Kingdom Hearts 3: Review
I have been a fan of the franchise ever since the release of Kingdom Hearts. I went through a very difficult time in my life when that game came out and it was my escape mechanism. When I got my hands on Kingdom Hearts II, I was amazed, and it remains one of my favorite video games to the day. Keeping in mind that I haven’t played all of the spin-off games (which are actually relevant to the story, but we’ll cover that in a bit), I knew that going into KH3 I would need some sort of refresher. Two hours worth of lore videos later, I was ready to boot up that disc.
As expected, the story is still quite confusing. There is a section in the main menu that gives a basic plot rundown of the story leading up to KH3, which seems as if its designed more to remind returning fans about the convoluted mess of a plot rather than ease in new fans of the series. This isn’t a series that you can just jump into because the story is interwoven among several games, including a free-to-play mobile game which sets up the premise of the very beginning of Kingdom Hearts. Even with it being all over the place and hearing Matt O’s incredulous reactions to the game (You’re a walking, talking duck! How is a walking, talking snowman so preposterous to you?!), the story does still hold a soft spot in my heart. I’ve literally grown up with many of the characters in this franchise and I want to see it through to the end.
For the most part, the visuals look fantastic. The majority of the worlds Sora and crew visit were incredibly well done. The character designs for blending in with the respective worlds were interesting and garnered a few laughs. My biggest gripe is with the Tangled and Frozen worlds. Both of them are just a re-telling of their respective movies by showing key scenes and throwing Sora and some Organization XIII members in there. The Kingdom of Corona was beautifully done, with lush forest scapes and a bright, colorful kingdom. Arendelle was a big disappointment; aside from having to listen to Let It Go and Anna bursting into song while recanting her tragic past with Sora, the environment is so bland. While I understand that yes, it’s snow, I find that as a cheap excuse for the way everything blends together. The saving grace for Arendelle was its boss fight and the beautifully designed keyblade you receive after beating it.
The combat is loads of fun. I’m able to seamlessly unleash combos and finish off enemies with a bout of magic before jumping to the next one. The enemies are well designed, with both returning and new monsters to defeat. Being able to swap between three keyblades in battle is a great mechanic as it allows you to adapt to the needs of the current fight and lets people play with their preferred style. Known as the gamer who goes easy mode 90% of the time, KH3 was a game I felt comfortable enough playing on the standard difficulty. Aside from major boss fights, the combat is too easy, which isn’t something I thought I would ever say. With the introduction of attractions as special moves and moves you can unleash with your companions, it’s so simple to wipe out hoards of Heartless in moments. While I love the way the specials look and feel, all you have to do is whack the enemies repeatedly, and all too soon you’ll be able to use Pirate Ship or Mad Tea Cups.
Of the two new additions to the game, photo mode and hunting for Lucky Emblems (aka Hidden Mickeys), I was originally annoyed with the second. The Lucky Emblems are an optional side mission throughout the game where you must find Hidden Mickeys throughout the worlds you visit, which is a thing in the Walt Disney parks. The reason for finding them is to unlock the secret ending and to obtain a rare synthesis material that is needed to create the Ultima Keyblade, the strongest one in the game. I was instantly reminded of the crazed Disney fans who would spend hours in the park just looking for them. Considering that it’s not necessary to beat the game, it doesn’t bother me anymore and for the most part, they are actually quite easy to find. I love the inclusion of a photo mode in KH3. I’ve taken some cute pictures, like a selfie with a Moogle as well as a mid-combat snapshot. You can even take on photo missions from the Moogles to obtain equipment for your characters.
Overall, I do love Kingdom Hearts 3. I unabashedly shed some tears during the opening sequence listening to Utada Hikaru reprise her role as the singer for the series. Admittedly, there was some nostalgia that colored my view of the game, but as I spent more time with it, I’m very much aware of its flaws. It is a must have for fans of the series, but I would warn those who are new to stay away for the time being and pick up the HD Remixes to enjoy the story from the beginning if they are interested in investing years of their life in this strange but charming mashup.