Kingdom Hearts 3D’s Director Discusses "Drop" Mechanic And Flowmotion

By Spencer . July 19, 2012 . 5:36pm


After completing Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep, Square Enix’s Osaka studio refined the Deck Command system again for Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream Drop Distance]. Flowmotion was a major addition, which lets Sora and Riku utilize the environment to do special attacks. You can swing on lamp posts or dive into enemies after sliding on a grind rail.


Instead of letting players switch between Sora and Riku at save points, the Drop mechanic automatically changes characters when time runs out. Tai Yasue, director of Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream Drop Distance], talked about these changes and the growing series mythology during an interview with Siliconera.


Part 1: How Fantasia And The Hunchback Of Notre Dame Got Into Kingdom Hearts 3D


Kingdom Hearts 3D’s combat is fun, but what drove me crazy at first was the “Drop” mechanic. In the middle of the first boss fight in Traverse Town I got “dropped,” so I tried to switch back really quickly and the boss’ health regenerated.


Tai Yasue, Director: [Laughs] Nomura wanted it to be a bit thrilling in a way, so we added a time limit. It’s a little bit different in the North American version. We tweaked it, it’s not a big difference, but Sora and Riku’s HP will become full at the beginning of the boss battle, so if you’re dying, you can start over, too.


We didn’t really want to lose the character of the game. It’s one of the parts that’s sometimes stressful. When you’re successful, when you beat the boss at the last few seconds it feels really good.


I got the hang of it later on and how you can use it to boost your character. That’s when I felt it worked, but at the beginning when someone doesn’t know what’s going on, it’s like, “Awww…”


[Laughs] As you go along, you earn a lot of drop bonuses, so we wanted the characters cooperating. A feel for cooperation, and we did that using the Drop system, I think.




While Kingdom Hearts 3D uses the deck command system, I found myself using more Flowmotion attacks. They seemed to overpower everything. You can bounce back and forth between enemies, and it negates almost all of your commands.


At the start of the game, the Flow-Motion may feel powerful, but as you progress, at the later stages, the Deck Commands are really powerful. Flowmotion is used more when you want to escape, so there’s a difference in meaning and strategy. At the very beginning, really, we wanted to introduce Flowmotion, so the Deck Commands are a little weaker, but as you progress, that balance changes.




I see what you mean because in the beginning I used Flowmotion a lot. One of the most interesting thing in Traverse Town, when you go underground, there’s all of those grind rails. I know you can ride those and find the correct path to the top, but I just jumped all the way, by doing an infinite wall-jump using Flowmotion. Did you plan for that?


Oh, we did. We planned for that. Kingdom Hearts isn’t a game where you have to do one single thing to clear it. We wanted options–you can go this way or that way. It’s not just one route, you can go up the wall, you can slide down a ramp. You don’t need only need to use the Deck Commands, you can use Flowmotion or you can use Reality Shift. We just wanted to provide a wider range of options and really wanted users to pick which strategy they use.


In some places, though, like Prankster’s Paradise, I feel like it almost “breaks” the level.  Like when you flip the world upside-down. All the really good treasure chests are at the top, but you can avoid doing all the platforming by horizontal wall-jumping across.


I guess, but if you want the treasure chests, you have to actually switch it over. One of the concepts for Flowmotion is a lot of freedom. And when we say “freedom,” we wanted the player to feel free to do what they want to do. You could use a lot of map gimmicks, but if you don’t want to you can use Flowmotion too.


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What other tweaks did you make to the North American version, other than to the Drop mechanic?


I think that’s just the major change; we haven’t changed that much. We wanted the Japanese version and North American version to be pretty similar. I think there’s a Drop bonus that was added. I think it’s called “Drop Speed Down” in Japanese, but I don’t know what the English name is. We added the drop bonus and that’s about it. Not a lot of major changes.


