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Kingdom Hearts 3 Review: May your Heart be your Guiding Key

By February 6, 2019 No Comments

Was Kingdom Hearts 3 a little rushed? Was it too easy? Or was it just right?

Kingdom Hearts III is an action role-playing game developed and published by Square Enix for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. It is the twelfth instalment in the Kingdom Hearts series, a sequel to Kingdom Hearts II, and the final chapter in the Dark Seeker saga.

I have no idea how to start this review. I never even thought of ever even reviewing this game. It’s going to be doozy. As an avid Kingdom Hearts fan/completionist I waited and waited for a full on sequel to Kingdom Hearts 2. Don’t get me wrong, Square Enix has constantly been shooting out Kingdom Hearts games since then but not a genuine sequel to what happened after KH2. Due to this near 13-year wait, and its debut trailer at E3 2013 Kingdom Hearts 3 slowly became one of the most anticipated titles of all-time, check it out below. It was even listed in Monsoon Gaming’s Best Upcoming Games of 2019.

Finally, Kingdom Hearts 3 has arrived for the Playstation 4 and Xbox One. Since finishing the game yesterday, I am left pondering on what else I am looking forward to now in the gaming world. Since finishing it, I am left with an empty place in my heart, a longing for something more. Not to get into that just yet.

Generally, the game is aesthetically gorgeous in every sense of the word. There’s lot of new, and stunning Disney Worlds to explore and the game does finally end the story that began long ago when I was still a bratty teen. At least Director Tetsuya Nomura did keep his promise that KH3 would end The Dark Seeker Saga.

I can explain everything you need to know about Kingdom Hearts before playing KH3, but that would take me until next year, so just to give you a brief summary check it out here.

Nevertheless, the team behind KH3 did say you don’t really need to be a Kingdom Hearts mega-fan and played all the other previous games, analysed them and understood the timeline perfectly to enjoy the newest game. Although, it does help. Especially since this game lacks an element of character development. But at least video tutorials of previous games and instances are available to the player in the title menu. Nice touch Nomura.

Without further ado, here’s my thoughts on Kingdom Hearts 3.

The Story – 

Fun fact, did you know there’s a total of 238 cut-scenes in Kingdom Hearts 3? Now that sounds like a lot in a 25-30 hour story game, but like other Kingdom Hearts games, it is pretty standard. These 238 cut-scenes are done due to the huge KH lore Kingdom Hearts 3 needed to utilise to make sense for the end of the story. Nevertheless, for all its intricacies and confusing timelines the underlying story is very simple.

Our big-footed, spikey haired friend, Sora, needs ‘the power of waking’ to sort out the new and improved Organization 13. I loved seeing Organization 13 in their weird black hoodies, I remember back when I was 15 I wanted to dress up as one for Halloween. G*ddamn costumes were out of stock, pretty sure supplies have gone up since then. Very sure indeed.

The tone of the game is set before the entering the title screen, with the first scene adopting the timeless tradition of the battle between light and darkness as a game of chess between a man dressed in black and another dressed in white (we then find out these teenagers are Master Xenahort and Master Eraqus in the past). This game of chess is pretty important, and is later included in multiple cut-scenes.

Now, I know that the team behind this game wanted to make it as welcoming to new audiences as possible, especially due to the huge gap between sequels. It goes without saying though that to enjoy this game fully, you MUST play the previous games, or at least watch the cut-scenes as there will be parts in this game which will be confusing. Several specialist sites and YouTubers have felt the need to produce their own ‘story so far’ videos, some of them being very good and even helped me chain my memories together. Get the pun? The summaries only go so far though, so it is best you get your hands dirty and play the games yourself.

Although, those who do know the series pretty well might find moments within scenes boring and plugged in to make the newbies understand the series more. There are times that the voice actors aren’t even sure of themselves when saying their lines. At one point, Woody of Toy Story himself says; “I’m confused.” Even Mike Wazowski says what most players were thinking: “I have no idea who or what you’re talking about!”

