!!! *Note* : This review will address only the contents/packaging of the Mark of Mastery collector's edition. It will discuss it in detail. Reviews strictly pertaining to gameplay experience can be found under the standard edition. !!!
In the days leading up to the launch of this title, there was a fervor over finding these collector's editions. At the time of this review, still not much is known of the "limited" distribution of these editions. Their retail value approximated around $54-60 dollars - but chances are, as /you're/ looking at this page, finding them in retail is possibly next to impossible and the cost to your pocket double, triple, or quadruple. The question is: Is it worth it?
The Mark of Master edition is 7" tall, 5 1/2" wide, and 3" deep. The outer cover is a plastic paper sleeve over a black, magnetic box. The interior of this box is beautifully decorated, both the front and back cover separate pieces of artwork. It definitely feels like something special as you open it up. To see it, though, you first have to remove the paper boxing holding the edition's contents.
The left box panel holds the Dream Drop Distance game, which is no different than any other standard edition of the game. Underneath it, in a clear plastic wrapper, are the 5 AR cards(+). The right box panel holds a decorated, black envelope (made of a thick, poster board material) that contains 12 single art prints. One thing I noted is that this envelope is "loose", a flaps-fold-and-hold-in-place type, which if not handled expectantly could send the prints spilling out of your hands. Underneath it, packaged in a clear plastic wrapper, is the 3DS case.
The 3DS case is clear acrylic, except for the Kingdom Hearts branding. I was a bit skeptical just how well this would hold up, but I am very pleased with it! I had no problem snapping it onto my 3DS, and it looks and feels beautiful. The case does not cover buttons it shouldn't, or intrude in the function of the 3DS in any way. This case, fans can be proud of. The only thing I wondered was how well it shows up on the black 3DS - given that the artwork on it is inked black, also.
At $54, this bundle is an absolute steal, and I highly recommend it to fans and newcomers to the series alike. I've been a fan of this series since the first game, and grew up with its later installations. But even I was a bit speculative about how the reality would hold up to the anticipation - and can say, whole heartedly, it is worth its value.
HOWEVER - I would begin to disagree if the pricing is double, triple or quadruple its initial pricing. Collector's Editions are expected to inflate, however, I would urge the buyer to consider the contents of this bundle when looking at the posted prices. The art cards, while gorgeous and of good quality, are not packaged as an art book but as single prints and are, largely, well known and iconic images from the series. The AR cards can actually be searched online and scanned from a computer screen using your 3DS. The real value of this bundle, in my opinion, is the case... which, for all I love it, /is/ only a plastic case, if Kingdom Hearts branded.
I don't discourage anyone from purchasing this bundle, as for any fan of this series this edition can have /great/ personal value. But I would advise considering some points before deciding just how far you dip into your pocket.
(+)At the time of this review, some customers of this edition had reported their MoM editions being packaged with 3 AR cards instead of 5. Square Enix has apparently acknowledged this problem, and may be offering a solution for these missing AR cards, though nothing has been confirmed yet. Purchasers of this edition down the line may want to keep this in mind, given that the extra two AR cards /were/ an incentive over preordering the standard edition (which got you the 3 v. 5).
Solutions to this problem have also been presented by finding scans of these cards online - which may be something potential buyers wants to /also/ keep in mind, given that the AR cards are one of the main incentives of this bundle, and after launch possibly the only way to obtain them if you didn't preorder. I consider it something to think about, that one of the "features" of a collector's edition can be so easily replaced online... for free.