Saturday, September 22, 2012

Marvel NOW; my opinion, a Bit late.

It's taken me a while to voice my opinion about the Marvel's counter to DC's 52 - giving new, old, and current fans a launching pad to jump into a revitalized Marvel Universe. I have to say, given all the ways this could go down - I think Marvel is on the right track. They essentially tried to get creators on series, with a solid story in mind, and the commitment to see it through for the long haul. That sounds very promising - and helps temper some of the reaction to what they are doing with certain characters. Not everyone is coming out of Avengers vs X-Men alive, or unchanged. At the heart of the Marvel NOT-A-Reboot, but a Relaunch, is their biggest and most popular characters, the Avengers! Rick Remender, who since joining the Marvel Universe has already given us years worth of ideas and storylines, in such a short amount of time - he is being rewarded with the flagship title "Uncanny Avengers".

Hummmm.... Watch out for Spoilers down below here....

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The last issue of Avengers vs X-Men is promising to be a doozy - as Cyclops has emerged as the soul possessor of the Phoenix Force. Word is he supposedly survives - but his journey back to being a hero is going to be hard, as he'll come back with blood on his hands.

OK, basically - after the events in Avengers vs X-Men - a unity between the two groups is going to culminate. X-Men will be on Avenger teams, and Avengers might be on X-Men teams. (Or at least the Avengers might visit more often) I don't exactly know how that works, exactly - but there is an attempt to drag the isolationist mutant faction kicking and screaming into the shared Marvel Universe. One editor said this idea came about because of what he saw - a separation many fans made between the Avengers and the X-Men. They could, for all intents and purposes, be in different worlds. For a group once dedicated mutant/human relations - the X-Men have failed rather miserably. So this melding of the teams sort of sends a message, that race relations between humans and mutants is softening.

That good will won't last, though - as a digitized copy of the WWII-era Red Skull's mind will be revived, with a fresh and purer hatred for the inferior races. He is set to be the Uncanny Avengers big foe. Having seen the brilliant work Remender has done over the years on Venom, Uncanny X-Force, and Secret Avengers - this is going to be a wild ride!

So what happens to the X-Men, sans an Uncanny X-Men title? (Which could change; Marvel has been annoyingly slow in releasing info about their Comic Revival.) Well, we're getting "All Different, All New, X-Men" - by Brian Michael Bendis and Stuart Immonen. This isn't your usual X-Men outing, though -- the series will focus on the mysteriously time-misplaced original X-Men team, of Cyclops, Jean Grey, Beast, Angel, and Iceman! Why are they here, in this time and place? That will be answered - but the real point of these characters being here in the modern Marvel U - is that, from their perspective, the modern Marvel Universe is a post-apoclyptic world; at least in terms of what happens to their future selves. Jean Grey is dead and Cyclops went insane. Archangel has gone through deeply dark and troubling times in his life, only now to be blank slate with no memories, after being purged of the evil once inside him. Beast tried to reverse his mutation, but only made it worse - and has mutated further into his cat-like form. Iceman seems the most stable of the group, currently in a relationship with Kitty Pryde, and helping to maintain Wolverine's School -- but I think even here there will be difficulties in his past self meeting his older self.

This is such a fascinating idea that it became a must-have on my pull list for this Marvel NOW event.

As for the Avengers, as a whole? Johnathan Hickman is going to be writing three books a month (making Avenger titles nearly weekly) - writing both Avengers and New Avengers. (Why they don't just merge the two together entirely, I don't know.) Out of the two titles, New Avengers will ship once a month, Avengers will be shipping twice a month - giving us that total of 4 Avenger books, if you add in Uncanny Avengers. As you can see from the connecting covers above - it looks like Hickman is going to be covering a LOT of the Marvel Universe.

Luckily, in the face of all this new material -- a number of titles are either falling away, or becoming acceptable to pass on. I stuck it out, reading Red Hulk to it's end. I sadly won't be continuing on to the replacement title "Red She Hulk". While I don't mind Betty having her own title - its just that I had grown to like General Ross as the Hulk so much the past few years. So replacing the lead character with their daughter just isn't doing it for me. As for where the General is now -- he will be leading the Thunderbolts! Deadpool, Electra, Punisher and Venom will be following his orders. This looks very much like a copy of Uncanny X-Force; I don't think Remender is continuing to write that series, as Uncanny Avengers and other new books will demand his full attention. Same goes for Secret Avengers -- Remender isn't leaving just yet, but whoever steps in to replace Remender probably won't be enough to convince me to stay onboard.

