Over the last couple weeks, Kingdom Hearts III by Square Enix has taken the gaming nation by storm. The game just released worldwide on January 29, 2019 for Playstation 4 and Xbox One. This Action RPG has already sold over 5 million copies across the world. Proving itself to be the fastest selling installment in the Kingdom Hearts franchise to date. Fans have been waiting for over a decade to get their hands on this conclusion to the series and Square Enix has come through for them, but did they wait too long to do it? With all the recent hype around Kingdom Hearts III can the game actually live up to its expectations? Can Kingdom Hearts III bring a close to the story in a way that satisfies the fanbase and leaves the story imprinted on its players?
In Kingdom Hearts III you will be continuing the story of the lead protagonist Sora, and his companions Donald and Goofy. Sora, after losing his powers, is sent across the different worlds to reclaim his strength once more in an attempt to save his friends from “The Darkness.” You will travel from one Disney themed world to the next helping out the characters that live there by defeating the Heartless that have invaded. The story is very carefully crafted with each world having an important role in moving the plot along. The voice acting is great with the only exception being that the English dialogue sometimes does not align with the Japanese mouth movements. I found myself invested after the first couple hours and wanted to help Sora find his lost power to save his friends. This drive lasted the 26 hours it took me to complete the main story. Even after finishing I found myself going back into the worlds for more. Even after the emotional ending that I endured.
Learning from their past mistake in Kingdom Hearts II, Square Enix dropped the 2 hour tutorial segment and drops you right into the action. The first world you are sent to walks you through all the new mechanics and allows you to reacquaint yourself with the combat system.The cutscenes are smooth, and graphics very well detailed. Even when leading into the game from cutscene. The transition is soft and not jarring to the eye. Once you officially get into the gameplay, this is where Kingdom Hearts III really begins to shine. From the starting world of Olympus, you feel the warmth of the land through the vibrant green grass and the bright oranges from the flames of the collapsing city of Thebes; to the frozen blue and white mountain tops of Arendelle. The characters respond to each element accordingly. They shield their eyes from the intense heat, and keep their bodies moving to produce body heat to stay warm in the cold. The controls are highly responsive, with little to no lagging between button press and response.
Some mechanics are returning like the flowmotion from Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance. Some are new to the series such as the form change keyblade powers. While forms are nothing new to the series, the ability to change the form you are utilising by swapping keyblades is. Each form reflects the keyblades abilities well and really gives a personality to each keyblade. You are also able to have a total of 3 in your loadout now which makes it easy to tailor the combat to many different play styles. They can also be upgraded which is something fans didn’t know that they wanted until now. This makes it so that keyblades early on are still viable late game, meaning you do not have to leave your favorite one behind any more.
The combat has evolved nicely since the last installment. As you complete your combos you will be filling a new found meter above the character portrait. Once full this will allow you to use your form change ability to deal some massive damage. Some even have a final change that lets you ascend to another form after the first to really get the most bang for your buck. You will also be able to trigger team moves as well during combat. Every so often, the characters will prompt for a team attack that allows you to dish out some heavy damage and watch a cutscene designed for the attack. You will also be using finishers this way too during your form changes. Also driven via prompting and cutscene. The attractions are also a nice addition into the combat flow. These will be indicated by a green circle around an enemy. Hit them with an attack to gain the attraction prompt and then activate it. This will trigger a Disney Theme Park ride to appear and you can use it to dish out tons of damage quickly. Each one has a score as it’s treated as a minigame and has a powerful finishing move to follow suit. The combat is very fulfilling and rewarding to anyone willing to take the time to fully explore all the possibilities here. The only fault I found with this is sometimes if you hold on to the commands instead of activation them, the screen can become very crowded quickly.
Where the game does seem to fall flat though is the way you go from world to world. The Gummiship makes a return in Kingdom Hearts III and while this time the Gummiship has undergone vast improvements, it is still outdone by the rest of the game itself. I found myself racing from one area to the next just to get back into the worlds. The Gummi Ship controls can be difficult at times. It has two different modes, travel and battle. Travel mode lets you explore the vast open galaxies and ride Currents like a highway for faster travel times. You will pass fleets of Heartless on the way from your embarkation to your destination. Should you get close enough to one, you will trigger a battle. Once in battle mode, the games becomes like a 3D bullet hell, with the enemy projectiles flying at the screen instead of downward or to the sides. You are also timed during battle and graded based on how many heartless you destroy, how quickly you achieved victory, and on taking less damage. While this was way better than past Gummiship experiences, it still wasn’t enough for me to invest as much time into this segment.
Where I cannot commend Square Enix enough is the score. The music was very fitting to each world you visit. All while remaining true to the overtone of the whole game. The music is soft and lighthearted. When battle starts, the music grows tense and the tempo quickens to match a racing heart. I found myself pausing from time to time just to listen to the background music and really take in some of the landscapes.
Even after completing the main story, I found myself wanting to go back and explore the worlds more. I wanted to try and track down more collectibles. I wanted to try and beat some of my attraction high scores and level up even further. I even wanted to replay the final boss in an attempt to beat him faster than I did the first time around. With multiple difficulties to play on and an added “No Exp” ability that you can equip for an added challenge; you can find yourself in my situation replaying this story over and over again.
So what did Kingdom Hearts III do well? The game:
- Plays Smoothly
- Detailed Graphics
- Responsive Controls
- Highly Interactive and Customizable Combat Experience
- Great Story
- Great Voice Acting
- Highly Engaging Gameplay
Where did Kingdom Hearts III have more room for growth?
- Gummi Ship segments
- Character models dialogue not aligning with the words at times
- Overcrowding the screen during combat with prompts.
Kingdom Hearts has come a long way over the years and Kingdom Hearts III is no exception. The story still engages well, the combat is a blast, and the characters are very memorable. The emotional rollercoaster of an ending was very satisfying to experience. The amount of customization and detail put into this game was beyond what I was expecting to see. Those at Square Enix are solid story crafters and writers, and this game proves that to anyone that picks up a controller to play it. Kingdom Hearts III left me with a smile on my face and the will to press on to platinum the game. It earns a solid 8.5 in my book. This is a must have for fans of the series and a great buy for those who want to play a solid Action RPG. I do recommend you at least play the other games first or watch a video recapping everything or you will be lost going into this title. After all this game gave me, I am confident in saying that Square Enix can add this game to their pile of success. Even after 13 years from Kingdom Hearts II to Kingdom Hearts III (excluding the side stories) they still delivered a smash hit. With Over 5 million sold and 5 million more on their way around the world, Square Enix nailed this one.