The game that tries to fit Disney into a Square hole is back
Kingdom Hearts 3 is finally here. It has been over a decade since the last numbered entry and lord how fans have waited. Of course, a game like this has a lot of baggage because of the wait, not to mention the fact that many may want to jump into the series here. So how do you balance a review, so it works for both newcomers and series veterans. Well, I’m going to do it try.
So, without any further ado, here we go. Kingdom Hearts 3 is the finale to the current story arc, the one that stars beardy bald guy Xehanort as the big bad. You play Sora, a spiky haired rambunctious character who wields the Keyblade – a weapon that is definitely a key, but not definitely a blade. Both Donald and Goofy are still along for the ride, though this time round they are also the primary way that exposition and story gets delivered. The story is a little hard to grasp, even for series veterans, but the game does an admirable job of trying to explain it to you, even if it doesn’t always work.
You journey between seven different Disney worlds this time, in each one protecting the world order, by changing shape to fit in. This is mentioned a few times by Donald, and it’s still hilarious to hear him talking about anything serious. Each world has its own self-contained story for the most part, with one of Organisation XIII popping up to be ominous and mysterious, you know, classic Kingdom Hearts stuff. The characters in the Disney worlds aren’t allowed to know there are other worlds. Organisation XIII are the bad guys headed up by Xehanort and are all very evil.
It does a fairly good job of making these worlds interesting and the stories compelling, though the pacing is a little off as you get towards the end of the Disney stuff. Some of the worlds you just play through the events of the movie, others have original stories set after the films. Each world has a mini-game or two to play through and each one also rewards you with a brand new Keyblade to wield.
This leads nicely into the combat, which is damn fun no matter how many games you’ve played. It specialises in being a visual delight and each fight will have some kind of over-the-top showpiece, whether scripted or otherwise. The Keyblades now change shape if you build up enough momentum in a fight, this means your regular weapon might become a magic staff, or two dual pistols that shoot out honey. This means that when choosing your weapons, you can look at the stats on their own, or simply choose the weapons you have the most fun with. I’d recommend the latter.
Spells that are chained together allow you to perform a more powerful version of that spell too. Whatever your playstyle you’ll be rewarded for sticking to your guns. Of course, there are also the attractions. Giant light covered summon attacks that take the form of Disneyland rides. These all have their own mechanics and are showstoppers.
The moment-to-moment gameplay is the combat, so the fact that is good is the most important thing. It’s just a lot of fun to play, even without the decades of prior reading that is required to get the full picture. This is to say that if you are brand-new to the series and just want a fun pretty looking game to play, then this should scratch that itch.
The writing isn’t the best, but still hits a lot of big notes if you know how to hear them. As a fan of the series it answered a lot of the questions that have been raised as the series has progressed. We finally got to see the main protagonist interact with the main antagonist. It is hard to believe we’ve had to wait this long. There is also a couple of really good cut-scenes at the end that are well worth seeing, make sure you unlock the secret ending. Lots of these games have secret endings that have obtuse unlock methods. This is one is no different.
Have I mentioned how absurdly pretty this game is? It’s honestly the best-looking thing I’ve played. The change in styles among different worlds are all done brilliantly. The photo-realistic look of the Pirates of the Caribbean world is astounding. Watching the rain fall on Olympus is stunning. Frozen looks like Frozen, it is hard to wrap your head around.
The music is wonderful too, though more wonderful if you are a fan. There is an orchestral version of simple and clean that creeps in and just makes the scene like nothing else could. That’s not to mention the Disney songs that either make up the background music, or actively play a part of the game itself.
As a long-term fan this is the game I wanted. The writing is patchy, the acting is also patchy, but when everything works together it is brilliant. The story is the conclusions to a huge amount of games across multiple platforms and timelines. It is an ambitious and entertaining game that I thoroughly enjoyed. I just wish the pacing was better, the Disney part felt stretched out, where as a lot of what came after felt a bit rushed.
As a newcomer to the series a lot of this weirdness isn’t going to make sense, but at its core the gameplay is fun. The Disney worlds are still a blast to play through, seeing Donald, Goofy, and Mickey all talking about concepts that have no place coming out of their mouths is still oxymoronic art. It just won’t carry the same gravitas it does otherwise. That being said, the game does an okay job of catching you up with everything thanks to the story summary and the exposition in game. It won’t have the same impact, but I believe you’ll still enjoy it overall.
Kingdom Hearts 3 is a great game that parades itself around in a plethora of showy and colourful clothing and just asks you to watch. As long as you are happy to just get stuck in then you’ll have a good time, just keep in mind you’ll get a lot more out of it if you’ve played everything that has come before. You don’t need to, but it will change things.
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