I certainly know I won't be reading X-Force, which is morphing into two different titles. One has already been revealed - showing Cable, Domino, Colossus, Forge, and Doctor Nemesis - all of them apparently are wanted fugitives on the lamb. The inclusion of Doctor Nemesis is very intriguing - as he brings his own brand of insane science to the table. But thats not enough to entice me to read the series. This, actually, isn't the main X-Force book! This book will be titled "Cable and X-Force", written by Dennis Hopeless and Salvador Larroca.

The main title, Uncanny X-Force, sounds even worse! Written by Sam Humphries, with art by Ron Garney, the title will focus on Psylocke, with Storm, Puck, and Spiral. What is this title going to be, rehab for assassins? Storm has had her dark moments, but she isn't a killer. I don't know anything about Puck, and Spiral is.... just a... just a weird weird choice to put on a team book. I like Ron Garney's art - but this is a sinking ship if ever I saw one.

Journey Into Mystery has been getting treated to a grand finale, in a 6-issue crossover with Thor called "Everything Burns!". It made me initially think Loki would be returning to adulthood at the end. A new Journey Into Mystery will feature the Lady Sif as the starring character.

Loki, specifically young Loki, will not be disappearing! He will be appearing in Young Avengers; written by Kieron Gillen. I have to say, I'm tempted to read this book simply because it continues young Loki's story -- but that doesn't seem to be enough of a reason to read this title.

As for Thor? This one really surprised me - for both its depth and shocking surprises - as we see a tale of 3 Thors. One, the young God in his petulant youth. Two, the modern-day heroic Avenger. Finally, the third Thor, will focus on an elderly Thor, Lord of Asgard, facing the threat of a God-Slaying menace. It looks like it is going to be EPIC! Jason Aaron is known for creating intricate working worlds, while never loosing a step in making it a fun and engaging world while he's at it. Combine that with Esad Ribic (who does the art on the covers, and from the Loki Mini-Series), and this could be one of the best books of Marvel NOW's entire launch. I'll even forgive the somewhat blatant copying of Dan Jurgan's run on Thor, also featuring an elder Thor, Lord of Asgard, and the God-Slaying Menace who seeks to destroy him. When I saw the similarities in the plot, instead of feeling like it was a re-tread - I got all the more excited! The only question, though, is how Ribic will be on art. If I'm not mistaken, I believe I recall that Ribic has a less-painted style of drawing, which might not be as pretty as the covers - but still looks great, and might be more do-able for a monthly series.

Rick Remender's other Marvel NOW title is Captain America - with John Romita Jr on art; this looks like it's going to be an incredible jaunt through time for the Captain. You see, the opening storyline is called "Dimension Z" - where Cap is somewhere in the future (or another dimension) - fighting against Armin Zola. (Who I'm guessing is going to be the villain in the next Cap movie). Even with Remender on the title, I was planning to skip this book. But then this promo was released! (Above) Showing Captain America, fighting in a war-torn world - no doubt rallying and fighting for truth, justice and the American way. (And other such stuff). This actually struck me as reminiscent of Jack Kirby's rejected proposal, of Captain America being brought into the future, where he would have to struggle to raise hope in the people, among action and sci-fi weirdness. That rejected idea eventually became O.M.A.C.! So wether this is trying to harken back to that brilliant idea of Kirby's or not, I'll be signing up for the 10-issue Dimension Z storyline!

Deadpool -- this is a title I wanted to high-light, mainly because of the hilarious cover - of Wade Wilson fighting a giant Godzilla, who appears to be spewing cats out of his mouth. It just looks awesome! What doesn't look awesome, though, are the creators attached to the title. Not that I dislike any of them -- its just that I simply don't know who they are?! I tried for a while to jump back on the cult-favorite Deadpool  bandwagon - but was sorely disappointed at the sometime anemic humor and storytelling of Daniel Way; he had some very good moments writing the character - but his tenure on the title lasted way too long, and it showed! So I'm in no rush to try an un-tested new Deadpool series; even if theres a cat-spewing Godzilla.

