Kingdom Hearts is back on consoles and it's one of the best in the series.
After finishing my nearly 35-hour adventure in Kingdom Hearts III, I had to sit down and reflect on everything that happened. After waiting almost 13 years and wading through dozen's of spin-offs, I couldn't guess how Kingdom Hearts III was going to end up. Did it live up to the years of hype? Yes, but there's a lot to unpack in Kingdom Hearts III. From the Flashy combat system to its nearly decade and a half long storyline, Kingdom Hearts III is a lot to take in.
Taking place after Dream Drop Distance, Sora must journey through the various Disney realms to reclaim the power of waking, as well as obtain new abilities, before he and his fellow Keyblade wielders can take on Master Xehanort and his new Organization XIII.
If you haven't been keeping up with Kingdom Hearts since KH II, You better get yourself a copy of Kingdom Hearts: The Story Thus Far. Even though the series has always taught itself as a mishmash of Disney Characters and JRPG storytelling, this is a game that's meant to send off the nearly 17-year-long storyline that began in 2002. Every game in the series is called back to and is integral to the story of Kingdom Hearts III.
Without spoiling, Kingdom Hearts fans that are into the series lore will have their devotion to the series paid off. Every Character will get a fitting resolution to his or her arc, and the ending will be the topic of many online forums.
That said, this final chapter isn't without a few story issues. The constant use of the words "Light, Darkness and Sleeping Dreams" will get even the most devoted annoyed. These words are so overused; you'll also start scratching your head in wondering what it all means. A few of the supporting characters feel like they're here for the sake of being here, rather than being naturally brung into the conclusion of the primary storyline.
If you're like me and more into the series as an excuse to hang out with your favorite Disney Pals, you'll be a bit disappointed to learn that aspect makes up about 45% of the experience. It's especially true towards the last third of the game. It makes sense to do this, in the context of the story, but it's still a bit disappointing.
That said, the writing for each of the Disney Worlds does manage to capture the spirit of the various films, and I couldn't help but keep smiling as I explored the worlds of Tangled, Toy Story and Frozen. The multiple characters you encounter still manage to retain a lot of the charm that made them so iconic and features a lot of the various voice actors reprising their roles.
Kingdom Hearts III's design hasn't changed in the past few years, and that's a good thing. While the game is still linear, the most significant change comes from the larger environments. The worlds you visit are much more expansive and fleshed out than in past games. You'll want to explore the various landscapes to find hidden treasures and other goodies.
The one issue I have with this approach is with the mini-map. While I get not wanting to spoil what's next, I wish there was a way that let me see the full area. It's easy to get lost and accidentally turn back. While this is alleviated a bit by characters occasionally saying you're going the wrong way, It would've been made things easier to see a bigger map.
Combat, meanwhile, has seen a significate improvement over past games. While it still mostly relies on hammering the X button, there are a plethora of flashy moves to keep things appealing. The flowmotion system from Dream Drop Distance returns, allowing you to use various traversal techniques like jumping and spinning on street lamps to lay waste to the Heartless.
Drive Forms also return but are now relegated to the different Keyblades you acquire from the various Disney Worlds you've visited. While the default Keyblade lets you use some past abilities, the other Keyblades enables you to turn them into multiple weapons, like hammers, swords, yo-yo's, and much more.
Keyblades can now be leveled up by acquiring certain items, which helps to make each of them feel useful. It's especially true now that you can equip three Keyblades at a time and can switch between them, on the fly.
Short cut's for magic and healing items return and now lets you switch between 3 different set loadout's. It makes using the various powers and objects at your disposal much better, as you no longer have to tediously go to the magic and item menu to use other abilities that aren't on your shortcuts.
Lastly, Summon's return and allow Sora to summon old pals, like Simba and Ariel. Sora can also summon attraction of Disney World, like the Tea Cup Ride, Roller Coaster, and more. They can feel random in how you can use them, but they make things exciting, none the less.
In short, Kingdom Hearts III has the best battle system in the series.
Breaking up the action are a handful of mini-games and minor traversal sections. The various activities do an excellent job in mixing things up, and the traversal mechanics have seen a noticeable upgrade from prior entries.
The Gummi ship returns as a means of traveling to the numerous Disney Worlds, though it's changed to incorporate an open-world structure to it. You can now explore the vast space, similar to No Man's Sky or Star Fox. When encountering enemies, You'll go to an on-rails section to take a select amount of baddies out.
The only problem that I have is that, if you invert the flight controls(like how most flying games are), they also invert the controls for the on-rails parts. It means you'll have to keep switching control styles or deal with inverted controls with the combat sections.
Minor control issues aside, the open world-like sections are a nice touch and should be expanded on for future installments.
Graphically, Kingdom Hearts III is an absolute achievement for Unreal Engine technology. It's hard to believe that the engine that brought us Gears of War can faithfully re-create some of the most iconic moments from the recent Disney movies. Just look at the comparison to "Let it go" below, and you'll be amazed at how far we've come as an industry.
Square Enix has done a fantastic job of breathing new life into the various Disney Worlds, and it makes me wonder what if Unreal was used to create an animated movie or tv show.
Meanwhile, you can choose to have the game run at an unlocked frame-rate or stable it to 30FPS. The unlocked mode is better suited for the Pro and X, as the game has a hard time reaching 60FPS on the base systems.
Regardless of which system you have, know that Kingdom Hearts III looks terrific.
The voice acting sees numerous celebrities reprising their roles, including Donna Murphy, Idina Menzel, Jamie Chung, Zachery Levi, Scott Adsit, James Woods, and more. None of them are phoning it in and do an excellent job in recreating their iconic characters. Longtime KH actors Haley Joel Osment and David Gallagher also return as Sora and Riku, and the two sound as great as always.
Yoko Shimomura returns as the lead composer and does a great job in re-creating the various music from the numerous films, while also managing to make his own that doesn't feel out of place.
Kingdom Hearts III feels like it's unreviewable. No matter what I or anyone says, people have already purchased it. That said, Kingdom Hearts III is an emotionally satisfying, well put together game that will please its longtime fans.
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