Kingdom Hearts III Review - Can Fans Accept New Ideas?
VOICE OVER: Andrew Labelle
WRITTEN BY: RT
Kingdom Hearts III is finally here, and it feels like a bit of a dream. This game was in limbo for a long time, and fans were worried it would never happen. So join MojoPlays for our Kingdom Hearts 3 video review.
13 years is a very long time to be waiting for a sequel, and after development delays, multiple HD re-release, and a handful of titles scattered across consoles, Kingdom Hearts III is finally here.
Kingdom Hearts stands out from its peers because of its blend of final fantasy and Disney characters who have made up many of our childhoods. To follow Sora, Donald, and Goofy through these beautifully crafted Disney worlds and interact with iconic heroes and villains is an experience you can’t get anywhere else. And with that, Kingdom Hearts III has the lofty burden of tying its many narratives and loose ends together, and concluding this saga.
So, after over a decade of waiting, does the third installment live up to the insane amount of hype it’s built? Welcome to MojoPlays, and this is our review of Kingdom hearts III.
With a story spanning close to 17 years, Kingdom Hearts 3 needs to bring into focus the most important elements of every title in the series. The games opening cinematic aims to jog your memory by acting as a visual recap of the series, but if you’re hoping that it will get you up to speed without deeper knowledge, sorry, but it’ll probably just look like a music video. For longtime fans or those catching up however, this montage is a welcome reminder of the story so far.
The game picks up with Sora, Doanld and Goofy attempting to regain Sora’s power of awakening which he previously lost. Meanwhile, Mickey and Riku are searching for the lost Keyblade Masters and guardians of light, in hopes to gain more allies for the looming keyblade war with the Organization and Master Xehanort. This is really the bare bones of the story, but it’s what sets our heroes on their journey.
And with that, Sora and company set off to on their quest to find the power they need to stand against the organization. There are a handful of new worlds from franchises like Toy Story, Monsters Inc. and Tangled, while previous worlds like Olympus, Twilight Town and the Caribbean have been brought back and redesigned. All of them are fairly large and more explorable than ever before, but they’re still fairly linear in progression. To get around them, Sora can run up walls, jump around, Shotlock to different points, or ride on rails.
Each Disney world has unique gameplay elements, and some work well than others. In ToyBox, Sora takes control of pilotable mecha-toys, allowing him yo blast his way through hordes of enemies and bosses. I think this element is a ton of fun, giving the gameplay an arcade feel, and I was always excited to jump into a new mech and explore its unique capabilities. Heading over to Arandelle, our heroes glide down the snow capped mountains on Goofy’s shield, and while I enjoyed navigating the slopes, it did get old pretty fast. In Monstropolis, Sora teams up with Mike, Sully, and Boo to take back their company, which leads to some exhilarating battles both inside and out of the facility.
In Pirates of the Caribbean, Sora takes to the skies and deep underwater in 2 very close boss battles, both of which kept me on my toes. And of course, you can blow up pirate ships and sail the seas with your very own vessel.
I love the level of detail and design put into Andy’s room and Galaxy Toys, and San Fransokyo is by far the most visually stunning of the bunch, a vibrant metropolis with soaring skyscrapers that make great setpieces for battles in the sky. On the flip side, I feel The Kingdom of Corona and large portions of Arandelle are just spacious forests that leave something to desired.
With the power of next gen consoles and a decade of improvements, the lighting, the textures, and the worlds and character models are highly polished and stay true to their respective franchises aesthetics. It made me feel like I was watching one hell of a Disney movie.
Also, Major kudos to the voice actors here, as both returning characters and new ones like Elsa, Flynn, and Mike Wozowski all sound great thanks to the original cast lending their talents. To go along with the voice acting is the music, which has always been a highlight of this series. Yoko Shinomura’s orchestral pieces, heartfelt piano arrangements, and epic battle tunes keep the fights and cut scenes charged up with emotion.
