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Kingdom Hearts 3D review

Is this the best handheld Kingdom Hearts game ever?

Perhaps the highest praise you can give Kingdom Hearts 3D is that, despite being a spin-off, it rarely feels like one. It's a substantial action-RPG with production values that put just about every third-party game currently on the 3DS to shame. It draws from a deep well of ideas, a handful of which are so good we wouldn't be at all surprised to see them in the eagerly (and long) awaited Kingdom Hearts 3.

There are occasional reminders that this is not the aforementioned game, though. While the narrative has a few highlights, it's made to feel a little inconsequential and while that set dressing may be sumptuous, it's used to decorate just six worlds outside the omnipresent Traverse Town. So yes, it leaves you wanting more, but then that's partly because this is surely the best Kingdom Hearts title on a Nintendo console to date.

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You wouldn't automatically think that from the opening hour, mind. It's an awkward mess of instructions and tutorials, confused storytelling and ropey dialogue that will leave the uninitiated baffled, overwhelmed, or both. At least it tries to get you into the action quickly; while it's a bit keen to throw all its systems at you at once, you learn by playing, rather than by watching.

Sites For Sora Eyes

The setup is fairly straightforward: series regulars Sora (ebullient) and Riku (moody) are sent by Mickey Mouse and beardy wizard, Yen Sid, to reawaken six sleeping worlds, an examination they need to pass to become Keyblade masters. Every setting has its own self-contained storyline, though in each case you'll be solving the problems of a variety of Disney characters before defeating a boss and then moving onto the next world.

It'll be familiar stuff if you've played any of the previous games, but early on there are a few notable changes to the formula. A fair portion of the combat still revolves around whaling on the A button for basic attack combos, but this time you can use the environment to your advantage. The Y button is used as your all-purpose parkour button for running up walls, swinging from beams and whirling around poles - or even the larger enemies. This opens a range of additional combat options on top of your steadily expanding command deck, which houses more powerful moves and spells that need to cool down before they can be reused.

More importantly, you're joined in battle by Spirits, creatures that will automatically assist with moves of their own. They're friendly versions of the hostile Dream Eaters that have taken over each world and are created by fusing Dream Pieces collected amid the orbs that burst from defeated opponents.

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Lifting Spirits

To make them more effective combatants, you'll need to spend some time bonding with them. One way of doing this is via a Nintendogs-esque aside in which you stroke their silhouette with the stylus to increase their affection. Various foodstuffs keep them happy, while adjusting their stats and a handful of touchscreen mini-games helps raise their experience and earn you Link Points. These are spent unlocking permanent buffs and individual commands on skill trees, with some additional paths opening when a Spirit's demeanour changes, either through care or through cuisine.

A strong bond will see them attack more regularly, offering the chance of a Link Critical, where you connect with an enemy simultaneously, helping to fill a gauge that enables you to use their powers. While Riku's combinations are strengthened, turning him into a blade-spinning blur capable of flying into battle, it's Sora who has the most fun here, directly controlling his pet monsters as they charge, bounce, slash and leap with phenomenal force. Wait long enough and you can combine the effects of two Spirits, making for even more powerful specials. There's something oddly satisfying about squashing enemies with the bloated stomach of an enormous bouncing cat.

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23 comments so far...
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  1. torterratrainer Wednesday 18th Jul 2012 at 07:01

    kingdom hearts i never personally liked, i just wanted to see if it strayed far enough from the Disney threshold but alas no. i just don't think it fits well with Pokemon's ash Esq character doing dangerous quests for mmmmickeey mouse

  2. Pappi Wednesday 18th Jul 2012 at 07:50

    My copy is arriving soon, glad this good reviews.

  3. shy guy 64 Wednesday 18th Jul 2012 at 08:12

    not long to go i cant wait

  4. Xikelle Wednesday 18th Jul 2012 at 08:54

    I'm planning to get this, but since I've never played a game in the series before, I'm thinking I should probably try to play Kingdom hearts 1 and 2 first, so that I have a better chance at understanding what's going on.
    I'm looking around to playing with the spirits. ^_^

  5. Linkfan42 Wednesday 18th Jul 2012 at 09:10

    I'm really looking forward to playing this when my copy arrives! Still waiting for it to be shipped though... -_-

  6. LewiiG Wednesday 18th Jul 2012 at 11:26

    Ahh 2 more days can't wait! Best handheld KH? Well probably. I didn't have a problem with any other KH "spin offs" as you call them, but no doubt this will be as good as BBS or better.

