Kingdom Hearts 3 Review – Was It Worth The Wait?
It’s been 13 years since the last numbered Kingdom Hearts installment, meaning Square Enix had a very tall task ahead of them. Since Kingdom Hearts 2, there have been 11 Kingdom Hearts titles continuing and expanding the Kingdom Hearts story, giving it a massive overarching plot that all culminates into Kingdom Hearts 3, the finale of the Darkseeker Saga. Kingdom Hearts 3 ends this over decade long saga with a bittersweet conclusion, both in story and in gameplay.
So the story of Kingdom Hearts 3 follows the original gang, Sora, Donald, and Goofy, as they travel world to world helping various Disney properties and gathering the seven guardians of light in hopes of Sora regaining his lost power so he can eventually take on Xehanort and Organization XIII. The dynamic between the main trio is stronger than it’s ever been, they have a lot more chemistry than they’ve had previously. There’s also more characterization of Sora in this entry and even though he’s still kind of stupid and naïve, he no longer just feels like a tropey good guy, we actually get to see him at his highest and lowest points in this game. He’s still not special, but they did improve on his character. If you’ve been following Kingdom Hearts since the beginning and have played all of the games, you’ll know how massive, and at times convoluted, the story has been thus far. I’m happy to say that while Kingdom Hearts 3 continues and finishes this story, I found it rather easy to follow along, possibly one of the easier of the series to keep up with.
I’ve seen a few people complain about the story being convoluted and even though the dialogue can be a bit much at times, I feel like a lot of them went into the game dismissing the story. I personally think the story is at its best when Sora and friends are taking on Organization XIII or even in the slower moments where characters from past games are reconnecting with each other or meeting for the first time. It honestly feels like Square has been reading a lot of fanfiction and put it into the game. Also in these moments are incredible set pieces that are easily the highlights of the game. If you’re new to the game, you most likely won’t be able to appreciate a lot of the moments that KH3 presents and, even though there’s a great memory archive in the main menu that you can watch, it still doesn’t tell you about majority of the characters that you see or what role they play or have played in the story. The stories of the Disney worlds are about what you’d expect if you’ve seen the movies and Sora occasionally feels like a self-inserted character in a fanfiction, but I enjoyed most of them for what they were, with Arendelle being my least favorite. I just don’t really care for Frozen. Aside from that, the characters and environments are very lovingly brought to life, with all of the characters feeling just like they do in their respective films. The only environment I didn’t like is again, Arendelle, it’s just snow and ice and besides the labyrinth tower you get stuck in midway through, it all looks the same throughout majority of the world. Other worlds are a different case though, they’re all vibrant, full of life, gigantic, and feature some of the best level design the series has had. They also all look completely different from each other, especially with certain worlds like The Caribbean having a completely different art style and San Fransokyo being set in a modern city.The mixing of the Disney stories and Organization XIII can feel a bit weird at times, but I’m happy to say the story still holds up. The cutscenes can run a bit long from time to time and if you don’t really care about or enjoy the story, I’m sure it’ll be a pain sitting through them, but from start to finish I was very engaged and at the end I even had a good cry. If Kingdom Hearts can make a grown man cry at a game where Mickey Mouse is fighting evil in a V-neck and leather jacket, I think they’re doing something right.
The gameplay of Kingdom Hearts 3 is possibly the best the series has had. It feels fast, exciting, and with the help of flowmotion and progress since the first games, incredibly fluid. The game also gives you a lot of options to work with in battle. There’s melee with your keyblade, magic, you have a new ranged attack that’s different with every keyblade, formchanges for every keyblade that drastically change how they fight, there’s team attacks, attraction attacks that summon various different Disney rides, and summons. It kind of feels like a sandbox game, but just in what you use to fight, there’s so many options at your disposal that it can probably feel a bit overwhelming seeing all the timers count down. All of these attacks, though, look amazing with grand presentation, excellent sound design, and beautiful visual effects. This is the most fun I’ve ever had with the gameplay of a Kingdom Hearts game, it’s come a long way since the awful jumping in the first Kingdom Hearts. This is the first time I actually grinded to level 99 because I was having so much fun. When you’re not in combat, the platforming is pretty satisfactory, with Sora now being able to run up and along walls and the air slide and dodge abilities being available to you at the very start. One problem I had with the gameplay is that all non-combat action commands are bound to the triangle or Y button, but that’s also the same button for all of your combat abilities. I lost count of how many times I went to open a chest and Sora decided to summon the pirate ship ride or formchange his keyblade. You can’t rebind the controls either, so you’re probably going to end up doing the same thing all game. There’s also the problem of difficulty. Not that the game’s too hard, in fact, it’s the opposite, Kingdom Hearts 3 is a lot easier than previous games and I mostly attribute that to how many tools you have at your disposal and how often they’re offered to you. Sora is very overpowered in this game compared to past installments. I didn’t die a single time in the 50 hours I spent with the game, and I was on standard difficulty. There’s even an item you can buy for very cheap that gives you a full revive if you do die and I totally forgot I had it. I could definitely see this being a problem for people that enjoy a good challenge. The gameplay in Kingdom Hearts 3 is pretty varied though, there are sections where you’ll find yourself sliding on rails shooting down heartless, playing a variety of mini-games like cooking with Remy from Ratatouille or helping Sora build his photography portfolio. There’s also sledding, but I didn’t enjoy it at all. It felt really weighty and bumping into walls results in you bouncing off which more often than not sets you off track. A lot of the worlds will give you plenty more than just hitting things with your keyblade and moving on. It’s not always enjoyable, but you don’t usually spend too much time doing them. I hated that the beautiful Caribbean world started underwater, but then I moved onto collecting crabs to improve my ship, which also kind of sucked, but at least it was different.
I’ve always been hesitant to get into the gummi ship parts of the Kingdom Hearts games, I never really enjoyed being on-rails the entire time and building a ship felt pretty intimidating. This isn’t the case for Kingdom Hearts 3, I actually loved the gummi ship portion of this one. You’re no longer on-rails until you’re fighting a swarm of enemies or a boss and you can explore space and collect resources freely now. I still never built a ship from scratch, but I did feel more welcome putting a cannon here or a shield there. The gummi ship is the best its ever been and honestly it could probably even be its own Star Fox influenced game.
Kingdom Hearts 3 is an amazing game that isn’t going to please everyone that’s been waiting for it. It’s not an easy task to satisfy everyone after such a long wait, but I feel like some of the issues with the game could’ve been avoided. With a patch, Square could easily just make the AI a bit more difficult or nerf Sora, but that won’t fix Arendelle’s boring world and at times, annoying, quests. I doubt they’ll allow you to rebind your controls so that you won’t waste your time using a team attack or attraction when you were just trying to open a chest. While these problems are definitely valid reasons to dislike the game, I can’t deny how much fun I had with the 50 hours that I played of it. If you were waiting for Kingdom Hearts 3, you most likely already have the game and if you do, let me know how you feel about it and how I’m wrong and that the game is a masterpiece. If you’re still thinking about it or you’re new to the series, I would say give it a shot if you think you’ll enjoy the gameplay.
And one last thing: the Skrillex ruined the intro song.