Aside from the story missions, there are plenty of side activities to complete. The gummi ship is back with plenty of customization options, and the journey to worlds is filled with space-faring heartless to blast and treasures to collect. I never cared much for the gummi ship sections, and that hasn’t changed for me, but it is more refined and exciting than ever before. For an edge in combat, look no further than little chef, who helps Sora cook stat boosting meals. These cooking sessions are turned into mini games, which I found to be charming and a bit tedious.
It’s 2019 so naturally Sora gets a smartphone. With the gummy phone players have a great resource for learning about the characters, the lore and the finer details of the series. Sora can also take photos and selfies with the phone, and play “Classic Kingdom”, a neat collection of retro mini-games you find scattered throughout the worlds.
When it comes to battle, enemies consist of all manner of Heartless, Nobodies, and Unversed, the latter of which made their debut in Birth by Sleep. Each world has its corresponding baddies, and throws in a nice mix of boss fights to break up the monotony. While enemies are varied, I did notice some stronger ones were recycled throughout the levels.
Head to the menu to equip the staggering amount of abilities Sora possesses, and mix and match the ones that best suit your playstayle.
Combat is straightforward: lock on to an enemy, rush towards them and attack with a flurry of air and ground combos with some magic for good measure. This is simply one layer of the combat, as it offers a ton of abilities and battle mechanics to keep the action high octane and eye catching.
In terms of movement, fighting is fast and fluid, with Sora gliding from one foe to the next, racking up combos and performing specials. The camera can get lost at times if you’re off target, so pay attention to positioning, especially for those massive bosses.
Flowmotion returns from Dream Drop Distance, letting Sora propel himself off surfaces and into foes. I didn’t find myself using this mechanic too often, mostly because it’s just easier to hack away at heartless and perform specials, though it does have it’s perks. Special moves can be performed with teammates, like hurdling goofy down at enemies or using Donald’s magic to unleash a meteor shower. You now have 5 party members per world, so Donald and goofy are always by your side. With the 2 additional members, Sora can activate special attacks with the whole gang, like riding a rocket with buzz and woody or scaring the heartless with mike and sully. This is a great addition and its fun to see all the characters joint the fray.
When Sora’s in dire straights, there’s a chance he can activate his rage form, which looks totally kickass and increases his damage output, allowing for some truly epic comeback moments. Cycling through Keyblades in battle is easy, and with formchanges, Sora’s keyblades gain a new set of attacks and some sweet finishing moves. Some keyblades turn into pistols while others become massive arms or a giant hammer. Formchanges add a lot of versatility to the hacking and slashing, and it is always cool to see new keyblades transform for the first time.
Casting Magic works the way it always has, but aside from cure, I felt it slowed me down in combat, but that’s just me. However, I do like the Link option, where Sora can call a friend into battle and help out. It’s nothing new but I’ve found Link summons really came through for me in tight spots, and my favorite is by far Simba. And finally there are attractions These are Disney theme park rides that Sora and friends can control in battle.
I’m not the biggest fan of attractions as I find some to be clunky and tedious to maneuver, but they do look really great and add a lot of flare to combat. Overall, Kingdom Hearts III doesn’t have the most strategic system, but each layer of combat adds to the spectacle and is very satisfying to watch play out.
If you’re a longtime fan of the series, Kingdom Hearts 3 delivers more of what you’ve loved about it all these years and have been waiting for, for far too long. If you’re not a fan, the series might be a hard sell. Yes the narrative could have been dealt with much more effectively, but if you can bear to do some digging, the pieces fall into place. It brings together the very best elements from across the franchise, with a plethora of engaging combat options, a solid roster of new and old Disney worlds and characters, and all the epic battles, reunions, and resolutions you’d expect from a game that took over a decade to complete. It was a joy to play through, and every new interaction put smile on my face and reminded me why I fell in love with the series all those years ago.