Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance Preview

What the hell is going on?

Seriously, what the fuck is going on in the Kingdom Hearts series? Last thing I remember, there was a dude with funny hair fighting monsters with Mickey. That was the first game, right? I couldn't be bothered to pay attention to much else as the successful crossover series continued with a sequel and several titles on platforms that weren't the PlayStation 2.

So when I picked up Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance for 3DS last night at the Square Enix E3 Judges event, I was about as clueless as Mickey, Donald, and Goofy were. Apparently, King Mickey and company don't remember Sora, but Sora remembers them but decides it best not to explain. I couldn't help but feel like I was mercifully spared a whole lot of exposition I could have lived without anyway.

What I could live with, though, is Dream Drop Distance's frantic, fast-paced combat. Leaving the stylus in its slot and focusing on face buttons, KH3D keeps action feeling more like a console game and less like one of the earlier portable spinoffs to grace Nintendo's handheld systems.

Frankly, the 3D effect and the beautiful character models also surprised me. How are they cranking so much out of the 3DS hardware? The camera controlled fluidly, enemies and friends were colorful, and the framerate never failed.

It might seem like a stupid thing to comment on in a preview, but I was also happy to see that I could skip cutscenes and get straight back to action. One sequence had Sora protecting Princess Minney in a stagecoach as a giant dinosaur dream-eater attacked. Donald and Goofy certainly lived up to their slapstick nature and tipped the Three Mouseketeers off the carriage, leaving Sora to fend for himself. I had to block timed attacks with the Y button, mash away at the dream-eaters health with the A button, and cast magic attacks with X.

Outside of this boss battle, I could also daze opponents and swipe down on the touchpad for a quick-time sequence attack. Combining all of these abilities actually made for a smart balance and rhythm in fighting. If the story holds up for fans invested in the series and exploration and character development are as polished as the combat, Dream Drop Distance will certainly be worthy of the Kingdom Hearts name.

When all is said and done, it's an impressive effort from Square Enix and one worth paying attention to as its release approaches. Be sure to check out Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance when it lands on the Nintendo 3DS July 20th.