Thursday, 07 February 2019 14:06

REVIEW: Kingdom Hearts III (Xbox One)

Written by DibbsGG
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14 years. Let that amount of time set in. The world in 2005 was a much different place; the Xbox, PlayStation 2, and Gamecube were rampant in peoples living rooms, World of Warcraft was THE game to play on a PC, the top grossing game of the year was on a handheld, and in December of 2005 the last numbered game in the Kingdom Hearts series was released. Since then we have had 2 generations of consoles and 5 separate games in the KH franchise (that have fed into the main story somehow) but after almost a decade and a half we finally have Kingdom Hearts III in our hands.

It’s apparent from the moment that you head into the first world that a lot of care has been taken to craft the stunning environments and character models which evokes a feeling of nostalgia from those who have grown up watching Disney movies over the years. Everything down to the smallest detail has been recreated to satisfy Disney purists, returning fans, and newcomers to the Kingdom Hearts franchise.

Your progression through the game is fairly formulaic as you visit worlds based on Disney movies while taking control of the main protagonist Sora, with his buddies Donald Duck and Goofy in tow. Throughout each world you interact with the characters from that movie which is where the real magic of this game is. Being able to play out events that happen in those movies will definitely give die-hard Disney fans a real kick, and bring back fond memories of watching those movies for the very first time. That said, having to visit Arendelle and sit through the songs from Frozen “Do you want to build a snowman” and “Let it go” can be grinding on the ears for those who have had to listen to them on repeat due to younger family members intensely devouring the movie since it hit cinemas which will create an earworm that will have you humming them to yourself in the shower all over again. Some of the cutscenes slightly nudge you in a direction which reminds you that elements of the this game may have been worked on a long time ago with some scenes ending with the camera lingering in a way that can only be described as a “last-gen” execution on storytelling.

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The combat is fluid and easy to wrap your head around with Sora and the gang being able to quickly despatch often quite large amounts of enemies using the keyblades that you collect from finishing the worlds prior. Those who have played Nier: Automata will feel quite at home as chaining combos together and targeting foes feels like an homage to 2017’s release. During combat Sora will build up enough hits and be prompted to transform his weapon to allow more damaging moves, as well as be able to use “team-up” abilities where Donald, Goofy, or the characters from the world will execute on attacks as a group. There are also attraction attacks where you will be treated to what can only be described as at neon-lighted carnival version of actual Disney rides such as Splash Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean, and the Magic Kingdom Carousel to name a few. These can be prompted by hitting an enemy that is outlined in green and usually will appear at the start of a lengthy fight that involves you cutting through a fair few enemies in the immediate vicinity. Not to worry as the attraction attacks aren’t always the same which does break up the monotony, as each one comes with its own mini game that you get thrown into to be able to deal out some serious damage.

All of these special attacks provide a quick break from button mashing but feels like a way to quickly move you through dealing with enemies in a way that can sometimes be overwhelming; as once an attack is available, it starts to count down to when it will disappear, and once it is activated you also have a limited amount of time to use it as much as you can before it runs out. Hence you’re quite often finding yourself having to micromanage what special attack to fire off next, and it was only after some digging around online that I found that you don’t have to use the next ability if you have several stacked; you can press LT (or L2 for those who play on Sony’s platform) to cycle through them. The game doesn’t let you know about this; after playing through the majority of it and having found this out in the last quarter of the story I felt like this was something that could have been put front and centre at the start. This is where I think some of the repetitiveness creeps in where combat isn’t so much about executing perfectly timed parries and dodges while capitalising on enemies when they’re vulnerable; rather it’s about unleashing these abilities which at times does feel like combat can feel too broken up by prompts to make pretty things appear on the screen.

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Combat isn’t all button mashing as Sora can also use magic to deal out attacks such as fire, ice, and heal as well as use items as per past KH games. The neat surprise was the summons where for a short amount of time you can bring in characters like wreck it Ralph, and Simba from The Lion King as well as others to melt the bad guys around you.

Gummi ships are back as well, once again providing a mode of transport from one world to the next, as being able to power up keyblades from lower level worlds and crafting items. The obvious tie in is cooking, where throughout your travels you can collect ingredients that you take back to a particular “Little Chef” who can create dishes that provide stat boosts for both yourself and your party in combat.

The story of the whole Kingdom Hearts franchise is lightly glossed over at the start to remind those who have previously dived into the franchise of what has happened up to this point, but if you haven’t indulged in any of the previous games you are left with the option to “just roll with it” and watch it unfold in front of you. If you don’t pay attention to what is happening on screen you may miss a minor detail or two that can make the twists and turns somewhat confusing. This of course could have been easily remedied with an option in the main menu to have a video explaining what happened; but I would recommend if you’re a newcomer or haven’t played any of the KH games in a while to search up a “History of Kingdom Hearts” video on YouTube to fully appreciate what is going on.

Kingdom Hearts III is an amazingly executed game from the visuals, mechanics, as well as the soundtrack and though some of the voice acting may seem a little off (I’m looking at you Mickey) it all comes together in a package that seems fit to bring the storyline to a close. With Square Enix being able to finally realise and flesh out these Disney properties in a way that they haven’t before it’s going to be sad to not see another Kingdom Hearts game on next generation consoles but you never know right?

Pros:

* Great story
* Ability to interact with favourite disney characters
* Combat feels fluid and effortless

Cons:

* At times prompts for abilities get in the way
* The story can be hard to follow if you don’t know the story so far
* Can miss details if you’re not paying attention

Additional Info

  • Review Score: 4.0 / 5.0
  • Release Date: Out Now
  • Platform: PS4, XBOX ONE
  • Publisher: Square Enix Co., Ltd.
  • Genre: Role-Playing, Action