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Game Over: Kingdom Hearts III

Game Over: Kingdom Hearts III

Kingdom Hearts is a franchise that many have fallen in love with since its inception back in 2002, whilst others have lost touch with the multitude of spin-offs, prequels, mobile games and what seems like hundreds more. I was enthralled by the series from the start; an action RPG with some of my favourite Final Fantasy characters mixed with a heavy dose of Disney? Sign me up!

Fast forward almost 20 years later and the series is still going strong. Whilst it doesn’t quite have the same magical grasp on me as it did when I was young, I can’t deny the fact that Kingdom Hearts III had me feeling that sense of childlike wonder all over again.

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Everyone's favourite Deputy

Tale As Old As Time

Right off the bat it’s worth mentioning that Kingdom Hearts III is not recommended for players new to the series. Its long, convoluted plot line can confuse even the most die-hard of fans. Over the past two years or so I revisited every prior game in the series, which was easily done thanks to the numerous remasters all available on modern consoles. Some games, such as Nintendo DS exclusive Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days (one of many unusually named titles), are remade essentially into movies. The campaigns were reduced to cutscenes to highlight the important story aspects which, as someone who was planning to play the full series, I didn’t mind too much.

So, onto the story. Kingdom Hearts III takes place after the 3DS exclusive Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance (I told you the titles were unusual!) and sees our hero Sora on a quest to regain the powers taken from him in the previous game. It’s one of those plot devices that ensures you don’t start the game as a level 99 beast and fly through it decimating everything in your path, but at least it makes sense within the lore of Kingdom Hearts.
Accompanying him are his ever faithful friends Donald Duck and Goofy, with occasional appearances from series regulars such as the dark, conflicted Riku; the ever-elusive Kairi; and King Mickey Mouse. Quite the cast of characters for sure, and that’s before mentioning the world-specific heroes and villains you’ll meet along the way.

The majority of the game has you travel to various worlds, all based around different Disney/ Pixar franchises, including Toy Story, Frozen, and Pirates of the Caribbean. Each of these worlds doesn’t exactly further the overall plot of the game, a common complaint about many of the Kingdom Hearts games, but what you do get is essentially a watered-down version of the films’ original plots. I enjoyed visiting these worlds - perhaps less so than previous games – mainly because other than Toy Story, I don’t really have a childhood connection to the other films. That’s not to say they aren’t interesting and fun worlds to explore, with a plot I enjoyed following along with, but for me the nostalgia factor certainly played a role in my enjoyment.

To go into too much detail would not only be spoiling it for those who have yet to embark upon this journey spanning multiple console generations, but it would just take far too long for me to explain. Just know that until the final third of the game, there isn’t much in the way of story that would serve to wrap up the “Dark Seeker/ Xehanort” saga. Once you hit that final stretch of the game though? Oh wow, Kingdom Hearts fans are in for a real thrill ride.

389

A frosty reception in Arendelle

Gameplay Greatness

Like most of the Kingdom Hearts games, gameplay is a fast-paced, hack and slash affair, but with many more layers than just “Press X to win”. You spend the majority of your time fighting a wide variety of uniquely designed enemies, with their appearances matching the world you’re currently in. Aside from a few very short sections, you control Sora, who wields a weapon known as the Keyblade. What’s interesting this time around is that Sora now has the ability to transform his Keyblade after enough hits have landed, known as a “formchange”, giving you more ways to stomp those pesky Heartless. One example is the Shooting Star Keyblade, which “formchanges” firstly into the Double Arrowguns which lets you zip around the battlefield taking shots at anything unlucky enough to be in your line of fire. Rack up enough hits with these and you’ll get another change in the form of the Magic Launcher - a shoulder mounted cannon that can absolutely decimate groups of enemies. It’s all very flashy, with particle effects and satisfying audio cues really making you feel like the hero Sora was destined to be.

In addition to the Keyblade combat, which encompasses both ground and air combos, Kingdom Hearts III offers a range of abilities to unleash. You’re treated to magic spells, team attacks, "Shotlocks" (time slows down as you target enemies and hit them with a barrage of fast paced attacks) and the ability to summon Disney characters to aid you in combat for a short time. Rounding this out are the attractions; a variety of rideable weapons inspired by real life Disney theme park rides. Yes, really. These can range from spinning tea cups to a behemoth-sized roller coaster. It all comes together to give players an engaging, visual feast that keeps you engaged throughout the entirety of the game.

Outside of adventuring around the various worlds, Sora pilots his very own Gummi Ship. A fully customisable spaceship that allows you to fly between worlds within fairly large maps, discovering extra parts, fighting waves of enemies, and tackling tough mini-bosses.There is a surprising amount of tactical gameplay here, with the player needing to outfit their ship with different abilities, weapons, and armour depending on the combat situation. There is so much here for someone with a creative mind, including pre-built ships found by collecting blueprints, it was easy to spend hours just creating whatever my brain could conjure up.

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Sora and company take Halloween very seriously

A Visual Beauty

Oftentimes I almost forgot I was watching in-game cinematics and thought I was watching the films. Seriously, the visuals are almost pixel-perfect recreations of Disney’s gorgeous-looking movies, with remixed versions of the music found within them. There is so much detail within the game, from the various outfit changes Sora and company go through depending on the world they’re currently in (Monstropolis’ Sora as a fuzzy, red-haired monster being my favourite), to your magic spells changing when Sora or Donald casts them whilst underwater in The Caribbean. Even the command menu differs from place to place; everything here is just a wonderful blend of styles that works so well, giving the player a really aesthetically pleasing journey through familiar lands.


My travels came to an end with a stunning final few hours, and I was genuinely sad when it was all over. The story was satisfying, although the ending leaves us with yet another cliffhanger to further extend the series. But where do we go from here? Well, the game’s secret endings had me scouring the internet for any minute details on when a potential next game in the series may be revealed (rhythm action game Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memories doesn’t count) and I cannot wait to re-visit my old friends Sora, Donald, Goofy, and the rest to see what will happen next.

That’s all from me! I’d love to know what you thought of Kingdom Hearts III, let’s get a discussion going!

Game Over
Mike Crewe

Mike Crewe

Staff Writer

Bought a PS5 and won't stop talking about it

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