Hummm... Deadpool vs a Zombie Richard Nixon does sounds fun, though.

Another title I'm not getting is A + X - a team-up title, ala the A vs X mini-series, running alongside Avengers  vs X-Men. Each issue will feature a 10 page story, with an Avenger and X-Man teaming up. They do bring onboard great artists - but I simply can't recommend this title in any way - given the $4 cost, and the stingy premium on page-count Marvel is clinging to these days. Reduced from 22, to 20 pages - comic writers have thankfully adapted, squeezing more content into the reduced space. Having a story worth telling in 10-pages would be challenging for any writer; so I'm not interested to see if someone hit the bulls-eye, and managed a good story in those 10 pages, or if it failed and made the $4 price even more insulting. In A vs X - the context of the two characters fighting against one another removes a lot of supposition from the plot - and gives you just the battle. Maybe I'm wrong - maybe more pages will be in each issue. Still, it's an utter pass for me.

This is the one title I'm very conflicted about! I dropped the Fantastic Four, early during Johnathan Hickman's run - but was able to play catch-up when I excitedly saw the epic scope of the tale he was telling. I'd really like to continue reading the Fantastic Four, especially with Mark Bagley on art. I could deal with Matt Fraction writing the book -- science fiction always seems more like his wheelhouse. Right away there is also a dramatic change to the status quo - as the team will be going off into the vast reaches of space, into the unknown. (Cue Star Trek music) I'm absolutely sure the team will return to Earth eventually - but meanwhile...

A substitute FF will stand in for the the Family while they are gone. Ant-Man, Medusa, and She-Hulk (green) will maintain things in their stead. Matt Faction is also writing - with the stellar and quirky art of Michael Allred. Wait -- who's that rounding out the 4th member of the team? Sharon Ventura?!?? For those who don't know, and those like me who want to forget, Sharon Ventura was for a while She-Thing - a woman who gained the powers of the Thing. I know, I know! Do we have to go over the looks vs substance drama, but this time with a woman as the human piece of concrete?! I simply have never liked the character. Here, it appears she has lost their She-Thing powers -- but is using an old robotic Thing suit, which Ben used on occasion, when he was temporarily cured, but still wanted to help in fights. I get it; this is going to be a quirky weird title. I'm just not coming along; and in fact is pushing me away from even reading the regular Fantastic Four book; with the same writer, the two titles are bound to combine sooner or later.

Guardians of the Galaxy is the one new title I'll be picking up based purely on the creator's past work: Brian Michael Bendis and Steve McNiven. Also, I really enjoyed the Guardian's appearance in Avengers Assemble -- Rocket Raccoon seems like a character Bendis was born to write! There, of course, is also the announced movie, which looks like it is going to be awesome! I usually shun space books, especially those in the Marvel Universe. Nothing against the far reaches of space - I've been a fan of Star Trek all my life. Yet even at its best moments, looking over and seeing what was going on in the various Annihilation-Conquest-WarofKings-whatever space-themed books looked impenetrable. All the wonders of the cosmos might sound like a great backdrop for a series, but - without a connection to central cast, it just feels too large to ever be emotionally invested in. (At least thats what it felt like for me.) Here, focusing on the Guardians themselves, we are being given that core cast - with entry characters like Star Lord, who I read about a bit during a long-time-ago Thanos mini-series, or Rocket Raccoon - who was a nice addition to the Marvel vs Capcom roster. I even caught up and learned who Groot is! (I didn't know, despite him telling you his name all the time. "I am Groot!") Long term, and with the movie coming up to support it - Bendis' titles are usually a good bet to invest in for the long haul.

