Kingdom Hearts 3 is an enjoyable ride from start to finish. The combat is breathtaking while adding customization aspects to give the experience that extra edge. The Disney worlds range from the familiar Olympus to the winding streets of San Fransokyo are filled with heartfelt story-lines. The story stays true to the Disney characters while showing how they all come together to face a common enemy.
The overarching story that runs through these mostly charming worlds, however, is covered with darkness. Organization XIII is back with their goal to destroy all of the light from the universe to bring about “Kingdom Hearts”. Now, for many of us, the storyline has been confusing with all of the series releases. The KH series didn’t release all of their games in order so it’s a lot to process. The nice thing about KH3 is that it does it’s best to fill in the blanks. Players are able to watch prequel movies before they start playing the 3rd installment. This comes in handy, especially for newcomers to the franchise.
The allure and magic of the Kingdom Hearts series have always stemmed from the Disney worlds that Sora and his friends explore as part of the larger narrative. Within the worlds, separate stories gain life. Each is host to popular Disney characters that become fast friends with our hero. KH3 is no different, as it features worlds inspired by beloved Disney properties.
There may not be as many worlds to explore in this installment as there were before. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Where it lacks in that department, it makes up for it with visuals enhanced by the power of the next gen consoles. KH3 ’s new worlds prove that Square Enix could keep mining Kingdom Hearts for decades to come. The story lines are largely new, but the character struggles are familiar enough to instantly connect with what they’re going through. That’s also due in no small part to Disney and Pixar pumping out their polished and heartwarming animated flicks.
At its core, Kingdom Hearts has always been about the power of love and friendship. There’s no greater example of that than the love that the main character Sora has for his friends and those he comes in contact with. An example of this is when Woody(from Toy Story) lifts up his boot to see the word “Andy” written in faded marker. This moment works as more than just a homage to an iconic moment in Toy Story history by connecting directly to Sora’s own struggle with loss and the power of everlasting friendship.
Another addition to Kingdom Hearts 3 is the usage of familiar Disney attractions in combat. In a truly magical addition, Sora can summon special attacks inspired by Disney theme park rides. This is called the Attraction Flow, which is when in battle you often see prompts for summonses such as Blaster Blaze or Mad Tea Cups. Blaster Blaze summons a circular cart and for the next thirty seconds, you blast enemies with colorful energy balls. In Mad Tea Cups, Sora and his pals spin around striking enemies in quick succession. I personally enjoyed the train battle with the Rock Titan during my time in Olympus.
The crazy combat extends to Sora’s Keyblade attacks. With each world you clear, you’ll earn a new Keyblade with up to two unique form changes. Some Keyblades transform into dual pistols when you land enough attacks to trigger the devastating moves. I recommend trying them all and see what works best for you.
Now I will say that as a fan of the series there were some things that bugged me. For instance, the long cut-scenes to get to a save point or even the next part of the level. Some of the worlds were a little lackluster as well. The Frozen world was fun to explore, but the random singing? There is even a point in which Sora makes a comment about it. Now that could have been added just for humor’s sake, but I felt it took away from the game and story.
As for Organization XIII, it’s hard to say if Kingdom Hearts 3 holds any meaningful conclusion for hardcore fans. This is because the story is overwrought with nonsense that would’ve been much better had it simply leaned into a standard battle between good and evil. Though KH3 tries its best to remind you of past events, you quickly realize that the need for further explanation isn’t due to the large gap between mainline entries, but because of the sheer absurd plot itself.
While it aims to tie up loose ends, it really feels like too much is thrown into its glaring plot holes. With its abundance of cinematic cut scenes, I found myself annoyed and impatiently waiting for it to end. Ultimately, it felt like a distraction from the engaging Disney stories that run through each world.
In the end, the gameplay is fun and addicting. Fans of the series will continue to fall in love with this recent installment. Kingdom Hearts 3 plays similarly as its predecessors while bringing new elements to the gameplay that make it feel fresh. I’m looking forward to playing it on Proud Mode.
Editor’s Note: Review completed with a purchased copy of the game.
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Love able characters
Epic Boss Battles
New key-blades that enhance combat
Challenging Gummi ship battles
Long drawn out cut scenes
Some disappointing levels
Long wait to reach saves points