Some games have such a strong following that even after more than a decade of its initial release, die hard fans petition for a new installment. After almost 14 years, fans have finally been given what they asked for – Kingdom Hearts III.
When you first start the game, fans will note that not much has changed as far as control scheme and menu navigation. The tried and tested formula still holds strong. The game starts out as all Kingdom Hearts games have. You choose your path – defense based, magic based or attack based – all accompanied by stunning visuals.
There’s been a couple of additions to the combat expertise that I love. The main being the ability to summon Disney rides as special attack summons called “Attraction Commands”. That’s right, you heard me right: Disney. Rides.
After being in battle and charging up, an option for a special attack will pop up and, depending on the location of the game you’re in, you’ll be able to summon the ride. Through the magical use of what looks like colored led lights, you bring to life the ride and use it to attack.
My two favourites are the adaptations of the Pirates of the Carribean and Buzz Lightyear rides. The former, which is essentially a giant version of the Black Pearl, allows you to bowl over enemies with a heary swing. The Buzz Lightyear one allows you to shoot a laser cannon from it while spinning around on a mini coaster. Their impact and amount of damage done actually varies but it’s an amazing amount of fun to witness.
Another small addition which is both a time saver and fun addition is free running. Free running in this game is slightly different than other games. In order get from low places to high places we normally have to waste a ton of time mindlessly jumping from platform to platform. Now, if the wall is glowing you simply just run up to it and you will auto run up and/or across it. It seems like a small thing but it’s these types of attention to detail that really make the user experience so much better.
For all the greatness of this game there are a few places where it fell short. The first being the learning curve for new players and veterans alike. Some of the core skills which become really important to learn throughout the game are so easy that they are hard.
One worth highlight is Airstepping. At the start of the game, when visiting the first world, you’re taught this skill and need to use it to get to really high vantage point. It was the bane of my existence as I thought I had to literally airstep onto each individual floating piece of land.
After a frustrating hour of trial and error I realized you just had to focus on a vantage point and will instantly rappel there. After speaking with other gamers we all had a similar experience with this and a few other skills later in the game.
The second problem I had with Kingdom Hearts III, isn’t really with the game but the franchise itself. The plot is notoriously difficult to follow and at times doesn’t make sense, with the characters often themselves confused as to why they are there. The story-line is so hard to follow that even the series creator has said he has trouble keeping it all straight.
With that said they figured out a clever way to help straighten it out for both the veteran and newbie Kingdom Hearts by adding a theatre option on the main menu which allows you to watch a movie of all the events of the previous games.
The movie is split into different chapters that each cover a specific game, or portion of the history from the main titles and many spin-offs, that came before Kingdom Hearts III. The way they split it into chapters makes it easy to pick up where you left off by just watching the bits you missed and not having to sit through a whole feature length film.
I have 2 aspects of this game which are my favorite. One of which, if you read my previous review on Kingdom Hearts 2, is the graphics and use of color. Every part of this game from the fights sequences to the story building scenes is just a pure piece of animation art.
The animation is so good that they play three different game intros throughout the first world of the game that I was happy to sit through.
The use of bright, clear colors in contrast to the dark sullen tones is just masterful. They even go so far as to be able to distinguish making a good character who is clad in dark colors look heroic, and light colored characters seem villainous through the use of color tones.
This franchise has made a name for itself through their world building abilities, pushing the technology to the edge.
Finally, a highlight of all Kingdom Hearts games has always been the music. The music to the latest installment is fantastic. It’s so good that Square Enix actually tells you at the start of the game that it’s illegal to stream gameplay just to hear the music and you are prohibited from doing so. The music not only sets the mood but I did find myself leaving the game running on the tv while I did work in the house just so I could listen to it.
Kingdom Hearts III is a must buy. Not only does it get the Juan Pablo stamp of approval, but I see it as a contender for game of the year.