Square Enix is no stranger to extended development cycles – and as such they’re well aware of how difficult it is to meet the hype that such projects garner. Kingdom Hearts 3, a game that has taken far too long to come out, could never meet the wild fervour surrounding it, but to its credit it does a damn fine job trying to live up to those impossible expectations.
Kingdom Hearts has always been an intimidating series to get into. From its humble beginnings as Final Fantasy meets Disney, it quickly fell into the JRPG trap of overcomplicating things. The two mainline games are confusing enough, but the numerous side-games work hard to obfuscate Kingdom Hearts overall readability.
Indeed, most players of KH3 – both old and new alike – will find a YouTube primer an absolute necessity before delving back into the mainline adventures of Sora, Goofy and Donald.
It’s worth doing, however, as KH3 promises to bring everything from the series back together and tie it up with a neat little bow. At its worst, KH3 can feel a little too neat – if you can believe that – with some storylines resolving in predictable and slightly uninteresting ways, but I have to applaud Square Enix for managing to wrangle such an incomprehensible series and give it a fitting send off.
The Disney side of things here is the most telling of the massively delayed release schedule of KH3. Whereas in previous games we were playing within the animated realms of Disney classics, KH3 features a whole host of the studios new 3D stable – including the works of Pixar, who were acquired by the Mouse House between the release of Kingdom Hearts 2 and 3. It’s strange and slightly less charming to be running around the worlds of Tangled and watching reanimated scenes lifted wholesale from Frozen, but it’s still a formula that effortlessly brings a smile to even the most jaded face.
Much like previous titles, Kingdom Hearts 3 is a hack and slash RPG at heart. Whacking Heartless with your Keyblade is as fun here as it ever was, and it’s taken smart cues from some of the side-games to improve upon this formula. I was honestly a bit surprised by just how many combat options were open to me at the beginning of the game – especially all of the context-sensitive arena attacks taken from Dream Drop Distance, and this suite only blooms from there.
The Disneyworld summons were a huge treat for a long-time fan of the studio, and overall the game bends over backwards to give the player as many of these ‘wow’ moments as possible. It certainly doesn’t waste the Disney license, and to their credit Disney themselves seem to have been stunningly open to these ideas. Back when such a collaboration was a new and unpredictable idea – and Disney themselves weren’t the media-conquering behemoth it is today – it made sense that they were seemingly hands off when it came to development – but now that these games are quite as big as they are, I’m happily amazed that the now-unbelievably massive studio are so open to getting weird and experimental.
I also really dug the transforming Keyblades – which functioned sort of like Trick Weapons in Bloodborne (bet you weren’t expecting that comparison) which gave me a reason to try out all the available weapons I had at my disposal. Getting to grips with a new moveset after a transformation was a constantly exciting scramble, and I loved finding new favourites amongst their varied roster.
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