Operation Backlog Completion 2024
Feb 132017
 

With Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue now available, I set out on the next part of my Kingdom Hearts journey by playing Dream Drop Distance HD.

(Dream Drop Distance was originally made for the 3DS, and then remastered as part of the 2.8 collection for the PS4.)

I have mixed feelings about this game. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed it a lot. It’s worth playing, especially for the sake of the story. I just can’t help but feel that it could have been presented better.

Gameplay

First, it has a lot of new gameplay mechanics. Combat uses a Command Menu system similar to that in Birth By Sleep, but you also have party member monsters called Dream Eaters, which you get by crafting them out of dream pieces.

Dream Eaters gain levels along with you, but you’ll also want to earn Link Points (LP) to use on each Dream Eater’s ability board, which will give you new abilities and commands. You can also increase their LP, along with their experience and affinity, but playing games with them and petting them. Oh, and some paths on their boards won’t unlock until their disposition changes. Dispositions change random when you pet and feed them. You can also link with them during combat for special attacks, although how you do this depends on whether you’re playing as Sora or Riku.

Sora and Riku are both playable characters, but instead of following them through separate playthroughs like the protagonist’s of Birth By Sleep, you’ll swap between them whenever your Drop Gauge runs out. When that happens, you can spend the Drop Points you earned to give bonuses to the character you’re switching to. It’s possible to slow down the depletion of your Drop Gauge.

The first time you visit a world, you’ll have to Dive into it. Diving is a bit like flying the gummi ship, except less fun (and I don’t like the gummi ship). Fortunately, it doesn’t happen too often.

But wait, we’re not done with gameplay mechanics yet! “Flowmotion” lets you grind on rails, spin around poles, bounce off walls, and send certain large enemies flying. Then there are Reality Shifts, special systems that work differently in each world, from using barrels as a catapult to performing a rhythm mini-game.

Finally, there’s an optional mini-game called Flick Rush, which pits teams of Dream Eaters against each other in a card-based battle system.

Once you get into the game, all of this feels less overwhelming, but it still feels like Dream Drop Distance got unnecessarily complicated with its mechanics. But that can be forgiven. I play games for the story, anyway…

Story

Dream Drop Distance actually has a pretty interesting story, but it’s hindered by terrible pacing.

Bad pacing, but wonderful characters. Oh yes.
When I said “dream team,” I didn’t mean the heroes.

It begins in media res, which isn’t a problem on its own, but instead of a single flashback to explain everything, it spreads out the setup across multiple flashbacks.

Not only does this leave you confused for a while, but the game’s premise involves Sora and Riku entering the Sleeping Worlds, which are more or less the dreams of worlds that fell into darkness and weren’t fully restored. Sleeping Worlds are confusing enough as it is, and the spread out explanation makes it work.

(Personally, I think this plot would be better without the Sleeping Worlds at all.)

Anyway, that’s the start. What about the middle?

The middle of the game is filled with Disney worlds, some thematic connections, and… not a lot of plot. Now, Kingdom Hearts games usually save their major plot points for the end, but the non-Disney storytelling in Dream Drop Distance tends to come in two forms:

  1. The rest of the cast at Yen Sid’s tower realizing something has gone wrong.
  2. Kingdom Hearts villains appearing to make cryptic comments and then leave.

I have no objections to random Ansem teasing.

It felt a bit like the villains weren’t actually doing anything, they just wanted to tease the protagonists.

I’m not necessarily against this. I actually enjoyed it quite a bit. But the unclear plot direction throughout the middle of the game makes it all the more jarring when you reach the end…

…AND ALL THE PLOT HAPPENS!

Dream Drop Distance feels like the writers realized the entire plot was a bunch of plot twists, so they crammed it all into the end.

Now, I love the villains. I love listening to them monologue about their evil plans. I just wish I had a little more time to process everything before they moved on to the next plot point.

Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance, available for the 3DS (on its own) and PS4 (as part of Kingdom Hearts 2.8) is a fun game. The plot goes in some crazy directions that I personally find fantastic, and I loved the ending.

And yet, I can’t call it a great Kingdom Hearts game, despite featuring almost all of my favorite characters. If the pacing was a little different, it would make all the difference in the world…

What are your thoughts on Dream Drop Distance?

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