Well, well, it’s finally here. Kingdom Hearts III may have felt a little like a fever dream at times, but it’s one I didn’t want to wake up from. It’s filled to the brim with all the exhilaration, drama, good spirit, and mind-boggling plot points I could have hoped for and then some.
Kingdom Hearts III provides a solid end to the Xehanort saga that still leaves avenues for future games to explore with a few intriguing plot points left unresolved. While the Kingdom Hearts series is somewhat renowned for its confusing storyline and abundance of spin-offs, KHIII also provides catch-up videos for anyone who needs a refresher or to fill in some gaps.
This is extremely useful because Kingdom Hearts III has a whole lot to conclude and is filled with not only fantastic first-time characters, but pretty much every other important character from across the series. Everyone is here, and it is so good to have familiar faces back for a brand new adventure that definitely makes KHIII worth the wait!
The game doesn’t stop with the ending either. As soon as I’d finished it, it was straight back in to get the secret ending and then on to bonus missions. Kingdom Hearts III is a game I didn’t want to be done with, and, thankfully, there’s plenty to sustain you.
Throughout each world, there’s so much to explore and it’s clear a huge amount of care has gone into crafting the unique, immersive worlds. Toybox and The Caribbean are shining examples of fantastically and delightfully over-indulgent world-building. It’s easy to throw yourself into exploring the seas with your ship or lose yourself in the expansive and colourful Galaxy Toys shop and forget all about the impending war.
It’s clear a huge amount of care has gone into crafting the unique, immersive worlds.
It was great to see not all worlds followed a variation on their film story, as was often the case in previous titles, which made them all the more exciting. Sadly, for all Frozen‘s fame and splendour, Arendelle is one of the weaker worlds, with little variety to the locations, and the full Let It Go sequence just straight up recreated and shoved into the game unnecessarily.
Ultimately, it’s just one really big mountain you have to climb three times – even Sora calls it out on its repetitive nonsense – and it would have been nice to see more of the actual Kingdom of Arendelle itself, rather than limiting it to the North Mountain and the Ice Labyrinth.
You can move freely and easily through vast chunks of the worlds without it ever needing to load, which makes for a much more enjoyable and cohesive sense of exploration. That said, even the loading screens are imbued with the game’s all around sense of fun, giving us a glimpse at characters’ Instagram-style accounts. The character profiles and bestiary entries are well worth a read too for their humour if not their battle tips against particular enemies.
Kingdom Hearts III brings in elements from titles throughout the series, taking on the stronger elements of many of them. The first game and KHII aside, it plays most like Birth By Sleep, which is no bad thing, and the battle system has really been refined a lot.
One of the biggest changes to combat is that three Keyblades can now be equipped at once, and different form changes and skills per Keyblade make each one stand out for more than just its stats. You can cycle between the three in battle – even in mid-combo – to become a style-changing flurry of special moves, which adds a little extra flare to whacking things in the face with your uniquely designed keys.
Dream Drop Distance‘s Flowmotion returns, allowing you to engage with the environment in battle, as well as slide along rails and run up plenty of walls to make your way around. There’s also a new spin on Situation Commands in the form of spectacular joint attacks with your party members and the brand new attractions – extra special attacks based on theme park rides, that mix up the gameplay and are an especially striking visual element of the already eye-catching battles.
Ploughing through Heartless has never looked or felt so good.
Little features such as the Zero Exp ability you can equip mean even the hardcore players can give themselves an extra challenge as well, but the battle system is extremely fluid and intuitive for newcomers or people who just want to have a good time. Altogether, the battle gameplay is fast-paced and fun, with each fight becoming a visual spectacle. Ploughing through Heartless has never looked or felt so good as it does in Kingdom Hearts III.
Visually, the game is breathtaking throughout.
Visually, the game is breathtaking throughout, with vast detailed landscapes and gorgeous character models that make it feel like you’re constantly playing one long, beautiful cutscene. Yoko Shimomura’s soundtrack is stellar as ever too, with many worlds having multiple pieces this time around to change things up. For example, the hills of Corona and the marsh don’t share the same music, but both build on the same themes, making the music constantly atmospherically relevant and emotionally on point, as well as preventing it from getting too repetitive. It’s perfect accompaniment for all that tempting exploration.
Gone are the chaotic, frenzied Gummiship flights of old, now replaced with much more laid-back opportunities to gain treasure, Gummiship experience and even blueprints. While they’re still essential for first-time travel to each new world, and there’s more than one obligatory boss fight in space with only puny lasers at your command, they’re also still largely optional for those few weirdo Gummiship enthusiasts to indulge in more of and the rest of us to leave alone.
The Gummiphone, on the other hand, is a fantastic new feature which incorporates all the usual records and documents as well as the collectable Classic Kingdom mini-games and a new camera function. Whether it’s for pictures of the lovely scenery or dumb selfies with your teammates, the camera function is a great addition that suits Kingdom Hearts III‘s overall charm down to the ground. It also comes in handy for a few mini-games and bonus missions, so there’s a reward aspect too, but really it’s just sheer fun.
As much a love letter to the fans as it is a brilliant blend of the best from previous games in the series.
It may have been a long time coming, but Kingdom Hearts III is as much a love letter to the fans as it is a brilliant blend of the best from previous games in the series. It did all I could have asked for and more, and I know I for one am clamouring for the next game already – bring on KH4! Or KH3.5 Final Mix+, anything’s fine.
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