2. Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance
Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance was released back in 2012 on the 3DS and, although it’s going to be re-released on 2.8 as Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance HD pretty soon, still holds up really well today.
Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance is, despite not being Kingdom Hearts III (which some people actually did believe it to be at the time), a sequel to Kingdom Hearts II despite technically also being a side-game… at least, that’s how I internalize it. Currently serving as the “newest” game in terms of chronology, KH3D follows Sora and Riku as they delve into the Dream World in order to take their Mark of Mastery exams and finally become Keyblade Masters as they prepare to defend against Xehanort’s impending attack.
Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance did a lot of things right, if you ask me. If further tweaked the combat system tweaks originally inherent within Birth by Sleep (confusing, I know), making combat feel more balanced and fluid overall. Maneuverability was also largely enhanced, with players given the opportunity to interact with certain parts of each stage in order to grind down rails, run across walls, and spin around poles in order to get from place to place more quickly (and look totally rad while doing it).
I also found the inclusion of Dream Eaters to be an incredibly fun addition to the game. Like with Heartless, Nobodies, and Unversed, Dream Eaters are this game’s primary enemy group, although they do have something that sets them apart from the rest. Unlike with other species in the series, Dream Eaters came in two groups – Spirits and Nightmares. While Nightmares served as the game’s “common enemy”, Spirits were used as allies in place of Donald and Goofy. Though Spirits leveled up through combat, much like your normal companions, they also had a “simulation” element to them. Players were required to spend time with their Spirits in order for them to unlock new abilities by petting them and playing mini games. It could get a little annoying at times, but it was so darn cute and addicting that I couldn’t help but fall in love.
I found the story in Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance to be one of the best in the series, but admittedly it was one of the most confusing as well. KH3D very much catered to fans who already understood the series. Between the dual layering of Sora being in the Dream World and Riku being in a Dream World within Sora’s Dream World, and the inclusion of the new Organization XIII whose goal was to be comprised of nothing but Xehanort variants, you definitely had to stop and piece things together from time to time. Because of that, however, I found it to be rewarding. Yes, it was convoluted at times, but because of that you ended up having a very firm grasp on the Kingdom Hearts storyline if you made sure to pay attention to things.
1.Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days
Well, here we are at the number one spot; Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days. Just to be clear, I’m not talking about the HD cinematic remake (despite what the picture may convey) – I am most definitely talking about the DS game that came out in 2009.
Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days stars Roxas, Sora’s Nobody, and chronicles his time as a member of Organization XIII. In the beginning Roxas merely does what he is told, acting as nothing more than Xemnas’ own personal Keyblade Wielder. As time progresses and Roxas befriends Axel, a long-standing member of the Organization, and Xion, the mysterious 14th member of Organization XIII, however, he begins to question just who exactly he is and what exactly he is doing.
Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days features a gameplay style relatively similar to that found in other Kingdom Hearts titles, with the exception of some minor gameplay tweaks made to better suit the DS and the addition of the Panel System (which was used to do everything from equipping spells to leveling up). Rather than allowing players to freely roam worlds, 358/2 Days required players to undertake missions with specific goals. It most likely would have felt really restrictive on home consoles, but the format fit pretty well with the DS. Additionally, 358/2 Days featured multiplayer. Up to four people with the game could undertake missions together as any of the 14 Organization members (plus a few extras). I’m not sure why they didn’t bring that back in any of the subsequent games – it was a lot of fun.
What really cemented this game in the number one spot wasn’t the gameplay, though – it was the story (which probably isn’t surprising at this point). While 358/2 Days didn’t have the most expansive story in the series, it managed to highly detail one specific point within the Kingdom Hearts storyline – Roxas’ life. I’m going to sound really sappy here, but I’ll say it anyway so bear with me. My favorite relationships in games are close friendships. In my opinion, a story about good friends beats out a romantic plot any day of the week. The friendship formed between Roxas, Axel, and Xion during 358/2 Days was one of the most touching video game relationships that I’ve ever experienced, and thinking about the ending of the game makes me sad even now. Roxas and Xion both came into the world alone, with the sole purpose of being used as tools, and managed to find friendships despite that. Throw in the fact that Roxas literally has to hunt down and kill his friend at the end of the game, and you have a recipe for what was to me one of the saddest endings that I have ever experienced, and one that will most likely stick with me forever.
Well, there you have it; my own personal Top 5 for Kingdom Hearts games. Hopefully you enjoyed it! Now look, I’m not a fool – I’m sure that most of you will disagree with me out there. I know that my list is a bit bizarre. That’s okay, though! Having differing opinions can be fun (so long as you’re nice about it)! If you have anything that you’d like to add, you’re more than welcome to do so in the comment section below. I’d be happy to hear from you!