So - that's my take on Marvel NOW! I hope I picked a good selection of series to get -- I'm using this revival as an opportunity to consolidate my comic purchases. The $4 price tag on certain titles, though, make it harder to sign up for certain titles. I like Marvel's AR and Free Digital Copy, to add value to the issues - but with double shipping months still on the table, sticking with Marvel will have to be a calculated bet. At least in one area I'm positive I'll be pleased: the content. This looks like a supremely solid line-up, and I have very high hopes for it.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Nintendo 3DS Recommendations: New Super Mario Brothers 2

The third game I wanted to point out for the Nintendo 3DS is New Super Mario Brothers 2. Its an obvious game to point out - Mario games are always solid titles you can rely on for any Nintendo system. While this revival of 2-D Mario Platforming, ironically on a 3D system, is covering familiar ground - there has been an added twist to the gameplay. For years and years, coin collecting and 1-Ups have become less and less necessary. They are useful when trying to get through a particularly aggregating level - but most players usually have over 50, or 80 lives to spare by the end of the game. Save files, really, have made collecting lives kind of redundant. So it was interesting to see Nintendo shift renewed focus onto coin collecting - challenging you to collect a Million Coins! Your total number of coins is continually tallied, and can be boosted with the Coin Rush mode, where you are given 3 randomly chosen levels to get through quickly, but also try and collect the most coins. It's ultimately a gimmick - and with the plethora of hidden locations, where you can amass a large number of coins, you'd think it would become less enticing to continue searching for secrets and hidden pathways. Quite the opposite -- while you might not risk a frustrating level to find every single stash of coins -- the process of collecting more and more, to that grand total, is engaging in of itself. There supposedly isn't any prize to be gained by collecting a million coins - the the total will continue to be tallied, even across multiple game files and playthroughs. It simply makes coin collecting in a Mario Brothers game engaging again.

While the 3D in this title isn't necessary - I found it to be a nice atmospheric effect. The back background, clear when in 2D, becomes blurry in 3d - which gives a slight sense of depth. The effects become more noticeable in water levels, or levels with lava, with embers flying around in the fore and background.

Luigi can be unlocked, by completing the main quest -- after which all you have to do, when clicking on your game file, you press the shoulder buttons together. Luigi is playable right away for co-op play.

One of the cool things about this title is the return of the Tanooki flying powers. While it's great to see the flying and floating power-up back in the series - in this title, while it still works the same as in the original Mario Brothers 3, you are given fewer opportunities to run at full speed to be able to lift off the ground.

Mario Brothers 3, being of one of the best gaming experiences on the original NES, I am continually pleased to see the Koopa Kids returning yet again. They battle much like they did in their Wii appearance - but that's not a bad thing. They aren't hard bosses to beat - but they are fun to stomp on every time!

Anyway - that's the last 3DS Recommendation I have. The 3DS certainly had a slow start out of the gate - but with more games like this, Kingdom Hearts, and Final Fantasy Theatrhythm, the system's future should hold quite well.

As to what might be worth your time on the 3DS in the coming months? Paper Mario: Sticker Star looks like its going to be a fun title, that should make good use of the 3D capabilities of the system. The Mario RPG series has always been fun and wildly imaginative - so it's a title I'll be eyeing this Holiday season. I'm waiting, though, for the inevitable pre-order bonus announcement; stickers seem appropriate!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Nintendo 3DS Recommendations: Final Fantasy Theatrhythm

My second 3DS Recommendation is the music title "Final Fantasy Theatrhythm". The Final Fantasy series has a long and rich musical history, due in large part to Nobuo Uematsu. His foundation of classically based music bleed through the limitations of the NES sound capabilities - creating some wonderfully memorable themes. His music has been featured in several live orchestral concerts around the world. This video, of an old G4TV series "Icons" - gives a nice biography of Uematsu's history and work.

Even though Uematsu has since left Square Enix, to write and develop songs for his new company Mistwalker - and though missed, the series has proceeded excellently in his absence. Final Fantasy 12, the first game to not feature his music, other than the initial opening theme, continued the series' strong musical tradition. Final Fantasy 13, being a very different game in-of-itself, branched out more into new territory with lots so techno-inspired themes -- but likewise never lost the core of what the music does for the series.

I personally have enjoyed the music of Final Fantasy for many years, long ago having bought the CD Collections for Final Fantasy VII, and Final Fantasy Tactics - with additional CDs included with the games, like a sampling of FFV and FFVI music, and the entire soundtrack to Final Fantasy XIII-2. It has simply been a remarkable series, from far back to my childhood, to today.

