KINGDOM HEARTS 3D [Dream Drop Distance] introduces several new gameplay mechanics, taking advantage of the opportunities the Nintendo 3DS provides while continuing forward with the Command Deck system previously established in Birth by Sleep, making it the third title in the series to be utilizing this method rather than Kingdom Heart's traditional system, behind the aforementioned PSP title and the most recently released Re:coded on the NDS.
The player character is controlled with the analog stick. The directional-pad cycles through the command deck, with the X button activating the commands. Jumps can be accomplished via the B button, and attacks with the A button. You can utilize the dodge roll or dash by pressing Y on the ground and in the air respectively, and follow up with an additional midair dash by pressing Y again while still in motion.
Camera rotation is controlled with the L and R shoulder buttons, and lock-on is initiated by pressing both of them at the same time. If you press the two buttons twice quickly, the camera refocuses behind the character. It doesn't move around on its own, and by press the button, you can cause it to return to its default view. Pressing L+R and moving the control stick allows you to get a good look around. There is also a unique Zoom feature, making it easier on the eyes when peering down at the minuscule commands.
Your Dream Eaters join your party this time around, and you can customize their attacks and abilities in the Spirits menu, where you are also given the opportunity to play with them, change your party, create new Spirits and acquire new abilities and commands through their individual Ability Links. Your Spirit companions will suffer in battle if they are ignored for long periods of time, so make sure play withh them frequently. By strengthening your bonds with them, you'll pave the road towards great power and success.
Reality Shift can be activated when a special marker appears over enemies during battle by pressing both A and X buttons simultaneously or by slashing downward on the touchscreen. The player character dives into the bottom screen and the battle stops for a brief period of time while the player is prompted on the bottom screen to fulfill a series of operations in order to initiate a powerful attack. These abilities differ for both Sora and Riku in every single world. For example in Country of the Musketeers, the Reality Shift takes the appearance of a comic strip. You slide or touch corresponding to the commands, and a special technique occurs as a result on the top screen.
Flow Motion (or Flo-mo for short) can be utilized when you face a wall or pole for example, and differs depending on the environment. It's activated first via pressing the Y button, and pressing A to trigger an attack. By doing so, you can instigate a variety of actions such as high jump and sky slide, leading off into such abilities like Kick Dive, in which the player kicks off from walls and unleashes a strong attack by facing the ground, and Turn Cutter, where the player uses their Keyblade like a hook and swings around poles to mow down anyone within range of their massive whirlwind. You can chain these attacks together to create an even stronger one.
Sora and Riku also have the ability to Link with Spirits. This can be activated when you completely fill up a Spirit's pink Link Gauge. Just like these two individuals differ in many ways, so does their linking. Sora uses Link Attacks to team up with his Dream Eater and attack the enemy, which also grants him temporary invincibility as the attack is taking place. Riku uses Link Styles, where he absorbs his Spirit's strength to power up for a short period of time, similar to the Command Styles of Birth by Sleep.
Dual Link describes the process in which the player's two Dream Eater companions merge together to create an even more powerful
attack. Click on the combined icon when both gauges are filled on the touchscreen or hold down the L and R buttons and press A to initiate the attack. Subsequently, you can cancel the link by pressing the aforementioned button combination after its initiation.
There are many Link Portals scattered throughout the worlds. These portals hold either special combat challenges against a swarm of Dream Eaters, or loan you a part of Spirits temporarily. Succeeding in these combat challenges give way to excellent prizes.
Dive Mode is the system through which Sora and Riku enter different worlds in the Realm of Sleep. It acts as a minigame of sorts, where you'll be prompted to fulfill a Dive-specific goal, such as collecting points or defeating enemies. The objective of Dive Mode is to fulfill these requirements to unlock the goal ring, and then dive through it to enter the world. Dream Eaters are also present during the Dive, and will have a yellow marker featured on them when they are within range of attack, and a red one when they aren't. Press A to attack and dive faster, B to reduce speed, Y to quickly dodge, and X to perform a magic attack once you've collected a special magic prize.
There is also a neat little minigame playable by talking with a Moogle in the 4th District of Traverse Town, called Flick Rush. This minigame pits your current party of Dream Eaters against another in battle. A batch of cards are displayed on the bottom touchscreen while they wage combat on the top screen. You can slash single or multiple cards upwards to initiate an attack, or downwards to guard. When you're running low on cards, press and hold the Spirit's icon on the bottom screen to recharge and replenish your stock. Each Dream Eater has its own unique array of attacks and abilities, so trying out different parties and combinations is highly recommended.
Multiplayer functions can be utilized through the Flick Rush minigame to challenge other players through the local wireless, and with Streetpass to exchange Link Portals you set up throughout the worlds as combat challenges or to lend your Dream Eaters to other players temporarily. You can also obtain training toys, rare Dream Pieces and recipes to create more Spirits for your party.
The Drop Gauge displayed at the lower right of the screen shows the length of time a character will continue to be active. It can be slowed down or replenished with special items you collect throughout the course of your adventure. Once it drops to 0, the character will fall into a sleep state and automatically switch out of play. As such, you will switch back and forth between Riku and Sora repeatedly due to this system, though it is also possible to manually switch out at any given time by pressing the [Start] button and pause the game, then pressing "DROP" on the bottom screen to drain the gauge immediately.
Whenever you switch out, a new screen will pop up showing the points, prizes and all sorts of other miscellaneous goodies you've collected during play, allowing you gain an advantage and customize your characters before proceeding. For example, you can recover Sora's health by using a potion, and upgrading Riku's magic power with other items. You will also be able to use HP prizes at this screen.
Having to switch characters so suddenly like this really feels exciting and quite nerve-racking. If you were fighting a boss with Sora, then switching to Riku and merely browsing around the maps, then returning to Sora's intense battle and having to make the transition between two completely different situations. While the two of them are on their own separate adventures, through links like this, you really feel as though you're together rather than apart, shedding a new light on the two best friend's strong connection.
The Dream Eaters you've collected will aid you in battle. During play, their icons will appear on the bottom screen, and the icons of the two party members you've chosen will appear at the top screen. By sliding the icons around on the bottom, you can switch out your party members at any given moment. Occasionally, the message, "The Dream Eaters have noticed something!" will appear, causing your Dream Eater companions to stare at a specific spot, indicating the location of a hidden enemy.
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