It's here... IT'S FINALLY HERE!!!
After a decade of waiting and side games, Kingdom Hearts III has finally been released. And even though my excitement of this series has dulled greatly due to my age and the overarching story just getting sillier and sillier, there was no way I could ignore playing this game. I think I, along with many people, are more satisfied to receive closure on this series at this point, rather than get more invested into what's going on.
That being said, the wait for this game has been astronomical. Many side games on many different gaming systems and many re-releases, all to support one giant overarching story that has spanned nearly 20 years at this point... it seems very likely that Kingdom Hearts III is doomed to fail. So does it? Or does it somehow manage to live up to everyone's large expectations? Let's find out!
- Worlds are bustling with life and detail. There's less Disney Worlds in this game than there are in other ones, but not only are they much bigger, they're sprawling with detail too. They finally put in residents! It's just so nice to finally see people walking around this world to give the feeling that it's habitable, unlike other Kingdom Hearts where there's so much dead space around. Some people are complaining that these worlds still feel too sparse of life and detail. And while compared to other open-world games it may not be seen as very busy, but on its own it's still a very busy game so I don't get what the problem is. Granted in some worlds the large design of them can be hard to navigate because of a lack of landmarks (like in Corona or Arendelle), but in other worlds the detail is sprawling and easy to pinpoint, like in the Toy Box and all its incredibly varied and detailed toy packaging.
- Something to do around every corner. On top of these worlds being big, they're also, um, FUN to navigate through. Most games nowadays are open-world, but somehow they managed to turn that into a bad thing because most of that open-world involves trekking across large amounts of nothing, just making getting to each objective more cumbersome than it is to be separated into stages or levels. Kingdom Hearts III may have entered the trend of open-worlds, but it does so in the right way; by giving you shit to do between each objective. Between battling monsters, there's also searching for treasures and Lucky Emblems. And I honestly found it pretty fun to analyse every environment I come across to see if can find those very elusive Lucky Emblems (which are very rewarding too by the way). And when I'm not searching for treasures, there's just cute and fun little details that I like. For instance, in the Toy Story world there are Balloon Vendor Machines. Hit the Helium Tank next to them and the voices of your party will all become high-pitched for a short time. Even in combat! I just love how for once, I'm playing a FUN game and not a LONG game (well I mean this game is still long, but not in that sense if you know what I mean).
- Gummiphone is surprisingly very fun to use. Another trend that games seem to be including nowadays are the presences of smartphones and social media. It is expected to see games incorporate modern culture like this, but that doesn't make the inclusion of these elements any less tacky. Fortunately, Kingdom Hearts is one of those games that manages to make the inclusion of a smartphone fun to use. Not just for taking photos or selfies, but also make it a component of the game's progression. You can only find Lucky Emblems with the Gummiphone, play Game & Watch-style minigames and Jiminy decides to log his journal on it as well. You can even use the phone on combat AND in the Gummi Ship! So if you want to take selfies with Xehanort or photograph a constellation, you can do just that! God this game is so fun...
Oh yeah, and all your party members react to you holding a camera in front of them. It's pretty cute. ^^
- Excellent score. I mean, this is a no-brainer. Yoko Shimomura always puts out amazing music, and she really brought her A-game with this game's soundtrack. However, she's also accompanied by Tsuyoshi Sekito and Takeharu Ishimoto, both of which of Final Fantasy fame. And they really add their flavours into this soundtrack to make it sound truly unique amongst other Kingdom Hearts games. Heck, there's some battle songs that sound oddly similar to Bayonetta's songs. And I'm not knocking that. Cuz I love me some Bayonetta music.
- Looks fantastic. Kingdom Hearts has been relying on its PS2 models for so very long, that it was hard to take in this new visual style at first. To be honest, some characters still look a little, for lack of a better word, plasticine. Particularly in their hair. But eventually, I got used to it. Now I think this game looks amazing. I mean, the Toy Story world looks EXACTLY how it did in Toy Story 3, and that's pretty remarkable to me. It's also worth noting that there's no "cat-face", which is the term fans used to describe the facial textures that they would use on characters when they need to talk, but they can't spare enough budget to have them emote. Now, they emote almost all the time, and I'm very impressed by that.
- Pirates of the Caribbean World is LITERALLY Wind Waker. I mean, I expected ship combat and a big world, but Holy Hot Damn, I did not expect having a whole sea to explore on my own with my own ship and just have fun pillaging each island for all its treasure. Once you've upgraded your ship at Port Royal, you are the given free reign to o whatever you want. You can end the world by entering the battle with Davy Jones if you want to, or you can explore all the islands at your leisure and spend time getting treasures and upgrading your ship even further. I undoubtedly spent the longest time in this world alone, but I did not regret a single second of it; I was having so much fun being a pirate!! I love how organic this design feels where you can finish the world if you want to, but you'll have a harder time of it if you haven't upgraded your ship to combat the Kraken. So you can upgrade your ship to have an easier time, but it's entirely up to you; I really like that. The only downside is that Jack Sparrow is absent for your open-world sea pillaging as he's part of the final battle against Davy Jones. Also the plot comes to a screeching halt if you decide to explore the sea, but that's a problem only if you care about the plots of both Kingdom Hearts 3 and Pirates of the Caribbean 3. And yeahhh... I'm not sad about that at all. So yeah, this is easily a candidate for my favourite world in the whole series. And I've never even seen PotC 3.
