The seventh (not counting remakes) entry into Disney and Square Enix's crossover seriesKingdom Hearts, Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream Drop Distance] is a game for the Nintendo 3DS hand-held. This is the game that serves to connect not just Birth by Sleep, 358/2 Days, and Re:coded, but also every single game before them to Kingdom Hearts III itself. The story initially concerns Sora and Riku's Mark of Mastery test conducted by Yen Sid—a journey into the realm of dreams and sleep, where they are to find the seven Sleeping Keyholes and release the worlds trapped within. However, during their quest, a mysterious and malevolent young man in a black coat makes himself known, and villains from the past begin to follow suit...Featuring all new Disney worlds alongside old originals such as Traverse Town, the game stars both Sora and Riku as the main characters, both as their younger selves (a side effect of them traveling to worlds trapped in the past) but with entirely new attire. The game has graphics on par with Kingdom Hearts II, thanks to the higher processing power of the 3DS, and supports full 3D imagery, partial AR functions and the 3DS Circle Pad Pro expansion. The gameplay is a slightly simplified version of Birth by Sleep's, but with several new additions and alterations such as the "Flowmotion" mechanic and the new creatable Dream Eaters. Gameplay switches between Sora and Riku by way of the new "Drop" gauge, which continually decreases; when the gauge completely empties, the current player character falls asleep and is replaced by the other.The game was released in Japan on March 29, 2012, with a European release on July 20, 2012 and a North American release on July 31, 2012.Has its own And The Fandom Rejoiced page here.
Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream Drop Distance] provides examples of:
Ambidextrous Sprite: An odd 3D example - Musketeer Mickey's hat will sometimes swap sides during cutscenes depending on what angle the camera starts relative to him.
And Now for Someone Completely Different: For the first time since Chain of Memories, Riku features as a playable character with a role equal to Sora's. The Drop mechanic makes sure that you can switch at any time (emphasis on any). You can be in the middle of a swing and then drop to the other character. However, any fights (including boss fights) will restart from the beginning when you return.
Arbitrary Headcount Limit: No matter how many Dream Eaters you create, only three can be in your party and only two can actually fight alongside you at a time.
Arc Symbol/Arc Words: "Recusant's Sigil". The term is suddenly introduced via Glossary entry and characters start making cryptic references to the term and the sigil itself, but its meaning isn't revealed until the very end of Sora's scenario. The sigil is an "X". When planted by Xehanort(s), he is able to track its location at any time. The crossing straps on Sora's outfit are the most recent and most immediately troubling example, but as the Glossary entry points out, the sigil has been all over the series from day one.
Xemnas: As your flesh bears the sigil, so your name shall be known as that...of a recusant.
As You Know: At the beginning of Sora's half of the Prankster's Paradise chapter, Jiminy sits by himself and monologues about Pinocchio's origins and motivations as part of a lament on how he's run off on his own.
Augmented Reality: You can play with your Dream Eaters in AR games using the 3DS camera.
Back-to-Back Badasses: Ansem SOD and Xemnas in the final game scenario, where Xemnas appears to be Xehanort's lackey exclusively for Sora, whilst Ansem SOD antagonizes Riku primarily.
As flat out stated in the secret ending of Re:coded, Master Xehanort has returned now that his Heartless (Ansem) and Nobody (Xemnas) have been destroyed. Not only that, but said Heartless and Nobody actually show up alongside him, Back from the Dead as well.
Bait-and-Switch Boss: Frollo in Riku's story. Frollo is standing on the balcony of Notre Dame, surrounded by an aura of darkness and swinging a sword about. Riku gets ready to fight, when the Wargoyle flies up behind Frollo, causing him to lose his balance and fall.
Battle in the Center of the Mind: Riku has a battle in the center of Sora's heart against Sora himself, trapped in Ventus' Nightmare-possessed armor, in order to save him from his deep sleep in the depths of darkness.
Because Destiny Says So: Provides a convenient Hand Wave near the end of the game for just how Master Xehanort was able to know so much about what was and is going to happen years ahead of time.
Lea saves Minnie when she's being held hostage by Maleficent and Pete.
Three times in the same scene where Riku appears to have been cornered by the new Organization: Mickey appears and freezes them with Stopza. Then Lea appears to prevent Sora from becoming Master Xehanort's thirteenth vessel. Then Donald and Goofy appear to save Riku and Mickey from "Ansem"'s Guardian.
