Kingdom Hearts is a franchise of Disney and Square Enix properties. Starring Sora, the main protagonist of the series, players travel alongside Donald and Goofy across various Disney and Pixar worlds such as Hercules, Toy Story, Tangled, Frozen, Pirates of the Caribbean, Monsters Inc., Big Hero 6 and a couple of original worlds from the series.
The very first Kingdom Hearts title released in 2002 for the PlayStation 2, taking the world by surprise. Following its success, Kingdom Hearts 2 was released in 2005. Multiple spin-off titles released on different consoles and handhelds, including cell phones over the years, adding to the (frankly convoluted) plot and lore of Kingdom Hearts. Hardcore fans like myself went and played all of these titles out of dedication and genuine interest in the story. However, a lot of casual fans were alienated. Fans either assumed that each spin-off game didn’t matter to the original plot laid out by the first two titles, or they couldn’t be bothered or afford, to buy new consoles just to stay up-to-date. The subsequent trailers for Kingdom Hearts 3 before release made it clear that fans would need to be caught up to understand what was happening, and not everyone is lucky enough to know a person like myself who’s maintained that level of dedication over the last 13 years who would explain the complex plot to them, let alone in a way that is easy to understand.
For newcomers, I apologize on behalf of Disney and Square Enix. No, seriously.
A lot of the story will be confusing, and although there is a small recap for each major portion of the previous games in the Memory Archive, it does not explain enough. Either purchasing the Kingdom Hearts 1.5 + 2.5 HD ReMix and Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue (yes these are really the titles for these games) for PS4 and playing through them all to get (close to) the full experience or watching a play-through or cut scene collection of every game on YouTube will be the only effective way of being caught up for Kingdom Hearts 3.
For long-time fans, the story wraps up many loose ends and lingering questions that the series has accumulated with time. Naturally, there are still a few unanswered questions and quite a few new ones, but it is so worth the wait regardless.
The number of worlds available in Kingdom Hearts 3 appears relatively small, especially compared to older titles. However, you’re spending a bare minimum of two hours in each of these worlds. On one hand, it makes up for the small selection, but on the flip side, there are times where it also makes the game drag. I felt it the most during the Monsters Inc. world, but experiences may vary.
Despite that, the game is a solid and enjoyable experience. In my 50+ hours of play, I haven’t come across a single bug or glitch, something that seems to be less common nowadays. The combat system feels refreshing, yet familiar. Prior titles had Reaction Commands, and Command Styles to spice up gameplay, so it was only natural that they found a nice cross between the two with Situation Commands, which naturally change depending on the situation and circumstances. Maybe your keyblade will become a hammer? Maybe you, Woody and Buzz Lightyear will ride a rocket into enemies? Maybe you’ll team up with Donald and drop meteors on your foes? Who knows?
Kingdom Hearts 3 for die-hard fans like myself may have been a bit underwhelming at points, especially when we talk about difficulty, but it’s also clear that they didn’t want to alienate more people from the franchise by making it too hard. Honestly, the game has always been about accessibility (I mean, you spam one button to do most attacks. How complex can they get without disrupting the experience?) and this game is no exception. It’s still easy to pick up, and it definitely feels different than almost all prior titles. The worlds are visually gorgeous, most notably the worlds of Toy Story, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Big Hero 6 come to mind. I honestly couldn’t tell the difference between the movies and the game. The level of detail is impressive. There are quite a few minigames that do that to break the monotony of the usual hack-n-slash adventure. Unfortunately, not many that are fun.
So, was it worth the wait?
Yes. Whether you are new to the series, or a long time fan, you’ll have an enjoyable experience. The game is visually pleasing, it’s easy to get into the combat system and there’s something for old and new fans alike.
That said, it still does leave you wanting more. Whether that’s good or bad is up for debate. Ideally, they will add downloadable content soon that will add a challenge for fans like myself. If not, at least we got a pretty nice conclusion to this saga.