Kingdom Hearts III is the long-awaited conclusion to the Kingdom Hearts franchise that spanns nearly 16 years. As an avid Kingdom Hearts fan, I have been able to catch up to where the series is now, thanks to the re-releases, remasters, and ports of the various games. Having recently played and replayed all of these games, it is amazing to see how far the series has come from a technical and narrative standpoint.
As a comic fan, convoluted stories do not scare me and very few franchises get as messy as Kingdom Hearts. However, most Kingdom Hearts fans know this and in Kingdom Hearts III the bizarre story is there and as whimsical, magical, and emotional as ever but it also shines because of its innovative combat and mind-blowing visuals, in regards to its predecessors.
Kingdom Hearts III introduces a lot of new mechanics that are borrowed from newer Final Fantasy games, mostly Final Fantasy XV, as well as retoolings of previous Kingdom Hearts gameplay. Additionally, the game adds cooking and a few deeper upgrade mechanics to weapons that were not previously available. Crafting within the game relatively the same as pervious games. Sora starts off with a few abilities unlike in Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II, additionally, a lot of his new skills from Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance 3D are present in this game including his ability to link with his Dream Eater and the flow traversal mechanics.
Sora can spin around poles, run up walls, and dash in the air right from the get-go. This makes the game feel almost limitless since almost every area can be explored. It also creates a depth that wasn’t always present in older Kingdom Hearts games, as much as I love Wonderland from Kingdom Hearts, the Lotus forest feels very flat compared to the sprawling environments of Kingdom Hearts III. The levels are much larger and brighter but still feel like the franchise.
Kingdom Hearts had hack/slash-lite type gameplay with Sora’s keyblade performing numerous air and ground-based combos that can be added to when new abilities are learned. The addition of being able to equip multiple keyblades and having those keyblades transform adds a breath of fresh air to what otherwise might be monotonous combat. No keyblade is the same with many offering different uses that could greatly help to depend on the gameplay. For example, for simple heartless I often opted to not use my transformation and instead focus on creating traditional combos or teaming up with Donald and Goofy for some special attacks. In boss battles though, having the right keyblade makes all the difference because of its transformative abilities.
In previous games, Sora has had some special attacks that were outside the traditional combo or magic spell. Kingdom Hearts III expands on that giving the player many, many different special attacks ranging from an ability that creates fierce fire spell used with Donald, to a special attack where Goofy launches Sora in the air to create an explosive finish to nearby enemies to my personal favorite, the attraction flow attacks.
I worked at Walt Disney World for five years and seeing classic attractions being given such a passionate nod is heartwarming. From a pirate ship, to Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, to my personal favorite, The Mad Tea Party, the attraction flow attacks are beautiful and a stupid amount of fun. All of these special attacks and even the keyblade transformations have stunning animations that honestly just make me smile. The game gives you the option to skip the animation but so far, I haven’t wanted to.
In addition to not skipping the animations, Kingdom Hearts III has a lot of cutscenes but so far, all of them are stunning. From the graphics, to the art style, and music, this game has blown me away. At work, I find myself listening to the game score and appreciating how much of the original soundtrack remains from Kairi’s theme of Dearly Beloved to the catchy battle music. The new songs from Hikaru Utada, Face my Fears and Don’t Think Twice, feel right at home next to Simply Clean and Sanctuary.
In regards to accessibility, for me personally, the only issues I have had with the game is the visuals can be a lot. I found myself turning down the brightness to combat a potential vestibular migraine. While I wish the game had environmental subtitles, I was happy to see, at least for me, the subtitles offered were legible. I did have to move from my DualShock controller to my Hori wired mini gamepad since I experienced some joint pain from the combat. That being said, players without my joint limitations shouldn’t have too much difficulty.
My only real gripe with the game is the gummi ship. But to be fair, I have never enjoyed any portion of the gummi ship from combat to building in any of the previous Kingdom Hearts games. The flying feels clunky and all of the missions are just unnecessary.
Despite all the gummi ship issues and all the updates, the game never loses its whimsy. The series is in a word, ridiculous. It is a mash-up of Final Fantasy and Disney with a host of new characters but the game knows it’s silly and it leans into it. The Toy Story-themed land, Toy Box, had me in stitches.
The movie of Toy Story was captured perfectly, the characters were spot on and Sora never felt out of place despite on paper, which should be very out of place. I am not sure if you haven’t previously played a Kingdom Hearts game if you will understand the story but I can tell you, you will have a world of fun either way. Outside of newcomers, Kingdom Hearts III pushes the limit of what the franchise has accomplished so far and is a satisfying conclusion that is well worth the wait. The game is visually stunning and stays true to what fans have loved about the franchise.
Kingdom Hearts III is available now.
Kingdom Hearts III
Kingdom Hearts III is visually stunning and stays true to what fans have loved about the franchise.