I initially, though, would never have thought to buy Final Fantasy Theatrhythm - mainly due to my lack of experience or success with music-based gameplay, or even worse with the likes of Dance Dance Revolution, of other similar titles. What convinced me to pick the game up was a demo Nintendo offered for download through the Nintendo 3DS. Only two songs where available to try - but I immediately found myself both doing well, and having fun, with the music-based gameplay.

The gameplay of the series is pretty structured, but has nice elements buried underneath to make repeat gameplay engaging. You play exclusively using the stylus and touch screen - which actually works quite naturally, tapping, holding, and slashing to notes, or "triggers", as they are called.

There are three different types of music stages -- you first play through the songs series-by-series. There is an opening and ending theme, which has a minor tapping mini-game. Inbetween each series features a Field Music Stage (FMS), for themes when you are walking around, Battle Music Stage (BMS), which treats the four-fighter slots, battling monsters, like a music sheet, and Emotion Music Stage (EMS), which shows a montage video of scenes from the series.

The series does have a story - something silly involving a music crystal, and you collecting special Rythmia (points, or your score), to revive said crystal. It is merely a framing device, and really has no bearing on the gameplay -- but it does give motivation to the activity.

There are several unlockable elements - like a challenge mode, where you can play each song individually (which varying degrees of challenge), and a special "Chaos Shrine" mode, where randomly generated song-match ups are presented to you, which can also be shared with other users through Street Pass, or multiplayer.

I've been pleasantly surprised how well I've taken to the gameplay -- but there is a wall, in terms of challenge, where the gameplay becomes either too difficult, or nearly impossible. The Chaos Shrine is a fine example of this, with notes flying at you faster than you can execute - making it a mad dash to the end of the song. Stat-boosting items help mitigate that - but they do not let your soar through a track without your consistent participation. I've particularly been stuck on the third Chaos Shrine level (called "Dark Notes") - and to eventually pass it, I've resigned to simply building up my character's levels higher and higher, to a point where I can complete the song track before failing.

As you collect more Rythmia, you get more bonuses every 500 points. The bonuses, though, are very drawn out - a profile card for Street Pass far too often being what you get. You also obtain different colored crystals, leading up to unlocking new playable characters; this too, is very slow going - I haven't unlocked a single new character. Eventually, though, you'll unlock more bonus songs - and there are now 40 Downloadable songs for purchase. (I elected to buy $10 worth; a dollar apiece).

As for the 3D, for this 3DS title? It really isn't a necessary feature, and can be played exactly the same with it turned off -- but it does give a nice sense of depth - even to non-3D movies, like with the Emotion Music Stages.

Despite my gripes about all of that, this is simply a wonderful game - for both old and new fans alike. For those unfamiliar with the Final Fantasy series, the songs are very enjoyable even if you've never played the games. (Music is, after all, universal.) For people who have played the various games - a wealth of memories can come  flooding back, for this beloved franchise.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Nintendo 3DS Recommendations: Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance

The Nintendo 3DS has been a rather large disappointment for Nintendo as a whole. After years of nearly controlling all of the portable gaming market, they are now faced with greater competition, from the likes of the ipad and PSVita. Add on top of that, a sluggish economy, a disadvantage in Dollar to Yen ratio, and an expectation that they have to keep innovating, after smashing sales records with the Nintendo Wii. The Nintendo 3DS was their improvement to the Nintendo DS. Sales where good at first - but quickly dropped like a stone. Nintendo was forced by retailers to sell the Nintendo 3DS at a discount, just so games and software would sell better. I was one of many who stood at the sidelines, waiting to see what happened - and hoping for a price cut. The price cut came (and will leave soon, BTW) - and I got my Nintendo 3DS. While it's not a perfect system, I was very pleased with it. With Super Mario Land and Mario Kart - it seemed like an overly ambitious, but successful piece of gaming hardware.

Then the waiting began. The 3DS' launch line-up of games was quite laughable - but it seemed to hurt even more a year later, when there was still a drought of games I wanted to play. I was planning on getting Kid Icarus - but was quite dissuaded by reviews about the horrible gaming controls. There where of course some decent games I could have gotten - but I really didn't want to resort to buying shovel-ware - a game to temporarily bide the time away. So my Nintendo 3DS languished, unused for a better part of this year.

The system, though, has sprung back to life for me - with 3 games I think are worth any 3DS owner's time. The first one I wanted to high-light is Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance!

