simply ?players? - suggesting that there?s another force at work that?s setting the stage for you. Later, Riku is introduced to Joshua, one of Neku?s partners, who is seeking Rhyme, the younger sister of fellow TWEWY character Beat.
Reality Shift and Flowmotion
Sora and Riku have a few new moves at their disposal that help make the combat a little more fluid. One particular move is called Flowmotion - the art of leaping about from pillar to wall and back again to allow for extreme combo attacks. This is executed by jumping in the air and interacting with a part of the scenery - your character will fly towards it, and will happily pull off a devastating move if you end up mashing the attack button whilst in flow.
Another new feature is known as Reality Shift. Theoretically this allows you to ?warp the rules of the world,? but in practice it allowed me to pick up barrels in Traverse Town using the stylus and 3DS touch screen and fling them at enemies. Apparently there are more rule-bending things to take advantage of in other worlds - interacting with them in a case of sliding down on the touch screen whenever you?re close to a glowing purple object.
Now You're Thinking With (Link) Portals
The cool thing with wandering around Traverse Town and other worlds is that you?ll encounter various Link Portals that will allow you to buff up your stats. These optional combat challenges will either see you face off against a bunch of Nightmare creatures on your own, or work with a team of Spirits from other worlds to accomplish a goal.
What?s more, this feature is the game?s StreetPass connectivity feature - you can leave challenges about for other 3DS users to spot and try whilst on the go.
Create Your Own Nightmare
Now for the part that you probably didn?t expect - Kingdom Hearts 3D
has gone a bit EyePet
. Or Nintendogs
. Remember when we were talking about the Dream Eaters? There are two kinds - Nightmares, which are basically nasty buggers, and Spirits, which are good forms of the same creature. You can capture materials from destroyed Nightmares and create Spirits that can follow you around and aid you in battle.
The thing is, creating Dream Eater Spirits is an exercise in distraction as well as RPG science. You can either experiment with Dream Materials and see what you can create from scratch, or use recipes collected in the Disney worlds - once you do this, your creature will plop itself onto an Augmented Reality environment on the 3DS top screen. You can then tickle it, play with it and even take photos of it. Blimey.