Given the world of Kingdom Hearts is confusing, the team at Square Enix did come prepared. As previously mentioned video tutorials are available to all those that needs refreshers, these include refreshers on KH1, Chain of Memories, KH2, DDD, BBS, 358/2 days, and even some from KH Union X.

In the beginning of the game you’re thrown into Thebes/Olympus where you need to speak to Herc to gain his advice on something. While I know Sora, Goofy, Donald, Riku & the King – I would have liked a little more info on them from the get-go, and with Yen Sid saying that Sora needs the ‘power of waking’ before going against Xehanort – I genuinely forgot what the power of waking is. I sometimes felt that since so much time has passed, Square Enix didn’t have a clue on how to bring players up to speed. So like this, they just threw all their lore in there and hoped for the best.

I still think they did a good job, and without spoiling anything I can genuinely say that I am without a shadow of a doubt satisfied with the game. After finishing Kingdom Hearts 3 it also feels like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. Although the ending has left a lot to be promised in the future, and slightly depressing at points (overall happy though) I thank Square Enix for what they’ve given us with regard to story. There still is a couple of questions left unanswered, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see what Square Enix will come up with next.

Regarding the Disney Worlds, I did expect better to be frank. The real fun and laughter that came from the Disney characters were copy and pasted from the film itself, all other ‘original’ KH Disney content was pretty cringe-worthy. Here are my thoughts on each of the Disney worlds, and their respective score in my opinion with regard to world design and storyline.

Olympus (Hercules) – 

As the first world you explore in the game, it was very important that Square Enix get this right. They did that, and more. I loved Olympus, especially since they got rid of the basic coliseum-type gameplay that started becoming overused in my opinion. Thebes was gorgeous and Olympus was everything I remembered from the movie. Here you fight alongside the son of Zeus, Hercules.

Kingdom of Corona (Tangled) – 

The Tangled world is massive, they pretty much brought in all the places you see in the movie from the tower, to the actual kingdom of Corona. Everything is designed with such detail including dance, action and bad guys. Even though the story of this world is pretty much the same as seen on screens it was a pleasant world to explore and experience. Here you fight alongside Flynn & Rapunzel.

Toybox (Toy Story) – 

The Toybox is easily my favourite world, the thought that was put into this world baffled me. From how Sora, Donald and Goofy change their appearance, to how miniature everything is and how reachable most places in this world are. It was nice seeing Woody and Buzz hang out and fight alongside Sora as well.

Monstropolis (Monsters Inc.) – 

Monstropolis is gleaming with doors that lead to kids’ bedrooms (sounds weird) – even though you don’t really go in any bedroom within the game. I liked this world, but thought it was pretty monotone. Character design for the team was very unique, but overall nothing special. Had a lot of fun seeing one of my all-time favourite Disney characters – Boo. Here you fight alongside Sulley and Mike Wazowski.

Arendelle (Frozen) – 

Arandelle’s a pretty big place, pity that within the game the only place you visit is the icy mountains of Arandelle rather than the palace and kingdom beneath it. Probably it would have looked a lot like Corona, so yeah that’s probably why they axed visiting there. The Icy Labyrinth was nifty, and the mountain range was a vast place to explore nevertheless. Here you would think you end up fighting alongside Elsa, or maybe Sven or Anna. Instead in Arendelle you fight alongside Marshmallow (Elsa’s Snow Guardian). Easily my favourite companion to fight with in KH3!

100 Acre Wood (Winnie the Pooh) – 

A lot of Kingdom Hearts fans loved exploring and playing the Winnie the Pooh episodes way back when in KH1 & 2. I always found them pretty childish. Luckily, I think Square Enix caught on and made this world pretty small, with just one place to visit in the 100 Acre Wood I was glad and relieved. Even though, the actual mini-games within the world were pretty fun and resembled Candy Crush.

