Welcome to the Kuro Matsuri Video Games review of Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance: Mark of Mastery Edition.
Kingdom Hearts 3D, a.k.a., Dream Drop Distance, is a continuation of the Kingdom Hearts series. In fact, if anything, it is the culmination of the series so far. It refers to nearly all of the previous iterations of Kingdom Hearts. In part, that is what makes the Mark of Mastery Edition of Kingdom Hearts 3D so impressive; at least in part, the bonus items reference all of the previous iterations.
First, here’s a note of everything that comes with the Mark of Mastery Edition of Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance:
The Mark of Mastery Edition comes with a variety of items. The box is multi-layered with a white and grey design on the outside, and a black and grey design on the inside. Of course, it comes with the game. In addition to the game, it also comes with a set of postcards that go through every iteration so far of the Kingdom Hearts series. This includes the Final Mix re-releases, so there are quite a few high-quality postcards with very pretty and clean art on them. It’s practically an art collection for the series. In addition to that, it also comes with a set of 5 AR (augmented reality) cards. These serve multiple purposes within the game. The first is that it allows you to specifically place your Dream Eaters (the monsters that are on your side) onto a location and circle around them with the camera as though they were really there. Additionally, some of them allow you to get rare Dream Eaters by scanning them; Dream Eaters that cannot be obtained any other way. Don’t worry; if you don’t have these, don’t think you’ll be at a significant disadvantage. The secret Dream Eaters are modifications of Dream Eaters that you can normally get in the game, but with marginally improved characteristics. It’s a nice touch for the collector, but it won’t hurt the experience in any way for the non-collector.
Finally, it comes with a protective case for the 3DS with a Kingdom Hearts design on it. The protective case is in two pieces. The top piece has a nice black-on-clear design on it, while the bottom piece is only clear, serving only to protect. As such, I’ve chosen to only use the top piece, as it adds a nice style, but it doesn’t prevent you from using the charging dock included with the original 3DS. As a note, this case will not fit on the 3DS XL. Here’s what the top layer of the case looks like on my red 3DS (note, the Keyblade attachment is not included):
Overall, the Mark of Mastery Edition includes a nice array of extras. It includes practical items, like the 3DS protective case. It includes digital items, like the Dream Eaters you get for scanning the AR cards. It also includes collector’s art items, like the postcards and the AR cards themselves. All-in-all, it is one of the better collector’s editions out there.
Now to the actual game:
Pacing: 4/5 Stars (Above Average)
The pacing is always limited when you’re talking about a handheld console. Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance does a good job of balancing portability and pacing. Generally, a portable game needs quicker pacing, and the ability to put the game down at any time. Dream Drop Distance achieves this by providing a mechanic by which the user is encouraged to play for shorter periods of time; it’s called the Drop mechanic. After a set, but unspecified, amount of time, you will be forced to switch between Sora and Riku. It can be jarring, but it does provide a sense of urgency. Additionally, it manages to break up the action into bite-size chunks; perfect for a handheld experience. That being said, if you are attempting to experience the entire game in one go, it can mess things up, and it can be frustrating.
However, it does allow you to immediately switch back to the character you were playing as, which alleviates a lot of the frustration. You do lose out on some bonuses during the switch, since you gain optional bonuses by getting enough points between drops, but the bonuses are fairly nominal, and going without them doesn’t seem to make a huge difference in your capabilities.
Story: 4/5 Stars (Above Average)
The story brings all of the stories from the previous Kingdom Hearts games together. All of them play a role, even Kingdom Hearts: Coded. They culminate into one experience that explains a lot, albeit in the same obfuscated way that all Kingdom Hearts stories seem to go about it. If the story wasn’t so contrived, this would be an amazing story from beginning to end. Instead, the story comes of as “good, but hard to understand”, meaning that the level in which you have been involved in the other Kingdom Hearts stories will heavily dictate how much you enjoy the story in this one.
Don’t worry, though, if you have missed some of the previous games. It provides flashback sequences, as well as text-based re-caps, of many of the previous games’ stories. This means that you can miss some games and still get the grand sense of the overall story. However, if you haven’t played any of the previous games, the grand over-arching plotline will likely be lost on you.
Presentation: 5/5 Stars (Superb)
Given the resolution of the 3DS, the graphics are very impressive. It runs smoothly the entire time, and it proves entertaining throughout. This honestly seems like some of the best graphics the console can manage, even though it is so early in the console’s career. All-in-all, nothing is really missing from the presentation in Kingdom Hearts 3D.
