Kingdom Hearts 3, a review

(Disclaimer: The following is a non-profit unprofessional blog post written by an unprofessional blog poster. All purported facts and statement are little more than the subjective, biased opinion of said blog poster. In other words, don't take anything I say too seriously.

Just the facts 'Cause you're in a Hurry!

Publisher: Square Enix

Developer: Square Enix Business Division 3

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP): 59.99 USD

How much I paid: 59.99 USD

Rated: E10+ for Alcohol Reference and Fantasy Violence

How long I played: 24 Hours which includes watching the (skippable) cutscenes to complete the game on Beginner Mode, the easiest game mode.

Microtransactions: None!

Dual Audio: No. Only The English Dub is available.

What I played on: A Regular PS4, not a PS4 Pro

Performance Issues: Say what you will about Tetsuya Nomura's writing, the graphics are as beautiful as the current generation can muster. Some pixilation of hair tip details. Choppy framerate animation of heartless during mass army scenes.

Featured Worlds: Olympus (Hercules), Toy Box (Toy Story), The Kingdom of Corona (Tangled), Monstropolis (Monster's Inc.), Arendelle (Frozen), The Caribbean (Pirates of the Caribbean), San Fransokyo (Big Hero 6)

My Personal Biases: I've played Kingdom Hearts 1 and 2 to death but haven't managed to beat the spin-off titles (358/2 Days, Birth By Sleep, Dream Drop Distance) and mainly kept up with the series by watching the various cutscenes on Youtube.

My Verdict: Kingdom Hearts 3 feels like a bookend, at least for certain characters. So while it closes off certain plot points for the spin-off characters, others are sure to get another decades worth of peripheral media thanks to Tetsuya Nomura's convoluted and at times nonsensical storytelling. It's also a great deal shorter than the previous games if you cut out the cutscenes. My fondness of watching Ratatouille's Remy control Sora through a cooking mini-game notwithstanding, I wish there was more content here. Wait for a sale or the inevitable 'Final Mix'.

Kingdom Hearts 3, a review

The Kingdom Hearts franchise has managed to create numerous best-selling games across multiple platforms while weaving a tale that manages to incorporate characters from the Walt Disney Corporation and Square Enix into a narrative that deals with the enternal struggle of light and darkness.

It also manages to have the most convoluted, overwritted and confusing storytelling to the point where George R.R. Martin would call overly complex. With the multiple mechanics, retcons, side stories, side characters and mixes and remixes, one would require an encyclopedia knowledge to keep everything straight.

Tetsuya Nomura has managed the impossible of taking Disney characters and making spout paragraphs upon paragraphs of confusing exposition referencing other games that are almost necessary to gain any sort of emotional investment out of. I consider that an accomplishment considering this is a game where your two most frequent sidekicks are Donald Duck and Goofy.

So after all the spin-offs, the side games, and the peripheral media with a decade in the making, this is "Kingdom Hearts 3".

So for those of you who haven't kept up with the series, aka, normal human beings, Sora underwent a Trial but failed said Trial because he has not unlocked the power of Waking (Because this is Kingdom Hearts and in Kingdom Hearts, there's always a convoluted reason why Sora is reset to Level 1). So Sora, Donald and Goofy have to visit various worlds so Sora can level up and also learn the power of Waking. Meanwhile, Riku and King Mickey are trying to find Aqua so she can find Ventus and Terra. Meanwhile, Kairi and Lea aka Axel are training under Master Yen Sid to become Keyblade masters. Meanwhile, Organization XIII are planning to unlock Kingdom Hearts yet again.

If the following paragraph confused you, be prepared to get even more confused as various Organization XIII members appear, give vague and confusing exposition before disappearing. Tetsuya Nomura, when he isn't giving his characters leather outfits with an overabundance of zippers, has managed to write entire scenes revolving around plot mechanics, metaphors come to life, time travel and retcons.

I'm not one to judge but at the point where Mickey Mouse is expositing backstories, character motivations and plot mechanics to the audience, I began to wonder if the targeted audience was still children.

Gameplay wise, the game hasn't changed much from Kingdom Hearts 2. For the most part, you'll still be defeating Heartless using the Keyblade and physical attacks. As you level up or defeat story bosses, you'll unlock abilities you can equip with Ability Points (or AP). Just as well, meters such as Health Bars or Magic will also increase. Using Magic for spells such as Fire or Thunder will use up a portion of Magic Points (MP) while using Cure to heal yourself will use up all your MP. When all MP is used, a pink bar will be depleted over time before MP is restored. They even keep some gameplay elements from spin-off games. Pressing Square near a pole will make Sora spin and attack. Using the Focus bar, Sora and aim and shoot, unleashing multiple ranged attacks.

Crafting is the same as usual for the Gummi ship and synthesizing items with the addition of finding ingredients for a delightful cooking mini-game with Ratatouille's Remy. You can create food which Sora can consume for temporary Stat increases.

Returning are character limit breaks and unison attacks with the Triangle button. Pressing Triangle will unleash a team attack that does extra damage.

New to the game are the 'attraction attacks'. Hitting an enemy with a green marker allows Sora to summon attraction rides (such as Splash Mountain or a Carousel) and does area attacks. I didn't really like these elements because it felt like blatant advertising and often not very useful.

Remember all those cool context commands from Kingdom Hearts 2, like reflecting Xigbar's shards, lassoing Demyx's clones or Jumping on Xaldin? Those are gone and all the commands are just party based. The only unique ones are locked with guest characters such as Rapunzel lassoing the trio and spinning them around.

At the same time, I really felt that the Disney portion of the game, aka, visiting the various worlds, was really lacking.

The choice of worlds this time around didn't really entertain me. Using movies that were already in 3D CGI felt really redundant to me, though credit to where credit is due in that the worlds of Monsters Inc., Big Hero 6 and Toy Story at least take place after their movies have finished. But Arendelle and Corona take place 'during' the movies so I'm just sitting watching scenes wholy lifted from the movies themselves.

Here, they just recreate whole scenes from Frozen and Tangled but with the in-game engine. And however you feel about those various movies (FYI, I like Frozen but I felt that Tangled was a missed opportunity), it just seems like a waste of resources. Like, watching Kingdom Hearts recreate Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, The Nightmare before Christmas, The Lion King, The Pirates of the Caribbean and Mulan felt 'iconic' because it was translating a work not found in CGI to CGI and it was a cool sight.

Just recreating scenes from Frozen and Tangled aren't as cool to me because those various movies were already similar to the animation styles found in the game.

Just the same, I found the boss battles lacking this time around. Before you were fighting against villains in Disney's past. You got to fight Captain Hook with Peter Pan. You got to fight Ursula with Ariel. You got to fight Scar with Simba.

Here, you're just fighting random Heartless only bigger. I was expecting to fight Hans with Elsa but... didn't. I was expecting to confront Gothel with Rapunzel but... didn't. The only boss fight with a Disney Villain was Davy Jones and I really liked it.

Still when the final chapters roll around, I did feel a tear in my eye seeing various characters reunited and seeing various villains finally bite the dust.

CAVEAT: Ugh. This is one of the most frustrating reviews I've done. Fact is, for a AAA title, Kingdom Hearts 3 does a lot of things better than a lot of games. There's no tacked on DLC, there's no constant online mode and there's still a plethora of content that justifies 60 dollars. But, I just don't like how much shorter the game is and how even revisiting the 7 worlds, the one I genuinely like was the Caribbean one (and I don't even like Pirates of the Caribbean).

Verdict: Fans: Full Price.

Everyone else: Wait for a Sale, Rental or the inevitable 'Final Mix'.


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