This is a difficult game in some ways to review because the Kingdom Hearts series is such a darling within the gaming community, the series doesn’t invite much scrutiny and critical discussion but is still widely favoured, the most invested and passionate Kingdom Hearts fans are in their mid-twenties to early thirties having most likely played Kingdom Hearts 2 in their ‘teen’ years, there is an emotional attachment to the series and as I said earlier doesn’t really invite much critical commentary. This could be because of the Disney influence, that conjures thoughts of simple, soft and easily digestible content which may cause some to feel that the bar for the series should be lower, I don’t.
Kingdom Hearts 3 has been a long time coming, 13 years to be specific between it and Kingdom Hearts 2, in between that time the series has seen numerous spin-offs, side stories and retelling games released on different platforms, as complicated as the story of Sora & Co is the effort to keep-up with the story is arguably just as complicated if not more so.
To start with the design of Kingdom Hearts 3 is familiar to anyone whose played one of the mainline entries in the series before, Sora & his cohorts travel via their gummi ship (which is fully playable again) to Disney themed worlds such as Toy Story or Frozen. From there Sora, Donald and Goofy proceed to involve themselves, with no request by those concerned in the situations they come across, in events that are based on the Disney stories that the world is modelled on. It’s probably an unoriginal description of the design, but Kingdom Hearts is a like a videogame Disney world where each world is a like a different ride. These worlds succeed in capturing the look and feel of the Disney property they are based on and are the strongest trait of the series.
Graphically the game is a step-up from its predecessors increasing the visual look of Sora, Donald and Goofy to be more realistic, as smooth as they look I couldn’t help but feel that they looked like ‘porcelain’ figures, the look works for Sora but takes away from characters like Donald and Goofy who will always look their best in 2D style animations; still 3D computer animated Disney properties like Frozen and Toy Story (the game features more Disney worlds that are 3D computer animated or live-action than the 2D Disney classics) really benefit from the graphical bump. The worlds look good but only a few felt very distinct that made them memorable, some worlds felt bland despite how well they emulated the style and look of the respective Disney property. The best-looking world to me is ‘100 Acre Wood’, it had a smooth ‘cel-shaded’ style that is very charming and had me wishing ‘100 Acre Wood’ was a fully developed world like ‘Toy Box.’
The sound and music in the game are high quality, music especially in Kingdom Hearts 3 makes nice orchestral tweaks to favourites like Darkness of the Unknown Dragon and setting the enjoyment of those tracks to ‘over-the-top’, even those tracks that didn’t receive those treatments like Tension Rising, Sinister Shadows (vs 1,000 Heartless) and Fragments of Sorrow all still SLAP like we remember them.
Kingdom Hearts 3 still retains its familiar gameplay but also adds further elements in order to mix things up. As always Sora enters battle with his iconic Keyblade but for the first time in the series a ‘form change’ is introduced, ‘form changes’ transform the form of the Keyblade drastically introducing a whole new moveset for the weapon or a one-off attack. ‘Form changes’ give Keyblade combat in Kingdom Hearts more diversity and versatility. Another series first is being able to switch to other Keyblades on the fly, a little like Devil May Cry (stand to attention and put some respect on this fucking games name) Sora is able to equip 3 Keyblade for himself to switch between on the fly, it’s a welcome addition but one that I found cumbersome to use in actual combat let alone to play Kingdom Hearts like a character-action game like Devil May Cry (stand to attention and put some respect on this games name!!!). For the first time in Kingdom Hearts 3 (I feel like I’m saying this a lot) is the addition of ‘Disney Attraction Attacks’, as in Disney world rides being used as a means of offense for Sora, it’s very surreal and funny as hell watching Sora crash into Heartless in Tea Cups or swipe at Nobodies in Pirate Ship but the attractions work and help stop Kingdom Hearts combat feeling boring and monotonous. Also, ‘D-Links’ the summons from Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance have also been added. The described features are welcome additions, but they don’t alleviate the problem with Kingdom Hearts combat still being a throwback to early action adventure games from the PS2 era, pushing X to win isn’t a stretch to say with the occasional triangle thrown in for the over-the-top attack/cinematic to play the game for you briefly.
Character progression is largely the same, continued combat grants Sora, Donald and Goofy experience to level-up and learn new abilities, you can equip Sora & Co with accessories that improve their attributes as in past games. A brand-new feature is being able to cook and eat meals that buff Sora & Co, it’s a light RPG touch that is not necessary to help win fights or boss battles, the cooking isn’t worked into the game in a way that feels deliberate as though they had it in mind. It’s completely optional.
So. Finally. I’m at the point that really matters. Story. A fair warning, peak levels of toxicity are found here, don’t @ me don’t DM telling me shit about my take on the story. You were warned.
