Kingdom Hearts III Finally Sees the Light of Day: A Review
It’s finally here. Sora, Donald, and Goofy are back, fighting alongside friends new and old as a revived Organization XIII tries once more gain control over Kingdom Hearts.
After 14 years of waiting, Kingdom Hearts III was finally released on both PlayStation 4 and Xbox One a little over a week ago. As I was playing through, I couldn’t help but ask myself if the game was worth the years and years of waiting. There was a lot of anticipation in the fandom, and my expectations were a bit high. Fourteen years is a long time to wait between core games, though Kingdom Hearts had a lot of story to tell along the way in the form of hand-held games. And everything was important. To truly be able to enjoy everything that goes down during the end of III, you have to have played every single game. So, was it worth the wait? In some ways, yes. In other ways, no.
First, I’ll try and remain as spoiler-free as possible moving forward. But if you’re worried, then stop reading now.
Kingdom Hearts III opens exactly where Dream Drop Distance leaves off, so right out of the gate, you need to have an understanding of what went down during the 3DS game. I came right out of a replay of Dream Drop into III, and I’m really glad that I did because I had forgotten just about everything, and it was all extremely important information. Really, the only thing I remembered is that Axel gets a keyblade and I was excited. Kingdom Hearts III starts with Sora having failed his Mark of Mastery exam and almost losing himself to the darkness, so his goal in the beginning is to find his strength once more as the final battle is drawing near. Those are all the details I’ll give on the story.
One of my biggest complaints revolves around the fact that there were way too many trailers. We, unfortunately, knew every Disney/Pixar world that Sora was going to visit. I was excited to see what other movies might make the cut, but the worlds we saw were all that we got. It was kind of a bummer, but on the bright side (I guess), the Disney worlds that we do visit are large and take several hours to beat. Some of them are really great, with Toy Story and Pirates of the Caribbean being my two favorites, where others fell a little flat in terms of imagination and story (sorry, Monsters, Inc. and Big Hero 6).
I can tell where those 14 years were focused, because the game is beautiful. The fighting system has been totally overhauled and is definitely the best out of all the games. A lot of thought was given to each of the keyblades and their transformations, which was really, really fun (the Pirates keyblade is my favorite and has a gorgeous transformation sequence). I was wary going in on having Disney rides integrated into combat, but the concept grew on me and made some fights a little more manageable. Who doesn’t want to pummel the Rock Titan while aboard a roller coaster? I felt like III threw more enemies (and more semi-bosses) at you at a time because the combat system received such an upgrade. And, honestly, I was okay with that. Some of my enjoyment of the game is just being left to my own devices and fighting waves and waves of enemies. It allowed me to see what Sora and company were truly capable of.
My other big criticism of III is that it felt a little disjointed. In every other game, there is a very clear reason as to why Sora travels to the worlds that he does and there’s a cohesion between the Disney/Pixar worlds and the endgame. III didn’t really have that. When it was time to move into all the final boss fights, it felt like a different game. Some of the ideals were there, but I really found myself forgetting what happened in the Disney/Pixar worlds because the story changed (and a whole lot of information was packed into those final hours). The endgame was fun and challenging and introduced a whole slew of boss fights that have never been done before in Kingdom Hearts. I just wish there had been a bit better of a flow between the beginning and the end. There were also several concepts introduced early on that didn’t really matter and were only there to establish where things will go in the future of the franchise.
Is this the best Kingdom Hearts game? I don’t think so. There were a lot of great moments and emotional payoffs, but I don’t think that they’re as strong as they could have been. There is a part of me that was wanting more, especially since the wait was so long, and the game didn’t really deliver in ways that I was hoping it would. I’m definitely a bit critical of the series because the first game is the reason I got back into gaming in high school. Until then, I was a casual player, but Kingdom Hearts was a magical experience. I remember finish the first and instantly starting the second (even though it was 1 am) because I was so invested in the story and the characters. Am I still invested? Yes. Was Kingdom Hearts III a good game? Absolutely. I am definitely interested to see where things go from here.