Bittersweet Ending: As per usual. Riku is a Keyblade Master, Axel and Kairi are training to help the gang with their own Keyblades, Sora keeps his Spirit friends, Master Xehanort's plans to revive an army of his incarnations is delayed, and it's implied Riku now has the power to save the Birth By Sleep trio. However, Master Xehanort is still back with enough of his incarnations to keep working, he's going after the Princesses of Heart next, and another Keyblade War is on the horizon and averting it is seemingly impossible.
Boss Bonanza: The game doesn't disappoint in this department, pitting you against a total of six bosses in the final world.
Boss Remix: Perhaps one of the seriess' best use of this trope. When Riku dives into Sora's heart to free him from Xehanort's darkness at the end of the game and fights Ventus's corrupted armor on Sora's station of awakening, the battle music is a remix of the traditional dive to the heart theme.
Boss Rush: The first fight against Spellican doesn't involve said Dream Eater at all; he instead summons Hockomonkey, Wargoyle, and Char Clawbster to battle Sora.
Bowdlerization: Averted. Braig/Xigbar gets to keep his sniper rifle this time (unlike Kingdom Hearts II and Birth by Sleep), but since it only shows up twice for a couple seconds each (it makes an extremely brief appearance in one in-game scene, and the whole thing is never shown in one shot; it also makes a complete, but short, appearance during the pre-rendered ending credits), the localization team probably didn't see the point of changing it.
The three questions asked in the original game are asked again near the end of the game: "What do you want in life?", "What are you afraid of?", "What is the most important thing to you?" (not in that particular order).
Ansem the Wise once again asks Riku for his name when they meet again in the ending. The latter responds with his actual name, this time.
The fight with Young Xehanort sees him do a number of things that he did in Birth By Sleep. He summons the No Name keyblade, with the exact same motion as he used to summon his blades before the battle in Birth By Sleep, and can turn it into energy whips to attack Riku. When he stops time, he starts using the same energy blades as in that fight, and defends the clock with many of his old moves, including his clones, his basic Laser Blade combo, the χ-shaped energy waves, and a combinaion of Raging Storm and Whirlwind To The Void.
Also, the battle borrows elements from the boss fights with both Master Xehanort and Terra-Xehanort, including his initial fighting stance and his penchant for using Dark Volley/Zero Shot.
When Donald and Goofy save Riku and Mickey from the Guardian, they warp into the scene using Yen Sid's Star Shard.
The Ventus Armor Nightmare uses attacks taken from both Ventus and Vanitas. Among them are many attacks from the Fever Pitch Command Style, a weird tendrilly version of Aeroga, and the final attack, which he prepares as a Shotlock. To top it all off, the battle ends with a round of Air Jousting similar to the finale of the final Ventus/Vanitas battle.
The correct three answers to the questions posed to Riku at the end of the game are nearly exactly the same answers he gave to Terra back in Birth by Sleep.
The graphic effects that appear when Sora restores Rinzler to Tron are similar to the "Complete Compilement" Limit Break back in II.
Nightmare's End and Mirage Split have Riku and Sora grabbing giant keyblades of light and darkness and swinging them to attack, similar to part of their Eternal Session Limit Break in II, and even being used in the same world.
Cartoon Conductor: Sora spends an entire level searching for a magical power that specifically allows him to conjure music from thin air just by waving his weapon like a baton.
Sora's new clothes. The big "X" across his torso is eventually revealed to be the "Recusant's Sigil" that Xehanort uses to mark his potential hosts, and also what allowed Organization XIII to track Sora through the game.
The Dream Eater symbol on Riku's new clothes. It's eventually revealed he's been acting as Sora's Dream Eater Spirit the entire game.
The very first Dream Eaters that you're forced to make. See Chekhov's Skill.
Chekhov's Skill: The first world you go to after Traverse Town is likely La Cite De Cloches. The Reality Shift is Faithline, letting you create grindrails of light between enemy dream eaters to quickly zip between and attack all of them. Since these are world exclusive, you don't use it again unless you return to this world. In the final world, Riku is looking for Sora and finds the first Dream Eater Sora made, a Meow Wow, across a giant abyss. Riku wonders how to get across, when the first Dream Eater he made, a Komory Bat, appears to Riku and gives him the idea to use Dreamline, which is Faithline between two ally Dream Eaters to get across.
Clap Your Hands If You Believe: According to Joshua, the other TWEWY characters were in danger of fading from existence unless outsiders observed and acknowledged them.
Climax Boss: Xemnas, Ansem SoD, and Young Xehanort. The last one feels more like a Final Boss than Sora in Nightmare Armor is.