Kingdom Hearts 3 is just proof that the entire thing is just a piece of shit. How? Why? Okay then, 13 years ago we left Sora in Kingdom Hearts 2 and at that point Xemnas had been defeated and Organisation XIII had been dismantled, our last mainline Kingdom Hearts scene with Sora saw him back on Destiny Island with, Riku and Kairi receiving a letter that had King Mickey’s seal. Kingdom Hearts 3 starts with Sora & Co trying to find a way for Sora to recoup his lost power of ‘awakening.’ Now, the more astute and honest have already thrown their hands up and said ‘What the fuck?!’ Awake-what?! What about Mickey?! Didn’t we leave these guys back on Destiny Islands?!’ My astute friends..it’s been 13 years between Kingdom Hearts 2 and 3, that is a long time and in that time Nomura has been very busy fucking the entire thing up, shall we take a look?! Between two FUCKING sequels Nomura has managed to release 5 mother-fucking games each spread out on different platforms as if the nigga thinks his audience this story is like the dragonballz or some shit. Each game aims to build the mythos of the series universe and elaborate on key events that explain how Xehanort came to be, his ambition and Sora & Co’s inevitable involvement but only really succeed in confusing the audience and downright contradicting themselves, furthermore they continue the story of Sora & Co without regard for audience members soley interested in the mainline titles that Sora & Co are the focal point of. So what was missed between Kingdom Hearts 2 and 3 that makes sense of Sora & Co fighting Xehanort and Organisation 13 in Kingdom Hearts 3? ‘WAIT A FUCKING MINUTE!! Organisation XIII IS BACK?!’ Astute friend it’s too convoluted and long for me to explain in a review, I can only begrudgingly recommend that you watch a video summary on YouTube to understand how and why this games story starts the way it does.
The driving force of Kingdom Hearts 3 story is the return of Organisation XIII who are now lead by a newly resurrected Xehanort, the origin of the Heartless Ansem Seeker of Darkness and the defunct Organisation XIII leader Xenmas, he’s also managed to resurrect other members of Organisation XIII, such as Braig and Saix, and is using them as vessels for darkness, 13 specifically, in order to have them clash with 7 chosen lights on Sora & Co’s side of the aisle. We begin the journey with Sora as he is instructed to re-learn the power of ‘Awakening’, a power he lost during Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance, in order to be ready for the inevitable clash between his group and Xehanorts. It’s utterly fucking ridiculous and it pisses me off to no end that the wider gaming community doesn’t just laugh Kingdom Hearts out of the fucking industry. But we move no? As usual Sora & Co travel from world to world looking for clues that might help him re-learn his lost skill whilst not minding their business by getting into everyone else’s business. These niggaz are literally winging it the whole fucking time, there is never a clue or common thread that justifies why they travel to the worlds they travel to, Sora barely remembers why he’s on this journey in the first place. It genuinely doesn’t fucking matter. Furthermore, the tone is just shit, there is never a sense of urgency or impending threat in the story, in fact when Sora & Co encounter members of Organisation XIII on their travels there’s no animosity or even tension its almost if Sora is speaking to an old friend he hasn’t seen in a while when he meets say Luxord or fucking Larxene (and he can’t even remember her because of the bullshit plot points from the previous games FUCK ME MAN). I’m sure the most hard-core are SCREAMING at me saying it’s ‘IT’S NOT THAT DEEP BRO!! IT’S DISNEY YA KNOW!! HAVE FUN BRO!!’ Nigga fuck you. The ‘Lion King’ has more depth in it than this shitty fucking series and nigga that shit is ‘Hamlet’ for fucking kids!! But Kingdom Hearts can’t have more going for it narratively? Fuck off!! Several worlds visited and consistently Sora is no closer to relearning his lost skill or understanding why the fuck Xehanort wants clash and create the X-fucking-blade (did I forget to mention that, didn’t you play rasclat Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep?). The whole journey felt like meaningless filler, a buffer to a clash that could have happened off-rip. So once the bullshit journey is done and we get to why we’re all really here, it’s here those willing to be honest with themselves realise that the whole thing is a fucking waste of time, what was pitched as a clash between forces of Light and Darkness is really just impromptu fucking matches. Sora is the ultimate jobber and nobody can do anything without him especially Kairi because we can only have one capable female fighter in Aqua. So after I’ve wasted my time saying goodbyes to Sora’s frenemies with a good bash from the Keyblade to send them off we come to rasclat Master Xehanort himself, the big kahuna himself-whose created his X-Blade now no thanks to Sora’s willing participation to help a psychopath achieve his dream-begins his MASTER FUCKING PLAN uses the X-Blade and opens KINGDOM HEARTS for the probably like the 3rd fucking time in this series and proceeds to take Sora & Co to the seat of all worlds origin in Scala Ad Caleum (Wow Nomura…just fucking wow), so after besting Organisation XIII again with new fucking clothes in this new fucking location and overcoming Xehanort turning himself into one fucking stupid, foolish and useless looking Goat-man in armor (shout out Timeyin) once I finally bash this bald bastard again with his super-duper X-Blade this washed nigga proceeds to tell me his motivation was rooted in stopping the actual spread of Darkness.
Deep it. Big Man rasclat Master Xehanort, serial abuser and user of Darkness, was trying to save the fucking World from Darkness.
If you can actually find the words to challenge me and even play a smidgen of Devil’s Advocate, big man me and you should never meet and we can continue to exist in this world never knowing each other, if you do know me I beg you forget me for fucking real. Done out’ere.
It is a consistent theme that Square Enix is has become very bad at telling story, Final Fantasy XIII, Final Fantasy XV and now very evidently Kingdom Hearts. Guys and girls, these guys are doing a Final Fantasy VII remake, a game with a decent story til Squaresoft became Square-Enix and has been completely fucked up by follow-up games set in that universe contradicting its narrative (can’t lie I liked Crisis Core a lot). Doomed. It’s fucking doomed.
You know what playing Kingdom Hearts 3 reinforced for me? That I’m a grown up and that I know what good story and amazing gameplay are. I hope those playing Kingdom Hearts 3 and willing to be honest about the series with this final iteration in the Xehanort catastrophe realise ‘You’re a big fucking man you know?!’ For everyone else gogo-gaga.