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Going back to Prankster’s Paradise when you’re playing as Riku, all the time, there’s this wall of text that tries to explain Chain of Memories. Kingdom Hearts started with a very simple mythology that’s gotten more complicated over time. What’s your view on how to make the mythology more accessible?


I really think it depends on the player. Some really want to know everything. For [Kingdom Hearts] 3D, you’ve got the Mementos, and you don’t have to see them if you don’t want to. You can skip it. At the same time, if you want to read it, you can go in and see it.


We developed the game so that hardcore players who want to understand it can do that, and people that just want to play lightly—who play all the Disney worlds, experience the Disney story–they don’t really have to see all the deep stuff.




There have been 10 years of Kingdom Hearts and kids who started playing the series when they were 10 are 20 now. Since we’re still focusing on the same characters, how are you going to make the Kingdom Hearts story follow an audience growing up with the franchise.


In 3D, we introduced the Memento system to cover that. In future titles, we’re going to really have to think about that.


I think for Kingdom Hearts you can really enjoy the lighter aspects. It’s about coming to terms with Riku’s darkness. It’s about friends. There are a lot of easy themes too and when you go to a Disney world each one has a story that is really accessible. If you want to understand everything it might be a little complex, but if you want to play lightly I think that’s possible too. Obviously, we want new players to access the game in a way so we’re going to have to think about that. I can’t really talk about our new titles yet, but for 3D we tried to do that with the Memento system.




Do you have any other plans for the 10th anniversary?


Not at the moment, no. [Kingdom Hearts] 3D is definitely our 10th anniversary title.


Without spoiling it, can we talk about the ending a bit?


I would just like to say that, this time the game is more centered on Riku and how he comes to terms with the darkness. Kingdom Hearts 3D really connects to the next Kingdom HeartsKingdom Hearts 3. And in a way, I think you’ll be able to see a glimpse of the future by playing Kingdom Hearts 3D.



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  • James Beatty

    “I would just like to say that, this time the game is more centered on Riku and how he comes to terms with the darkness. Kingdom Hearts 3D really connects to the nextKingdom Hearts–Kingdom Hearts 3. And in a way, I think you’ll be able to see a glimpse of the future by playing Kingdom Hearts 3D.” 

    •  This is the only thing from the interview I cared about. Reason being? Someone on the Kingdom Hearts team FINALLY mentioned Kingdom Hearts III. Not as “The next title” not as “The next Number” or “The next Kingdom Hearts”, but just plain and simple “KH3”.

      I know it’s not much to go on, but Nomura did tease that he has a “Major announcement” in store for this year. (In the KH 3D Ultimania) I’d LOVE to think it’s III. Dream Drop Distance hints that it is… but it’s been so long. I find it hard to believe… really.

      But I’ll just say this… if TGS gives us a formal announcement for Kingdom Hearts III, I won’t be surprised in the slightest.

    • Kefkiroth

      So basically KH3 is confirmed…
      Hope to see it some time next decade.

  • Paradox me

    How does the Drop mechanic impact the story? That’s really been on my mind since it was revealed.

    I’ve been avoiding spoilers so I don’t know if Sora and Riku share the same story and perspective, same story but different perspectives (i.e. Birth by Sleep) or two unrelated stories, but are you constantly being flung between different scenarios to the point where it hurts the pacing or makes the game difficult to follow?

    • I’ll try to keep from spoiling you, then, lol.

      In order to progress to further worlds, you have to keep Sora and Riku going along at about the same pace–you can’t clear the game as Sora, then go back to Riku who is still standing in Traverse Town at level 1. It feels almost like each is in an alternate universe, even when they’re in the same world, standing in the same place. The stories in each world are similar enough that you don’t lose track of what you’re doing when you Drop, but sufficiently different to feel like it’s an alternate universe from what the other character is experiencing. So while the plot elements in, say, Hunchback are the same across both stories, they’re not identical, and Sora and Riku are sent to two different sections of Fantasia. It’s more like BBS than anything, but the alternate reality-feel means that Quasimodo doesn’t talk to Sora about Riku–the stories are separate but similar; they are concurrent and connected.
      As far as the Drop mechanic itself, you have a good deal of time as each character, usually enough to complete any given task in front of you, but it definitely lends a sense of urgency when you notice it ticking down. The Drop never takes you by surprise, since there’s a gauge on the screen for you to monitor, and if you keep Sora and Riku in the same world as each other, then the game feels pretty coherent despite switching perspectives.