Colony Drop: One of the Dual Links. Terra's Meteor spell also returns as an attack exclusive to Riku.
Composite Character: Gameplay-wise, Riku seems to be a mix of Terra and Aqua. He gets many of Terra's exclusive commands. but has a dark version of Aqua's Barrier and a slightly different version of Ghost Drive, as well as Doubleflight.
Continuity Nod: Several. The more obvious ones unlock Chronicles on the Memento menu, allowing the narrative to continue without being bogged down by exposition that would be necessary for newer players.
Credits Medley: Combines "Hand in Hand", "All for One" (Country of the Musketeers battle theme), "Prankster's Party" (Prankster's Paradise battle theme), "Dream Eaters", "La Sanctuaire" (La Cité des Cloches battle theme), and "Dearly Beloved."
Cyber Space: Makes an appearance with The Grid, this time being the representation of the originals for Tron (or at least the original of the upgrade of Tron a'la the film universe), rather than the backup copy that was in Space Paranoids.
Darker and Edgier: Some of the stuff that happens to Sora is pretty grim. He nearly loses his heart forever, gets mind-screwed on more than one occasion, has some pretty jarring nightmares (no, not the monsters), and sees far more of Xehanort's evil than Riku.
Dark Is Evil: The Dream Eaters are creatures of darkness in worlds the heartless cannot reach.
Dark Is Not Evil: The "Spirit" Dream Eaters eat bad dreams just as there are "Nightmare" ones that eat good dreams. Spirits can also be synthesized by Sora, Riku, and others. This trope, along with Dark Is Evil, is also the reason why Xehanort ultimately chooses Sora as a vessel, because Riku's Character Development and revelations about the darkness led him to develop a natural resistance to its more corrupting effects, so even if Riku himself continues to use it, Xehanort can't use Riku as a dark vessel.
Department of Redundancy Department: A running trend among the Dream Eaters, at least in terms of their Japanese names. For example: Koumori Bat ("Bat Bat"), Kuma Pandar ("Bear Panda(r)"), Neko Cat ("Cat Cat")...
Changed to traditional puns in the English game — Komory Bat, Kumo Panda, and Necho Cat.
Die, Chair! Die!: In boss battle against Julius, he's capable of destroying the lampposts in the square. Subverted in that you yourself cannot do this and it only shows up in this one fight.
Disk One Nuke: Strong Spirits can be made from the get-go, although you'll probably need a guide.
FlowMotion. As long as there's a handy wall, ledge or pole nearby to get your initial jump-off, you can zoom across the map to unleash powerful area-of-effect attacks and drill into a single enemy for extra damage, and there is absolutely no penalty or cost to continually jumping off walls to attack. Early in the game FlowMotion will probably do more damage than actual commands, but by the end of the game when you have access to your choice of powerful group attacks, they do pitiful damage and take too long to execute.
Zero Graviza (the only fourth tier version of a spell available) can be obtained surprisingly early. You'll likely even come upon it without a guide if you're just creating and leveling up new spirits semi-frequently. It affects all non boss enemies within a huge range, utterly incapacitating everything and gathering them up in a single spot for around half a minute so you can lay the hurt down with impunity. As a result, Thundaga ends up shining as a Disk One Nuke as well, since each jolt of lightning will also jump to every surrounding enemy—if you've got a half dozen enemies all in the same spot, well...
Disproportionate Retribution: Riku, during the Country of the Musketeers, gets tripped, then is victim to the "tapping someone on the shoulder and disappearing" trick. When it is revealed that the Holey Moley was the one doing it, Riku responds by killing it. More blatant when you realize that this is one of the easiest bosses in the game.
Dream Land / Dream Walker: Sora and Riku's Mark of Mastery test consists of going through the dreams of the Sleeping Worlds. Only Riku walks through Sora's dreams for all but his penultimate level. In fact, most of the characters in the story become Dream Walkers near the end.
Sora is trapped in one in the World that Never Was. The first layer of dreams isn't that trippy. The second layer of dreams is really trippy.
Riku is in Sora's dreams the entire time Sora himself is in the dreaming worlds.
Duel Boss: Rinzler for Sora. Riku gets the Armored Ventus Nightmare, and the first battle with Ansem, Seeker of Darkness has sections where your Dream Eaters are unavailable. The bonus boss Julius is also a standout example.
Young Xehanort. Quite jarring, considering how hammy his other selves are. Frighteningly, it doesn't feel out of character for this particular Xehanort though, serving to make him seem creepier, kind of like Billy Zane's Ansem in the original game. Xemnas is very similar in this regard, since he doesn't bother to yell or shout like he did in Kingdom Hearts II and just remains solemn.
