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Saturday, 24 January 2015

Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance.

Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance.

Hey, guys. You know what I have a craving for today? Kingdom Hearts. But I refrain from playing it, because I know I'll only regret it. It's like when you're drunk and you crave a donor kebab. You know that it will only make you throw up and won't even taste that good in the first place, so if you are a wise drunk, you refrain.

But let's talk about the last Kingdom Hearts game I played, Dream Drop Distance. What a ridiculous title. 

Dream Drop Distance covers Sora and Riku's Mark of Mastery Exam, which sees them journeying through 'sleeping' worlds where dream monsters called Dream Eaters have started rampaging. Allying themselves with good Dream Eaters, the two seek to awaken the worlds they pass through, while tangling with a mysterious time-manipulating youth. 

Like any Kingdom Hearts game, the best part about it is the opening cutscene, which is beautiful and which you should check out immediately. I will await your return here.

I'll just look at this picture while you're gone.

Okay, done that? Good. Let's continue.

Dream Drop Distance is a very typical Kingdom Hearts game: The gameplay is more or less identical to Birth by Sleep, which in turn hasn't really changed much from Kingdom Hearts 2. Which is fine, actually: Riddled with issues as this series is, gameplay is not and has never been one of its major problems. It's solid hack and slash gameplay with some RPG elements, and that works out just fine for it. Purportedly they tried to make gameplay between Sora and Riku different, but as is the case with Birth by Sleep, you can't really tell. 

The major new addition for this game is that you have a party of good Dream Eaters at your disposal. You can switch these Dream Eaters out to create a new party with new abilities, and they factor into your special attacks - either launching a team attack with Sora or fusing with Riku to give him a super mode, depending on who you're playing as. It's a nice touch to the gameplay, one that nudges it a little more towards the RPG end of the scale than its predecessors, although it does come off as a little incongruous when you're in a climactic battle and a rainbow coloured deer is frolicking behind you firing lasers from its antlers.

(Like all Kingdom Hearts games, the worlds you visit - whether they be meant to be bustling marketplaces, busy cities, or anywhere else - are utterly deserted save for monsters, making everywhere you go seem utterly lifeless. We know it's not meant to be intentional, a play on these worlds 'dreaming', because every game in this series is like this, and that's terrible. But that's not really the problem either.)

What a heterosexual shot.

No, where Dream Drop Distance's problems lie is its story, as is always the case, because Kingdom Hearts stories are incoherent. What on earth was going on in this game, you ask? Well, don't look at me, somewhere around the point where dead characters started showing up and they started explaining the rules of time travel and talking about seekers of light and darkness, I had to tune all of the pretentious nonsense. Who knows what's going on! Who knows anything anymore? It's all just Leonard Nimoy and Mickey Mouse ranting at each other about hearts, and I'm too old to try to parse any of that. If you actually have a coherent explanation of the plot, then by all means tell me.

Sometimes, people try to claim to me that there is some great plan behind all of this. Often, that person is Tetsuya Nomura, and he isn't claiming it to me personally so much as the world at large, but the fact remains that it is an obvious falsehood. It has been very clear throughout these past few Kingdom Hearts games that this story is being made up as it goes along, and not very well, which is why we now have this bizarre tangle of pretension, gibberish and fanservice. I am displeased with this. 

The smaller plots in each individual world aren't great either. In a fortunate twist, you're only visiting them twice this time around, not three times as you were in Birth by Sleep, and I can't actually remember what any of those individual plots were. They made no impression on me, they were just sort of there, being thinly veiled excuses to throw more monsters at you. 

Cashing in on TRON Legacy, I see.

Not to mention that while Sora is fun to watch, Riku is about as interesting as soggy cardboard. 

So, all in all, it's - well, not disappointing, because my expectations of Kingdom Hearts are catastrophically low, but not very good, let's put it that way. It is good but not remarkable gameplay strung together with a storyline that makes absolutely no sense if you haven't played its predecessors, makes almost no sense if you have, and hinges largely on the ability of the most boring character in the franchise to carry half the game. 

But, you know, it's not as if Kingdom Hearts III will ever be released, so we must make do. 

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