The handheld games in the KH series have always been a place for experimentation by the developers. They can try things on these shorter, more to-the-point games so that the next staple in the series can incorporate the better of these new features (if it ever comes out). Things such as deck commands from Birth By Sleep, and now free-flows and Dream Eaters in KH3D are just a few examples of these “test features”.
If you’ve played Birth By Sleep for the PSP, you’ll feel right at home with KH3D. Without the circle-pad pro, the button set-up is identical. Target and lock-on with the L/R buttons, move with the circle pad, and perform your actions with the face buttons. You also have a list of set deck commands that you’ll be able to change around and cycle through instead of having an MP gauge or special commands. Again, just like Birth by Sleep.
Before I go any further, keep in mind I played a Japanese build on a debug 3DS, so I didn’t exactly know everything that was happening on screen.
The other big addition for this handheld game are the Dream Eaters. You are without your companions Donald and Goofy this time around, so instead you have these buddies called Dream Eaters, which you can have three with you at any time, and two out on the field at any time. As they move around and help you fight enemies, their gauges on the bottom screen will fill up, and once they’re full, you can tap their picture down below to grab them and do a powerful combination attack. If both your DE’s gauges are full, you can grab both and do an even more powerful attack. All the attacks did plenty of damage, but were pretty basic. I suppose depending on how many different DE’s there are will affect how useful and interesting their mechanic is in the game.
The last bit of new mechanics I got to see was a special attack that will activate randomly in combat. An arrow will appear on the bottom screen, and when you hit it, you’ll go into a quick touch-screen minigame. In the case of the Tron Legacy world, as its unique to the world, not the character, I had to hit three red words in a code that was flashing below. Afterward, I had the option to explode out of the ground and destroy enemies with laser beams. Who doesn’t love laser beams.
As a fan of the series, and as one who is on the more patient side of waiting for a third official Kingdom Hearts game, I walked away very pleased with this demo. I haven’t mentioned the story in this preview because I assume you KH fans out there already know and fully understand it. Maybe you’ve even read the Japanese synopsis on it. In case you aren’t a fan, if I tried to describe the idea of going into the dreaming world in order to complete the “Mark of Mastery” exam so Sora and Riku can both become Keyblade Masters… Wait, I lost you? Yeah, that’s what I thought.
If you love Kingdom Hearts’ crazy convoluted story, and the team’s tendency to add new combat mechanics that will usually never see the light of day in any other game in the series, I think you will get what you want out of Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance.
Stay tuned for my review and more info when the game drops in North America July 31st, and in Europe August 3rd.