I love the Kingdom Hearts series. I may not have finished 358/2 Days and I might not have even played Birth By Sleep, but I played the hell out of the main series and beat both the Sora and Riku versions of Chain of Memories. I do realize that the stories are convoluted and emotionally manipulative but I don’t even care: the gameplay is great and there’s always some new mechanic or system to explore from game to game.
When I saw that I had completely overlooked Dream Drop Distance, I immediately picked it up. It took a while to get back into that close-up Kingdom Hearts camera angle and it took even longer getting used to the camera controls (the game is compatible with the 3DS’s Circle Pad Pro but like hell I’m going to buy that) but I’m finally getting a feel for it which is allowing me to really get into the new systems in the game.
“Replacing Donald and Goofy with much more customizable party members? Yes, please.”
There are three things about Dream Drop Distance that make it different from the main series: Donald and Goofy are replaced by two “Dream Eaters” of your choosing (basically pokemon that you find “recipes” for then train up by using them in battle), there is no MP but your equipped spells and items have a cooldown, and you have to constantly switch between Riku and Sora’s storylines.
The first two things are pretty minor as far as gameplay-changers. I’m so used to the idea of powers with cooldowns from Chain of Memories (the battle system of which they basically include as a minigame in DDD) that it doesn’t phase me in the slightest. And replacing Donald and Goofy with much more customizable party members? Yes, please.
It’s the last change, the constant switching between storylines that took a while to get over. The way it works is pretty simple: when your timer runs out, you switch to the other character. There isn’t really a great explanation for why this happens that I’ve been able to figure out yet.
While both Riku and Sora start out in a version of Traverse Town, you soon travel to different worlds and this is where it gets a little complicated. Switching from the whale’s stomach in Pinocchio to The Grid from Tron is a little disorienting at first, especially because both characters have different fighting styles and powers.
But you do get used to it and soon you’ll start planning your actions around the transitions. One thing I learned early on was not to tackle a boss when my timer was almost done, largely because when you come back to the boss fight, you’ll have to start all over again. Lame. Other than that, though, I haven’t really found that there are many “reset” moments that happen from transition to transition.
One system that I’m really loving in this version of Kingdom Hearts is the party system. You can make an infinite number of one type of Dream Eater and your pool of created Dream Eaters is shared between Riku and Sora so there’s no feeling of unnecessary repetition there.
“Can’t figure out how to reach that rooftop? Bounce off a wall and do a sick mega-flip onto it.”
The training that you do with your Dream Eaters–whether that’s a Pokemon X/Y-style training minigame or just fighting alongside them–grants you the chance to open up new powers for Riku and Sora, as long as those Dream Eaters are active members of your party. The complexity is a little overwhelming at first (which should come to no surprise for KH veterans) but I quickly got a handle on what was going on.
The powers that you would normally unlock by leveling up are now accessible through Dream Eater leveling, things like increasing your health or increasing your Keyblade’s combo length. Now you have two things to keep in mind when picking a party: whether or not the Dream Eater’s stats are good enough as well as what powers you’re willing to lose/gain by equipping them. Stats and menus: I love ’em.
Oh right, there’s one more thing. Using the Y button, you can activate a sort of mega-movement power where you can spin around poles, do super-high jumps, even execute sweet attack combos if you’re near an enemy. This makes getting around the standard platformer-unfriendly levels a breeze. Can’t figure out how to reach that rooftop? Bounce off a wall and do a sick mega-flip onto it. No problem.
I realize that I’m late coming to this game and no, I don’t really care. With all the hype coming out around KH3 (check out the latest Final Fantasy XV news for extraneous hype info as well), I can damn well play old Kingdom Hearts games if I please. I might even go and buy the remixes. Hell, I might even play the mobile game! Watch me.