It’s been nearly a decade since Kingdom Hearts released for the PS2 in the United States. It was an instant hit, pairing original protagonist Sora with Donald Duck and Goofy in a wild adventure to aid King Mickey and rescue his friend, Riku.
With several levels, each representing a Disney film and populated by characters from the films, critics loved it, and gamers made it the ninth best-selling PS2 title.
Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance and heroes Sora and Riku will be available for purchase on July 31, the latest of the series’ several sequels and the first on the new generation of handheld gaming systems.
The game will be set primarily in seven worlds, including those based on old Disney classics like Fantasia and Pinocchio; one will also be based on recent and not-very-classic Tron: Legacy. In each world you can expect to see Disney characters associated with the film it’s derived from.
So what exactly is going to be happening in these worlds? Continuing from events shown at the end of Kingdom Hearts Re:coded, Sora and Riku are ready to take the Mark of Mastery exam so they can officially become Keyblade Masters. They need the skills to help fend off the returning Master Xenahort.
They’ll travel to each of the seven ‘dreaming’ worlds to reawaken them by unlocking keyholes in each one. And since these worlds are in a dream state, new creatures called Dream Eaters populate them.
Nightmares gobble up good dreams and serve as frequent enemies; Spirits eat up bad dreams and will also join Riku and Sora as your party members. They’ll be able to hunt and collect Dream Eaters, and can expect bonuses, attacks, and skills to be granted upon success.
Combat promises to be a faster, flashier affair this time around. Sora has new abilities, allowing him to flit around with ease during battle, even dropping from high above to perform an area attack and buffet back enemies.
And the extra emphasis on action is not only to make the game a bit more exciting, but also to serve as a bit of a preview for what gameplay will be like when the long-awaited Kingdom Hearts III hits consoles.
That title’s kind of funky, isn’t it? It sure is, but the words all do have meaning.
- Dream – Again, the seven worlds are in a dream land. Previously wiped out by Heartless, they’ve been reconstituted, but need further awakening to fully bring them back to life and in contact with the real world.
- Drop – A mechanism called the Drop Meter measures how long you control Sora or Riku. When it runs out, you switch characters whether you want to or not (though you’ll be able to choose to do so at save points and you can replenish the meter by attacking).
- Distance – As in, “the characters keep their distance from one another.” Sora and Riku are both taking the same exam, but they’re not in a party together and don’t ever get to interact during game play.
Dream Drop Distance will take advantage of the 3DS’ capabilities in several ways. Gamers with the Circle Pad Pro will be able to use it for camera control, and captured Dream Eaters can be played with an AR mode. Meanwhile, the touch screen will be used when hurling creatures away and it’ll be used to chain attacks, as well.
Available in Japan since late March, assuming the localization to English-language play is done well, this should be a must-have title. Japanese gaming magazine Famitsu gave the game a 38/40 review score, so we should be able to expect similar numbers here in the United States.
Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance is available July 31 from Square-Enix for Nintendo 3DS. Rated E10+ for Everyone 10 and Over (Fantasy Violence).
Jeff is currently playing Dragon Quest IX: Sentinel of the Starry Skies. Follow him on Twitter at JKLugar.