Lea has this reaction at the end of the game after accidentally materializing a Keyblade for the first time, which is in stark contrast to everyone else's Big "WHAT?!".
Lea, at least, is clearly being toned down on purpose. His act is way too consistent to be regular old unintentional Dull Surprise (and based on Flynn's other work, he couldn't pull something like that off on accident with his voice). In which case it's in all likelihood an Invoked Trope on Quinton Flynn's part.
Evil Counterpart: Riku and the Anti-Black Coat, who respectively serve as a Spirit and Nightmare tailored to Sora.
Evil Plan: Xehanort's plan to use Sora was set into action from the moment Ansem SoD met him on Destiny Islands in Kingdom Hearts.
Expy: Sudo Neku to its namesake. Even more so when Minamimoto uses it in the Tin Pin Cup of Flick Rush. Its coloring matches that of Neku's shirt.
Fighting Your Friend: There is a variation of this in the TRON: Legacy world, considering Rinzler, CLU's Dragon, is Tron. The last boss is also this, as it's Sora in Nightmare Armor and Riku is forced to fight him to free him.
Arguably, Xigbar and Young Xehanort could actually have their positions switched around. Despite revealing he's "half-Xehanort" and being Xehanort/Xemnas' hidden Dragon throughout the series, Xigbar is just as chatty as ever, easily coming across as the least serious member of the group. On the other hand, Young Xehanort, by virtue of being The Heavy, directly breaking Sora's heart at/near the climax of the game, and being the one tasked with gathering together the various incarnations of Xehanort across time in the first place, has the most direct presence of all the villains assembled. It's all a matter of interpretation.
La Cité des Cloches's Reality Shift "Faithline" lets Sora and Riku zip between selected enemies very quickly.
The new dodge move has shades of this.
Two of Riku's spirit links give him this ability when attacking.
Foreshadowing: When Sora meets Xemnas in Prankster's Paradise, the latter outright states the endgame revelation that Nobodies can grow hearts in a mocking manner.
The game's tagline counts as well. "Darkness becomes light" (Riku becomes a Keyblade Master), "light falls into darkness" (Sora gets drowned in darkness and, despite coming back safe and sound, fails the Mark of Mastery exam).
The game's cover is this too. Riku is soaring up towards the top, Representing his sucess at passing the Mark of Mastery, and his ascension to a Keyblade master, while Sora is falling to the bottom of the cover while asleep Representing him falling into Darkness and failing his Mark of Mastery exam.
Additionally, there are two - perhaps unintentional - examples in two games in the post-Kingdom Hearts II "spinoff trio":
In Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep, while Terra's midair action appears to boil down to a simple dodge, Ventus' is Sora's iconic Glide (upgradeable to Superglide), while Aqua gets a Double Jump ability called Doubleflight. Bear in mind that Ventus is just an almost self-taught, rookie keyblade wielder, whereas Aqua is a full-fledged Keyblade Master. KH3D, Sora gets Glide in Symphony of Sorcery while Riku gets Doubleflight in The World That Never Was.
In the original Japanese printing of the game, there was a glitch where if Riku Dropped before the spiral staircase in Delusive Beginning in the World That Never Was fully manifested, Riku's scenario would be cut off from progressing (you can't re-do the challenge required to turn on the staircase, so you can't do anything to make it appear); the player would have to re-load their save file (and if you happened to save as Sora after Dropping, you were out of luck). A patch was released via the eShop and the bug was fixed for international release.
Towards the end of the game, for plot reasons, you might be forced to switch characters without Dropping. An error in the code for this switch means that, afterwards, Sora and Riku have swapped Link Portals and Forecasts, making the former appear in illogical or inaccessible locations and the latter completely useless. Luckily, it's easily fixed.
It's possible for the final boss to get stuck in the middle of an attack - he'll freeze, allowing you to attack him mercilessly without retribution. But if this happens, you won't be able to defeat him, as the game will be unable to load his final attack when he reaches 1 HP. The only recourse is to reset to your last save - meaning you'll need to fight Young "Trollnort" Xehanort all over again, as well as repeat the final dive into Sora's heart.
Gameplay and Story Segregation: The first time Sora and Riku drop is dictated by the story, not the drop meter. When they wake up, it's obvious that the world has kept functioning despite their falling asleep. When meter-dictated drops start occurring, however, the other side of the game is simply "paused" and picks back up as if nothing happened in the interim when you drop back to it later.
