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"Darkness becomes light. Light falls into darkness. Dreams are connected to each other. When you fall into a dream, you are connected through dreams to the world enclosed in sleep. And if you open the sleeping keyhole in that world...the world will be released..."
The seventh (not counting remakes) entry into Disney and Square Enix's crossover series Kingdom Hearts, Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance is a game for the Nintendo 3DS hand-held. This is the game that serves to connect not just Birth by Sleep, 358/2 Days, and Re:coded, but also every single game before them to Kingdom Hearts III itself. The story initially concerns Sora and Riku's Mark of Mastery test set by Yen Sid--a journey into the realm of dreams and sleep, where they are to find the seven Sleeping Keyholes and release the worlds trapped within. However, during their quest, a mysterious and malevolent young man in a black coat makes himself known, and villains from the past begin to follow suit...
Featuring all new Disney worlds alongside old worlds such as Traverse Town, the game stars both Sora and Riku as the main characters, both as their younger selves (a side effect of them traveling to worlds trapped in the past) but with entirely new attire. The game has graphics on par with Kingdom Hearts II, thanks to the higher processing power of the 3DS, and supports full 3D imagery, partial AR functions and the 3DS Slide Pad expansion. The gameplay is based on that of Birth By Sleep, but with several new additions and alterations such as the Free Flow Action mechanic and the new recruitable Dream Eater enemies. Gameplay switches between Sora and Riku by way of the new "Drop" gauge, which continually decreases; when the gauge completely empties, the current player character falls asleep and is replaced by the other.
The first publicly released trailer from January 2011 can be seen here, whilst the TGS 2011 trailer can be seen here and with English subtitles here. You can watch the Jump Festa trailer here. A new trailer has also been released in February 2012, and is available here. The first English trailer has been released, and is here.The game was released in Japan on March 29th 2012, with a North American release on July 31st, 2012 and a European release on July 20th, 2012.
Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance provides examples of:
- Acting for Two: Kouki Uchiyama voices both Roxas and Neku in the Japanese version. And then there's Sora and Vanitas in any language.
- Added Alliterative Appeal: The title.
- And Now for Someone Completely Different: For the first time since Chain of Memories, Riku features as a playable character with a role equal to Sora's. The Drop mechanic makes sure that you can switch at any time (emphasis on any).
- Ascended Meme: Braig notes Sora is still giving him that "drowned goldfish" Death Glare. Not in the English version, though.
- Augmented Reality: You can play with your befriended Dream Eaters in AR games using the 3DS camera.
- Back-to-Back Badasses: Ansem SOD and Xemnas in the final game scenario, where Xemnas appears to be Xehanort's lackey exclusively for Sora, whilst Ansem SOD antagonizes Riku primarily.
- Back From the Dead:
- As flat out stated in the secret ending of Re:coded, Master Xehanort has returned now that his Heartless (Ansem) and Nobody (Xemnas) have been destroyed. Not only that, but said Heartless and Nobody actually show up alongside him, Back From the Dead as well.
- In a similar case from above, Lea, Isa, and all of Ansem the Wise's apprentices have returned in human form. While they're not seen, the other old Organization members are back too. Nomura has stated in an interview that the revived members are their original, complete being personas, while also keeping their memories of their life as Nobodies/Organization members..
- While it's only for a single scene, Vanitas shows up alongside Young Xehanort.
- Backup Twin:
- All of the TWEWY characters were recreated by Joshua from pieces of their memory following Shibuya's destruction by the Heartless.
- Traverse Town itself is one, being made in the image of the original by usage of Rhyme's memories.
- Battle in the Center of the Mind: Riku has a battle in the center of Sora's heart against Sora himself, trapped in Ventus' Nightmare-possessed armor, in order to save him from his deep sleep in the depths of darkness.
- Berserk Button: The Spellican gets a particularly funny one when his opponents ignore him to talk to each other.
- Bittersweet Ending: Riku rescues Sora after his heart is fractured by Xehanort, but only Riku passes the Mark of Master exam, while Sora embarks on another journey, this time on his own, while Xehanort is still out there and succeeding in his plan. It's thankfully softened by Sora being both okay by the ending of the game, and not mad at all despite having failed the exam he was initially so confident about passing. While Sora is journeying on his own, he won't be alone as all his Dream Eater friends are with him.
