Kingdom Hearts III Review
There is no more time for preparation. Xehanort is here, and his plan to bring about a second Keyblade War is at hand. He cannot succeed. It is time to put everything you have learned to use, and thwart Xehanort, once and for all!
Kingdom Hearts III is a hack-and-slack action adventure RPG developed and published by Square Enix for the PlayStation 4 and XBox One. It is the twelfth installment in the Kingdom Hearts series, and the finale to the “Darkseeker/Xehanort Saga”. Whether this means there will be more, or not, we cannot say, but what we can say is that this installment promises many things and is quite a unique entry to say the least. The build-up for this sequel has been a steep climb since the announcement by Sony at E3 2013, and as someone who had recently become a fan of the series – thanks to the Remasters done for PlayStation 4 – I can understand why. The real question is whether or not Square Enix managed to pull off the grand finale they were aiming for.
Back To Square One
The story of this saga in Kingdom Hearts is a long one, and will take a long time to rehash for the sake of newcomers. Thankfully, Square Enix has provided a series of short recap videos to bring everybody up to speed, called the “Memory Vault”, which explains the journey of Sora and related characters. It will take less than 20 minutes to go through all of these, which makes this game relatively friendly to newcomers, despite it’s finality. With that being said, I feel like they skipped over some of the important aspects, such as explaining exactly what the “Heartless” and “Nobodies” are, how they come to being, the different types, and what their purposes are, etc. Even so, I feel like it is possible for people to pick up this game and be able to comfortably play the game without feeling like they’ve missed out on a lot. Enough gets explained in a quick matter-of-fact way that the assumptions one draw, as a result of conversations – or events – are often correct. It gives you just enough, which I am sure will leave many curious enough to want to experience the previous titles, which have all been Remastered, and play for themselves. Then you too can proudly say you are able to follow the fantastically ambitious inter-weaved story that is the Kingdom Hearts series.
All aside from that, this story felt a lot less about Sora’s journey and more about his influence on the various Disney worlds and the characters from the worlds, that Kingdom Hearts III allows us to be a part of and explore. In fact, there was more emphasis on the Disney side of the partnership with Square Enix than there was on the original story, to the extent that there were no Final Fantasy characters at all this time ’round, aside from the trusty Moogles. When the story eventually gains more transaction and focus on Sora’s journey and growth, the game is reaching its ending. From the start of Kingdom Hearts III, we’re dealing with the aftermath of Dream Drop Distance, where Sora has lost most of his abilities and needs to speak with Hercules at Mount Olympus for some kind of inspiration on how to regain his lost power. It is here where the story once again begins to unfold, because we’re immediately thrust into Hades’s plans to take over Mount Olympus, and we get involved by helping the citizens escape the wrath of the Heartless, and later free Zeus from the grasp of the Titans, and give all the Titans a major beatdown.
So as you can see, it’s almost as if we’re being put back into training wheels, which is great for newcomers, but it’s a somewhat unfair advantage, because Sora is still physically stronger than he was in the first game, which boosts the potential of his current “noob” abilities. In the instance of Sora needing to fight the Titans, and for someone who lost all of his powers, Sora is still insanely agile and does a marvelous job at traversing walls and falling debree, as well as knocking out Titans that represent the various elements of the world! It makes you wonder exactly how strong Sora is meant to be to defeat Xehanort…
Difficulty in Fantasy
As I mentioned above, despite Sora having lost most of his power, he is still immensely strong, and I think this is a mistake on the developer’s part. In every single fight, I felt overpowered, even in the boss fights, which usually required a lot of strategy and playing around with Magic and Items, etc. to be able to beat them. This game has its fair share of Abilities that you learn, Items to pick up, Magic to use, Combos to flaunt, etc. but I used so very little of them because of how easily Sora could beat down the enemies. I didn’t have to worry about whatever Donald or Goofy was doing, or any other added party members from the world, because of how easy I found the fights were. My usual habit of always choosing the hardest difficulty in games did not change this fact either.
What a stroll-in-the-park easier modes must then be in comparison. Speaking of “parks”; The combat gameplay has been given some interesting additions, most notably the “Attraction Flow” attack combos which magically brings in a variety of Disney theme park rides to be used as means for beating down the swarms of enemies. You will also often have the chances to break these attacks out during boss fights, and in my honest opinion, these attacks are incredibly overpowered and do not lack in how often they can get used. The Theme Park “Attraction” combos range from riding a massive Pirate Ship that shoots water cannonballs at enemies, to a Bumper Car with turrets and rockets on. These attacks are also mini-games of their own, as you get the opportunity to challenge yourself and get the highest score for every enemy you take down, and for how long you are able to keep some of them in the air. The combat, as a whole, still feels similar to that of Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, where there is a lot of emphasis on racking up combos in the air, along with being spoiled for choice at the variety of combos that can be performed, as well as the new tricks and abilities that Sora learns along the way.
