Kingdom Hearts 3D Hands on Impressions from PAX East 2012
Kingdom Hearts 3D is not a spin off
Kingdom Hearts has been a title near and dear to my heart since it first arrived on the PS2. A world that brings together the best of Final Fantasy and Disney to one single universe. This combination will click with anybody who loves gaming, young and old. Lately, fans of the Kingdom Hearts universe have been treated with spin offs instead of a proper sequel to Kingdom Hearts 2. Enter Kingdom Hearts 3D, also known as Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance for the Nintendo 3DS.
Dream Drop Distance is not a spin off, but it also isn’t Kingdom Hearts 3. The latest adventure takes Sora and Riku on a journey through time after the events of Kingdom Hearts 2. If it has been awhile since you have played Kingdom Hearts 2, let me refresh your memory. Sora and Riku had defeated the evil Xemnas (Ansem’s Nobody) and the duo was returned to Destiny Island. Shortly after their arrival, Sora receives a letter from King Mickey. Kingdom Hearts 3D is the story of what contents were in that letter.
I was able to sit down and get my hands on a Japanese build of Kingdom Hearts 3D at Square Enix’s private suite at PAX East 2012. After my demo I can certainly say that Dream Drop Distance will be the best portable version of Kingdom Hearts to date. During the demo I was able to only play as Sora, but as many gamers know, Riku is also a playable character in Kingdom Hearts 3D.
Since the game was in Japanese, I wasn’t able to really get any of the story elements. I could tell I was obviously playing in the Tron universe from Disney, but I had no idea what was going on. I was forced to focus on the game play elements instead of the story. Luckily I had the product manager, Raio Mitsuno, guiding me through the demo. He pointed out some new things in the series, and made sure that I stayed on the correct path.
A new enemy type has been introduced known as the Dream Eaters. This new enemy type adds some new elements to Sora and Riku’s arsenal. Every time you kill a Dream Eater, their soul is collected by your character. Once you have enough souls collected, your character can unleash a combination attack with the Dream Eaters. The touch screen is utilized to perform these attacks, and all the player has to do is tap the correct icon. For instance, one of the Dream Eaters turned into a giant circular wrecking ball, and I could slam the creature into the ground to defeat enemies with ease.
Kingdom Hearts 3D really has a focus on variety
Raio Mitsuno also informed me that each level has its own unique set of Dream Eater attacks. Meaning that variety of attacks will be something players can look forward to. He also told me that while Sora uses the Dream Eaters to attack his enemies, while Riku will absorb the enemies to make him more powerful. He gave the example of charging up Riku’s attack, then unleashing a crazy powerful combo attack with the souls of Dream Eaters.
Controlling Sora on the 3DS was easy for the most part. The general controls haven’t changed, and the slider pad didn’t cause any dilemmas maneuvering Sora around. Kingdom Hearts 3D will support the circle pad pro, but I was not able to try out the attachment. Using the D-Pad to switch between commands was familiar, and worked just as easily as I expected. I was able to test out the returning free flow mechanic; picture Sora performing parkour that was introduced in Birth by Sleep. At any time Sora can run into a wall and with the press of a button can use the wall as a catapult. While in the air, Sora can either attack towards the ground, or can continue to fly through the air. This technique can be used for fast traveling, or for new combo opportunities. It may have been the Tron universe, but the 3DS screen was almost too small to handle all of the motion. I’m not saying the frame rate was bad, the frame rate was actually solid, but it was hard for me to tell exactly what Sora was doing, especially with the 3D turned on.
Speaking of 3D, obviously one of the selling points for Kingdom Hearts 3D is the fact it’s in 3D. I played most of the demo with the slider turned all the way down. (3D usually gives me a bad headache). Every couple of minutes I would turn the 3D on to see how the game looked. The 3D effect was quite good during cut scenes, but I found the 3D to be overwhelming during battle. It might be the fact I just am not used to the 3D on the 3DS, but I found the game much easier to play with the 3D off.
The other major feature I got to play around with was the Drop mechanic. The name Dream Drop Distance comes from a feature new in Kingdom Hearts 3D. While playing there is a meter that is constantly dropping, and once that meter runs out the game switches characters. Riku and Sora both have their own unique stories that are transpiring at the same time. It’s almost like a parallel story arc and both characters are not in the same place when they “drop.” Instead, the game takes off exactly where you left it after each drop. Depending on how you played throughout the level, bonuses can be added to a character that can affect things like strength and decrease the rate of which the drop meter falls. At any time the player can perform a drop, but to obtain bonuses players would want to avoid manually performing a drop.
Kingdom Hearts 3D overall was a lot of fun to play. There is a lot of game and a lot of features packed into the 3DS cartridge. Even though I would much rather have Kingdom Hearts 3, I have a feeling the secret ending of Kingdom Hearts 3D will set fans of the series up nicely for the inevitable Kingdom Hearts 3. If you have been waiting to pick up a 3DS, then this might be the title to push you over the edge. Kingdom Hearts 3D will be releasing in the US on July 31st, 2012.
You can check out all of our PAX East 2012 coverage HERE.