There isn’t a more impactful game in my life than the original Kingdom Hearts; it blew my mind when I first saw it being played on a PS2 at a relative’s house. It was a game that taught me how much voice acting, a good soundtrack, worldbuilding, and tight gameplay makes up a good video game. After Kingdom Hearts 2 was released, Kingdom Hearts 3 was ideally what was next, but as we know, that wasn’t the case.
Instead we had to go through about 7 more games until we reached the fabled third instalment. I for one didn’t mind this at all and kept at it throughout the 13 years of waiting. And yet, Kingdom Hearts 3 coming out finally in 2019 was perfect timing, and it has since sealed its fate as a make it or break it game for the series.
I’ll preface the review with the fact that Kingdom Hearts 3 just won’t be able to live up to everybody’s expectations; there are those who want more with the game, and there are those who would want much less with it. I, for one, am square in the middle. Kingdom Hearts 3 is everything I expected and a bit more, though there are some flaws that I didn’t see coming.
Simple And Clean
First off, let’s address the story of Kingdom Hearts 3. It starts where Dream Drop Distance ended, with series protagonist Sora losing most of his powers and the main villain, Master Xehanort finally resurrected. As Sora, you must journey through different Disney worlds to reclaim your power as well as something called the “power of waking”. Meanwhile, series deuteragonist Riku is out looking for more warriors for their cause, with King Mickey Mouse on tow.
While this is the simplest way to sum up the story, people making fun of the convoluted plot of Kingdom Hearts has become old hat, and at the very least Kingdom Hearts 3 ties up the remaining plot threads that the series has. To say that Kingdom Hearts 3’s story is hard on newcomers is like saying Season 7 of Game of Thrones isn’t welcoming for new viewers. It’s the final chapter of a long-running series, so an argument like that is moot. That said, the game does come with a primer for newcomers to get caught up on the story.
The visuals are just stunning in this game, looking just like a playable Disney movies for most of the time. Every animation while playing the game is just stunning to look act, and it also helps that frame drops are super rare in the game. The animation in cutscenes are stunning as well, with Sora, Donald Duck, and Goofy really acting like cartoon characters for most of the time with their mannerisms. The voice-acting and soundtrack are also elevated to a whole new level with this instalment, being at the best the series have ever gotten to.
A Decisive Battle
The main meat of Kingdom Hearts 3 is definitely the combat, between the cutscenes and the myriad of minigames, fighting evil monsters is definitely what you’ll be doing for most of the time. At first, the fighting can be pretty overwhelming. From magic, form changes, flowmotion, attraction flow, summoning, and shotlocking, Sora is more than capable and has a ton of options to fight his enemies. While you can still employ the mash X strategy, all these options really makes fighting exciting and everyone’s different playstyles can be seen by what combinations of these options you use. And some of the later fights really test you and keep you on your toes with how you can dispose the game’s bosses.
Not All Sunshines and Rainbows
One notable flaw of the game is the myriad of minigames that you’ll encounter throughout the game, which can vary from really great to mediocre. The Gummiships sections are actually great this time around, it’s just the other mini games like the rhythm section in the Tangled world or the Winnie the Pooh mini game that can be divisive. Another point of contention is the end parts of the game, which is pretty rushed. They kind of went through all the plot points pretty fast, which brings you to the ending of the game in less than an hour. Kingdom Hearts 1 & 2 had a midpoint in the form of trips to Hollow Bastion after finishing the Disney worlds, Kingdom Hearts 3 has no such midpoint and jumps you straight to the endgame the minute you finish the last Disney world.
Overall, Kingdom Hearts 3 is honestly a nice bookend for fans, although non-fans may not hold it in as high of a regard as followers of the series would. I for one think the game is the series best yet, and am excited to see what else Nomura and his team could come up with next. Mainline Kingdom Hearts games always have a “Final Mix” version which will polish up the gameplay immensely, as well as add in additional cutscenes and challenges. Here’s hoping the Kingdom Hearts 3 Final Mix comes to us in a years time.