The Caribbean (Pirates of the Caribbean) – 

When I realised this world was coming to KH3 I was a little bummed out, since I hadn’t enjoyed it in KH2 much. I was very wrong, in KH3 this world is glorious. While the story behind it is pretty much copy and paste from the POTC3 the vast open-world of the Caribbean lets you explore several islands aboard the Leviathan. Traversing on the ship is also cool, and seems like SE took some ideas from AC: Black Flag and implemented it graciously. Here you fight alongside Jack Sparrow.

San Fransokyo (Big Hero 6) – 

Meh, very monotone and boring in my opinion. Story was nothing wow either. It was cool fighting alongside Baymax and the rest of Big Hero 6, and the city of San Fransokyo is pretty big and there’s a lot to explore but I guess I didn’t connect to this world much. I also felt that Square Enix didn’t invest much in this world to start with regarding story and gameplay.

Other worlds like Twilight Town, The Keyblade Graveyard, The Final World & Scala Ad Caelum are also included, but I don’t really want to get into those until you get to play the game properly.

Other original KH characters in the story outside of Disney which are included in Kingdom Hearts 3 consist of: Sora, Riku, Kairi, Xehanort, Young Xehanort, Terra, Aqua, Ventus, Eraqus, Lea, Roxas, Namine, Xion & even little Chirithy.

The Game – 

Yeah, if you played this game you’re probably thinking WOW a 5/5 for the game that’s pretty high. Come on, you know Square Enix have invested a ton of time and money in this game, and it shows, especially with gameplay. There are hiccups, FPS does slow down on my PS4 Pro and the game itself can be considered a little easy, even in Proud Mode. But hey, we’ll wait for Kingdom Hearts 3 Final Mix to come and it will probably be much harder! That’s how Kingdom Hearts works right?

Now before I get into the gameplay and how combat works etc. I would like to say that the soundtrack for this game is splendid. Well done Hikaru Utada and Skrillex for Face my Fears. I also enjoyed Don’t Think Twice but Face My Fears, was epic! Check them both out below:

Since we got that out of the way, let’s continue on. Gameplay within Kingdom Hearts 3 is spectacular. Combat is fluid. Graphics and design by means of the Unreal Engine is seamless, that is when Kingdom Hearts 3 deigns to let you play. I’m not taking about the moments where a cut-scene finishes and you walk forward for 10 seconds only for another to start up, or the long wait times between cut-scene and gameplay. I’m talking about the amount of scripted combat available at your fingertips. With a full magic gauge you can summon the likes of Simba to come and set ablaze your enemies. You can then, as you chain a few combos with your keyblade, call upon the sensational attractions you see in Disney World – each based on a fairground ride and decorated with lights everywhere (wasn’t sure if Disney wanted to do this to subliminally advertise its theme parks). These include attractions like Carousels, Teacups and even the Thunder Mountain Express! These slowly became a nuisance further along in the game since they were totally over-powered – beautiful to look at, but just made the game easier than it already is.

I played the game on Standard Difficulty Mode, and then in Proud Mode (hard difficulty), game was pretty much a breeze. Doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy that it was easy-ish, but I still wanted more, could be just me being needy. I digress. Kingdom Hearts 3 focused on looking great and fighting with style, especially with the integration of Dream Drop Distance’s Flowmotion feature, which lets you swing around poles, trees and chain moves together – due to this, Sora does feel more agile and fluid. Running up, bouncing off walls, diving down to enemies with a ground breaking attack, then launching them in mid-air, changing his keyblade’s form into a giant hammer and ripping the heartless to pieces was glorious to see. You can even take a picture with your new Gummi phone of the carnage you’ve set, or a selfie with your favourite Neo-shadow for jokes.