- Big Damn Heroes: Lea pulls off an epic one towards the end of the game, saving Sora from becoming the final vessel for Master Xehanort.
- Bonus Boss: Julius from Runaway Brain.
- Butt Monkey: Shiki seems to have a number of funny moments happen at her expense.
- Call Back:
- Lea asks Ienzo and Aeleus why he always gets stuck with the icky jobs.
- Riku repeats his "road to the dawn" line to Ansem SOD and Young Xehanort.
- "You said you'd always be there to bring us back, didn't you?"
- "Ooh, still staring at me like I drowned your goldfish, are you? Some things never change."
- "We'll go together." spoken this time by Young Xehanort.
- The three questions asked in the original game are asked again near the end of the game: "What do you want in life?", "What are you afraid of?", "What is the most important thing to you?" (not in that particular order).
- In the boss fight with Xemnas, he once again uses buildings as weapons against you.
- Climax Boss: Xemnas, Ansem SoD, and Young Xehanort. The last one feels more like a Final Boss than Sora in Nightmare Armor is.
- Color Coded for Your Convenience: Sora seems to be getting a magenta motif, while Riku is sky blue.
- Credits Medley: Combines "Hand in Hand", "All for One" (Country of the Musketeers battle theme), "Prankster's Party" (Prankster's Paradise battle theme), "Dream Eaters", "La Sanctuaire" (La Cité des Cloches field theme), and "Dearly Beloved".
- Crisis Crossover: On-par for a KH game, but this one features a crossover, not with Disney, not with FF, but with one of Square's other mega-hit games: The World Ends With You.
- Cyberspace: Makes some kind of appearance with The Grid.
- Colony Drop: One of the Dual Links.
- Continuity Lock Out: Surprisingly, the developers consciously attempted to avert a lockout for new players by adding a new feature: the game's "Memoirs" gives a quick overview of the events of the entire series up until 3D. Considering the nature of the game in terms of continuity, the complexity of the story and the many plotlines it encompasses, and the fact that it's quite the big seller, this was a very good idea.
- Darker and Edgier: Some of the stuff that happens to Sora is pretty grim. He nearly loses his heart forever, gets mind-screwed on more than one occasion, has some pretty jarring nightmares (no, not the monsters), and sees far more of Xehanort's evil than Riku.
- Dark Is Evil: The Dream Eaters are creatures of darkness in worlds the heartless cannot reach.
- Dark Is Not Evil: The "Spirit" Dream Eaters eat bad dreams just as there are "Nightmare" ones that eat good dreams. Spirits can also be recruited by Sora, Riku, and others. This trope, along with Dark Is Evil, is also the reason why Xehanort ultimately chooses Sora as a vessel, because Riku's Character Development and revelations about the darkness led him to develop a natural resistance to its more corrupting effects, so even if Riku himself continues to use it, Xehanort's plans have no use for Riku anymore.
- Decoy Protagonist: Similar to Terra and Ventus in Birth by Sleep, Sora is the decoy protagonist, while Riku's story brings the real conclusion.
- Demoted to Dragon: Ansem SoD and Xemnas appear to have suffered this fate with Master Xehanort being both of their bosses.
- Demoted to Extra: Donald and Goofy, obviously. Also, Kairi.
- Department of Redundancy Department: A running trend among the Dream Eaters, at least in terms of their Japanese names. For example: Koumori Bat ("Bat Bat"), Kuma Pandar ("Bear Panda(r)"), Neko Cat ("Cat Cat")...
- Deuteragonist: Arguably Sora, but only for this game. His journey through the Dream Realm ends when he gets his heart shattered and almost falling into darkness, and he serves as the game's Final Boss, and it's up to Riku to save the day instead.
- Dull Surprise:
- Young!Xehanort. Quite jarring, considering how hammy his other selves are. Frighteningly, it doesn't feel out of character for this particular Xehanort though, serving to make him seem creepier, kind of like Ansem in the original game.