- Story is as convoluted as ever. Yeah, I'm sure this is no surprise to anyone. Kingdom Hearts III has the unenviable task of wrapping up ALL the plot points the series has brought up so far and putting a neat little bow on it. And of course it does it in classic Kingdom Hearts tradition; saying "hearts, darkness, light, friends" in almost every sentence. I'm sure there are lots of fans who are invested in this franchise's story, but for a main numbered game in the franchise, trying to involve every single plot element that has happened in the series so far was a huge mistake. As it's asking WAYYYY too much of the player's knowledge of the series in order to even get invested. Hell, I've been playing these games since 2001, and even I'm tired of this series' storyline at this point. I pretty much completely lost interested after they introduced time travel in Dream Drop Distance out of nowhere without any explanation as to how Xehanort knows it. Hell, this game STILL doesn't explain how Xehanort can time travel, which is the fundamental reason why he's even here.
On top of that, despite getting all this closure, I still feel very underwhelmed. Without spoiling them, all I will say is that one of the heroes DIES in the final battle with Xehanort (or loses their heart or whatever). And I wasn't fussed at all, because the series had already made the concept of death moot, so I knew they would just come back eventually. If not now, certainly in a later game. And that leads me to my next point. Despite being the last game in this supposed saga, this game STILL has to gall to raise even more questions about what could happen next. Just give it up Kingdom Hearts. At this point, nobody will have the interest to check it out because now you've given them the game that they wanted for so long, they have no reason to get invested into this overly convoluted mess of a plot again.
- Reaction Commands are a hot mess. Kingdom Hearts III goes back to the classic mode of combat from I and II, rather than make a return to the Command mode of combat from Birth by Sleep and Dream Drop Distance. At the same time however, KH3 adds a lot of new things to play with like Links, Attractions, Team Attacks and Grand Magic. ALL of which can be executed like a Reaction Command. The downside to that though is that there's no sense of reward. The floaty combat that people have been complaining about is small potatoes compared to how this game showers you with special Reaction Command attacks almost every second in combat. And it can get kinda tedious, sometimes even frustrating, to use these. They're flashy and do a lot of damage, but when you constantly receive these scripted and LONG attack animations, the difficulty of combat takes a huge dip. Of course, you don't have to bother with any of this if you don't want to, challenge yourself even, but it's kinda annoying how opening chests or examining things ALSO uses the Triangle Button; so when you want to do that but the Triangle Button is mapped to a Reaction Command, you end up accidentally watching a long drawn-out attack animation and it's just annoying.
- Cooking sucks. Every game ever has to have at least one crappy minigame, right? Well, for Kingdom Hearts III, that minigame is cooking with Remy from Ratatouille. You've no doubt seen the memes of how Donald and Goofy will not shut up about finding ingredients and this is what it's all about. Basically, you find all sorts of ingredients in all of the worlds and bring them to Remy's Bistro to cook certain meals. But all these cooking minigames entail is a short quicktime-related event where you just have to press buttons or make motions at the proper timing. Not only are the motions INCREDIBLY stingy (don't get me goddamn started on the egg cracking), but if you fail - and you will, a lot - you will still use up the ingredients you put in to the minigame. So it's not just a matter of losing and trying again; if you lose, you have to hunt down those ingredients again to have another go at it. And some of these ingredients aren't easy to find; some even require playing another long minigame in order to get some more. I can't stress enough how easy it is to lose these cooking minigames, so having to hunt down ingredients EVERY SINGLE TIME after that is just nonsense. It's not really worth it in the end anyway. The rewards you get are not worth the effort, and I NEVER ate any of the meals I made to increase my stats because I never felt like I had to. Not even in the toughest situations. Do yourself a favour and skip the cooking.
- Upgrading Keyblades is pretty lame. Kingdom Hearts III enters the unfortunate territory of upgrading one's weapons to make them stronger. This isn't like in other KH games where you get a brand new Keyblade and it has different / better stats than your previous Keyblade; this time you can upgrade each Keyblade's stats so they can get stronger. But of course this requires items to forge them, which you can only get from monsters, chests and in the Gummi Ship sections. I've NEVER liked this system in games; it's just not fun. Either you end up not using newer weapons you get because you've upgraded your current one so much you don't feel it's worth changing, or for completionists you won't feel satisfied for upgrading each weapon to their fullest, because once you've done so, you'll just move on to the next weapon without really enjoying your fully forged weapon. It's just a terrible system that promotes tedium, and I wish Kingdom Hearts wouldn't enter this field but here we are. I guess the concept of playing with a brand new sword you've achieved is just nonexistent now.
- No Final Fantasy Characters. Yeah, this is bit of an oddity. Considering this is supposed to be a crossover franchise with Disney and Final Fantasy, it's strange how there's no actual Final Fantasy characters in the game at all. With exception to the Moogles, but I'm talking about more classic characters like Cloud and Leon. I know this series has gotta wrap up a lot of its plot points, but this is a clear sign that the story has gotten so full of itself when it forgets to include the very thing it was made for.
Despite having over a decade of hype and convoluted setup, Kingdom Hearts III remarkably manages to be very, very good. And that's because Square Enix knew, at its core, what people want from it. Just to explore fun Disney worlds and battle dark monsters. This is the FIRST game in the series to start you off in a Disney World for a change. And it's both a long and detailed world at that. And that just shows these guys knew what they were doing. ...At least, in terms of gameplay.
Yeah, the main story's still garbage, but it really doesn't become a huge factor until 4/5ths of the way into the game. Before that time, there's just so much fun to be had in exploring each big world, grabbing every treasure and even tinkering with the Gummiphone or the Gummi Ship. And that's what puts it above other Kingdom Hearts games - even other open world games - it's that it's just fun. And I like that. The people behind this game clearly just wanted to make a fun game, and that's a surprising rarity in this day and age. So for all its toys and wonders to be had, it's worth stomaching its awful story, especially with its pretty fun boss battles at the end too. And I'm just thankful that all it is is a good time.
RATING: 8 / 10