13 years, that’s the amount of time fans had to wait for Kingdom Hearts 3. Now, the question that’s obviously on everyone’s minds would be, “Was it worth the wait?”. Objectively speaking, it was and you’re definitely getting your money’s worth.
However, it’s not as perfect as one would have hoped.
Let me make one thing clear: this is not a game that’s friendly to newcomers of the series. If you want to understand the convoluted plot, then you should have at least played the previous entries—titles whose stories are just as equally complex and all over the place. Thankfully, you won’t necessarily have to as there’s an option to view short video summaries of all the past games via the Memory Archive. You can find this on the title screen and you can watch them as many times as you please. But the fact that they’re even needed shows that unless you have even an inkling of knowledge on any of the games prior to Kingdom Hearts 3, then you won’t be understanding much of the plot at all.
Although it may be difficult, let me try to give a simplified synopsis of the game. Sora, having lost the powers he gained through many hardships, travel the different worlds with his two loving Disney companions, Donald and Goofy. Their goal is to reclaim what has been stripped from our main character, while at the same time saving the previous Keyblade masters who are thought to be lost in the darkness. But creatures known as the Heartless and Nobodies oppose them at every turn, causing more chaos with each encounter. Not only that, but the evil force known as Organization XIII has set its own devious plan in motion. So it’s up to Sora and the gang to visit the many different worlds, forge new friendships, gain powers both new and old, and stop the terrors that threaten everything’s existence.
Believe me when I say that this is as simple as it gets. If you have yet to check out the Memory Archive by this point, then please do so when you get the chance; it’s the only way to guarantee that you’ll at least understand some of the things that are going on.
Story aside, it’s obvious that the developer, Square Enix, was intent on catering the game to the modern generation. How you may ask? Well, for starters, Sora now has a smartphone—known as the Gummiphone in-game. While it does have nifty features such as allowing you to view the current plot point and enemy data information, it’s mostly used for what most people often do with their smartphones nowadays: take pictures. There’s actually a ton of benefits from using the camera function other than using it to take great shots. For instance, there are lucky emblems scattered all across the world; these are basically Hidden Mickey symbols that you often find within Disney movies. Taking pictures of those actually does something as it can grant you materials that are used for upgrading your weapons or synthesizing new items.
But the best feature, in my opinion, would be the phone minigames. Again, it was definitely meant to appeal more to modern-day gamers as there’s a particular cutscene which shows your Gummiphone scanning a QR code to obtain one. Once you have them, you can play them whenever you want, wherever you want. It’s honestly weird as to how they’re oddly reminiscent to the playstyle of Nintendo’s Game & Watch handhelds. They’re a nice addition and are a pretty great distraction from the main plot.
Now, before we get into all the praise that the game deserves, let’s talk about its biggest problem: the cutscenes.
There are so many that it feels as if their main purpose was only to increase one’s playtime. Although you do have the option to skip them, doing so could potentially lead to you missing out on important plot points or actual interesting character interactions and dialogue. What’s worse is that none of them contain any Final Fantasy characters whatsoever. Why? That’s because they’re not even in the game. Kingdom Hearts was found under the idea of mixing the world of Disney with that of Final Fantasy. It just doesn’t make any sense as to why Square decided not to include memorable characters such as Cloud, Leon, or even Yuffie in the 3rd installment of the series when they have already been established in the previous entries. While there is an easter egg that shows some semblance of the Final Fantasy universe, it’s more of a heartbreaker rather than a nice little surprise.
But even with them gone, it was the majority of the Disney talent which saved what would have been some very terrible cutscenes. They’re pretty much the only reason as to why I bothered to put down my controller and watch what was on the television screen rather than skipping through to the gameplay segments. Seeing Sora talk with iconic characters such as Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Elsa and Anna, Rapunzel, and even Captain Jack Sparrow reminded me just how surreal yet amazing the game is. However, the dialogue between Sora and the gang with the Disney characters, such as those who were previously mentioned, can get pretty awkward at times. It still doesn’t feel right hearing someone like Hades, God of the underworld, uttering our main character’s name during in-game cutscenes. Not only that, but there are times where they can be, for the lack of a better word, cringy. Still, the majority are worth watching and you’ll undoubtedly find yourself smiling to most of them if you’re a huge Disney fan.
After all that, it’s finally time to get to the things the game does right.
Combat is definitely more fast-paced this time around as enemies tend to be aggressive and are usually large in number. You still have Sora, Donald, and Goofy as your active party members, but you’ll also have additional characters that will be teaming up with you. Who these extra fighters are will depend on the world that you decide to visit. For example, you have the honor of traveling with Hercules should you decide to make your way through the land of Olympus. Again, it still feels so surreal to actually be fighting alongside these characters, but it’s a welcomed feeling. Also, you’ll need them if you want to take on the Heartless and Nobodies this time around.
As you progress through the game, Sora will be learning more and more techniques that will prove helpful during combat. Aside from the standard magical abilities and simple attacks, there’s a lot more to take in here. In fact, there are so many of that I’ll try to give a simple description of how each is used. First off are the Link summons that, when upon use, summons a specific Disney character that will momentarily aid you in battle.
Then you have the Keyblade form changes that will drastically provide Sora with boosts; know that different Keyblades offer their own unique powerups so you’ll have to know which ones to use in the right combat situation.