- Lea has this reaction at the end of the game after finding out he now has a Keyblade, which is in stark contrast to everyone else's Big "What?".
- Easy Amnesia: Dreams are easily forgotten, and Young!Xehanort attempts to manipulate Riku through this fear.
- Evil Counterpart: Riku and the Anti-Black Coat, who respectively serve as a Spirit and Nightmare tailored to Sora.
- Evil Plan: Xehanort's plan to use Sora was set into action from the moment Ansem SoD met him on Destiny Islands in Kingdom Hearts.
- Fighting Your Friend: There is a variation of this in the Tron: Legacy world, considering Rinzler, CLU's Dragon, is Tron. The last boss is also this, as it's Sora in Nightmare Armor and Riku is forced to fight him to free him.
- Final Boss:
- Sora in the Nightmare Armor
- Xemnas in Sora's story. Also a Climax Boss as well, due to the revelations and the aftermath of the battle.
- Flash Step:
- La Cité des Cloches's Reality Shift "Holy Rope" lets Sora and Riku zip between selected enemies very quickly.
- The new dodge move has shades of this.
- Everything's Better with Dinosaurs: Tyrant Rex, a boss in the Three Musketeers world. Also, a Triceratops Dream Eater. Both are available as Spirit Dream Eater party members. There's also a bony version of the Tyrant Rex. Like its living version, it is recruitable.
- Funny Background Event: While Sora pulls a Big Damn Heroes moment on Neku during a visit to Traverse Town, Shiki is behind them in a pool, her legs kicking as she struggles up.
- Gratuitous French: The Hunchback of Notre Dame world is named La Cité des Cloches (The City of Bells).
- Helpful Mook: As described above, the Spirit Dream Eaters can be befriended by Sora and Riku, and used as either standard teammates in battle or as Dual Links to give unique powers to either character. They can also be moved around the map using Sora's Reality Shift. With regard to the story, the Dream Eaters lead both Sora and Riku to the "Key of Sleep", which is presumably required to open to Sleeping Keyholes.
- The Hero: Riku. He's arguably the focus character in Dream Drop Distance and when Sora gets his heart shattered by Xehanort and almost fall into darkness, it's up to Riku to save the day and derail Xehanort's plans for Sora.
- Heroic BSOD: Sora gets a few in this game thanks to the same questions Xion was asked. To sum the questions: "Am I the real thing, or a copy? Am I really myself, or just a puppet with a role to play?" Thankfully, they don't end up the same way.
"Sora...the bits and bytes that have made up your life so far...can you say for sure they're not just copies of someone else's?"
- I'm Crying but I Don't Know Why: Sora, when he meets Xion for the first time.
- It's Raining Soras: A good source of the game's Mind Screw.
- Japanese Beetle Brothers: Two of the Dream Eaters are based on the kuwagata and the kabuto: the Scissor Beetle and the Cannon Beetle respectively.
- Kudzu Plot: The game wraps up various questions about Xehanort's presence on Destiny Islands in the first game, the identity of the Mysterious Figure in Birth By Sleep, whether Nobodies really have hearts, and so forth. Unfortunately, it also opens all new questions about time travel, the 13 darknesses and 7 lights, the nature of the Keyblade, Sora's destiny, Ansem the Wise's failsafe, and myriad other plot points.
- Late Arrival Spoiler:
- Life Imitates Art: The death of both Xehanort's voice actors few years after the game is released mimics the plot of the following game.
- Match Cut: A montage of them at the end of the February 2012 trailer.
- Medium Blending:
- The game's opening video features a 2D, silhouetted Mickey on the bottom screen and full-motion CGI on the top screen, with the illusion given of Mickey jumping from the bottom screen to the top screen when he appears in the CGI video.
- The Country of the Musketeers features a lot of comic book-style lineart as a Shout-Out to the ending credits of the original movie.
- Milestone Celebration: 3D is a large part of the series' 10th anniversary celebrations; the logo for it is emblazoned in the top right corner of the games cover, and it also accompanies 358/2 Days and Re:coded in a special anniversary box set. Additionally, a limited edition 3DS console with a unique 3D-inspired design is being released.
