Another day, another Kingdom Hearts game. Like most gamers who fell in love with the series when it first came out a decade ago, I’ve become annoyed and frustrated with the ridiculous amount of games released across multiple platforms. These are games that I have found the time and money to play: Kingdom Hearts, Kingdom Hearts 2, Chain of Memories (started it but absolutely hated the battle system and didn’t complete it), 358/2 Days, and now Dream Drop Distance. I played about an hour or so of Birth By Sleep. At the time I was like, “Uhh… three new characters I’m not already emotionally invested in and I have to play all three of their stories? No thanks.” Maybe, if I ever have the time, I will check it out. The battle system seemed fun, at least. In Kingdom Hearts games that’s pretty much all I can hope for. Because, really, who understands what is going on nowadays?
I will admit, they did wrap things up nicely for the (still?) highly anticipated finale. There are data files on all the previous installments. Read them at your own risk: smoke might be coming out of your ears by the time you’re done trying to wrap your head around the ridiculousness of it all. To me, the plot has morphed into a jumbled mess of hearts, heartless, nobodies, dreams, nightmares, and Xehanort’s multiple bodies. For those of you who don’t intend on playing the installments on the handheld consoles, but still look forward to Kingdom Hearts 3, here is the only useful information I managed to walk away from at the end of the game that sets the stage for the finale:
SPOILER: During the keyblade war (which took place many, many years ago), the Super Keyblade was broken into 20 pieces: seven of light and 13 of darkness. Xehanort, of course, wants it. And every single event in every single Kingdom Hearts game was apparently ALL his doing in preparation for the Keyblade Wars (the unlockable cut scene at the end of Kingdom Hearts 2 alluded to the war). Yeah, he’s got great foresight. Organization XIII was created for this very purpose. He wanted thirteen nobodies to fill with his heart, essentially making 13 of himself. 13 Xehanorts=13 wielders for the darkness Keyblades. And it looks like the seven light Keyblade wielders will be King Mickey, Sora, Riku, Aqua, Ventus, Terra, and… Axel! He’s no longer in the Organization, so he wishes to go by his real name, Lea. Oh, and Riku is a dream eater. He exists to protect Sora and, um, eat his nightmares? Yeah, weird. And they really glossed over it all too… Xehanort: “You’re a dream eater.” Riku: “Ya don’t say.” The end. Well, whatever. Riku is still the bomb.
And there you have it. That’s really all I think I learned that should be of importance for the next game if they get around to it in the next few years. Onto the battle system.
I am starting to feel like the developers are purposely doing things to frustrate me. Convoluted plot lines aside, the whole “drop” system is pointless and only serves to make the player want to throw their expensive 3DS across the room. The premise for the game is that Sora and Riku are going into the “dreams of worlds” (or some other crap like that) to unlock keyholes. If they complete the trials, they become Keyblade Masters. The great part about this is getting to play as Sora and Riku through the game. The BAD part is how they decided to go about this. Instead of just making you swap characters in between world completion or certain plot points, there is a timed “Drop” gauge. Once it is depleted, your character falls asleep and you are plopped back into the action of the other one. I swear up and down that it purposely waited until I was in the middle of a boss fight or wandering around lost to swap toons on me. Which only serves to disorient the player. There are items called “drop-me-nots” that you can use in battle to extend the gauge to give yourself some more time. But with the way the battle system works, I wasn’t too keen on it.
Here’s how abilities and magic AND using items works in this game: a command deck. Yes, I almost had a heart attack when that popped up in the tutorial, but it isn’t a Chain of Memories deck. You choose what you want to equip and cycle through them during battle while they recharge or if there is a certain ability you want to use at the time. Items are included in this limited deck of yours, so you have to sacrifice an ability or magic spell you could be using to make room for consumables. I would much rather use every deck slot for super-powerful abilities. So, the only magic spell I ever used was a cure spell, and I never equipped items unless I had to. When my drop gauge started beeping and I didn’t want to switch characters, I hopped into the menu and equipped my drop-me-nots. You can’t do this during battles, so if you drop during a boss fight you have to start it over from the beginning when you switch back to that character.
Another mechanic called Flowmotion is introduced in this game, and it serves to make battles flashier. I liked having access to funky physical attacks if I was waiting for moves in my deck to recharge. Flowmotion incorporates the scenery during battles, and also helps you navigate the areas. I would literally spend entire battles just bouncing off walls and pole dancing to kill enemies. There is also Reality Shift. Reality Shift utilizes the bottom touch screen. When the lock-on cursor changes on enemies, you can choose to Reality Shift. This unlocks a sort of mini-game on the touch screen and you have to use the stylus to follow the prompts. Some of them were pretty neat, and they were all different depending on the world I was in. They could be fun, but by the time I received the prompt the enemy was almost dead and it was more time-efficient to just pummel them a couple more times. Reality Shift is scripted during boss fights as well.
The only other aspect of the battle system I feel I really need to touch on is the party system. Instead of fighting alongside Donald and Goofy, you get PETS instead! Yay! And you get to feed them and pet them! Woohoo! I’m not sure what Square-Enix’s thing with pets is lately. Like in Final Fantasy XIII-2, your pets join you in combat and level up alongside you. In Kingdom Hearts, you interact with them more, but the abilities they unlock go to Sora or Riku, which is a neat twist. I only had a handful of pets that I used… I couldn’t be bothered to farm mats or anything. It didn’t seem to have an enormous effect in my gameplay, anyway.
Speaking of Sora and Riku, Riku is by far the superior candidate. I liked his available move set better. He isn’t nearly as annoying as Sora, and he gets the epic final boss battles and saves the day, mostly. I definitely have to side with team Riku on this one… though it no longer seems like they are fighting over Kairi but entering their own love affair. Really, how much more can two characters stroke each other? “Sora’s the best!” “Oh, Riku’s so great.” They’ve obviously moved past trying to get into Kairi’s pants.
If you’re looking to dive back into various Disney worlds, swing around a keyblade, and play a decent 3DS title, definitely pick this game up. Don’t expect to see any Final Fantasy characters, they’ve jumped ship for some reason. The only Square characters present are from The World Ends With You. If you’re a diehard Kingdom Hearts fan, you’ll enjoy this title, but this definitely isn’t the game you buy a 3DS for.