E3 2012 Hands-on Preview: Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance

If you took what little grittiness Kingdom Hearts had with the first game and threw up cotton candy and pastel colors all over it, you’d get Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance (KH3DS). I’m not saying that it looks terrible; it’s just um, very, VERY Disney Town (see Birth by Sleep) and brightly, brightly colored. It’s definitely nothing like the earlier KH games, but it looks and plays a lot like BBS. If you loved the way BBS handled, gameplay-wise, get ready for a second helping. It seems that Square Enix has finally figured out what control scheme they want to use for the franchise from now on. Be thankful it’s not the control scheme from Re:Coded.

In case you aren’t familiar with those controls, they aren’t your traditional “tap X to slash.” Players load a set list of commands into the character’s arsenal, such as special attacks, magic spells, and even potions. When you’re ready for a specific command, you scroll through them with the directional buttons and select them. They recharge after a bit, so if you want to use commands more often, you have to load extras in your slots. It takes some getting used to, but once it’s mastered, you won’t want to go back to the original KH controls. In addition, the main characters can link up with other characters in their party. In BBS, the characters could link up with other characters they met in different Disney worlds and tap into special attacks with these links. In KH3DS, your links are those in your party. More specifically, the links are with Dream Eaters you um, catch…after you fight them.

In the demo I played, I played as Sora and he did not have his usual Donald and Goofy companions. I was a little disappointed. The Dream Eaters have some fun attacks, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that Sora had a bunch of Pokemon following him around. That is, a bunch of brightly colored Pokemon that look like they were former Heartless.

Dream Eater

Sora has his mission assignments, but he can “drop out” at any time during the mission, allowing the player to take over as Riku for his mission. The dropping is kind of dramatic with Sora/Riku collapsing onto the ground and what looks to be their shared soul swapping from one lifeless body to another. Dropping out at certain points, such as after completing mission objectives, nets the player rewards, so it can be advantageous to drop early and often.

Of course, as this was a 15 minute demo that was obviously in media res, I cannot divulge anything about the story. Then again, it is a KH game, so I most likely wouldn’t understand anything until the very end of the game anyway.

Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance releases on July 31st.