No one can lighten the mood quite like Donald Duck can. The world may be on the brink of destruction, and the boundaries of reality blurred across the time-space continuum, but with a single quack and a well-timed waggle of that feathery tail, it's all forgotten. And therein lies the reason for Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance's success. For all of its saccharine melodrama, hammy voice acting, and nigh on impenetrable plot points, those little touches of Disney magic--coupled with some fast-paced combat--make this grandiose action role-playing game an endearing and entertaining adventure.
6388781The neon lights of the grid are something to behold.
Of course, if you're not a fan of Mickey Mouse and his well-known entourage, then chances are a lot of that Disney charm will be lost on you. Likewise, if you've never played a Kingdom Hearts game before, then the already complex narrative becomes an impenetrable fortress of intertwining plot points. The game does its best to fill you in on the details via a series of flashbacks and essay-like recaps of past games, but with six games and six sprawling narratives to make sense of, only the most hardened of fans are likely to follow it all.
Be prepared to spend most of the game confused then. Sora, a spiky-haired teenager, teams up with Riku, a spiky-haired teenager, to take the Mark of Mastery exam--a test that will turn the pair from mere amateur adventurers into full-blown keyblade masters powerful enough to take on long-serving villain Master Xehanort. You play as both characters throughout the adventure, switching between them in timed intervals known as drops. It's a strange idea, and in practice it's disconcerting to be in the middle of a quest, only to be dragged out of it into an entirely separate one, often forgetting what on earth it is you're supposed to be doing. You can increase the length of your drop with buffs or by fighting enemies, but even then it's only by seconds. It doesn't help that as Sora and Riku are sent to alternate realities of worlds previously destroyed by the villainous Heartless, there's a lot of backtracking and repetition.
Naturally, the Mark of Mastery exam doesn't quite go according to plan, and the pair soon find themselves tangled up in yet another villain's dastardly plot to rule over the world of Kingdom Hearts. Cue nonstop blurry flashbacks, wavy visions of the future, and dialogue worthy of the campiest of B movies, and you've got yourself a plot. To go deeper would be to give too much away, but suffice it to say, it's an ambitious, almost Inception-like tale that gets very complicated very quickly--and not always for the right reasons. You're left in the dark for so long, and characters do so little to explain things throughout your adventure, that when the big reveal comes, you're as confused as you were before--perhaps even more so.
Such complications do little to help you connect with the characters, but they are, on the whole, a likeable bunch of well-meaning, if slightly whiny, teenagers. Well, except for the guy who insists on adding "yo" to the end of every sentence--you'll want to punch him in the face within five seconds of meeting him. Thankfully, he plays only a small part in the proceedings, and it's not long before you leave the first world of Traverse Town to meet the real stars of the show.
They are, of course, the Disney characters. The worlds you visit are themed around familiar and beautifully re-created Disney films, and include classics like Pinocchio, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Fantasia, as well as the modern setting of Tron. Within them live the stars of those films, with problems (usually those from the film's plot) that need solving. Whether it's facing off against CLU in the neon surroundings of the Grid or rescuing the ever-beautiful Esmeralda from the fires of Notre Dame, each mission is a nostalgic joy to play through. They're accompanied by some stellar music too, with the pounding strings of Fantasia's The Sorcerer's Apprentice making for one of the most surreal but supremely satisfying pieces of music to do battle to.