Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance (3DS) Preview

Square Enix’s beloved Kingdom Hearts franchise stands alongside Marvel vs. Capcom as one of the greatest crossover series in video game history, with talented developers seamlessly blending elements from both Disney and Final Fantasy to create a remarkable journey spanning multiple systems, much to the delight of millions worldwide.

Fans desperately want to see how the story ends in the highly anticipated and mysterious Kingdom Hearts 3. Before that happens, though, they’ll need to get through the prequel,Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance.

Appearing exclusively on Nintendo’s 3DS, this promising effort sets in motion events leading to the climactic showdown between heroes Sora and Riku and the evil Xehanort.

As such, the game takes place after Kingdom Hearts Re:coded for DS. Both King Mickey and Yen Sid elect to put Sora and Riku (with new outfits) through the challenging Mark of Mastery exam so that they become true Keyblade Masters.

This means entering Sleeping Worlds filled with new foes called Dream Eaters, creatures that consume one’s dreams and produce nightmares.

Thing is, not all Dream Eaters are bad. Good ones, known as Spirits, will fight alongside Sora and Riku with signature attacks. One, which resembles a cat, bounces around the environments crushing bad guys, while a panda like critter spins. There’s even a big one that looks like a dinosaur. Apparently, you can recruit over 50 different Spirits, and an Augmented Reality mode lets you put these creatures into the real world, as seen through the system’s top screen.

Combat, in general, appears to be more streamlined than in previous Kingdom Hearts, where the goal was to make it fast-paced and fluid. It’s all part of a “free-flow” system that allows both protagonists to grind along rails and spin around lampposts while attacking their foes.

On top of that, a special Drop Gauge (located on-screen at all times) constantly depletes. Once it runs out, the game automatically switches to the previously controlled character, from the point players left off. That said, it remains to be seen whether this will keep things fresh or become an annoyance.

Of course, it wouldn’t be Kingdom Hearts without Disney-themed environments populated by a variety of memorable characters. Thus far, players can expect the familiar Kingdom Hearts hub world, Traverse Town (with new areas to explore) and Tron Legacy, along with Country of the Musketeers, starring Mickey, Donald and Goofy. Then there’s Prankster’s Paradise from Pinocchio, where gamers will interact with the cute wooden puppet, Geppetto, Jiminy Cricket and the Blue Fairy.

Finally, we have La Cite Des Cloches (The City of Bells) from The Hunchback of Notre Dame, featuring Quasimodo, Esmeralda and the three gargoyle statues, Victor, Hugo and Laverne; keep in mind other locations remain a mystery.

On a side note, familiar faces from the hit Square Enix RPG, The World Ends With You for DS will also make an appearance, such as Neku Sakuraba, Beat, Shiki Misaki and Joshua.

All told, Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distances should be yet another great addition to this captivating series and may serve as one of the best reasons to buy a 3DS. Look for it in Japan this March, with a U.S. release later this year.

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