July 3, 2019 at 9:32 PM #566
Kingdom Hearts III
Rating: 4.5 – Outstanding
I’m still amazed that this game actually came out.
Man, I just want to start out by saying that I think it’s crazy that Kingdom Hearts III actually came out. Like, for a couple years this game seemed like it had been Half-Life 3’d and sent straight to Video Game Purgatory, but here we are! This game actually exists! Yay!
Now I’m going to answer the question that everyone seems to be asking: No, you cannot play Kingdom Hearts III without playing the rest of the games in the series. Making sense of this game’s story without playing all the other Kingdom Hearts games is like trying to get a PhD in Thermonuclear Physics without taking Algebra 101. I recommend saving yourself the agony and just playing all the games in order.
And when I say all the games, I mean all the games. Not just Kingdom Hearts 1 and 2, you need to play the ones with the super wacky-sounding names too. From the mobile phone games to the handheld ones, plot points from literally every single Kingdom Hearts game are brought up in KH3. But if you’re one the legions of die-hard fans who’ve been anxiously waiting eight billion years for Kingdom Hearts III to actually come out, then you’ll be happy to know that the game is pretty groovy.
If there was ever a game that people didn’t want spoiled for them, this would be it, and I get that, so for this review I’m going to keep the spoilers to a minimum. Also, because this is definitely not the first game in the series, I’m going to assume that you have a basic understanding of what Kingdom Hearts is all about, because if I had to explain all the ins and outs of this crazy franchise, then I’d be typing this for the next thirteen years.
So yeah, you get the gist of what Kingdom Hearts is like: You go to Disney worlds, hang out with some Disney dudes, and whack bad guys on the head with your ever-expanding collection of giant keys. The basic formula hasn’t changed at all since Kingdom Hearts 1. You’ll be happy to know, however, that there are quite a few other things that have been changed. Because if literally nothing had changed since Kingdom Hearts 1… then this game would be Chain of Memories, and that wouldn’t be good.
I’m just going to come out and say it: This game has the best combat in the series. There’s probably some purists who will play this game and then crinkle their nose at it because the combat isn’t exactly like Kingdom Hearts 2, but as Abraham Lincoln once said: "If I wanted Kingdom Hearts 2 combat, I’d play Kingdom Hearts 2."
What I like about KH3’s combat is that it kept all the stuff that was great from the previous games (the form changes, Flowmotion), got rid of the stuff that was a little more on the gimmicky side (the Command Deck, Dream Eaters), and added its own cool new things to the mix, like the Disney World-themed finishing moves. Seriously, who hasn’t dreamed of slaying monsters with a giant merry-go-round?
Aside from that, the combat just feels good overall. It’s smooth as butter, and there’s really nothing to complain about. With the addition of all the crazy finishing moves, things do get a little wild at times, kind of like playing Super Smash Bros. with all the items on. But I think that’s great, because it keeps things from getting boring. This was definitely the most fun I’ve had curb-stomping Heartless and Nobodies.
Another awesome new addition is the ability to upgrade each of your Keyblades. In all of the previous games, pretty much all the early-game Keyblades quickly became unviable for use in battle, but now with this new feature most of the Keyblades are on equal footing with each other. And this is particularly lovely because each of the weapons in Kingdom Hearts III now feel very distinct from one another. Each has unique properties, form changes, and finishing moves that set it apart from all the others, and switching around your Keyblades on the go is a blast.
The other big new feature in Kingdom Hearts III is the Gummiphone. It functions as the new version of Jiminy’s Journal from the previous games, keeping track of your records and all that housekeeping jazz. Aside from that, it also gives you the ability to take pictures… and selfies. Now, in real life my desire to take selfies is about as non-existant as my desire to replay Chain of Memories, but I actually had fun with this feature. I think it’s because Sora is just so pure and wholesome, and his motivation to take selfies is devoid of the shallow, self-serving nature that taints modern-day social media. Sora doesn’t care about the likes and the follows, he just wants to snap a pic with his boys Woody and Buzz. And you also get synthesis items and stuff from taking pictures, so there’s practical reasons to use the camera aside from just wanting to watch Sora make goofy faces.
Oh yeah, the Disney worlds in this game are awesome. Once again, I’m avoiding spoilers, so I won’t mention any specifics, but the worlds are giant, detailed, and fun to explore. It’s an unusually big technical upgrade from the worlds in Kingdom Hearts 2. KH3 also has the honor of being the only game in this series which doesn’t have a single world that I don’t like. Sure, some are better than others, but that’s how everything is. I’d say that about half the worlds in this game could easily be placed on a list of the best and most memorable worlds in the whole series.
There is a fair amount of stuff to do after you beat the game as well. Granted, it’s not as much as KH1 or KH2: Final Mix had, but I’m guessing that there will be some kind of Final Mix DLC kind of thing for KH3 that will patch in some new extra content, and as long as that happens I’ll be happy.
The one thing about the gameplay that I want to hate on is the Gummi Ship sections. I think this game might legitimately have the worst Gummi Ship sections in the entire series. I didn’t mind KH1’s Gummi Ship segments, and KH2’s were pretty solid, but now they’ve changed it to this weird, pseudo open-world type of deal. I don’t know, I’m just not a fan.
Oh gosh, now’s the part of the review where I have to talk about the story. This’ll be fun.
So if you’ve been following Kingdom Hearts, then you know what the basic plot of this game is. Xehanort is being bad, and Sora and his squad have to go stop him. Now, the question everyone has is: Is Kingdom Hearts III’s story actually good, and is it a fitting ending to the series? And the answer to that is… um… well… um…
Okay, let me phrase it this way. This game’s story is pretty much exactly what you’d expect from a Kingdom Hearts game. Take that as you will. Basically, if you enjoyed the plots of all the previous KH games, then you’ll like the story in this one. If you didn’t, then you won’t. For me, I always enjoyed the Kingdom Hearts stories in the same way that I enjoy comic books from the 1960s: Sure, the dialogue is corny and the constant retcons make things overly complicated, but there’s something about the relationship between each of the characters and some of the interesting concepts presented in the series that keep me engaged game after game. There were definitely some plot events that happened in Kingdom Hearts III that I thought were pretty stupid, but they weren’t any dumber than when time travel was introduced in Dream Drop Distance, or when we found out in Birth by Sleep that Sora’s heart seems to be linked with everyone and their grandma.
So the moral of this review is: If you like Kingdom Hearts, you’ll like this game. If you don’t, you won’t.
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