In all of gaming’s various circles you would be more hard pressed to find a more rabid following than those who are involved in Sora, Riku and Mickey’s adventures. So you can imagine the rabid drooling that ensued when the latest tale, Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, was first announced and showed off for Nintendo’s shiny new portable. Well hold onto your keyblades because a demo for the game has just hit the Nintendo e-Shop. So does Sora’s latest set a good first impression or should the fourth ‘D’ stand for 'dismiss'?
The demo opens with Sora in good ol’ Traverse Town doing what he does best; that is, being confused as to why he’s there and looking for Riku. However, while searching for Riku he runs into a familiar face for those who played the Nintendo DS gem The World Ends With You: Neku. After a brief (and confusing) conversation, Neku runs off and Sora decides to follow him through a monster-infested Traverse Town.
You're then introduced to the game’s gameplay mechanics. Returning from Chain Of Memories is a modified version of the command deck system, where you can queue certain cards with attacks or spells, and save them up to unleash a more powerful version. In addition to this the game introduces ‘Flowmotion’, a faster and more streamlined way to move around an area. With Flowmotion you can leap off walls, rails and other objects to rocket off in a specific direction. This move is also very useful in combat situations, allowing you to latch onto some of the bigger foes and deal some heavy damage. In special instances you can even use the 3DS touch screen to trigger mini-game style special attacks to obliterate the enemy.
Once you get accustomed to the new gameplay style of Dream Drop Distance you will be thrown into several battle situations against large groups of enemies. To defeat these foes you have two options: you can simply mash the attack button and win through sheer determination or (and even more fun) combine the classic Kingdom Hearts gameplay with the additions of the command deck and Flowmotion to create amazing combos and create a ton of havoc. After a while you reach a massive boss where you must use all of your newfound abilities to save Traverse Town and end the demo.
While the Nintendo 3DS already has some good looking games in its library, Kingdom Hearts 3D is definitely among the prettier of the bunch. The game echoes the visuals found in the PlayStation 2 games immaculately and the art style is classic Kingdom Hearts through and through. The 3D effect is no slouch either, presenting both a great sense of depth and vibrant visuals that make the game look stunning in the palm of your hand. The voice acting is top notch too, and while the series’ trademark melodrama is apparently back in full force, the voices never fall into the ‘annoying’ trappings of some of the other games in the series, at least from what I’ve seen in the demo.
While this demo is rather short (less than 10 minutes if you run straight to the boss), it does serve as a great introduction to what Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance is all about. The new gameplay mechanics are a perfect fit for the series, adding a new layer of depth to a combat system that, at times, felt a tad shallow. The presentation is also world class, showing off what the Nintendo 3DS can do now that developers are starting to master the system. In short, this demo has shown to me (an admitted Kingdom Hearts doubter in the past) that the game is definitely on the right track.
Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance will launch on July 31st in North America but you can check out the demo now on the Nintendo 3DS e-Shop.