It’s been a week, so let’s get the real reviews rolling.
What a way to start out one year closer to the end of the world. After a certain number of years that I don’t have to say because everyone knows, Kingdom Hearts 3 is real, in physical form, and released worldwide for all to see with bated breath. With 10,080 minutes passing, those sighs have nearly released for the majority of reviewers, game players, and those interested in the Square Enix/Disney phenomenon. It certainly has for this particular writer. Thus, it is now time to give my personal thoughts to the infamous third. It will be detailed, lengthy, and full of emotions and opinions on everything, and if you didn’t catch the title, I’ll give one more warning: spoilers are coming ahead. Which may be useful to you, who are just looking for a quick way to know about the game without playing it. That way you don’t have to wait for your favorite YouTube artist, or sibling, or significant other, and you can be in the nerdy loop for the next month on breaks as words like, “disney”, “final fantasy”, “keyblade”, and expletives are thrown together.
The Keyblade War
We’ll cut to the chase: We were taken through an anime experience as, one by one, we fought a couple hordes of heartless, and three- count them three- Organization members at a time. Most of them final bosses of the past, Xemnas, Ansem, Marluxia, to name a few. At first, seeing the fights in the distance to decide which increased the feeling of intimidation. But, once the actual battles begin, small hp bars, and near practical inaction made me feel oddly superior. It was a little underwhelming not fighting Organization members and a mass influx of Heartless or Nobodies at the same time, and even further less with all of them having close to no health. I think I was around level 40 too.
The cut-scenes during the conflict between good and evil were all worthwhile however. Friends were reunited for the first time in years, some who had thought they would never see them again, and one they forgot. I’m talking about Xion. Strangely enough, I was surprised to see Terra restored, but happy all the same. In fact I would say the story from the end of the Disney worlds to the final boss became what everyone wanted. If only the fights were a little longer. Perhaps it was only me, but Kingdom Hearts fights conditioned me to expect several phases per one fight. But with characters like Vanitas, Anti-Aqua, Terra-nort, and Saix, they had only one mode. Especially Saix! That dude moon raged the whole time, which was exciting, until it was over in a minute. My wife got the mistaken idea that I was actually good!
And now the final battles. Xemnas, Ansem, and young Xehanort was beautiful- but still short! I would have been happy had the health on those guys were just longer. I didn’t prepare any items, and I still prevailed.
That is until Xehanort…
GREAT HIGH CAEDUM!
This was the challenge and fight I was looking for! Different stages, attacks so impossibly difficult to ignore or avoid. Guarding became a mandatory skill. And soon the armor came off, and the x-blade came out. Once it did, each phase was a new challenge that introduced me to the game over screen over and over again. Items were mandatory, as well as strategy, and the culmination of everything I’ve learned. Finally, when the time came to end this convoluted trilogy, I did not feel disappointed as friendship overcame an iron-handed lonely old man. But the best part to me, was Xehanort was won back to friendship by his old comrade, Eraqus, and wasn’t slaughtered. I loved it, Tetsuya Nomura reminds this barbaric American that no matter how evil you are, you’re never too far away from friendship. The only things that deserves the bit end of a keyblade- stock heartless and Nobodies apparently.
But oh man, that ending, epilogue, and secret video. What an emotional mess. Sora goes after Kairi, and apparently restores her at the cost of his life. But since no one dies, the bittersweet emotions simply clogged my throat until I saw him waking up in a modern city, looking up at a Ten Four building.
And why was Riku there? And red eye Riku? Is this just another final game sequence that all secret endings are famous for teasing?
And that wasn’t even the hardest kicker. That trophy belongs to Luxu being Xigbar bringing the Old Masters back to present time- minus Ava- and showcasing the all-seeing eye Keyblade with the black box, Pete and Maleficent looked the entire game for. That was a magnificent move to keep the story of Kingdom Hearts going, transition into the next arc, and keep the series alive. But, this brings some questions, like, are the old masters going to meet these new masters? Will the girl Lea and Saix mentioned be revealed and integral to the next story? If Sora was found in Shibuya, is he part of the Reaper Game, and will we see more of a transition to more Square Enix worlds and less Disney worlds? Does that mean more Final Fantasy characters returning or appearing? Will Kairi receive more character? Will we play more than three keyblade wielders?
These questions we hopefully will receive and answer for in the coming years.