Holey Moley. The boss fight isn't very difficult, but more often than not he will disappear as soon as you reach him (even with the use of Flow motion). Truly annoying.
Spellican might be even worse. He continually teleports around the arena, tries to keep Sora at a distance with showers of stars, summons minions to keep him occupied, and periodically forces Sora into a separate segment where he has to chase Spellican down on grind rails while he fires spells at Sora. In face, he is one in the story as well; Sora and Riku spend the entirety of the second visit to Traverse Town chasing it down and trying to corner it, while it switches between the two halves of the world. They defeat its minions, only for it to fly off to another world entirely.
Lord Kyroo has an enormous amount of HP, and he'll run away to a different world after you've fought him for 75 seconds. Thankfully, his HP does not regenerate between encounters.
Gratuitous French: The Hunchback of Notre Dame world is named La Cité des Cloches (The City of Bells). However, besides that, the world is surprisingly devoid of French. The same can be said about The Land of Musketeers, with the Mont Saint Michel.
Getting the secret ending as always requires certain gameplay accomplishments, but also requires you to answer three particular questions during the ending with the exact right answers (those being "Losing something that is important", "My friends", and "to recover something important"). Word Of God even admits that they put that condition as a trap.
Also more about the ending, one of the requirements for the Secret Ending is that you need a certain number of trophies, that the amount you need depends on the difficulty you chosen. Now unlike Birth By Sleep, the game doesn't even hint at this. Also you need to unlock the Secret Message as well (on Beginner and Standard, Proud and Critical Mode don't require it), but that's much less of a Guide Dang It since players will most likely do this unless they spoil themselves on it. The only consolation is that you don't need to do these requirements in a specific order.
The game tells you that you don't need the recipes to create Dream Eaters, but they help. Anyone with a guide has no such problem and has some potential (you need specific ingredients for them so it isn't completely broken) to create a strong team at the beginning.
Helpful Mook: As described above, the Spirit Dream Eaters can be created by Sora and Riku, and used as either standard teammates in battle or as Dual Links to give unique powers to either character. They can also be moved around the map using Sora's Reality Shift. With regard to the story, the Dream Eaters lead both Sora and Riku to the "Key of Sleep", which is presumably required to open to Sleeping Keyholes.
Ironic Echo: In a meta-sense, Master Xehanort echoes the tagline of Birth by Sleep to justify the crap he inflicted on Terra, Aqua and Ven. "Destiny is never left to chance."
It Makes Sense in Context: Specifically invoked with the trailers for the game, which do spoil quite a bit. However, due to the game's well-known bizarre nature and dream-like setting (known long before the game was released), the spoilery scenes don't make any sense without actually playing the game.
Japanese Beetle Brothers: Two of the Dream Eaters are based on the kuwagata and the kabuto: the Staggerceps and the KO Kabuto respectively.
Kaizo Trap: Oh look, I beat the final boss... wait...DID HE JUST SHOOT LOCK ME?!?
The questions that you get asked in the ending also qualify as this... but to be fair they don't give you a game over if you answer "wrong".
Trailers for the game have spoiled the ending of Birth by Sleep, while the mere existence of the game spoils the secret ending of Re:coded.
The Grid, the TRON: Legacy world, has multiple characters explicitly refer to Rinzler as Tron. This plot twist is actually revealed early on in that stage of the game, while it was only revealed at the end of the movie.
Le Parkour: 3D uses a new gameplay mechanic called "Flowmotion" in the Sleeping Worlds (accessible to at least the Traverse Town residents as well). By holding Y, the player can make Riku or Sora perform over-the-top acrobatics such as infinite wall-jumping, rail-grinding or spinning around poles, which also allows opportunities for special high-damage attacks.
Let X Be the Unknown: The letter's affiliation to Xehanort is explained in this game. It is called the "Recusant's Sigil" and was used by Xemnas, and Xehanort by extension, to mark potential vessels, and as a proof of Xehanort's ownership and influence. It also served as a way for the Organization XIII to track Sora down and guide him to The World That Never Was.
Xemnas: "As your flesh bears the sigil, so your name shall be known as that of a recusant."
Lethal Joke Spell: The Balloon series of spells. As ridiculous as the concept may seem, they're actually an adapted version of the Detonate/Mine series of spells from Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep. They're well known as being one of the easiest methods of defeating bosses such as Julius.
Lightning Bruiser: So many of the huge bosses move at surprising speeds, especially Julius, who attacks so quickly that without the Leaf Bracer ability, you'll almost never be able to use Curaga.