- Mind Screw: The very first trailer made it quite clear that this would be present. The plot itself is even stranger than the other games, complete with more Kudzu Plot.
- Monster Clown: The Obake Pierrot Dream Eater species. A monster clown is also featured in the logo for Prankster's Paradise.
- Never Trust a Trailer: ...Well, sort of, as said by Nomura:
Nomura: "In the trailer Sora and Riku are on Destiny Islands, and then in Traverse Town many Soras are shown falling from the sky. Those weren't real cutscenes from the game; the trailer merely portrayed the overall feeling of the game."
- This is made perfectly clear when comparing the January trailer with the TGS trailer; the latter is very obviously showing a far more complete and polished build of the game. The January trailer, on the other hand, was almost certainly created using the engine for Birth by Sleep and existing art assets, and was probably never intended to be representative of final gameplay or aesthetic. As proof of this, digging around in BBS: Final Mix's data reveals character models and animations from the trailer, some of which can be seen here.
- On the other hand, both scenes do actually appear in the game, and the game really is like the trailer: very mind-screwy.
- Non-Human Sidekick: Sora and Riku can recruit the new Dream Eater enemies to help them in battle, which currently all appear to be fantastical versions of real animals--bats, stags, bears, piranhas and so on.
- There's also ones based on mythical animals--Dragons, Kirin, Pegasus, Gargoyle, and Unicorn. The only exceptions are the Obake series of Dream Eater which include a Clown and a Ghost.
- Ominous Pipe Organ: It's a series mainstay, why stop now? Pipe organ parts are featured in la Cité des Cloches' music, "Deep Drop" (The World That Never Was battle theme), "L'Oscurità dell'Ignot" (Xemnas's battle theme), and "L'Impeto Oscuro" (Young Xehanort's battle theme).
- Orphean Rescue: Part of the plot seems to be traveling through dream worlds to save the souls/hearts/existence of the people that make up the Composite Beings that the cast are now.
- Palette Swap: There are two versions of each Dream Eater species--the friendly Spirits and antagonistic Nightmares.
- Public Domain Soundtrack: A matter of course for the Fantasia-based world Symphony of Sorcery.
- R-Rated Opening: while the games aren't strangers to Nightmare Fuel, this is the first title in the series that begins on a very bleak note — namely, Terra-Xehanort stabbing Braig (in a first-person perspective) with Master Xehanort's keyblade after having done the very same thing with Ansem The Wise's other apprentices.
- Red Eyes, Take Warning: A shared trait of Nightmare Dream Eaters, including the Anti-Black Coat, which forces Sora into a sleep from which he cannot awaken without Riku's help.
- Remixed Level:
- Fourth and fifth districts have been added to Traverse Town.
- The World That Never Was is the ruined version. It also traps Sora in a dream and Riku in some kind of illusion. Both manage to break free in a way, but Sora's lack of resistance against the Darkness serves to immediately shatter his heart after fighting Xemnas.
- Rule of Cool: 3D uses a new gameplay mechanic called "Free Flow Action", which appears to be this trope embodied. By holding Y, the player can make Riku or Sora perform over-the-top acrobatics such as wall-jumping, rail-grinding or spinning round poles, which also allows opportunities for special high-damage attacks.
- Rule of Symbolism:
- Sadistic Choice: CLU foists one of these on Sora: the Keyblade in exchange for turning Rinzler back into Tron.
- Send in the Clones: Xehanort's true plan for Org. XIII is to make them essentially all clones of himself.
- Shock and Awe: The Electric Unicorn Dream Eater. Bonus Boss Julius also uses electricity to bolster his attacks.
- Shout-Out: Symphony of Sorcery's Reality Shift is named "Fantasmic" after the Disneyland Massive Multiplayer Crossover show.
- The title screen features the same artwork as the cover; however, since the first days of March 2011, Nomura showed an alternate artwork on Famitsu showing Sora and Riku upside-down, with a sunset-colored sky surrounding them. The way Nomura implied that alternate art would make it into the game makes this a shout out to the title screen of the GBA launch title Mario Kart Super Circuit, that did the exact same thing with its own title screen.