Next would be the Flowmotion mechanic wherein Sora may run along walls or cling to them, and then use it to spring towards enemies for powerful attacks.
Eventually, you’ll learn the Shotlock ability wherein you get to target multiple enemies at once with powerful projectiles. Know that this also has other unique effects as some Shotlock abilities do damage while others are meant to heal your party.
But the best combat mechanic by far would have to be the Attraction summons. Much like Link summons, these change depending on the situation. When you see the prompt which tells you that you can use one, it’s best to do so as soon as possible. This is because they’re powerful, visually stunning, and a lot of fun to use.
All of this sounds pretty intense, yes? So many new things to learn. Although it’s overwhelming at first, you’ll soon find yourself getting used to constantly using them.
Take note that this game is an RPG, meaning that world exploration and development is something that players highly look forward to. I can say with confidence that each area you visit was finely crafted and are a lot of fun to explore; this especially rings true for all of the Disney Worlds which Sora and the gang travel to. Toy Box was the one place that nearly made me shed a tear. Never would I have thought it to be possible to actually be able to look around Andy’s room from the perspective of a toy, but here we are now. The attention to detail is staggering as nearly every world is faithfully recreated to match that of their respective Disney movies. Although I’ve already said something similar before, this is a game that no Disney fan should ever pass the opportunity to play.
What’s even better is that there’s so much life in every world you visit. Aside from battling enemies, there are actually things that you can do in each one of them. Let’s start with all of the things you can collect. There’s an abundance of Munny (the in-game currency), as well as materials and ingredients that you can collect by simply breaking or interacting with certain objects.
Next would be the minigames within the worlds themselves. Each one of them is unique in the sense that they incorporate different Disney characters with a gameplay style to match. For example, there’s a minigame in the Toy Story-themed world, Toy Box, wherein Sora takes control of toy robots to destroy other toy robots. The word “toy” appeared four times in that one sentence and for that, I apologize.
The most useful minigame, however, would be the Little Chef’s Bistro in Twilight Town.
This is the reason as to why you collect ingredients and you should always make it a point to gather as much as possible. Cooking is essential if you want to make things easier for yourself. For every successful dish that you make via the minigame, you’ll find that they all have their own unique powerup boosts that will aid Sora, Donald, and Goofy during their adventures. If by this point you still don’t know as to why it’s called the “Little Chef” bistro, then you should seriously consider watching some of the more modern Disney movies.
After completing each word, you’ll notice that they’ll be breathing new life. This will be clear when NPC’s show up in certain areas that used to be unsafe. It’s because of them that most worlds don’t feel empty. They actually communicate with one another at times, spout out information that you already knew, provide you with Munny after doing certain actions and so on. It’s honestly impressive as to how much attention was put into the worlds themselves and I greatly appreciate Square Enix for doing so.
But one of the reasons why you’d want to save them in the first place would be the weapons you obtain.
I know that you’re there to bring peace to what the Heartless and Nobodies have ruined, but it’s the Keyblades that we’re mostly after. Remember that different Keyblades possess different abilities and it’s worth trying them all out. What’s great is that you can equip more than one! Now don’t think this means that you can dual-wield two separate Keyblades as that would have been amazing. Instead, you can switch them on the fly and that has an effect on the damage combos you can dish out.
Also, you’ll notice that there are Moogle shops in certain areas that you visit. This is where the materials that you’ve gathered comes into play as you can have these Moogles synthesize you new weapons and items based on what you’ve managed to collect. Although you can buy specific items if you want to save up on materials, you won’t be able to get the good ones as they’re mostly locked behind synthesis requirements. Note that these Moogles also have missions that’ll involve you and the camera; you’ll be taking pictures of certain enemies or things and showing them to their respective Moogle will grant new synthesis recipes.
Before I forget, it’s important to mention the Gummi ship that allows you to traverse the different worlds
These are handled so much better now as it actually feels like actual space exploration rather than just a linear pathway from one world to the next. Although the ship handling may feel very off at times, it’s something that you’ll also get used to eventually. You have the option to move around freely, but you’ll have to be careful of enemies and obstacles that could potentially damage your ship. Even in space, there are so many things to do. There are big containers called vaults that contain ship parts or other items that you can collect, assuming that you can even open them of course. Then there’s space debris that you can shoot down which could also provide you with parts or health pickups. If you never liked the Gummi ship sections, then you always have the option to fast travel to worlds that you have already visited. Also, don’t worry too much about making your own unique Gummi ship. The default one is already pretty good and can handle most situations.
Now, what about graphics and sound quality? Simply put, it’s terrific. Yoko Shimomura, Kingdom Hearts 3’s musical composer, did a fantastic job in bringing the game to life with emotional musical scores that fit the overall shifting tones. Although dialogue seemed off at times, the voice actors and actresses definitely played their roles well and brought about the best of each Disney character. In terms of aesthetics, you won’t be found wanting. The animation on every character model was done very well and even the little things such as flowing water or streaming lava can look absolutely breathtaking. I could go on, but it’s likely that I’ve already wasted too much of your valuable time.
Overall, despite its flaws, Kingdom Hearts 3 is a definite must-have for any PS4 owner. It plays out great, it looks good, and it’s fun. To most, that’s all they’re looking for.
Disclosure: This review is based on a review code provided by Sony Interactive Entertainment. Read our review policy to know how we go with our game reviews.