      • Paradox me

        Cool, thanks for the info.

  • revenent hell

     Well I know Sora is the main charecter mostly but ya know….Riku is just as much a main so im glad he gets a bit more of a spot light in this game,I like Sora but I love Riku :D

  • Xapth

    I think the gameplay system of Birth by Sleep was absolutely perfect.

    This system is pretty similar and the flowmotion is a nice change from the systems present in the other games, it played well from my experience with the demo although it’s not something I would want featured in EVERY title.

    The only downside to these flashy battle systems such as Flowmotion or Command Styles from BBS is that it makes the Drive forms from KH2 feel less special, as if they’re a common part of gameplay now. I remember how cool I felt changing into Valor, Wisdom, Master, or (ESPECIALLY) Final Form in KH2.

  • LightZero

    Without spoiling much, I do like that Riku gets rewarded for all his struggles. He deserved to be the main focus. Not to mention he’s my favorite KH character besides Roxas. The game is definitely going to be fun. I enjoyed the demo. I don’t play KH for the story anymore since I don’t like how it’s being handled and I do plan on retiring after KH3. 

    • Kefkiroth

      Implying there will be a game after KH3…

      • Tyler James Sherwood

        There will be. KH3 is the end of the Xehanort saga. 

        • Kefkiroth

          Wow, KH will be going for a long time if there are multiple sagas. I never even realized all the KH games so far were just labeled under a single saga…

  • riceisnice

    “Gosh, I hope I can be part of the team someday.”

    Well gosh, I don’t blame you Riku. Fantasia is a pretty groovy place.

    • Ispheria

      I’m pretty sure Riku doesn’t say that, Mickey does

      • riceisnice

         Well I said that Riku said it. He can use expressions like, “Gosh”, like anyone else can. Gosh!

  • So pumped for the North American release. Even more pumped that this game leads up to KHIII, finally! Yay~
    It’s so nice to see it directly referenced to.

    Does anyone know of any places that are still offering the Mark of Mastery edition for preorder? I had mine reserved on Amazon months ago, but…

    The Best Buy website’s got it listed, so I preordered my boyfriend’s copy there. How reliable are they when it comes to this sort of thing? I’m worried they’ll bail on me. =/

  • Flowmotion is meant to “break” the game from the get go. Sure learning Glide at the end of the game has been traditional but it’s nice to see that game feature taken in a new direction.

  • XypherCode

    I’m getting more excited for this :D

  • Göran Isacson

    If anything, I felt this was the weak point of Kingdom Hearts 2- you were given so many options in battle that it was very easy to just find the most powerful one and then use that all the time. Freedom is good and all, but balance my friends at Square-enix. Balance is better.

    Oh well, not like I’m going to care much anyway. I’ll be playing this before long today, so then I can judge for myself if this is awesome or not! Europeans everywhere, high-five :D !

  • Right now it’s just impossible for me to keep my excitment in check. My copy was shipped out yesterday, and hopefully I shall be getting it monday, first thing in the morning. Or at the very least tuesday.

    I hope ;_; Well, either way, I can wait. Just not for very long :3

  • Type9

    The way Flowmotion functions reminds me of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater inasmuch as the player skates close to an object and instantly executes a maneuver on it. Now when I see Sora swinging around lamp posts, I can’t get the image of grinding down a rail out of my head.

  • Solomon_Kano

    I’m glad to hear this is the only anniversary title so I can get the thought of any form of re-release for KH/2 out of my head. Honestly, much as I want to play those games again, I can do without.

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