January 28, 2019
Some days it's easy to look outside, see a grey gloomy sky and forget what pure happiness really is. But on the days that you boot up Kingdom Hearts 3, your cold heart will melt, as you’re whisked away to a (hopefully) happy childhood and Elsa telling you to just ‘let it go’. Kingdom Hearts 3 is a game that very nearly nails everything, from mechanics all the way to the story. But it's very easy to forget about the game’s minor kinks because it’s such a magical game full of magical worlds that are absolutely magical. It’s just magical.
Kingdom Hearts 3 puts players back into the shoes of plucky series hero Sora as he continues his journey through multiple Disney worlds to stop the nefarious Organisation XIII and Xehanort from enacting their evil plans. Straight off the bat, you’re thrown into Hercules’ world of Olympus, where you help the brawny god in defeating the Heartless - in a tutorial section, of sorts - and the controls are so straightforward that new players will be able to get going as quick as those that have played the previous games. As you progress through the game you’ll unlock more moves, which adds variety to how you traverse and take on enemies. In terms of using potions, spells and whatnot, you can use the d-pad to go through various menus to select them, which can be a little difficult when you’re in the middle of fighting a boss. But thankfully, you have the option to put certain commands into a shortcut menu, which you can quickly access with L1.
Now combat is all well and good, but you can’t get into dangerous situations without some solid movement and traversal mechanics, and Kingdom Hearts 3 offers quite a bit on that front. Flowmotion is back, the movement system that lets Sora slide across rails, jump off walls, and spin around lamp posts etc. It can take a bit of time to master as it’s not the smoothest of systems, but once you manage to get to grips with it, you’ll find yourself speeding around the map wiping out enemies quicker than John Wick clears a warehouse.
There’s also a new wall-running feature, which basically turns Sora into Spider-Man, and nothing is more fun than being able to run up and scale an entire building with ease. When you see a glimmering surface it’s a matter of jumping on it in order to get your wall-run on. There are issues, though; when trying to navigate curves, Sora usually takes a sharp 90-degree turn which quickly throws your momentum out the window. But as you progress through the game you do unlock new abilities for movement, which enhance your experience by making traversal even smoother. Consequently, these niggles with Sora’s movement are forgivable.
As you travel from world to world, fighting all manner of monsters, you’ll slowly gain more experience points to rank up not just yourself as Sora, but your loyal companions Donald and Goofy too. With each new level, you’ll gain more abilities such as double jump or slide that you can equip to each member. When equipping new abilities, you’ll quickly use up each of the character’s ability points (AP), but thankfully you can buy accessory rings or AP boosts to equip that grant you more AP so you can continue developing Sora and the team into formidable warriors. The further you progress, the more badass you become, so much so that you’ll pretty much feel like a legit Keyblade master wiping out the Heartless with deadly efficiency.
After completing the initial Olympus world, you’re then free to visit further realms and each one offers something new, be it enemies, environments, or special team attacks that render every chapter in the game a fresh experience. On top of that, each world is an utterly gorgeous place to explore, providing faithful renditions of the Disney/Pixar films that they’re based on. Iconic scenes from said movies are recreated in the game in such a way that you feel like you’re watching a scene from the flick. Somehow seeing Donald Duck stand alongside Captain Jack Sparrow doesn’t look as ludicrous as you’d think, which is a testament to the cohesive art style and the stellar work Square Enix has done.
Every one of Kingdom Hearts 3’s worlds is uniquely tailored to the Disney Pixar IP it’s based upon, and as such, when exploring them you’ll see that each distinct area offers something different. Rarely is there a moment where it feels like you’re walking through the same forest or town over again. You’ll also find yourself being encouraged to explore, as there are a plethora of hidden chests for players to find, which reward you with new items. There’s also the new Mickey emblems dotted around each world, which when taking a snap of them using the game’s spiffy new photo mode, unlocks a variety of handy items.
This addition to the Kingdom Hearts series brings the game’s myriad worlds to life even more, purely because of how all the Disney characters react when you’re taking a photo of them. They either make a small comment of confusion about what’s happening or strike a pose, so it never gets old pulling out your gummi phone to take a selfie with Buzz Lightyear, Captain Jack Sparrow, Elsa, Sully, Baymax et al.
When it comes to the story, Kingdom Hearts 3 provides the epic finale to Sora’s story that fans have been waiting years for. The final chapter to any story is something that can be extremely daunting, but Square Enix has pulled it off with Kingdom Hearts 3. If you’re a newcomer to the series, you’ll have absolutely no clue what’s going on, unless you watch the episodic recap in the main menu called ‘Memory Archive’, which helps get you up to speed with things. If, however, you’ve played the previous titles then you’re probably already on the edge of your seat waiting to see how it all concludes.
On top of the main narrative, you can also enjoy a variety of magical mini-stories in each of the new worlds, which are a delight to journey through, especially Kingdom of Corona (Tangled) and Arendelle (Frozen), as these put you right in the middle of the film’s stories. You’ll also have a plethora of mini-games to enjoy in each world such as a cooking mini-game with Little Chef from Ratatouille. You can also unlock classic Disney mini-games that you can access from the main menu, like the 1980s LCD inspired games based on classic Disney cartoons like ‘Giantland’ and ‘The Karnival Kid’. In short, even after completing the worlds, you’re spoilt with activities that will make you want to come back for more.
As for Sora’s story and his mission to stop Xehanort, it hits all the right notes with tension, drama, action and heart. Most mysteries that have been introduced in the Kingdom Hearts games over the years get nicely wrapped up in a heartwarming and satisfying way too. If you’re waiting for me to find major faults with the finale, then I’m sorry to say that I simply can’t. Square Enix has absolutely delivered with Kingdom Hearts 3, making the years of waiting and delays all the more worth it.
You’ll find yourself instantly knowing which world you’re in when you hear its theme tune. Like everything else, each world’s theme is unique and pure Disney in every possible way. It’s an utter joy to listen to. There can be the odd moment when the music gets a little too repetitive, but thankfully each world is unique enough that these moments come and go fast. On top of that, the vocal performances across the board are just wonderful.
Every single world is an absolute delight to behold. It’s hard to summarise the visuals when each world has its own distinct style, but when comparing it to the films, Square Enix nails the look for all of them. There are only a few moments where you can tell that the developer is limited by hardware, but for the most part, you can’t help but admire how incredible each world looks.
The controls are as straightforward as straightforward can be. Sometimes the phrase “if it ain't broke don't fix it” goes a long way when it comes to the game mechanics and Kingdom Hearts simply improves upon what has already been proven to work.
Kingdom Hearts 3 not only gives players a brilliant experience with each of its worlds, but also has so much to offer in the form of mini-games and challenges that you can come back to whenever you fancy. Even after completing each world, you can just come back to wander around each of ‘em and just enjoy being thrown into a Disney movie.
Along with your standard trophies for completing each world, there’s also a selection of trophies that encourage you to go out, explore the worlds more and get involved with all the other activities that they have to offer. They’re things that are enjoyable to complete rather than making you feel like you have to put in extra work for something minuscule.
The final chapter of Sora’s story is full of surprises, but it absolutely delivers something that fans have been waiting years for and Square Enix certainly know how to bring a person to tears in a very beautiful way. But the studio has gone above and beyond by giving players so much more to do then just the core story, with a variety of extras to jump back in to. Kingdom Hearts 3 is a thoroughly enjoyable experience that you’ll find yourself wanting to come back to for more.