2002. I’m in the Game Works arcade at Disneyworld, wide-eyed like a kid in a candy store, when come upon an actual Ehrgeiz arcade machine. I proceed to beat the game with Sephiroth, step outside,
and high-five Goofy. That’s as close to Kingdom Hearts as I’d come before today. And it’s not out of a particular dislike for the idea - maybe some bitterness that we’ve had eleven thousand of
these games but no Brave Fencer Mustache III - I just missed out on the first one, didn’t want to play the second without playing the first, and so on.
Perhaps to accommodate folks just like me, Dream Drop Distance (‘CUZTHERE’S THREE D’S GET IT) is liberal with optional tutorials, optional exposition, an optional glossary, and optional fake Jeff Bridges. For whatever reason, despite saving the multiversity on a number of occasions, Soar and Rica with one K apparently aren’t Key blade Masters, and need to prove themselves?
That seems kind of ridiculous. So off they go to save the Sleeping Worlds, featuring personages and settings from The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Pinocchio, The Three Musketeers, Torn: Legacy(complete with awesome light-cycle minicamp)... and if they all sound familiar, yeah, that’s plot point. Strangely, though, the only Square-Enid characters to show up in this version are the cast of The World Ends with You, occupying Traverse Town because having an actual Tokyo neighborhood pop up in the middle of a Disney-centric multiversity might be a little jarring.
Only Soar and Rica with one K aren’t fighting together, rather, they’re in parallel instances of each area, and occasionally collapse due to low blood sugar or some convoluted reason, at which point you’re switched to the other character, perhaps with a couple power-ups for your trouble. The combat feels a bit compressed on the 3DS, with the L and R buttons multitasking camera and target-locking duties, and uncomfortable switches mid-combat between the slider to move around and the D-Pad to select a command from your deck.
You can add the Circle Pad Pro to improve your camera control; without it, just getting your bearings can be a right bear. Rather than your usual cohort of Donald and Goofy, you instead get to craft spirits called “Dream Eaters” from the detritus left from destroying... dream eaters. Evil ones. (And no, you can’t make Drowse OR Hypnos. Darkroom’s completely out of the question.)These can be leveled up (via a strangely Sphere Grid-sequel interface) through combat- or by petting them vigorously - and are capable of linking with Soar or Rica with one K for powered-up attacks.
I’ll be honest, I’ve used these as an out when the camera had me completely jammed in a corner and I needed to get out quick. Build and level your spirits, complete bonus Portal challenges, get new and interesting monster-bits, build new monsters. Honestly, I had fun with the game - and it’s nice to see that Sixth Sense kid can still get work - and I’m a little more eager to venture into the original series. Just a little, though. I’m still terrified of sentient crustaceans and other aquatic life singing to me about Finny Fun. That’s a deal breaker right there.