Corona, Arandelle, Toy Box, San Fransokyo, The Caribbean, Mount Olympus, and Monstropolis (without looking them up), became the exploration of choice for this installment. And they were good. Very good. Huge worlds, the size they should have always been, absolute gorgeous scenery and graphics, characters ripped from their movies, and stories that both compliment the world and create a new relationship between the dwellers and the outsiders. The cohesion between the overall plot, and the smaller narrative per world was the tightest the series has ever seen.
A lot of articles previewing the game all agreed Arandelle was a graphic bore and the level was uninteresting. But I have to ask them if they played it after the storytelling? And before I answer that, Did they not know what they were getting into? It’s the Frozen movie! And I didn’t hear them complaining at the time of it’s release. It’s also not as dreary-looking as Skyrim, that game was heavily uninspiring to walk through. But the post level content is where it’s at. The Flan task, and the sledding provide some wonderful gaming challenges. Sledding was a full mission of its own degree. Ten treasures were hidden within the course to find, and finding them all was essential in crafting the Ultima Weapon. Arandelle was just as filling and satisfying as any other. The Caribbean was a nice slice of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, with a touch of the classic KH formula.
All of the worlds were worthy of note, and besides Corona, Caribbean, and Mount Olympus, and Arandelle hving movie related plots, the others were delightfully original. San Fransokyo in example brought the original Baymax back to the world.
But my personal favorite was the Toy Box. And get ready to grab your raincoats, the tear storm is about to rage. Woody and Buzz were personal toys from my childhood. At the first mention of the world I was underwhelmed, however. I was too focused on the worlds all being too Pixar to care. And my worst fears came to life, all the worlds were Pixar movies, essentially. But then I actually entered the level, and Woody and Buzz were alive to me again. At two in the morning, exhaustion and childlike wonder filled my eyes with joy. The level was an absolute joy. Buzz succumbing to darkness, but Woody laying down the light against Young Xehanort, reminding him of the sad loveless childhood brought the Square/Disney collaboration to its highest peak. I hadn’t been fully sucked into a world since the Cerberus fight of the first Kingdom Hearts. It reminded me of why this series works, and why I love it above all other games.
The way you fight and explore in the game of Kingdom Hearts is another reason why I play it, and call it my favorite game. Action RPG is at its finest in KH3, and here’s why. You are unreasonably magical, over the top, and awesome. I watch anime for the fight scenes and the imagination of creators made from color and lines. Kingdom Hearts captures the feeling of anime fights in game form, without overly complicated button combinations. It’s so simple a child can play, but that’s why I like it. The child can play on Easy, and I can play on Proud and be challenged. Flowmotion, Attractions, Magic, Links, combat, and a full cast of arty members have never been tighter. I like that Flowmotion commands were broken up over the game, and introduced as additional abilities, so you’re not overtaken by so many abilities at the start.
The Gummi ship experience toned down from KH2, but enhanced over KH1, and it’s perfectly balanced. The open space challenge and exploration are what the game should have been since the beginning. Secret bosses, constellations, leveling up, finding ship fragments, grabbing both gummi and synthesis items in space are surprising and welcome. Also avoiding fights couldn’t have been more pleasing. I didn’t bother with the gummi section of the game until I went for the ultimate keyblade and the upgrades, and I didn’t have to do anything except use skill to get passed those necessary fights.
Speaking of gummi; the gummiphone… was pretty cool. It was like being introduced to the Sheikah Slate. Except the selfie mode was more fun. Just being honest. Also having the reports, and journal on it made sense. Using the camera to find lucky emblems was fun, really fun. I’m all about collectibles and hidden objects and their inclusion I welcomed with open arms.
I mentioned the ultimate weapon a couple of times, and I had a good time fulfilling the requirements, unlike KH1.5. In general, the synthesis section of the series has always been bogged with excess. 2.5 was enjoyable but there were too many items, and the level up system felt ridiculous in the later difficulty. But in 3, it was shortened and sweetened to a manageable level.
And the mini-games (except those terrible Pooh games) keep me coming back to play them. They weren’t chores. But at the same time they weren’t substitutes for the missing Colosseum. I missed it very much…
We finally have a Sora with character. KH2 was a bit brutal, and DDD gave me the impression he was shouting and one sided the whole time. But the moping, and the nagging, the bull-headed, brazen actions, and the relationship between Donald and Goofy hit higher points this time around.
I give Kingdom Hearts 3 a 9/10. Kairi needed much more character, the final level needed more length in the fights, and maybe should have had one or two additional Disney levels.
P.S. I played the game on Proud Mode.