Review – Kingdom Hearts III
Kingdom Hearts is indisputably one of the more cherished video game franchises of recent decades. The amalgamation of Square Enix’s RPG elements along with the eternal, magical world of Disney was a valiant and ultimately cunning move to fascinate consumers of a more widespread age range. It also happens to be a very polarizing one as well. While the familiar charisma of Final Fantasy and Disney references are aplenty, the Achilles Heel of Kingdom Hearts is its convoluted and problematic story that has many people scratching their heads. The series consists of many games, with most them bidding to ties up loose ends, but everyone wanted the continuation of the story of Sora after the conclusion of Kingdom Hearts II. Fans impatiently foamed at the mouth for the direct sequel and after thirteen long grueling years of doubt and uncertainty, Kingdom Hearts III finally sees the light of day.
Attempting to clarify the plot of Kingdom Hearts, let alone three of them, and sounding like you know what you are talking about is a task of its own. What made Kingdom Hearts such an initial success was its introduction as an RPG engulfed with many characters and worlds from Disney, one of the world’s primary benefactors of entertainment for all ages. People were instantaneously drawn in and it became an abrupt hit. People who are on the fence about giving the franchise a spin will solely have to rely on that same fact. Even the most informed Kingdom Hearts aficionado would have the hardest time convincing their friends to play, simply because it’s one of the more tremendously jumbled plots in quite some time, which would quickly disinterest other players.
Kingdom Hearts III is no exception. The main gist of the game is as follows: Sora, Donald and Goofy must set out on another adventure to multiple worlds in order for Sora to regain his “power of waking”, the ability to restore lost hearts. King Mickey and Sora’s childhood friend Riku are attempting to find Aqua who is lost in the Realm of Darkness. Not going into any more detail to avoid confusion, the main idea is that the leader of Organization XIII, Xehanort, is seeking out to start another Keyblade war and Master Yen Sid is preparing his team of Keyblade wielders to counteract his attempts. Have I lost you yet?
Look at it this way: Kingdom Hearts is that one childhood friend of yours that wants to play a schoolyard game you love, but once you start, they make up a bunch of rules that really only benefits them, putting you at a disadvantage, yet you still play on because you want to ultimately see how this plays out. I feel like half of these characters are superfluous and are only included to be of sentimental value to more pivotal characters. Names are juggled around and it’s difficult to put them to faces because of Square Enix’s obsession with giving everyone names that start with a letter of the alphabet most uncommon to be at the start of any word. That being side, aside from all the confusion, Kingdom Hearts III is still a fun adventure to struggle through. And struggle you will.
When the original Kingdom Hearts came out on PS2, the graphics were considered revolutionary at the time. People were instantly drawn in when they saw how precise their favorite Disney characters and scenarios were being represented. I honestly thought it was one of the better looking games for a while, and while Kingdom Hearts II didn’t really add anything to vastly distance itself from its predecessor, it stayed consistently extraordinary and stunning. Thirteen years later and now on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, Kingdom Hearts 3 is an absolute visual spectacle to admire. Character models are smooth and polished out. No longer do we have scenes where Sora or (insert random person) have awkward scenes of expressionless chatter as their mouths unconvincingly open and close with little effort. Instead, every character, every NPC, just everything is full of real emotion and authenticity. Cutscenes are an absolute joy to watch because the movies we all know and love so much are done nearly flawless. The worlds are blown into massive proportions, rich with vivid environments that you are going to spend most of your time admiring the attention to detail. I implore you to pay close attention to the Tangled world of Corona and the Pirates of the Caribbean, as they stood out as the better worlds of the game, with the latter being just ridiculously detailed and life-like.
