It was a big job to get through Kingdom Hearts 3 on Australia Day weekend. I’m partial to forty or fifty beers on a long weekend and when the mercury starts to climb and the boys light up I’m one to answer the call.
Luckily, my loving girlfriend was on hand to feed me burgers and bring me weak cordials while I strapped in for the convoluted labyrinth of retcons and plot devices that is Kingdom Hearts 3.
I have limited experience with the Kingdom Hearts universe. When I was much younger, I played through the first instalment on the PS2 but I’m pretty sure I never beat the game.
I still can’t really remember what happens except for Tarzan’s Jungle and Hercules’ Colosseum. I also dabbled in a little bit of Dream Drop Distance but I thought the need to summon cats with unicorn horns to fight my battles for me was pretty fucked and I never beat it.
Kingdom Hearts 3 Review
Kingdom Hearts 3 has an incredible introduction. A massive supercut of all the big moments from the previous games is accompanied by a ripping orchestrated number.
The quality of the graphics slowly lift as the memories of past games approach more recent instalments and finally, the player is given control of Sora and the game.
I really wanna be clear here; the music in Kingdom Hearts 3 is wildly good.
The normal tunes are classic, nostalgia-laden soundtracks from the Disney worlds you explore. However, every now and then, during big fights and cutscenes, the lads and ladies down at Square Enix roll out the Japanese techno and it goes right off. I’m talking ‘bangerz’ all around.
It reflects the combination of Disney and Square Enix nicely and gets me goin’ when it’s time to start slangin’ that Keyblade around.
It is important to note that the Japanese style of dialogue is rife in this game. It’s cheesy, it’s corny and its well over the top. It’s a fusion between shounen comics and the Bold and the Beautiful. People die and resurrect left and right and you better believe this isn’t their final form.
Kingdom Hearts’ cast was already huge but it’s really gotten out of control now that everyone had Nobodies and Heartless versions of themselves running around. One guy has like three versions of himself working together to destroy everyone and I think one of them is from the future.
Nobody Knows What’s Happening Anymore
I’m not gonna go much further into the plot because I don’t appreciate spoilers. Also, I don’t understand what’s going on. Don’t let that scare you off though. The game is bigtime cool and I’ll tell you why.
Gameplay. Level Design. Bosses.
Kingdom Hearts 3 is predominately a hack and slash, beat ‘em up game, with some RPG goodness thrown into the mix. A good chunk of most fights will see you unleashing massive keyblade combos as waves of Heartless minions fall before your mighty blows.
Sora zips around at high speed and often launches enemies into the air only to follow his foes skyward to finish the fight, airborne with aggression. Goofy and Donald try their best to keep up with Sora and support our protagonist.
Goofy uses his shield to tank blows while Donald slings sorceries to wear down the forces of darkness and to keep Sora on his feet.
Real-Time JRPG Combat at its Finest
Combat is hectic enough when you stick to basic attacks. It’s when you add in all the techniques, transformations, skills and summons that the chaos of battle really shines. I have to assume Sora has learned all of these sweet moves over the 11 games I missed.
Kingdom Hearts 3 has added in the rides from Disneyland as abilities for team Sora as well. These ‘Attractions’ are real spectacles of neon lights and they wreck enemies quickly and absolutely.
The Buzz Blaster ride turns Sora into a tank and Kingdom Hearts 3 into an FPS. The Magic Carousel ride is a rhythm game that fires concentric beams of mystic power, quickly dissipating any shadowy arbiters of evil foolish enough to try jump on board.
The array of game mechanics in Kingdom Hearts3 is wild. There are mini-games everywhere. In the Corona Kingdom (Tangled) you’ll dance with the townsfolk to celebrate the lantern festival. Travelling between worlds activates the Gummi Ship which means you’re now playing Galaga but from a 3D perspective.
You can go to Scrooge McDuck and Ratatouille’s bistro and play Cooking Mama. Nearly all of the Toy Story world can be completed inside a ‘Gigas’; Three types of huge Gundam style mechs that laser, punch and explode bad guys VERY effectively.
The bad guys in Kingdom Hearts 3 have been very well designed with the majority being the Heartless. Shadowy figures who intermittently phase into existence and attempt to extinguish the light of Sora’s heart. Each world has unique Heartless and unique bosses.
Olympus has Heartless that appear as a mighty Minotaur. Andy’s room is full of Heartless that look like toys with exposed hinges and the jagged edges of old action figures. It’s all very thematic which really adds to the sensation that each world is a unique and isolated experience.
The boss fights continue to develop each world’s strong sense of identity. In particular, worlds that use the original Disney antagonists as the final enemy make for super satisfying finales. Teaming up with Herc’ the mad lad to slap Hades’ titans back to Tartarus is exactly the kind of Disney sponsored hijinks I’m looking for.
Even when the bosses are born of Kingdom Hearts’ lore the devs have worked hard to keep the aesthetic within the theme. It’s really the best part of the game that each world — from top to bottom — is believable and constructed to be a cohesive environment.
Cohesive Environments, Bananas Plot
People might have issues with the dialogue in Kingdom Hearts 3 (I certainly did – Ed).
As I mentioned, it’s a very on the nose ‘power of friendship’ and ‘you’ll never put out my light’ feel good sort of story. I’m not sure how many times someone can be spirited away into the shadows while someone desperately reaches out for them and narrowly misses but Kingdom Hearts 3 is working hard to find out.
Even if that sort of storyline doesn’t appeal to you, Donald and Goofy consistently pump out the gags and the Disney native characters are usually less intense with the cheesy dialogue.
It’s also important to note that you can use the rocket from the end of Toy Story to smash enemies, so the game is clearly worth playing.
All-in-all, Kingdom Hearts 3 is a massive game that fans have been waiting for, for a long time. Casual players will definitely get a kick from the Disney characters and the insane combat, but the Kingdom Hearts story is likely to go over their heads at best and give them the absolute shits at worst.
Square Enix are masters at world-building and it really shows in Kingdom Hearts 3. It’s a truly epic game and well worth your time. Especially if you’re already a fan.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go slap the magic out of some Disney villains.
Kingdom Hearts 3 was reviewed on Xbox One using a digital code provided by the publisher.
Game Title: Kingdom Hearts 3
Classic Disney tracks and hot new J-Pop tekkas - 10/10
Huge anime hair, bigger anime drama - 7.8/10
Do battle with the gods of olympus, also some plastic toys - 10/10
Approximately every minigame known to man - 8.6/10