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Dream Drop Distance - Kingdom Hearts 3 in all but name?

A sight for Sora eyes...

In a vault somewhere at Square Enix HQ, there's a box containing the secret PAL versions of all their SNES RPGs, the plans to a Wii U remake of Final Fantasy VII, and - most valuable of all - a document detailing exactly what's going in the labyrinthine narrative of Kingdom Hearts.

Sadly, after maxing out our sneak skill and stabbing our way into the building, we're still no closer to discovering this elusive treasure, although we did stumble across the lost sequel to Dragon Quest Swords, if anyone's interested.

Which means, you lucky things, that it's time for our tri-annual Make Sense Of Kingdom Hearts event. Before we get started, you'll need a pencil, graph paper, and Freud's Big Book Of Psychoanalysis - things are about to get heavy.

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Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance takes place directly after the events of the second game, which you may have forgotten after the many handheld spin-offs and side-stories. Goody-two-clogs Sora and moody anti-hero Riku have just defeated Ansem and Xemnas and saved most of the known universe, but their heroic deeds have caused the evil Xehanort to be revived. Xehanort, as you'll recall, is the Big Bad at the middle of Kingdom Hearts, though he's appeared in a variety of forms over the years. In order to be powerful enough to destroy him for real, Sora and Riku must pass the Mark Of Mastery exam, and gain full control over their keyblades.

SPIN DOCTORS
If you've played any of the spin-offs - including, most recently, 358/2 Days and Re:coded on DS - you'll have noticed Square Enix's odd reluctance to move the main story forward, pitching these games as prequels, forgotten adventures or even virtual reality simulations, presumably so fans without handhelds won't be confused when Kingdom Hearts III eventually rolls along.

Some of those titles were pretty robust, but there was always the vague sense that their stories were irrelevant, or that they were exploring backstory that wasn't especially interesting the first place.

While there's still an element of that apparent in Dream Drop Distance (its events will basically set the scene for the third game) at least it finally appears to be pushing ahead with the primary story. As far as we know, you'll be playing as the original Sora and Riku, and not their Nobodies, clones, robots or AI constructs.

What's more, this game doesn't seem to be resting on its laurels (and re-using content) by revisiting areas from other titles - every Disney world you journey to will be brand new, albeit 'submerged in sleep', whatever that means. There hasn't been this much original content since KHII way back in 2006.

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Confirmed worlds2 include Paris from The Hunchback Of Notre Dame, the jungle from, er, The Jungle Book, as well as areas based on Dumbo and The Sword In The Stone. (We're guessing they're saving The Parent Trap for a later game.) Hopefully they'll be a little less boxy than the environments of recent games, which often felt constrained by the hardware.

For the first time in the series, Dream Drop Distance will feature a duo of playable characters, although there only appear to be slight differences between the two of them. Sora can glide on rails and perform a rather nifty ground-pound move, while Riku turns his nose up at gravity with his handy double-jump. Combat in general seems slightly faster and more acrobatic than before, if that's even possible.

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