WARNING: The Final Act

By the final act, Nomura has basically abandoned all pretence of integrating the Disney worlds within his story and basically turns everything off which is Disney related except for Donald, Goofy and the ‘barely even seen’ King Mickey. Sure, he’s got a number of cool keyblades for his troubles, but Sora essentially has gotten absolutely nothing else from visiting these Disney worlds. What follows, is equal parts maddening and exhilarating. You literally have around 4 to 5 hours of boss battles. These mostly end in tears, long goodbyes, happy reunions and revelations. It’s a final, which this time really feels like the final part of this saga. It’s something magical, and yet saddening at the same time. You might even find yourself in a tear or two. What amazed me the most from the Final Act is its superb storytelling and method in how Nomura actually put everything, literally EVERYTHING together for one of the best video game endings ever.

Mini-Games

As most Kingdom Hearts games, KH3 has a few mini-games to help the player cut off from the constant combat and ‘confusing story’ of the core game. Some are fun, some are alright and some are plain annoying.

Gummi Ship – 

Something I didn’t enjoy very much was the Gummi ship section. This was upgraded significantly with the player having the ability to free roam 3 galaxies and choose which world to go to from there – but once you’ve reached these worlds you’re pretty much sorted with fast-travel so you don’t even end up caring about your Gummi ship anyway. It wasn’t until I beat the game I started upgrading my ship, but it was only because I needed it ready to battle a large ship for resources to craft the Ultima Keyblade.

Cooking Mini-game – 

While I loved the movie Ratatouille, the cooking mini-games set for the player were pretty much an after-thought in my mind. It has potential, but it took too long to set up than to play. Whether you’re cracking an egg or pouring wine into a pan, it’s over within seconds. Nevertheless, I did enjoy gathering ingredients for Little Chef. The after-effects of consuming the meals you create do give you temporary enhanced stats, but Sora was already OP anyway.

Classic Kingdom – 

I enjoyed playing these retro games featuring Sora and a couple of Disney characters. Collecting all of these games in KH3 also unlocks the Classic Tone Keyblade, which is the second best keyblade in the game in my opinion. Even better than the Ultima Keyblade if you’re a magic player.

Flantastic Seven – 

If there was something in the game that’s challenging, it is these Heartless Flans that you need to satisfy to get resources to create the Ultima Keyblade. I hated them, while they were pretty good mini-games, I was getting so frustrated at points that I just wanted to make myself some flan, cook it perfectly and put my fist right through it!

Conclusion

I ultimately loved my return to the Kingdom Hearts Universe, and it was undoubtedly very fun and exciting for me. I enjoyed seeing a bunch of new Disney and Pixar characters that were integrated into the story, even though they didn’t really give much to the core story at the end of the day. I have to admit, I’ll be replaying this game over and over again for the next ten years or so. I wish it could have been longer, that’s for sure. This game must be contender for Game of the Year.

Here’s the final battle trailer:

Favorite Pastime:

  • Transforming the keyblade and ripping through heartless at Battle gates with a combo of agile moves.

Favorite Keyblade:

  • Hard to say, because obviously my favourite is the Ultima Weapon due to its amazing transformation, but given that you’d need to get that at the end my favourite up until then is the Wheel of Fate. If you guys are interested in getting the Ultima Weapon, check out the Monsoon Gaming guide here. 

Favorite Companion:

  • Marshmallow from Arandelle!

Pros:

  • Graphics are astounding, with such small detail put in each and every location.
  • The form change ability on the Keyblade is a great new feature.
  • The attraction features are great, gets old though.
  • Having emblems across the worlds was a great collection piece.
  • Battle gates were a fun add-on, wished there were more.
  • The core story was absolutely thrilling.

Cons:

  • Gummi ship exploration was a good idea, but seemed useless until post-game.
  • The abundance of attractions, form changes and team attacks makes combat pretty easy.
  • Not a lot of post-game material – we hope for some good DLCs.
  • Also, I wish Kairi made more of an appearance in the game.

Verdict: 

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