Reviews

Kingdom Hearts III: A Lore Virgin review

'Kingdom Hearts III' is my first venture into the world of the renowned 'Square Enix' IP. Rather than mining the endless veins of lore and sub-plots of the infamously intertwined JRPG licencing behemoth, I decided to do some digging online to find a nice little guide to the franchise.

If readers fancy getting into the sub-plot of the series before Kingdom Hearts V releases (lol), ‘Gamer Head Podcast’ writer ‘Blue Williams’ put together a great article connecting the dots so you don’t have to!

“Even They’ve Forgotten…”

Up to speed? Great!

I will not be discussing plot points at all in this review. But whilst we are on the subject, it’s worth noting that this is a satisfying pseudo conclusion to the franchises ever-expanding plot. The most antagonising points are covered to an extent but leave room for more at the same time. I mean let’s face it, this really isn’t going to be the last in the series, is it?

Kingdom Hearts III takes advantage of a very well negotiated licence with the Walt Disney company. With fleshed-out characters such as ‘Yen Sid’ (Fantasia) assuming a Yoda-Style role in aid of ‘King Mickey’, ‘Sora’ and royal guards ‘Donald’ and ‘Goofy’, Kingdom Hearts III is a family affair (Poor choice of words?) and is the most hardcore game you will force your family to enjoy this year.

“If Only Maleficent Has Been Pete’s Poor Performance on Mickey’s ClubHouse…”

This series is proof of what happens when two global entities put players and fans ever so slightly in front of their wallets (hint hint). Every scene matches its cinema counterpart, as does the iconography of Kingdom Hearts III. The Disney love can be felt in the air tonight as it bleeds through into the games flush combat system!

A Disney Fantasy III?

First the basics: Sora can Jump, Attack and Dodge as basic movements. As Kingdom Hearts III progresses, he opens up various option in the submenu which is best operated by using the D-Pad (This can be remapped to triggers also). This includes magic and item use.

As players collect more Keyblades and level up their parties, they will notice various Y/Triangle button prompts appear more often. These prompts can do various things, such as transform a players keyblade once the action bar is full, perform various team-based attacks, Sora transformations and my most favourite, attraction attacks.

“Epilepsy Attack!”

In the most creative form of advertising for Disney World I have ever seen in my life, players can activate various attraction attacks by hitting an enemy surrounded by a depleting green circle. Acting as a players summon, Sora and Co. can bring forth the Rocking Pirate Ship, Blaster Cart, White Water Rapids and many more, all with their own finishing move.

A Mixed Bag of Mechanics

Another brilliant feature of Kingdom Hearts III fighting system is its unique targeting mode that can be used to either shoot projectiles or blast towards enemies or a location that is just out of reach. Environments become essential to utilize during some boss fights and horde encounters, using trees to swing around in order to wipe out a group of heartless for example.

Kingdom Hearts III excels in bringing unique player experiences that borrow from other genres. One story arc, in particular, utilizes ‘Titanfall’ style mech combat to push through objectives. The games traversal system is a mini ‘bullet hell’ style effort in itself, allowing players to upgrade their craft and weapons in order to go hunting for treasure and defeating space heartless.

“Was Not Expecting This…”

Whilst KH3 beautifully illustrates its various worlds surroundings and iconic characters almost to perfection, it’s frame rate is a constant bugbear. After nearly 50 hours of gameplay, I couldn’t notice anything, in particular, triggering it. In fact, some cutscenes suffered more than 30+ enemy encounters, this is something I hope is patched out as the game grows older.

The level design is also noteworthy, bringing some great platforming aspects such as hidden rooms and various goals to achieve whilst sticking close to the status quo of the Disney IP they borrow from. Whilst I wouldn’t want to give any specific examples, players will notice this from the outset.

“That Rum Must Be Potent, Jack!”

Well Golly, they’re Back!

As far as this reviewer is concerned, the majority of the original voice cast from both the Kingdom Hearts series and the Disney films are present. This is a wonderful touch that only pulls players in for maximum immersion, much like the Disney soundtracks available.

Disney films and TV have never been afraid to bring out the cheese board of old fashion values. At first, the over-exaggeration of love, friendship and values made me cringe, but over the course of the game, I found beauty in its execution. This lead to questioning my old morale fibre and positioning a little ‘Jiminy Cricket’ on my shoulder at all times. And no, I couldn’t find a Cricket figure by the time that phase passed, so it was all upstairs.

Kingdom Hearts III is the second game I let my three-year-old little girl play though, the first bing ‘Pokémon Let’s Go!’ because BRAINWASHING!. Whilst she had a turned off pad and didn’t actually play it, she loved seeing her favourite Disney Princesses fighting alongside Daddy’s ‘Spikey Little Boy’. That is the beauty of this game, it literally speaks to every generation of the family. Well, the ones who have souls anyway #NoJudgement.

“After a while, I just Let it Go!”

Verdict:

Presentation: 7
Graphics: 9
Gameplay: 9.5
Sound: 9

Overall Score: 8.6 / 10

Kingdom Hearts III has been a long time coming, which would probably be best viewed with a pair of nostalgia glasses. Whilst I don’t have those, I’m certainly a big Disney and Squeenix fan, which really helped. Even when players strip back the gravitas of the Kingdom Hearts series, it’s a brilliant J-RPG that is fun for all the family if one chooses to go down that route.

At the same time, the frame rate issues are very disappointing considering this was reviewed on an Xbox One X. But for the game’s failures, a long list of successful mechanics, story arcs and near perfect execution make up for them.

This should be a lesson to current custodians of big name IP (Cough EA Cough). Putting player experience first, along with respect for intellectual property makes for great experiences, and don’t you forget it! (EA)

Formats: Xbox One X (reviewed), PlayStation 4
Price: £54.99 (Microsoft Store)
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix Co. Ltd.
Age Rating: PEGI 12+
Release Date: 29/01/2019

Review copy provided by publisher

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