Limited Special Collector's Ultimate Edition: There are versions for both the Japanese and North American releases. The Japanese version includes copies of 3D, Re:coded, and Days, a special KH3D-branded 3DS, and other minor goodies. The North American version (or the "Mark of Mastery Edition") is a bit less nice, only having 3D, a KH3D-branded 3DS case, and said minor goodies.
After defeating Ansem, Riku says "Strength, to protect what matters". In Birth by Sleep, Riku tells Terra that he's searching for strength to protect the things that matter.
In the finale, during his conversation with the digitized Ansem the Wise, there is another, intentional on the part of Ansem the Wise, and acknowledged with a grin by Riku. Compare the lines below.
Ansem the Wise (as DiZ) in Kingdom Hearts II: Young man! I do not believe you told me your name. Riku, in the form of Ansem, Seeker of Darkness: Ansem.
Data-Ansem the Wise, in this game: Young man! I do not believe you told me your name. Riku: It's Riku.
When confronted by Xigbar before the battle against Xemnas, Sora is told that his power is a composite of all those he's connected with, that Sora himself is basically nothing. Sora replies that he's still happy to be part of something bigger. Remember way back in Kingdom Hearts' beginning when Riku was talking about other worlds? Didn't he say that Destiny Islands "is just a little piece of something much greater"? Yeah, reaching a bit, but still cool, intentional or not.
The game's opening video features a 2D, silhouetted Mickey on the bottom screen and full-motion CGI on the top screen, with the illusion given of Mickey jumping from the bottom screen to the top screen when he appears in the CGI video.
Milestone Celebration: 3D is a large part of the series' 10th anniversary celebrations; the logo for it is emblazoned in the top right corner of the games cover, and it also accompanies 358/2 Days and Re:coded in a special anniversary box set. Additionally, a limited edition 3DS console with a unique 3D-inspired design is being released.
Mind Rape: What Young Xehanort (with the help of Xigbar and Xemnas) subjects Sora to.
Mind Screw: The game includes among other things dreams within dreams, time travel, more mysteries of the heart, and mythical prophecies fortelling the ultimate battle between dark and light.
A monster clown is also featured in the logo for Prankster's Paradise◊. You can find a 20 foot tall statue of him inside the funhouse, and his eyes follow you.
Mood Whiplash: During Riku's visit to Symphony of Sorcery, He goes through the Nutcracker, and it gives you a warm fuzzy feeling of "Yay! Christmas!" But just as soon as he gets the Sound Idea, he is pulled into a dark landscape and encounters Young Xehanort, who gives him a word of warning about the fate of himself and Sora, and then says that it's time for Riku to enter his abyss. CueChernabog.
Musical Gameplay: The Fantasia world, Symphony Of Sorcery mutes voices and replaces sound-effects with instruments, while the background plays songs from the movie, and it is wonderful. Where does the gameplay come in? The Reality Shift has you playing a small Elite Beat Agents style rhythm game with a segment of one of the movie's songs to alter the landscape to open paths and destroy enemies.
Nerf: Dodge Roll has fewer invincibility frames than other games in the series. This can throw of people who were used to dodging everywhere in Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, especially against bosses.
Remember those fun overpowered attacks from Birth By Sleep like Mega Flare, Time Splicer, etc? Remember how you didn't take damage from attacks while using them? Not anymore. Sure, Dark Splicer is awesome, but make sure you use Curaga before using it and have Curaga selected for when you finish because you can die in the middle of the attack now.
New Game Plus: Allows you to carry over Spirits from your previous file. Although Neku and Joshua will still insist on teaching you how to create Spirits...
Non-Human Sidekick: Sora and Riku can create "Spirit" Dream Eaters to help them in battle, which are based on real animals and mythical creatures.
Oh Crap: Yen Sid, of all people, has this reaction when he finds out the extent of Xehanort's scheming led as far as splitting into his parts to get to several worlds at once for time travel.
Ominous Pipe Organ: It's a series mainstay, why stop now? Pipe organ parts are featured in la Cité des Cloches' music, "Deep Drop" (The World That Never Was battle theme), "L'Oscurità dell'Ignot" (Xemnas's battle theme), and "L'Impeto Oscuro" (Young Xehanort's battle theme).
Orphean Rescue: Part of the plot seems to be traveling through dream worlds to save the souls/hearts/existence of the people that make up the Composite Beings that the cast are now.
There are two versions of each Dream Eater species—the friendly Spirits and antagonistic Nightmares. There are also "Rare species" that appear during challenges.
