It has finally come, all of my raving, incessant obsessing, and, to some, frivolous fanaticism has finally come to a conclusion. Tuesday January 29th I obtained Kingdom Hearts III, by that Thursday I had beaten it with tears in my eyes, and though I’ve completed the story (then beat it again) and there isn’t much post story content I’ve somehow found myself still playing as if I’m trying to one hundred percent it–a rare feat for me as I tend to beat games and leave.
For a while I’ve been trying to plot out how I would tackle something that’s meant so much to me for such a long time, but I’ve come to a decision. First I’ll talk about my impressions from the game, a simple non-spoiler talk of opinions. Next, via a second playthrough, I’ll review each world, what it means, the balance of Disney elements vs core KH elements, mechanics and gimmicks placed in that world, and just overall how I’d rank it. There’ll be gameplay videos provided by me too. After reviewing all of the worlds, I’ll then talk about the overall story, the epilogue, and theories from the secret ending. This’ll be a fun and long process much like when I compiled my grad school thesis last year.
Anyways, this first entry is just my general impressions, so let’s just jump into it!
I don’t really wanna focus on the negatives of this game, I’ll get into it in my more in depth analysis in some other entry, so let’s just do a lightning round.
- The pacing is off in the last few hours.
- Certain points of build up feel as though they’re wasted.
- Desired interactions with characters don’t pan out the way fans wanted.
- The ending leaves you with more questions than answers.
- This game has been hyped up as an epic conclusion to the Xehanort saga, but for the most part it kind of just fizzles.
- Everyone gets a happy and/ or (for the villains) regret filled ending where they kind of face turn.
- There are no Final Fantasy characters.
- The combat, to some, is floaty.
- You don’t get aerial recovery until the third world.
- The gameplay is a bit too easy
- The ending doesn’t please a lot of people and is somewhat hard to swallow (though that’s very much a mileage may vary issue and I was fine with it)
Now to the everything I loved about the game, because while I want the game to improve on certain issues it has, if you nag at every flaw and only do just that, you have to question if you actually liked the game in the first place. So on to my focus of this game, my favorite parts, because this game, while not the greatest title ever, was an enjoyable ride and people need to play it or give it a chance.
After the opening, “Face My Fears,” which I’ve talked about too much, the game starts off with the Sora most of us started with: Kingdom Hearts I Sora, fourteen and in shoes too big for most humans. He floats down to his own Dive to the Heart and finds a mirror in the center, showing his older, Kingdom Hearts II self. And they we get to see a pretty kino scene. In which all of Sora’s memories fall down in picture frames. After that we face the Darkside, just as we had in the first Kingdom Hearts, which essentially serves as a melee combat tutorial. Then you get a slew of cutscenes which act as a, “Last time on Kingdom Hearts” synopsis and lead into what Sora and company have to do next.
Once Sora, Donald, and Goofy landed on Olympus, I had already accepted that this would be the most charming game I’d touch all year. And this wasn’t just based off of my love of the series or nostalgia kicking in. I could tell that this was a game crafted with a lot of love. The interactions between Sora, Donald, and Goofy are the best that I had seen in the series. They were riffing off of each other, roasting each other, and being quite supportive all while goofing around in each world. Even their interactions with Disney characters felt organic. I’ll get into it more in my Disney worlds entry, but it even felt like Sora, though for some plots didn’t play that much into it, influenced the plot of a world and gained some moments of introspection that lent to some wonderful, yet very subtle, character development for him.
Sora in this game, though pretty dumb on a surface level, shows levels of depth, wisdom, and witty sass that I feared would go missing due to the slaughter of his character in DDD. What we get is a character with wonderful comebacks, some massive insecurities, and moments of reflection for his journey so far. He understands his purpose, what he has to do, what he has to sacrifice and when the game ends he’s the most Sora I’ve ever seen him.
On an aesthetic level, this game is beautiful. The graphics are exactly what I wanted for the game, there’s enough detail in the fabric of everyone’s clothing, the creases on Sora’s lips, strands of hair, the details of concrete and keyblades. The worlds (exception being Frozen) are all colorful, filled with palettes that bring them to life.
As for the combat, though it suffers a bit from the f l o a t, it’s pretty fun. The controls took some getting used to since certain combo modifiers that were once rooted to the square button in previous games was swapped to the circle button. The use of combo cancelling by dodge rolling or air dashing is great, same with the ability to now block and use items in the air. The use of keyblade transformations, though to some might be too flashy, was great. Just turn off the transformation sequence, treat it like a drive, and clap some heartless from existence. This might be the only game where you can use yo-yos to smack around enemies, hit them with a giant honey bee missile, and end combos by making a blizzard or fire cyclone with Donald Duck. And then there was the addition of airstepping. It’s glorious combat feature that needs to be in every subsequent Kingdom Hearts game.
Wanna close the distance between you and an enemy? Airstep. Wanna hit an enemy before it pulls out its umbrella a shoots you with lasers? Airstep! Can’t find the enemy within the massive world you’re in? Shotlock…and then airstep! I love this feature and it makes combat thrilling.
But even beyond combat or aesthetics or how the game ends or how it made me cry several times, the big cutscenes, shifts in gameplay, the fact that they put a whole ass game in as a world, and the satisfying ends, it’s the small things that make me love this game. Just the small interactions, the little details that didn’t need to be added in but were anyways, and the fact that you can see how much love was put in this game. Is it perfect? No. Not at all. And I want to see improvements (which I’ll detail in later entry I’ll make for this review), but damn do I love this game.
Now in comparison to Kingdom Hearts II, how would I rank this game? While I enjoyed the combat more in II, the way they showed Sora, his personality, the other characters and their one-liners, the game’s own ability for self-awareness, it makes me cherish this game just a bit more. So that’s my low level review. I’ll get to the more in-depth stuff at a later time. I think I’ll leave you with a video from Just a Pancake. Later days.