The Kingdom Hearts series has been a true pleasure to be able to play over the last decade. Seemingly doing the impossible, smashing together Disney properties alongside Final Fantasy characters - what should have been a recipe for disaster turned out to be one of the richest and most heartwarming of game series. Kingdom Hearts, and Kingdom Hearts 2 - on the Playstation 2 - where incredible games. The series, though, has been in a holding pattern of sorts - releasing DS games, filling in background or side character's stories - while generally just retreading the same ground as the console titles. I skipped all of that -- Chain of Memories, released as a prelude to Kingdom Hearts 2, is the only side game I had played in the series. While having played Chain of Memories did give me a head-start on the story in Kingdom Hearts 2, it ultimately wasn't required to understand the main narrative. So I just skipped all other side-titles on the Nintendo 3DS - which were not only retreading the same ground as before, but wasn't advancing the narrative a single inch.

That all changed with Dream Drop Distance! This title, serving as a prelude (hopefully a soon-to-come prelude) to Kingdom Hearts 3, has not only given us new territory to explore - continuing the overall narrative of the series - but it also has managed to be what I consider the must-have-game of the Nintendo 3DS system. Gaming Systems always wait for the that one game, that convinces people to buy the system - and for the 3DS, if its not Super Mario Land 3D, then it definitely is Dream Drop Distance.

This game shows Sora and Riku going into a dream world - to pass their Mark of Mastery examination, to become true Keyblade Masters. Apparently the older DS games covered this area before - so it's an overused plot-device, but it works well enough to explain the new realm Sora and Riku find themselves in.

Going to various Disney Worlds, Sora and Riku fight Dream Eaters - and also recruit friendly Dream Creatures, to fight alongside and enhance the characters abilities. You can even use AR cards (which the games comes with 3), which allows you to use your pet monsters in augmented reality. You can also pet and interact with them, which helps them develops; which is quite a cute feature. While shoving in a Pokemon-like element to the series cries of desperation in most games, I've found myself quite engaged and pleased with the set up. The action is smooth to begin with, eliminating MP for a cool-down system - but the addition of the Dream Creatures enables you to focus on the high-paced combat, which is quite frankly more stellar than ever. I kept finding myself wishing that Kingdom Hearts 3 uses some of these game mechanics.

Sora and Riku fight separately, switching between each other as they both go through their own versions of the test. You have a "Drop" meter, which counts down to a point where the character you are playing if forced to fall asleep - and changing the game over to the other character's narrative. While it might seem annoying at first, it's actually quite a good way to make the game seem less isolating in it's narrative. Also, Sora and Riku both have different sets of abilities - with incredible action-packed fights to be found in each character's story. They both, however, have a new ability - they are able to activate it by jumping off of a surface, or a grind-rail - and launch devastating attacks. Moving through the sometimes narrow, or wide open spaces is made wonderfully simple with this ability outside of combat as well.

To make things even more fun - each world has a special ability you can use, on either the environment or on adversaries. This is, I swear, is useless-gimmick-101 -but it works! In the first level you can dive into a mode that allows you to either hurl a barrel of an enemy at foes or objects -- and it does this by switching the scene down to the touch-screen. Seriously, like everything about this series - this shouldn't work -- but its so smoothly executed, and usable during combat, that I can't help but smile that this gimmick-laced mini-game during combat actually enhances the whole experience! The transition from the top 3D screen, to the touch-based bottom screen, is utterly seamless!