The player can use spray paint to color their own Spirits.
Several Jestabockies masquerade as Pinocchio in Prankster's Paradise; their clothes have Nightmare Jestabocky colors as opposed to Pinocchio's color scheme.
Power Glows: Unbound, the game's strongest Keyblade in terms of physical attack power, constantly emits a pulsing glow from the tip and hilt.
The Power of Friendship: Powerful enough for Sora to break through CLU's reprogramming of Tron, despite this Tron not actually being the one that Sora knows (the Grid's Tron is the original; Sora befriended his copy in Space Paranoids).
R-Rated Opening: while the games aren't strangers to Nightmare Fuel, this is the first title in the series that begins on a very bleak note - namely, Terra-Xehanort stabbing Braig (in a first-person perspective) with Master Xehanort's keyblade after having done the very same thing with Ansem The Wise's other apprentices.
Randomly Drops: The Dream Eater components, which come in various types and are split into three ranks—"Figments", "Fancies", and "Fantasies".
Reality Warper: In the Sleeping Worlds, Reality Shifts are used to take control of the worlds themselves for unique attacks.
Dreamline: A one-time Reality Shift, this allows Riku to traverse the Brink of Despair in The World That Never Was, using his Komory Bat's help to create a rope between the cliff and The Castle That Never Was.
Fourth and fifth districts have been added to Traverse Town.
The World That Never Was is the ruined version. It also traps Sora in a dream within a dream, while Riku gets to explore its dream version because he dove into Sora's dreams after Destiny Islands. Riku manages to break free and wake up in the real World That Never Was, but Sora's lack of resistance against the Darkness serves to immediately shatter his heart after fighting Xemnas.
The Christian symbolism in the series (particularly concerning Sora) is already palpable.
Joshua is in the game. Saying why would be a spoiler for the game he's from, but let's just say the symbolism has just skyrocketed. For extra bonus points on symbolism, Joshua has white, feathered angel wings in the first visit to Traverse Town.
One of Traverse Town's new areas, the Post Office, is a clear sign that Tetsuya Nomura is opening up to Pixar worlds. Just imagine doors grinding the colored rails...
Decussation, Sora's link with the frog-knight-like "Kyroo" spirits is very similar to the "X-Strike" Dual Tech from Chrono Trigger, which was performed by Crono and Frog.
Shoot the Shaggy Dog: The game retroactively does this to Birth by Sleep. We now see that the sacrifices of the three heroes did NOT stop Master Xehanort at all. He simply regained his memories one year later before splitting into Ansem and Xemnas, both keeping the memories of Master Xehanort while striving toward his ultimate destructive plan, and now he's back and no worse for his set-backs. It could be argued that they made things even worse in the long run by merely foiling a quasi X-blade forging, in the process, teaching Xehanort a lesson in patience and setting him on the path for the legitimate X-blade forging. Lampshaded by Mickey. Also, his possession ofTerrawas perfectly successful in the end.
Sigil Spam: Both Sora and Riku's outfits are adorned with a sigil. Sora has the Recusant's Sigil, the "X" over his chest, which allows the new Organization to track him. Riku has the Spirits' sigil, because he himself is actually a Spirit.
Soundtrack Dissonance: Peaceful classical music plays in Symphony of Sorcery as you wander around beating the living daylights out of Dream Eaters who are trying to kill you. Even more dissonant is the fact that the standard attack sounds are replaced with musical instrument sounds after a successful hit, like the strumming of a harp.
This peaceful music even stays on during the cutscene when Young Xehanort confronts Sora.
Standard Status Effects: While used by some enemies in previous games, it's a much bigger problem this time around, with practically every dream eater possessing at least one attack that inflicts a bad status, on top of some of them also using the same status inflicting spells you have access to (Which can be nigh impossible to avoid due to how quickly they trigger). Abilities that provide resistance to each of the different effects were added to alleviate some of the pain.
The Stinger: Three of them. Sora returns to dream!Traverse Town and has a happy reunion with the Dream Eaters. Somewhere in Castle Oblivion, Ventus's comatose body cracks the slightest smile. There's also the traditional secret ending; Yen Sid will be training Kairi in Keyblade wielding.
Super Title 64 Advance: Kingdom Hearts 3D. 3D, in this case, literally means three Ds. The three Ds stand for Dream Drop Distance. Yep.
The Theme Park Version: Disney plots are more simplified than in other installments this time around, owing to only being able to see a small part in the one visit each person has and also justified by the fact that Riku and Sora aren't even visiting the same world (Riku visiting a dream inside of Sora).