3D: 5/5 Stars (Superb)
Not everyone likes 3D, but it does add some extra depth in Kingdom Hearts. It does take some practice to hold it still enough to fully enjoy the 3D without it getting in the way, but it manages to be engaging even at the highest 3D settings once you get used to it. If you can’t manage to get used to the 3D effects, you can turn them off without any real hindrance to the gameplay experience, but you will be missing out on just how interactive and immersive the 3D gameplay can be.
Gameplay: 4/5 Stars (Above Average)
The new Flow Motion abilities are great fun to play around with. They allow you to travel across the areas at great speed, and they allow you to perform relatively low risk and relatively high-damage attacks to enemies in the middle of a battle. Given the time constraints forced upon you by the Drop mechanic, this fast-paced movement is much appreciated. But, more than that, it’s outright fun. Darting around the level at high speeds just makes the experience that much more entertaining. Unfortunately, it does manage to expose some of the flaws in the levels when you hit unexpected invisible walls, but they don’t interfere as much as you might expect. Overall, the gameplay is very polished and very clean.
It does borrow from the previous game in the series, Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep, for the Deck Commands. At any point, you can press X to perform the highlighted special attack or spell. This lets you customize how you play quickly and easily, while almost always allowing you to continue being effective. Additionally, since this is only a part of the fighting mechanics, there’s plenty to do outside of the Deck Commands, giving you lots of flexibility in battle.
Kingdom Hearts 3D also allows you to train Dream Eaters to fight by your side. These Dream Eaters effectively replace the roles that Goofy and Donald played in some of the previous games. They are your computer-controlled allies, and they can be powerful. Creating new Dream Eaters and leveling them up also provides a way for you to increase your own skills and abilities, similar to the way the Sphere Grid worked in Final Fantasy X. You build up points and use them to travel around each Dream Eater’s grid to unlock new skills, stats, and abilities. It allows for a lot of customization of the gameplay, letting you play how you want to play.
If only it weren’t so complex and confusing. There are so many aspects that allow you to customize how you play that it can be overwhelming at times. However, if you just continue to play and “go with the flow”, if you will, you’ll find it very enjoyable.
Exploration: 5/5 Stars (Superb)
The Kingdom Hearts games, at least in part, are known for their relatively linear paths that also allow for plenty of exploration. More so than other games in the series, there is a lot to explore in Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance. There’s enough branching paths and open areas that it can be difficult to thoroughly explore all of it as you look for more treasures, but that’s exactly what makes it interesting. Even in the early levels, it can be quite the challenge to find every treasure box and fight every special enemy Dream Eater. If you want to complete the game, you will have a lot of fun continuously exploring each of the worlds to find every nook and cranny in your attempts to collect every item available.
Replay Value: 4/5 Stars (Above Average)
Thanks to a New Game Plus feature, you can carry over the Dream Eaters you’ve created in a previous game. They lose their levels and abilities, but it goes a long way towards helping you complete the Dream Eater bestiary as you play through multiple rounds. Additionally, beating the game on the initial hardest difficulty, Proud Mode, unlocks a new difficulty, Critical Mode, giving you extra incentive you play through the game once more as you increase your Kingdom Hearts skills.
Difficulty: 3/5 Stars (Average)
Let’s face it, the difficulty in Kingdom Hearts as been up and down throughout the series. The first Kingdom Hearts had plenty of challenge, and the second Kingdom Hearts was way too easy. 358/2 Days was awkward to play, and Birth By Sleep was very smooth to play, but both were reasonably difficult. Dream Drop Distance really falls somewhere between all of these. The challenge level is pretty low, even at the hardest difficulties. That being said, it is nowhere near as easy as Kingdom Hearts II was. It will provide a reasonable challenge on Proud Mode, and a real challenge on Critical Mode, but nothing extraordinary; that is, unless you want to go for a Level 1 Critical Mode play-through by blocking all experience points. That certainly does prove challenging. But, one step below that is only a reasonable challenge, and nothing more.
Overall: 4/5 Stars (Above Average)
All things considered, Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance is a lot of fun to play. It ties lots of previous Kingdom Hearts stories together in a meaningful way, and provides a reasonable challenge. It also features a drive for collection by keeping track of how many treasures you’ve found, as well as providing you with the option to create more allies and level them up to gain new abilities and stats. This is one of the better games in the Kingdom Hearts series, right up there with Birth By Sleep and Kingdom Hearts II. It is well worth the purchase.
Enjoy the game!