Other new mechanics include the Dive, Flowmotion, and Reality Shift systems. Dive Mode is a replacement for the repetitive Gummi Ship segments of previous games: you’ll still be zooming around a scrolling stage, but they’re offered in much more palatable segments that are just exciting enough to feel fun. Flowmotion turns Sora and Riku into venerable combat acrobats, where dashing into parts of the environment will trigger nifty offensive moves, or highly mobile methods of travel like gliding and grinding. Flowmotion makes the chore of exploring previously cleared areas a breeze, though it’s a bit less satisfying to use during skirmishes.
Reality Shifts are mid-fight quick-time events that utilize the touchscreen with prompts unique to each world; nailing them will bolster your attacks and break up the pace nicely, but if you’re wary of QTEs, you can easily skip them. Additionally, the Flick Rush minigame offers an amusing distraction in the form of a 3v3 Dream Eater tournament – think Pokemon Stadium meets the classic card game War.
Like the Kingdom Hearts games before it, much of DDD’s magic lies in its environments, and how flawlessly they evoke the original film or game setting they’re based on. Watching Sora and Quorra team up in the TRON: Legacy level is fantastic, and we were over the moon for Riku’s run-ins with the stylish teens of The World Ends With You (complete with the same voice actors as their DS debut). Every detail of each world, character, and Dream Eater looks crisp and clean on the 3DS screen, whether you’ve got 3D enabled or not, and the score is equally enchanting. Slashing enemies to the tune of Tchaikovsky’s “Nutcracker Suite” in the Fantasia (1940) world was an experience we won’t soon forget.
As with previous games in the series, DDD is not without its problems: the camera is still finicky (though it’s a bit more manageable when using the Circle Pad Pro), the plot can get convoluted (but its got nothing on the tangled confusion of Birth by Sleep), combat can sometimes feel more tedious than engaging, and the difficulty ramps up wildly in the final world. Speaking of which, the final boss is a doozy – we nearly lost our minds after dying countless times to its two-hit kills and teleportation trickery. KH’s ultimate baddies were always tough, but this one takes the cake. Even with those issues, don’t consider them a deterrent to a great experience.
Kingdom Hearts 3D doesn’t revolutionize the franchise, and some of its experimental mechanics might not cater to your tastes. But despite any flaws it might possess, Dream Drop Distance still delivers splendidly in terms of unabashed fan service, and the kid in you will be ever gleeful tagging along with Sora and Riku for the ride.