The Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance demo hit the 3DS eShop last week, and it brought with it a fresh sample of what players can expect in the series’ next entry. A real feel for the controls, combat, and general attitude of the upcoming title really helped tease the full game.
Upon booting up the demo, players have a choice between a tutorial or hopping right into the demo. Choosing the demo drops Sora into battle with Little Mermaid‘s Ursula the Sea Witch (who, oddly enough, doesn’t seem to appear anywhere but the tutorial). Players are taught the basics of jumping, attacking, dodging, blocking, and executing commands with the face buttons. These are all simple enough, but executing commands has been refined for KH:3D. In past games, scrolling through the command list with the D-pad limited the player’s keyblade attacks. Now, one can simply scroll with the D-pad and execute with the X button, leaving the A button free for standard attacks.
After “tangling” with Ursula (get it, because she has tentacles!? …anyway), players are dropped into the first district of Traverse Town, a familiar site to longtime KH fans. Here, they learn the basics of Flowmotion, the game’s leading mechanic. To put it simply, Flowmotion is the crazy acrobatic stuff you see in Final Fantasy cut-scenes, except it’s totally within the player’s control. Sora and Riku can glide along the ground and run on walls with taps of the Y button, and further presses give them a burst of speed. Jumping from these movements with B launches players into the air, where they can perform even more acrobatic attacks. This Flowmotion can be executed by running on walls, dashing along the ground, or jumping onto rail-like objects a la Sonic the Hedgehog.
The final stage of the tutorial takes place in Traverse Town’s second district, where players learn the Reality Shift mechanic. Certain objects and enemies can be “shifted” when highlighted, and sliding down on the touch screen activates a contextual event. This instance had a barrel highlighted; when shifted, players could launch the barrel via a slingshot on the touchscreen.
After completing the tutorial and starting the true demo, players are again dropped into Traverse Town with Sora. Here, The World Ends with You‘s Neku makes an appearance, complete with a sweet music track from his native game. Speaking of “the game” and showing the countdown embedded on his palm (both key parts of TWEWY), Neku really brings the Square Enix influence to the scene.
As Sora makes his way through the new carnival-like fourth district of Traverse Town, we got the chance to try several new abilities and spells, all easily executed with the X button. Two new spells called Balloon and Spark could be used. Balloon created a small cluster of balloons which Sora then sent flying like pool balls, damaging nearby enemies. Spark created a circle of diamond-shaped energy around Sora, which rotated a few times before spreading out in a wave of impact. New abilities included many flourished attacks, but one that stood out was Slot Edge. When used, each successive hit causes slot icons to appear on the bottom of the screen. Landing three consecutive hits nets the player a sprinkling of money or health.
Combat also allowed us to use Links, a special attack caused by Sora teaming up with one of the Dream Eaters in his party. One we used partnered us with a cat-like Dream Eater for a Guitar Hero-esque rythym minigame; pressing the correct buttons in time dealt damage to nearby enemies. Teaming up with the pug-like party member allowed us to bounce around the field like a basketball, dealing damage within an impact radius.
The demo ended in another new section of Traverse Town - the fifth district, which resembled a glass house. Here, we faced the Hockomonkey, a boss which looked like a monkey with its torso caught in a box. The fight was easy, to say the least: we finished the fight in under a minute thanks to the abilities at our disposal. However, it makes sense that these abilities were only usable at this stage of the game because of the demo. In fact, the Balloon and Spark spells were already upgraded to Balloonra and Sparkga, the second and third iteration of the spell, respectively.
In any case, this demo gave us more hands-on time with Sora and company, something we can always appreciate. If the small bit of combat and exploration we saw here is any indication, Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance is on par with console entries, yet setting itself apart with the insanity of Flowmotion. Kingdom Hearts 3D launches on July 31 in North America. Until then, keep it locked here at Front Towards Gamer for updates.