Editor’s Note: Spoilers Ahead!
It’s finally here! After thirteen long years since the release of Kingdom Hearts 2, the next chapter in the beloved franchise has officially shipped over 5 million copies worldwide. But the question is, was it well worth the wait? Warning: full spoilers ahead.
Kingdom Hearts 3 begins after the events of Dream Drop Distance. Having failed his mark of mastery exam and conveniently stripped of most of his powers thanks to a close encounter with Master Xehanort, Sora must journey with his friends Donald and Goofy to various Disney worlds in order to regain his strength and unlock the power of waking. Meanwhile, Riku and King Mickey traverse through the realm of darkness in hopes of rescuing Master Aqua for the unavoidable showdown between Master Xehanort and his thirteen seekers of darkness and our heroes’ seven guardians of light.
That synopsis is putting the plot mildly. One of the major criticisms of Dream Drop Distance was the convoluted nature of the plot. Unfortunately, Kingdom Hearts 3 doesn’t get much better at explaining the nitty gritty details. With that being said, new players to the franchise are going to be extremely confused and we don’t recommend this game for those who are jumping in blind. You must watch at least some sort of summary video before playing this game in order to know what is going on. And, even if you are fully caught up, it is a tradition of the Kingdom Hearts series to not know what is fully going on.
Gameplay is pretty standard for a Kingdom Hearts game. The new keyblade abilities and flowmotion are the highlights of this installment with Sora unleashing unique moves depending on which keyblade you have equip and having the ability to climb up walls. As usual, there are three levels of difficulty and long time players will want to engage with the highest difficulty of Proud Mode. While gameplay is absolutely amazing, we did find even Proud Mode to be a tad bit too easy for our liking.
The graphics of this game are absolutely stunning and the 3D animated Disney worlds really shine with this technology. In particular, the Toy Story characters are flawless and there is a currently a video making its rounds comparing the infamous “Let It Go” scene. This is by far the best looking Kingdom Hearts game we’ve seen.
Look out Master Xehanort. Image Courtesy of Square Enix.
Each world Sora visits offers a unique gameplay experience and has the traditional team-up with some of your favorite Disney characters. It’s great that we finally no longer have to limit our party to just two NPCs and can fight alongside duos such as Woody and Buzz and Rapunzel and Flynn. However, at the same time, while the worlds are a fun, nostalgic experience, most of the stories are shoe-horned it. This has been a long running problem for the series since the Seven Princesses of Heart storyline. While the villains have some motivation for being in certain worlds, it often feels more like an after thought or setup for future games rather than being a more pressing conflict. Maleficent and Pete do absolutely nothing this entire game and it’s a real shame. The Winnie the Pooh world might as well not even be in the game as well and who doesn’t love Winnie the Pooh? Lastly, Final Fantasy fans will be sourly disappointed as no characters are present in the entire game.
However, by far the most important part of any Kingdom Hearts game is the heart and story. With roughly seventeen years of story buildup, this game delivers for the most part. The reunions between Terra, Aqua, and Ven and Roxa, Axel, and Xion are probably the best moments of the story. Namine being given her own body at the very end and Aqua being rescued will leave die-hard players in tears. This game feels completely wholesome and you can feel the love the characters have for one another. The chemistry and dialogue between characters has also greatly improved.
But alas, this game could have been absolutely perfect had it not been for Kairi. Oh Kairi. We had such low expectations and yet she still managed to get the shaft by the end of the game. If there was one story complaint we have for this series as a whole, it’s Kairi’s lack of character development. She constantly needs to be rescued and never gets a true moment to shine in the series. This game is, sadly, no different. We understand why this happened to Kairi. The ending to the game is a powerful one, having Sora manage to bring everyone home except himself. In a last ditch effort to save Kairi, he becomes lost. We just wish this had happened a little differently.
Kingdom Hearts 3 was never going to be the perfect game. After years of buildup, it would never meet the high expectations we all had for it. But it still managed to tie up the Xehanort story as the creators promised and gave us a nice, bittersweet ending with the longing for future games.