By Cecil Harvey
The final chapter is finally here, the culmination of nine games throughout multiple gaming systems has finally graced us on PS4 and Xbox One. Kingdom Hearts 3 has a lot of expectations to live up to, since fans have been waiting for it since Kingdom Hearts 2’s release in 2005. So the question remains, does Kingdom Hearts 3 give fans everything their hearts desired? Let’s find out.
Touted as the final chapter of the long-running Xehanort Saga storyline, right of the bat, Kingdom Hearts 3 promises to answer all the questions that fans have been clamouring for for the past 14 years or so. Since the release of Kingdom Hearts 2, the Square Enix team headed by series creator Tetsuya Nomura, has been putting out ancillary games that enhance the world of Kingdom Hearts and plants a lot of conclusions that would ultimately rectify themselves in Kingdom Hearts 3.
To recap the entire story here would be folly, but long story short is that series antagonist Master Xehanort is closer than ever to obtaining ultimate power through acquiring the mythical Kingdom Hearts, the source of all power in the universe. To do so, he must gather 13 Seekers of Darkness and 7 Guardians of Light to duke it out and unlock Kingdom Hearts. As series protagonist Sora, you must gather the aforementioned Guardians of Light to defeat Master Xehanort once and for all. On paper, the plot is quite simple, but it’s the finer details that can get newcomers a little lost, especially those who have not been following for the past 9 games beforehand. Thankfully, Square Enix added a watchable compendium for newcomers to get caught up for the plot.
See It To Believe It
The visuals of the Kingdom Hearts series has always been stunning, with the original 2 games really pushing the limits of the PS2’s graphical capabilities. Mixing Square Enix’s patented style and flourish with Disney’s timeless magic has always been a winning formula. It also helps that the Disney worlds featured in the game are mostly 3D animated movies, making the recreations of these movies in Kingdom Hearts uncanny and is exactly like if you stepped into the movies themselves. Heck, the Frozen world even includes a shot-for-shot remake of the “Let It Go” scene, which is pretty impressive all things considered.
What’s great is how the fast-paced battles are just as stunning as the cutscenes that precede them. Cutscenes are now more cartoony than ever, while battles are even more flashier than before. If you’re playing on a PS4 Pro and Xbox One X, you are in for a treat. With Sora’s arsenal allowing him to summon Disneyland rides, transforming his Keyblades into all sorts of other weaponry, and the myriad of colourful enemies you’ll encounter, it’s a marvel that the framerate hardly drops while making a spectacle of your fighting prowesses.
The Bare Necessities
If you don’t enjoy the sappy, melodramatic plot of Kingdom Hearts, then at least stay for the combat system. The true bread and butter of the game will always be the combat, with players being able to express themselves in the heat of battle in any way they want. With Sora’s Keyblade showing more transformative capabilities than ever before, as well as the breadth of options you have with the different magics, summons, and team-up attacks. Sora is also much more nimble than he’s ever been, being able to scale up walls and grind on rails, by the end of the game you’ll be flying all over the map. Thankfully, the maps have also been upgraded to suit Sora’s capabilities, with entire maps practically acting as entire game worlds with unique gimmicks and minigames that suit each world. For example, the Tangle world has a dancing minigame, while the Big Hero 6 world has your parkouring all over the city of San Fransokyo.
Enemies new and old have been given tough movesets, with them swarming all around you, it is easy to get overwhelmed. Of course, the tried and true “Mash X” method of combat does still apply somewhat, so play on the highest difficulty if you really want a challenge. There’s also the return of the Gummiship sections, which are usually an on-rails space shooting section between each Disney world, only now you can freely move in 3D space making it a more open-ended experience.
It should be noted that long-awaited games like Kingdom Hearts 3 will live up to its own hype, but in one way or another there will be some flaws to it. One of the biggest would have to be the pacing of the story. While it starts off slow and easy, it rushes very quickly at the end, with little to no agency. Kingdom Hearts 1 & 2 had a dignified middle part that eases the player to the endgame, letting them be prepared for a gauntlet of an ending. Kingdom Hearts 3 has no such thing, bringing you straight to the final level after you finish the Disney Worlds.
Another complaint is the Disney worlds themselves, which can have pretty shallow stories within themselves. The Monsters Inc, Toy Story, and Big Hero 6 worlds are great since they act as sequels to the movies themselves, while the Tangled, Frozen, and the Pirates of the Caribbean world just rethreads the movies plot with Sora and the gang shoved in there.
So does Kingdom Hearts meet fan expectations? As a lifelong fan, I’m more than happy with the product that Tetsuya Nomura and his team has put out. Though I’m sure the shortcomings can rub people the wrong way. If you’re a newcomer this would be a bad place to start the series, the game really isn’t friendly to people looking to get into the series.
Great return to form for the series and plenty of good additions to the formula. Not newcomer friendly and minor shortcomings can bog down the experience.