I know I’m probably late on this, given I already finished the game last Monday and it is now Sunday, but I wanted to properly digest what I had seen and give myself a chance to go over it again. After all, this is a massive title and I want to give it justice. No, unfortunately it does not provide the out-of-this-world experiences that God Of War did, nor is it the cinematic, western-film that was Red Dead Redemption 2. It can’t even be compared to the likes of Horizon: Zero Dawn. But it doesn’t have to. Kingdom Hearts 3 sets out to do its own thing and I believe it accomplishes that magnificently.
I feel that when series director Tetsuya Nomura and his associates first thought of creating a Final Fantasy-meets-Disney kind of game, this is the end result they had in mind. Each and every world looks gorgeous, like you’re diving into one of those movies. At this point there’s almost no difference between the in-game visuals and the films themselves. Even to those of real-life quality such as the Pirates of the Caribbean. It’s astonishing how far we’ve come. Donald Duck looks more like an actual person than Orlando Bloom does a video game character.
Yet the contribution of the main characters and villains in these worlds feels rather small and insignificant. Almost irrelevant to the general plot. I never actually understood it. In one case they were looking for the black box (don’t get me started), in another they wanted the seven “pure lights” to have as back up just in case the original seven lights don’t show up and in another they were trying to find a way that hearts interact with one another… The presence of the Organization XIII members in the Disney/Pixar worlds was almost entirely bereft of meaning and it made it seem like these worlds themselves were there purely for cosmetic reasons. Because Disney.
Sora’s journey through them was no different. Although sometimes he would interact with those world’s characters in ways that would bring him closer to the answers he had been seeking (“the power of waking”), it all kinda felt dry and empty. I was enjoying the Disney/Pixar worlds on the one hand but on the other, the way they were handled made them feel like a necessary evil to get to the real meat of the game. The part that all fans had been anticipating ever since the release of, um… was it Birth By Sleep or Dream Drop Distance? I forget.
Thank goodness, it all paid off. I’m not ashamed to admit that even me, a 32-year-old man was brought to tears (more than once) after seeing the end of the journey of these characters. The thing that hits the hardest is that, even though you know they’re coming back, it’s the way that they do (which is ok, it’s not what you would call a Deus Ex Machina) but also the long journey that we’ve had with them across many years and different games. Some of them are more poignant than others, but seeing them all together is like being reunited with old friends. And that’s where this game really shines.
This game has some good moments in the beginning, some really enjoyable moments inside each and every world but, if you’re a fan of the series, then by far the best is saved for last. Everything you’ve been waiting for comes to pass, and then some. This is fan-service at its maximum and I believe the ones that anticipated for this title all those years won’t have much to complain about.
I enjoyed the uniqueness of each world too. They were carefully constructed so that there isn’t just a separate story within them (mainly focused on the Disney/Pixar characters and not so much Sora and the Organization) but also a bunch of mini-games that make you want to return to them. For example, in the Pirates of the Caribbean world (by far one of the best) you have your own ship with which you can do some island-hopping and do battle with other ships. And I gotta say, even though the map was a lot smaller when compared to that of the Greek islands, it played better and much smoother than even Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. Or in Arendelle where you get to snowboard on Goofy’s shield, in a game that gave me intense flashbacks of going down Mt. Gaia as Cloud Strife in Final Fantasy VII.
The battle system is, of course, as Kingdom Hearts as it can get (though, thankfully as far from Chain Of Memories as possible, that one was a nightmare). You just beat up on Heartless and Nobodies until a prompt for a better skill pops up, depending on your Keyblade, then you use it to whack them some more. Although I was never made aware if these temporary upgrades actually did more damage or if they were purely for show. Plus, if you stand close to Goofy, Donald or that world’s guest character (Woody, Jack Sparrow, etc.) you might get to do combo attacks with them.
But due to the total randomness of the whole thing, there was absolutely no room for strategy. For example, if you want to do a combo attack with Donald but a prompt to upgrade your Keyblade has become available first, you need to go through the whole process of that before being able to do the combo. And don’t get me started on the parade attacks. Flashy as they may be, they lost their usefulness after the 100th time that I used them. Of course, there are always the options of using Magic, Items and Link (Summoning) attacks at any time, and you can assign four commands as shortcuts to make your life a little easier. This always helps with the healing magic. The combat system was fun at the beginning, but it wasn’t practical. It lost its glamour after a while.
The music and the visuals were absolutely stunning. The snowy fields of Arendelle, the colorful and vibrant ball pits of Galaxy Toys, the lush green fields of Corona, the technologically advanced city of San Fransokyo, all of it. And the sounds adapted to it in a great way, like only Yoko Shimomura could make possible. Also I need to say that even though I initially didn’t like “Don’t Think Twice” as the opening theme, it grew on me and now I love it, while “Face My Fears” has to be one of the absolute finest tracks I have heard in a game for a long time.
Kingdom Hearts 3 is not a 10/10 game, and it never could be. Its audience is limited to either those who have followed it from a very young age or those who are very young themselves. I think we need to face the fact that it is hard for someone that is in his late 20’s or early 30’s to suddenly pick up this game and say “oh cool, Donald and Mickey, I can get behind this!” But for those that this game was catered for, I think it was everything it could be and more. They got closure, tons of fun and a promise for even more adventures in the future. In closing, I just have one question…
WHAT’S IN THE BOX????
Originally published at sopeoplewhatsup.blogspot.com on February 10, 2019.