  7. imbusydoctorwho Wednesday 18th Jul 2012 at 11:50

    I really enjoyed the demo,so I might get this.

  8. toffeeman30 Wednesday 18th Jul 2012 at 12:06

    expected higher score for a KH game. wait for pokemon conquest on 3ds xl.

  9. ledreppe Wednesday 18th Jul 2012 at 13:16

    Tried KH 258/2 days and couldn't defeat a cetain Giant Heartless some way into the game. I gave up on it, but I'm willing to try Dream Drop Distance and give the series another try. This time I'm getting a strategy guide just to be sure. My copies been in the post since yesterday, so should be here tomorrow!

  10. adamguy Wednesday 18th Jul 2012 at 14:21

    > In fact, given the effectiveness of its dual-screen setup, a certain upcoming Nintendo console would surely be the most appropriate destination for Kingdom Hearts 3.

    nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope nope

  11. LewiiG Wednesday 18th Jul 2012 at 15:19

    Whoa didn't see the score last time. Wth? That's low. How the hell does that even work? Really? Why KH score so low in onm all the time. This is apparentely 5% better than Re:coded. Right. Well the only thing I can say now to remain sane is i'll just remember everyone has diffrent opinions I guess. Not that I've played the game but it's KH. And every KH is amazing. Oh yeah. "Imo"

    I guess 84% ( I think that's what I read) isn't actually low. It's relatively low.

  12. masamune Wednesday 18th Jul 2012 at 15:34

    I guess 84% ( I think that's what I read) isn't actually low. It's relatively low.

    i uhh


    no seriously, what

    84% is a great and very respectable score

    but then again this is ONM, so i see your point

  13. Dertdood Wednesday 18th Jul 2012 at 16:23

    I guess 84% ( I think that's what I read) isn't actually low. It's relatively low.

    i uhh


    no seriously, what

    84% is a great and very respectable score

    but then again this is ONM, so i see your point

    have you read any modern review

    all of them have the bizzare scale of 90% being worth buying 70%+ being worth buying if you find it discounted and under 70 being abominable or unplayable

  14. masamune Wednesday 18th Jul 2012 at 16:39

    and that's exactly my problem

  15. Dertdood Wednesday 18th Jul 2012 at 16:58

    well unfortunately it's hard to give review scores using a scale that makes more sense because of sites like metacritic

  16. ninjafox Wednesday 18th Jul 2012 at 20:41

    This will be my first Kingdom Hearts game and i am really excited about it as the demo was good fun despite been a bit short.
    I thought 84% was a decent enough score, cannot wait to play this on Friday :)

  17. Pineapple Saturday 21st Jul 2012 at 15:34

    84%, eh? A great score, though slightly low by ONM's standards. I'm certain this will be a beautiful game, and it should be. Unfortunately, I didn't pre-order the game, and now I have no money. So, I shall have to suffer without it for about a month or so, and is at the very top of my now worrying list of games I need to buy.

  18. Xenobladeperson Saturday 21st Jul 2012 at 21:21

    I'm enjoying the game so far. The Drop meter and Sora's voice are the only big faults in the game. The spirits are okay, not great but not bad. The combat is great, though, flowmotion, reality shift, everything, amazing. But I hate rushing through the worlds because of the drop meter. I agree with the review.

  19. toffeeman30 Monday 23rd Jul 2012 at 12:03

    kingdom hearts 3d performs well in the uk then?

  20. Namine2593 Sunday 29th Jul 2012 at 09:44

    Best game on the 3DS :D

  21. Segafan134 Saturday 11th Aug 2012 at 12:37

    I love this game for a huge amount of reasons :the graphics, the music and the gameplay. Scratch 84% it should have 89% in my opinion.

  22. Gamer 1 Wednesday 22nd Aug 2012 at 13:54

    not sure if to get as i have never played a kingdom hearts game before i might get but not right at this point

  23. imbusydoctorwho Wednesday 22nd Aug 2012 at 20:44

    not sure if to get as i have never played a kingdom hearts game before i might get but not right at this point

    If you don't know the story,you could always check online.
    The game itself has a chronicle,which tells you the story for each game of the series.

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