It’s a brilliantly made game on a technical level, despite one or two environmental glitches that weren’t particularly bothersome. The gameplay is solid, the combat is enjoyable albeit a little busy, the worlds are entertaining to explore, and being treated to a greatest hits of Disney characters and experiencing memorable stories puts a smile on one’s face.
It’s been almost a decade in the making, but Kingdom Hearts III is finally here; but this long-in-waiting Final Fantasy and Disney crossover adventure deliver on expectations?
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In terms of what’s actually going on in the game, the Kingdom Hearts backstory is a bit of a divisive topic. Due to multiple spin-off games and a generally bizarre set-up, the narrative has become quite elaborate, to put it mildly. At the very least, it’s overly complex and difficult to keep track of, at worst it’s a convoluted mess that may deter more casual fans from picking it up at all. Fortunately, if the story leaves you feeling deliriously overwhelmed, the gameplay and character interactions will distract and enthusiastically entertain you.
The two previous games had combat systems which felt more refined but were definitely less visually-extravagant than the eye-catching set-pieces that KH III offers. But, the tradeoff for the rich entertainment value and high-powered combat is feeling like you’re a bit of a spectator to a button-mashing storm rather than truly beating the opponents with your own skill. That being said, the variety of keyblade weapons and different attacks available mean that the combat is unlikely to get formulaic or monotonous at any point, which was a slight issue in previous games after around the halfway point. One could even argue that the barrier to entry for navigating the combat system has been lowered slightly – making the game more accessible, although fans of highly technical combat systems might miss a bit of the old Kingdom Hearts difficulty.
The only potentially negative feature of the game arrives when one is treated to the (admittedly well-rendered and attractive) cutscenes that litter each new world. As someone who has played the previous two main entries as well as the PSP’s Birth By Sleep, it’s odd to feel invested and familiar with a franchise, but rather lost when it comes to the finer details of the narrative and direction of the plot. This can be solved quite easily by looking up any number of Kingdom Hearts synopsis videos available on YouTube, but it shouldn’t really be necessary to go to those lengths. For KH enthusiasts, it won’t be anything more than a minor hurdle, but it could be a deterrent to newcomers – particularly since many players attracted to KH 3 may not even have been born when KH II was released back in 2005.
So – as an established fan of the series and someone attempting to be objective about rating the quality of Kingdom Hearts III, would I recommend it? Definitely, but with one or two caveats. It’s a brilliantly made game on a technical level, despite one or two environmental glitches that weren’t particularly bothersome. The gameplay is solid, the combat is enjoyable albeit a little busy, the worlds are entertaining to explore, and being treated to a greatest hits of Disney characters and experiencing memorable stories puts a smile on one’s face.