Following years of waiting from a devoted loyal fandom, and after several remasters, re-releases, remixes, sequels and prequels – it’s finally here…
Kingdom Hearts III is the latest, and apparently final instalment in the ambitious crossover franchise between Square Enix–creators of games such as legendary Final Fantasy series–and Disney, creators of…well, you know Disney. This reviewer for one couldn’t be happier.
Having realised that most of my back library of these games was solely on PS2, and that the beloved console isn’t currently where I am, so it seemed like the perfect excuse to buy the entire collection again, in all of it’s HD remastered glory, on PS4 if at the expense of my wallet’s comfort (who needs a social life anyway?). I’ve got 3 (although technically closer to 14) games to keep me occupied!
You’ll have to excuse the slight insight into my personal situation regarding this game. It’s just it’s been a part of over half of my life so far, and countless fans like me have been waiting 14 years since Kingdom Hearts II came out.
The premise remains the same as previous games; you play predominantly as Sora, a more JRPG-inspired (Japanese Role Playing Game) hero with suitably spiky hair and a suitably odd weapon; the Keyblade. It’s exactly as it sounds, it’s a giant blade, shaped like a key. At a serious risk of spoiling anything, we’ll leave it there for Sora, and his powers and importance.
Accompanying him on his journey, for the most part, are two Disney stalwarts, Donald and Goofy – which cuts through any parts of the story that could be deemed a bit too threatening for kids like a hot knife through butter. If you’re a parent concerned about this, rest assured that if some threatening shadow monster appears on the screen, it’s only going to be a couple of seconds until you hear a reassuring ‘HYUK!’ from Goofy as he bashes it with his shield… no blood in sight.
Also, for those who might find the concept of 14 games daunting – don’t worry. Kingdom Hearts III is different to its predecessors in the respect that it will happily draw you in with no previous experience. You might not get every reference, or understand every character’s motivations – but you won’t need to, it’s heaps of fun anyway, something my uninitiated other half agreed upon having been intrigued by the Final Fantasy-style gameplay and storytelling.
And on to the story – the driving force behind all of the Kingdom Hearts entries. This might sound odd, but consider games such as Fortnite, with zero story or lore, or even more traditional entries such as Call of Duty. Yes, there’s technically a story, but it’s definitely more about wielding a lot of guns than it is having a sprawling, rich world to explore, learn about and most importantly, invest in. With Kingdom Hearts III, it seems like the production team have done just this. They genuinely care about the characters and worlds they’ve created – as you’d hope for such a long-lived series. However, like many JRPG games, it’s subject to some of its pitfalls as well.
With such a vast cast of characters, even if you’re used to the games, and read all the lore entries you come across, things can get a little confusing, especially when the character design of the Square Enix characters starts to look a little similar. Disney characters are so instantly recognisable that it provides a bit of an antidote however – particularly if you can tie characters to one another mentally to help you keep up!
As with other Square Enix-designed games…the game can get a little convoluted at times (to paraphrase an idol of mine, Ben ‘Yahtzee’ Croshaw; “You’re supposed to weave exposition into the narrative, not bash me over the head with it”). Square has shoehorned in some obvious points into some very long cutscenes, as opposed to this background information becoming available naturally, as in games such as the legendary The Witcher 3.
World design however, it still a massive strong point. There are some massive nostalgia bombs in the game, from the worlds of Toy Story and Pirates of the Caribbean from older Disney instalments, and Tangled and Frozen from the last decade. Yes, they even managed to get “Let It Go” in the game, including a genuinely laugh out loud moment – but you’ll have to play the game to find out what it is. Movement and traversal also feel effortless, a massive jump from the clunky first instalment. Taking full advantage of current generation processing, controlling Sora feels breezy and pleasant, allowing for some epic new movements during battles and general world exploration.
Ultimately, this reviewer is extremely happy with the wait for this game. I’ve been building it up for so long in my head, particularly in the recent run up to the release that I’ve been trying to temper the excitement with a healthy dose of doubt. This wasn’t needed. The game isn’t perfect – but it’s big, exciting and most importantly; very, very fun.
Author: Steve, Chiswick store