Third Line, Some Waiting: Along with the alternating Sora and Riku storylines, there is a third plot thread about Mickey and company dealing with Maleficent in the real world.
Time Limit Boss: The majority of the bosses are this due to the Drop mechanic. After completing Sora's path, this is no longer the case for Riku until he finishes his scenario. Ironically, the boss with control of time is not one.
Time Stands Still: During a Big Damn Heroes moment, Mickey appears with the fourth-tier Stop spell, Stopza, and freezes the new Organization XIII. It didn't work on Young Xehanort due to Master Xehanort temporarily passing his power onto him.
Time Travel: Introduced in this entry, with different mechanics than the door method for Timeless River, this has essentially been responsible for the entirety of Xehanort's Xanatos Gambit for the entirety of the series so far. The rules of time travel are rather unusual: They require a version of the time traveler to exist at the planned exit point. Ansem, the Seeker of Darkness, somehow gained the power to time travel when he gave up his physical body to become a Heartless *
Or possibly, anyone who gives up their physical form in that manner can inherently travel through time. It's not very clear.
. He was also able to transfer the power over to his younger self without requiring him to give up his body.
Title Theme Drop: During the scene in Symphony of Sorcery where Riku and Sora combine their Sound Ideas. The arrangement used sounds like the original version, but with added strings.
Also, in the scene where Riku explains to Mickey and the others why it has to be him that dives into Sora's heart to rescue him from the darkness, the version from the title screen of the second game picks up in the background.
Trailers Always Spoil: Though in such a subtle way that it's more actual Foreshadowing — the original teaser showed Sora confronting Xemnas in Twilight Town, then a mirror scene of Riku confront Ansem in the same manner. Guess who interacts primarily with who during the course of the game, including the inevitable boss rematches.
You know those five seconds of Vanitas? Yeah, that's all the screen time he gets in the game.
Look at the box art for a while. Notice how Sora is falling while Riku is in a rising position ? Yup. It serves as a Foreshadowing to the fact that Riku IS the real hero of this game, and what will happen to Sora late in the game.
Tree Buchet: Appears in the Country of the Musketeers, both in a cutscene and as a "trampoline"-type object in gameplay.
Trippy Finale Syndrome: Oh boy. The game is actually not that loopy for a story about dreams until the last world, which pulls out all the stops, apparently to make up for the story leading up to it being far too normal.
Two Lines, No Waiting: Storylinewise, there's no waiting. However, it averts this in a highly acceptable way - whenever you drop, the other campaign is essentially paused. Although bosses and dream eaters respawn and are reset.
Underground Monkey/Palette Swap: Some of the rarest Spirits are slightly tweaked models of more common varieties—Meowjesty and Flowbermeow for Meow Wow, or Frootz Cat for Necho Cat, for instance. They're essentially "souped up" versions of the previous Spirits, with similar skills, attack patterns, and the same Links.
For the first time since Ice Titan, we have a Bonus Boss from a Disney property: Julius from Runaway Brain. Also unexpected in how he, despite being a Disney character, is justasaggressive as the ones designed by Tetsuya Nomura.
It might simply be a reference to the firstKingdom Hearts game. Remember who abducted Pinocchio in the first game's own Monstro level?
A Wizard Did It: Don't worry about Sora and Jiminy walking along the ocean floor without asphyxiating or being crushed by the pressure. They're in a dream.
Womb Level: Riku's story in Prankster's Paradise takes place inside the whale Monstro. As always, it's surprisingly colorful.
Word Salad Title: Dream Drop Distance, though these kind of titles aren'tuncommon in the series. Nomura has said it refers to something like the distance you drop into your dreams, and admits that the English isn't perfect; the words were chosen for how they sound, rather than English fidelity (a clearer phrasing would be something like "how deeply you fall into your dreams"). The title also refers to the game being set in a Dream world, the Drop gameplay system that facilitates switches between Sora and Riku, and the Distance separating the two protagonists' sides of the story.
Xanatos Gambit: Xehanort's plan to have Sora's heart collapse from the trauma of the hearts inside him and learning of the true nature of the human Nobodies. If Xehanort implants a piece of his heart in him, great, he completes his collection of thirteen seekers of Darkness. If he fails, oh well, Sora will be one of the seven defenders of Light, which he needs anyway. Elements of this Xanatos Gambit has been in place since a year after Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep, with the first up front facet of it being put in place at the start of Kingdom Hearts.