One of the down-sides to a portable version of a game title is that the graphics are never as good as their console brethren. Not so, here. While Kingdom Hearts 3 will no doubt have better graphics, the capabilities of the Nintendo 3DS more than match what the PS2 was capable of. There are limitations, like the PS2 had - there are no crowds in locations like Paris, in the Hunchback of Notre Dame level. Yet that is a minor complaint, and doesn't leave me any less impressed. What really blows the graphics out of the water is an equal combination of both vibrant color and the 3D effect. The Dream Eaters are colorful and bright - which contrasts nicely the regular settings. The colors, though, colorful and bright, never seem weary to the eye. As for the 3D effect, once again, there is no reason this should have worked - never mind working this well! I head heard about how many 3DS owners sometimes play without the 3D-Effect. While that's fine - it seems to laughably defeat the purpose of the system. Still, when the action is too quick paced - or its straining your eyes - turning the 3D off is expected. The battles in Kingdom Hearts have never lacked speed - so I thought that this might be a title where the 3D-effect isn't utilized as much. Wrong! The 3D Effect seems so effortlessly implemented here - that I'm still confounded as to how they made it work this well. When fighting - the action will literally fly in EVERY SINGLE DIRECTION. Somehow, someway, I'm quite able to keep the 3D on, despite the high-speed pace of the camera and action. The areas seem nicely enhanced with the 3D - and the cut scenes especially exude excellent examples of distance, with little bits like colorful pieces of a monster falling away, or flames encircling a scene. With the bright color pallet, it's simply quite gorgeous.

As for the story -- I haven't gotten all the way through, yet, but I'm quite pleased with the narrative. Having skipped the DS games, there are some moments where those plotlines are referenced or touched on, leaving me confused - but the main narrative thrust is never misunderstood. The Disney Worlds that where picked seemed quite well chosen - as it takes us more to the side of the Disney's stable of movie. The Hunchback of Notre Dame, while truncated, is nicely portrayed -- and its is nice to see a topic like racism not being ignored. (Though it obviously is watered down. It was in the film.)

The voice acting is nothing but superb, even at times bringing back the original voice actors from the original movies! Though not large roles, Jason Alexander reprises the stone gargoyle Hugo, and Pat Carroll reprises as Ursula. When not available, the voice actors do a more than decent job in imitating or matching voices. (I'd imagine they would have to be good, even on Japan's side -- getting Donald Duck to sound right in Japanese doesn't sound easy. But they do it.) Haley Joel Osment, who does the voice of the lead character Sora, was sort of grown-up with the series. He was much younger when Kingdom Hearts began, and years later when his voice had changed, Kingdom Hearts 2 made Sora a bit older. His voice sounds more mature since then -- but his voice still matches the character excellently.

Another world included in the game feature Pinocchio, taking place in two different locations; Sora finds Pinocchio at the theme park that turns disobedient children into donkeys. The game later moves down into the ocean - where unexplained, Sora can jump right into without fear of drowning. (You can attribute it to Magic, it being a dream world - but I think it was intentional, as in the film there was little cause for continued breath when Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket took a dive into the ocean.) The presence of Jiminy, and other characters already met in the other Kingdom Hearts games,  is explained -- adding nuance to the mechanics of the world. The other half of Pinocchio's world has Riku trapped inside the giant Whale, with a lot of surprising elements to the level.

Tron: Legacy, one of Disney's latest movies (Pirates of the Caribbean appeared in Kingdom Hearts 2) - this entry serves as a sort of sequel to Sora's adventure in the Grid during Kingdom Hearts 2.

Sora and Riku find a very different Grid, evolved since last it was explored - with tyrant CLU in charge, and pretty much follows similar events from the film. While the movie didn't do that great at the box office, I enjoyed it - and appreciated this semi-sequel.

Other Worlds include Three Musketeers and Fantasia. For the Three Musketeers, you are reunited with Mickey, Donald, and Goofy -- though only dream-versions; Mickey and company usually come from the Disney Castle World - so it's explained that this was a world Mickey must have visited once before, and within the dream land is being retold with Sora involved. Events outside the dreaming, with the real King Mickey and Company, face a kidnapped Queen Minni.

Fantasia promises to be a fun world - as it has various different locals to draw upon. Being a musical movie, there are suppose to be nice elements, like notes playing every time you hit an enemy.

I've read everywhere people complaining about the appearance of Transverse Town again (a hub-world, for the Kingdom Hearts series). Since I didn't play the DS games, seeing Transverse Town isn't as big an annoyance for me -- plus it has the appearance of characters from cult fan-favorite game "The World Ends with You". I've never played that Square Enix game - but it doesn't seem to be required knowledge. The characters from the World Ends with You sort of act like guides, explaining aspects of the dream world to Sora and Riku - one of the characters having the ability to cross-between both sides of the dream world.

Overall - if you've been interested in getting a Nintendo 3DS, but have been concerned wether there are any good games to play on it -- Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance is a game not to miss!