As a result, progression was easy, and I was able to focus a lot more on finding collectibles and items to be able to upgrade my current keyblade or forge the hidden and stronger keyblades in the series. I could focus on a lot of this especially during the Gummi Ship travel stages, which I particularly enjoyed. One could call this an “Open Realm”-travel, because we aren’t limited to where we are able to fly when going to the various worlds in the Kingdom Hearts universe. You shoot down other Heartless ships and gain medals or other rewards from defeating them, solve Vault puzzles to get even more rewards, or find all of the Gates that you can use to Fast Travel to, in order to get to worlds you have visited before faster. You can destroy other random enemies, and even asteroids, to gain items and help you progress in the game. You are even able to take pictures with your Gummiphone while in “Space”, and if you have a sharp enough eye, you can take photos of constellations and unlock more secrets and collectables, so keep an eye out for the more shiny stars in the galaxy you roam between worlds.
A Kind of Magic
I mentioned the myriad of collectibles that are available in Kingdom Hearts III, and a lot of them will sound familiar to the pros of the series. The list is huge, but these reagents can be used to craft items, inluding better or stronger Keyblades. These items can be found lying around the worlds, within treasure chests, get dropped by enemies, or are floating around in space while you fly in your Gummi Ship. You are also able to create your own Gummi Ship again, which is quite a tedious process, so for those who do not want to customise their own ship, you can get by easily with the Ships you can buy from Huey, Duey, and Louie’s vendor. Despite how fun I found this intermission-like challenge to be, it plays a minor part, and it’s up to you how you want to progress in regards to this.
There are also collectable mini-games for the Gummiphone called “Classic Kingdom” minigames, which serve as little mobile games for the Gummi Phone, which are a little silly, but some have a certain charm to them that keeps you playing to get higher scores. There are also other Mini-games all around the worlds, for example; after completing a world, you will unlock a Heartless Princess on that world that gives you a mini-game to complete. If you win, they will reward you with a very essential material, and there are 7 of these Princesses in total to find. Then you also get Moogle Gummiphone Photo missions, where a Moogle requests a specific photo, and you get a reward as well for handing that photo in. The various worlds have specific courses and mini-games, like Arendelle’s snowboarding activity, which also gives rewards, and my favourite, Little Chef’s Restaurant in Twilight Town, which has you making foods using various ingriendents that you have collected on the worlds.
With every world you visit, and complete, you gain a new Keyblade, which might, or might not, cater to your playstyle. For people who enjoy Magic-based attacks, you will find many Keyblades that boost your Magic Power and the amount of Magic you are able to use and regenerate. Then there are others that focus more on brute strength. Later on you can try your hand at what the game classifies as the “strongest keyblade” – the Ultima Keyblade. Even though I only got it for personal gratification, since the fights were already quite easy as it is. This keyblade just makes it that much more of a cinche, and it can be further upgraded to be far stronger as well!
I will admit that I am slightly conflicted when it comes to this game. Previous Kingdom Hearts games provided a satisfying challenge, so to me it feels like the developers or publishers are betraying certain elements that made Kingdom Hearts as great a series as it is… and yet, I really enjoyed doing my part in what happened in this game, and seeing it to its end. This game contains so much, and has been a blast, but is missing what was in my opinion the most integral part of the series. The ending was good, but the lead-up to the ending was underwhelming, and no amount of gorgeous graphics (which there was in abundance) could make up for this oversight.
Kingdom Hearts III is a treat with a few let-downs. This entry has so much to offer, yet fails to deliver the “heart” found in every other Kingdom Hearts. It’s like making Chocolate without Cacao, and some off-brand alternative. It might look appealing, but isn’t quite as satisfying. There were many things I enjoyed in this game, but it just did not feel the same, and lacked the same build-up in the previous entries. The graphics were, without a doubt, stunning, and the sound track and effects were as magical as ever, so I could find no fault there. I also really enjoyed how the developers added the Gummiphone as a means to mimic our own IRL culture, even including mobile gaming within the game, and the mini-games found all over are a fun break-away from the main story. The combat however lacked in a good challenge, despite being spoilt for choice in how you could approach different encounters. We even see the return of old friends from Dream Drop Distance, but the fights were all so easy that I almost felt like it would be a waste to call on my incredibly adorable cat friend. I still enjoyed the game despite its flaws, but I wouldn’t say that Kingdom Hearts III does justice to the series. Fans of the game would enjoy it, but likely feel the same. If you want to get your own copy, you can get it for R699.00 on PS4 or XBox One at BTGames. Not a bad price, in all honesty.