- BBS did a kind of similar thing, where the title screen would show the cover artwork for the last character you played as.
- Slouch of Villainy: Master Xehanort.
- Super Title 64 Advance: Kingdom Hearts 3D. 3D, in this case, literally means three Ds. The three Ds stand for Dream Drop Distance. Yep.
- Standard Status Effects: While used by some enemies in previous games, it's a much bigger problem this time around, with practically every dream eater possessing at least one attack that inflicts a bad status, on top of some of them also using the same status inflicting spells you have access to (Which can be nigh impossible to avoid due to how quickly they trigger). Abilities that provide resistance to each of the different effects were added to alleviate some of the pain.
- Talking to Himself:
- Looks like this will happen considering how Sora and Vanitas have a cutscene together.
- Same goes for Roxas, Ventus and Neku in the Japanese version.
- The Stinger: Following series tradition, the secret ending. This time, it reveals that Kairi will be trained to use the Keyblade by Yen Sid.
- Timey-Wimey Ball: As part of Master Xehanort's latest Gambit Roulette to gain control of Kingdom Hearts, Xehanort used a method to project himself into the past after becoming Ansem Seeker of Darkness, and recruited his teenage self to retrieve or create a total of 13 iterations of himself, in a bid to recreate the conditions of the keyblade war.
- Third Line, Some Waiting: Along with the alternating Sora and Riku storylines, there is a third plot thread about Mickey and company dealing with Maleficent in the real world.
- Tree Buchet: Appears in the Country of the Musketeers.
- The Unexpected: The Dream Eaters as teammates, first hinted at in a written preview of the demo.
- The whole main cast of The World Ends With You--Neku, Joshua, Rhyme, Beat, and Shiki--appears in quite the reunion party as part of the series's first non Final Fantasy, non Disney cameo.
- A world based on Mickey, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers. Not even Xehanort could have seen that coming.
- Chernabog returns in his first appearance since the first Kingdom Hearts.
- Ursula (or at least an illusion of her) literally appears out of nowhere as the game's first boss.
- For the first time since Ice Titan, we have a Bonus Boss from a Disney property: Julius from Runaway Brain. Also unexpected in how he, despite being a Disney character, is just as aggressive as the ones designed by Tetsuya Nomura.
- Unskilled but Strong: Julius
- Up to Eleven: Whilst the series is no stranger to ridiculous feats of acrobatics, the Free Flow Action mechanic really takes this to new levels.
- Villains Never Lie: Subverted. It's implied that Xemnas lied to everyone (save perhaps Saïx after he became loyal and Xigbar) about the true nature of Nobodies so as to cover up his plan to use the bodies of Org. XIII to create clones of himself.
- Villain Team-Up: Four of Master Xehanort's incarnations (Ansem SoD, Xemnas, Master Xehanort, and Young Xehanort), as well as Braig and Isa, form a new Organization of sorts, with six other members remaining unidentified. Xehanort is still working at getting the thirteenth and final one.
- Visual Pun: The district Julius from Runaway Brain, who bears a strong resemblance to Pete the cat, is fought in is the same one featuring the CAT graffiti from The World Ends With You.
- Wacky Sound Effect: In the Symphony of Sorcery world, the standard sound effects of Sora and Riku's Keyblade attacks connecting with Dream Eaters are replaced with the sounds of musical instruments. Sora and Riku also lose their battle grunts here.
- Word Salad Title: Dream Drop Distance, though these kind of titles aren't uncommon in the series. Nomura has said it refers to something like the distance you drop into your dreams, and admits that the English isn't perfect; the words were chosen for how they sound, rather than English fidelity (a clearer phrasing would be something like "how deeply you fall into your dreams"). The title also refers to the game being set in a Dream world, the Drop gameplay system that facilitates switches between Sora and Riku, and the Distance separating the two protagonists' sides of the story.
- A Worldwide Punomenon: Neku's first line is "What terrible Noise." The thing is, is he talking about the Noise, or the overexcited racket Sora's been making?