Note: don’t worry if you’ve not played Kingdom Hearts 3, I’ll be keeping this entirely spoiler free.
As you’ll know if you follow me on Twitter, I spent much of last year playing through the complete Kingdom Hearts, finally finishing it all on 28 January. So it was with excitement that, the very next day, I booted up Kingdom Hearts 3.
Picking up immediately after the conclusion of Dream Drop Distance, this latest entry continues following Sora, Goofy, Donald et al as they set out to stop Master Xehanort’s plan to start a second Keyblade War.
The first thing to say about Kingdom Hearts 3 is that it looks simply gorgeous. Sora and his friends have never looked better, and the new worlds – especially the newly introduced Pixar worlds – look and feel like the films themselves.
Playing in the Toy Box world left me feeling as excited as 11 year-old me felt when the original Toy Story came out. For the first time, a game finally delivered on the promise of recreating the look and feel of Pixar’s exquisitely crafted films. (Sorry Toy Story 2: Buzz Lightyear to the Rescue, but you just didn’t bring the magic back in the day).
— Will Fletcher (@WillFletchUK) February 4, 2019
Of course, looking good will only ever get a game so far, it also needs to be fun to play. And this is where things get a little more…. complicated.
At its heart, Kingdom Hearts has always been somewhat of a button basher. It’s an action RPG where the heart of the action is using key blades to attack the various hordes of enemies. This has always been supplemented with magic and various other mechanics to stop it feeling too simple or samey.
The problem with Kingdom Hearts 3‘s gameplay, is that Square Enix seemingly decided to include everything. Magic, D-Link summons, keyblade transformations, team attacks, shot locks, the list goes on and on. And it even includes attraction flow, a new type of attack in which you ride Disney theme park attractions.
I can’t help but feel that maybe less would have been more. And, for me at least, the upshot of all of this is that this is the only Kingdom Hearts game where I haven’t struggled with the difficulty at any point. I played it all on Standard Mode (as I have the entire series), but seemed to breeze through it fairly easily.
But that’s okay isn’t it? Because let’s face it, we really play Kingdom Hearts for the story, not the gameplay. It’s definitely true that the story has always been the real strong point of Kingdom Hearts. (Even if some people complain about its complexity).
Unfortunately, for me it was another area where Kingdom Hearts 3 felt a bit lacklustre. Unlike previous Kingdom Hearts games, which have successfully balanced stories for individual worlds while peppering in the overarching story throughout, Kingdom Hearts 3 saves most of its overarching story for the final few hours. And that left me feeling it was all a bit rushed, and without the space that it needed to breathe.
Don’t get me wrong, the story was still good, and I’m definitely hyped for the (inevitable) slew of entries between now and whenever Kingdom Hearts 4 will finally be ready. Which will probably be about 2074 judging by how long this entry took.
For me, Kingdom Hearts 3 just left me wanting something more. I enjoyed it, but it didn’t leave me feeling satisfied in the same way that say Kingdom Hearts 2 and Birth by Sleep did.
I for one am pleased that I’m still relatively new to the series. I can only imagine how I’d felt if I’d had a decade plus of hype to further build it up.