Just like the graphics, the sound seems to be improved on every level in Kingdom Hearts III. My volume was about halfway my norm and I could more than hear what was going on. Voice acting is on point and entirely believable. Regardless of whether or not I know what on earth was going on, I can feel the emotion in each character’s voice; it all just feels right. In respect to the Disney characters, the voices are spot on regardless whether or not the intended voice actor was available to provide voices for the game. However, while each world has its own, respective theme, I wished they would have extended the duration of the track as it becomes noticeable that it loops, which is a major irritation to those susceptible to earworm, present company absolutely included. Having to hear one of my least favorite songs of all time,You’ve Got a Friend in Me, on repeat was just murder on my patience and sanity. Also, would it kill you to give Goofy, and especially Donald, more voice lines when there are ingredients around? I mean, you did take thirteen years, I sure it’s not too much to ask.
The gameplay is simply the same old fun Kingdom Hearts veterans are used to, with the addition to new features and added flair. Your main button is the X button as you hack and slash your way through the Heartless, with occasional usage of the Square and Triangle buttons to implement air combos and magic respectively. It’s a simple and approachable control scheme that has always been used since the first installment and those familiar with the series or the hack and slash method in general should have no problem getting used to how Kingdom Hearts III plays.
The fun factor depends on whether the aforementioned style of play is your cup of tea. Like the other parts of the series, every world is riddled with treasures immensely beneficial to your success, and because the worlds are gigantic in comparison, it makes the search an actual challenge. Speaking of the size of the worlds, the worlds of Kingdom Hearts III are so vast and detailed comparison that the originals might feel incomplete and unsatisfying upon revisiting them. Added to Kingdom Hearts III are hidden lucky emblems in the shape of Mickey’s iconic silhouetted head even more cleverly hidden. Now that your character possesses a smartphone, your objective is to locate these emblems and take pictures of them at the right angle; finding more emblem results in greater treasure. Whether it be a legit branding of the logo or manipulating objects to form the popular Disney King, this is an amazingly clever addition to the game that’ll get you happily lost in exploration.
Now while Kingdom Hearts III is a giant improvement over its predecessors, there is an important aspect in the game I felt took a step backwards. While the combat system hasn’t changed, there is simply too much being added to help you emerge victorious in battle. While the theme park attraction attacks are bright, colorful, and full of flair, it really lessens the difficulty down a gigantic step. Bringing back the assist moves and beefed up magic attacks familiar with the series, Kingdom Hearts III thought it was a good idea to allow stacking of specials moves that are already easy to obtain, and not having to worry about them going to waste with long expiration times, the final result in the combat throughout the entire game was simply too easy, as you can simply unload them all one after another. I would highly recommend attempting Proud Mode your first go if you are a Kingdom Hearts veteran, because it’s not only up until the final dungeon where the game decides to get serious with it difficulty.
To be fair, I’m not sure exactly who Kingdom Hearts is for. Yes it’s fun and yes it has been visually impressive ever since it’s PS2 days. But while the combat is original, it’s always been too tailored for success and lacks a real challenge, and it seems that it’s meant for younger players. On the other side, saying the plot is overwhelmingly complicated would be an understatement. On paper, it seems way too complicated for younger fans to even remotely comprehend and that it’s more meant for the older audience. There are several fan theories and plot summaries online made by those deeply committed, and I highly recommend looking into them if you want to alleviate the strain and head scratching. Despite this, the games have always been fun, and Kingdom Hearts III is the most fun of them all. Beautiful, massive world explorations, entertaining sidequests, not to mention oddly addicting handheld throwback retro games to play on your Gummiphone, there is a lot to do in this game. Turn your mind off and don’t question the plot, just let it run its course. As much as I enjoyed the game, for closure purposes, I can only hope this is the end of franchise’s run, but at the end of the game, the door has been left wide open for more, and undoubtedly confusing, possibilities.
Simply gorgeous and polished character models and environments that made the Kingdom Hearts franchise revolutionary in the first place.
Hack and slash combat with added features are easy to pick up. Some may be lost and forgotten due to too much being implemented.
Audible, boisterous, and engaging music and sound effects. Quality voice acting, though certain situations need more than just one repeating and annoying voice line.
Fun Factor: 6.5
Added flair and special stacking results in hand-holding difficulty. Complex and muddled plot will confuse most.
Final Verdict: 8.0
Kingdom Hearts III is available now on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One
Reviewed on PlayStation 4