Kingdom Hearts III has been one of the most wanted games of the last 6+ years of gaming, ever since people believed that the secret ending of Kingdom Hearts II was actually a teaser trailer for KHIII. Well, that was actually for Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep. If you have followed the series over the past 10 years or have at least read any article about a Kingdom Hearts game on any website ever, you should know how a lot of people feel about the series. Many just want KHIII, saying things like "enough with the side games" or "the games on the handhelds are terrible and mean nothing to the story". Well, Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance has proven again that those people are wrong.
KH3D begins right after KHII (or if you want to get technical, then it picks up after Re:coded) and continues the story. Many have joked (including gaming magazine Gameinformer) that KH3D would be much better titled as "Kingdom Hearts III is coming: The Game" and to be fair, that's what it is. At least in terms of story, anyway. The game consists of Sora and Riku entering "the worlds of sleep" in order to awaken them. These worlds are asleep because when Sora went around freeing the worlds from darkness in KHI, there some worlds that were inaccessible because they were lost in sleep. They are awakening these worlds so that Master Yen Sid can consider them "keyblade masters", as this is their Mark of Mastery exam (The same exam Terra and Aqua took at the beginning of Birth By Sleep. If you have no idea who they are, we'll get to that later). This begins their journey, and in order to avoid spoilers, I will not go into too much further detail about specific events.
In this game, you play as both Sora and Riku, just like you played as multiple characters in BBS. However, this time there is a difference. While you can change between them whenever you want, there are reasons why you shouldn't. This is all because of the new "Drop" system. While playing as one character and advancing their story, when you defeat enemies or meet special goals you will receive "droplets". After a certain amount of time (which can be changed using items or other methods), you will "drop" to the next character and you will be able to use your droplets to enhance their abilities until the next time they drop. This makes the drop system a somewhat strategic affair, which I love. I love the new system, but it doesn't come without issues. Firstly, if you don't think you can beat a boss before you will drop again (and you can't change you item load out mid-battle), then drop. If you drop during a boss fight, they will recover all their health! I'm pretty sure this issue was fixed with a patch in the Japanese version, but such a thing has not been announced in the U.S. Also, you may think you can just beat the game with one character, then the other, but eventually you will be stuck until you catch the other character up. That isn't really an issue, as I made sure that Sora and Riku always started and finished worlds at about the same time, but others may not appreciate this.
Another new addition is the ability to "craft" and use "Dream Eaters" as partners in this game. That's right, Donald/Goofy and various Disney heroes do not help you fight, which may disappoint some. Anyway, Dream Eaters are the Heartless/Nobodies/Unversed or this game. However, there are two different kinds. The friendly "spirits" which fight with you, and the evil "nightmares" which fight against you. You craft these spirits using dropped items (like you would craft an item in KHI or KHII). There are a lot to choose from, with varying abilities.
Personally, I like the weird frog things (I named one keroro and one giroro, then had them fight with Riku....I hope one person gets the reference...). Spirits also have something called an "ability link board" where you spend points you get from playing with and leveling up spirits. You spend points on things to enhance your character's stats, like attack haste, health boost, or leaf bracer, just a name a few. You can also play with spirits, similar in style to Nintendogs.
While the core of the fighting system remains the same, there are three major additions to it. First is "flowmotion", which allows Sora and Riku to do things like kick and jump off walls, grind on rails, or swing around poles/enemies. Some of the Flowmotion is for the sake of faster travel, but most moves can then be used to attack as well, allowing you to use the environment to you advantage. The second addition is a system that let's you do special moves with Dream Eaters. When you link up with one, you can unleash devastating attacks. Sora actually uses the Dream Eater to fight, rolling around or bouncing around on them. Riku absorbs them so that he can unleash ridiculous combos that deal tons of damage. These attacks can really help against bosses and turn the tide of any battle.
The third new addition is the Reality shift system. When you are fighting an enemy, sometimes a purple cursor will appear over them and there will be arrow on the bottom screen. If you use the stylus to motion downwards on the touch screen, it will trigger the reality shift, which varies in each world. You will be given some task to do depending on the world and, if done correctly, you will unleash a big attack on your enemies. The Reality shifts are creative and fun, and make it so the bottom screen is more than just a map.
The game also features streetpass (though I still have yet to actually use it). In the game, while you are in a world, you tap a pink icon on the bottom screen where you can create a "portal" of three of your Dream Eaters. These portals will then be transferred to someone's game through streetpass, where, depending on what type of portal you picked, they can either fight your Dream Eaters or receive them as help for a limited time. It isn't the most useful or amazing streetpass, but it's nice that the game has something.
It's also awesome that almost every world in this game is brand new. I won't reveal the final world for spoiler reasons, but the Disney worlds are great. There is one based off of the Hunchback of Notre Dame (my favorite Disney movie), One based of off Tron: Legacy, One based on Pinocchio ( Riku does Monstro again, but Sora's is completely different), One based on Fantasia, and One based on the direct to DVD Mickey Mouse rendition of the Three Musketeers. All the worlds are fun and faithful to their original movies. Also, Traverse Town returns with brand new areas and TWEWY characters!
Seeing as how this is a Kingdom Hearts game, the music is fantastic. I don't think I need to go into detail about the awesomeness that is Yoko Shimomura. Anyway, here compositions are beautiful as always, and the music for the worlds of Disney movies sound great. This is especially true in "Symphony of Sorcery", the world based off of the Disney classic "Fantasia". The whole time you are in the world, you hear beautiful classical music, like the Nutcracker Suite. As far as sound goes in terms of things other than music, the voice acting is great. All voice actors return to their Square Enix character roles; Haley Joel Osment as Sora, David Gallagher as Riku, Leonard Nemoy as Master Xehenort, Jesse Mccartney as Roxas/Ventus, and the list goes on. Most of the Disney talent is there. You have the voice actors for Mickey and all his friends, some of the original cast of the movies the worlds are based on, and the replacements of those who could not return do good as well.
The game looks beautiful too. It probably has graphics that are at least on par (or in my opinion, much better) than those in KHI, KHII, or BBS. The 3D looks really good especially during the "dive" sequences (similar to the Gummi Ship parts from KHII). I never turned the 3D off.
All in all, it may seem like I regard this game as perfect, but it does have one major flaw. It wall make absolutely no sense to anyone who has not played every single, and i mean EVERY, Kingdom Hearts game released so far. Remember when i mentioned Terra and Aqua? They play really important parts, but if you didn't play BBS you will be very confused as to who they are and why they have anything to do with Sora. The game tries it's best to mend this issue, giving plot summaries of every game to date, but they only help so much. Thankfully, i didn't have to deal with the confusion, but it will exist for some.
So, all in all, this is a fantastic game. Is it the best game in the series so far? It probably is. Is it my favorite in the series. No, my favorite is 358/2 days, but I still believe this is the best game in the series. The new fighting system mechanics are fun and useful, the Spirits are awesome and cute, and the reality shifts are fun and creative. The story is easy to understand, unless you have not played every game before it. The music and voice acting are great like always, and the graphics are beautiful, with the 3D effect only enhancing it more. The game has a decent length (about 35 hours if you don't speed through it in two days) and there is plenty to bring you back after you beat it. You can finally re-fight bosses at your own leisure and you can get 100% on the journal. Plus, there is the secret ending, like always, that is the true ending to the game and eases the next one. OF course, all should know by now that the next one is Kingdom Hearts III, the final game of the Xehenort saga.
On a side note, It would be amazing if KHIII was released on the Wii U exclusively, or as multi-platform. Make it happen Square Enix!