Kingdom Hearts III: A Review

Let Your Heart Be Your Guiding Key

Chuck Sipps, Arts and Life Editor

Kingdom Hearts III

“Kingdom Hearts III” (KH3) is a game 14 years in the making. For 14 years, fans have waited with bated breath for the next entry in the franchise. Yes, there have been mobile games and spin-offs, but not a proper sequel. When KH3 was first announced in 2013 there were many skeptics. They said KH3 was never going to release. When the release date drew closer the argument shifted to: “Well, there is no way it can be good.” Thankfully, the skeptics were wrong on both accounts.

One of the first questions that may come to mind when dealing with a third entry in a franchise is: “Do I need to play the others to enjoy/understand it?” Well, there’s good news and bad news. Good news, you don’t need any prior knowledge to enjoy the game play and get a kick out of the story.  The bad news, as someone who has played every game in the series, I still don’t understand the entire story.  

Master Xehanort is obsessed with unlocking Kingdom Hearts, the only problem is he’s old, so he steals the body of a young Keyblade wielder named Terra. Terra-Xehanort in his new body, arrives on a new world and becomes the apprentice of Ansem the Wise. Soon after arriving, Terra-Xehanort, turns Ansem’s other 12 apprentices against him. They all give up their hearts becoming “heartless” and “nobodies.” A “heartless” is a being that lost its heart and a “nobody” is the empty body left behind. Terra-Xehanort, also separated his heart from his body creating Ansem (no, not that Ansem) his heartless, and Xemnas (which is just Asnem mixed around with an X thrown in for good measure) his nobody. Ansem and Xemnas both try to conquer Kingdom Hearts, but are defeated. Xehanort somehow learns to time travel, so he gathers up a bunch of past and future versions of himself to form 13 darkness, so they can clash with seven warriors of light. Whoever wins gets control of Kingdom Hearts. Make sense? Good, cause Donald Duck is here and he’s a wizard.

Confusing and nonsensical story aside, there’s a lot of fun to be had in the game’s deep combat system and the game’s detailed various worlds. This time round, KH3 has access to Pixar movies as well as Disney proper. One overused comparison in gaming is, “It looks just like a Pixar movie,” when complimenting a game’s graphics. In KH3’s case, it literally does look like a Pixar movie. Visiting worlds like Toy Box and Monsteropolis is a long-awaited fan request that does not disappoint. Normally, you visit a Disney world and play a slight variation of the original film’s stories. Pixar has allowed Square Enix, the game’s developer, more freedom to craft their own stories in the Pixar worlds. As such, they act like pseudo-sequels to the original films.

The combat is a fun cornucopia of lights and sounds, but it rarely, if ever, poses a challenge. If you stick to the recommended battle levels for each world, there is little challenge in terms of difficulty. The enemies in the game operate with a classic henchmen strategy, quantity not quality. Where the combat shines, is in its variety. Each world has a different roster of enemies to fight, Keyblade variations to unlock, team up moves with new party members, summoning Disney theme park rides and Disney characters summons (such as fiery-Simba and a water sprite like Ariel). These fun twists keep combat interesting.

There are also dozens of different mini-games to play, most of which are fun diversions, whether they are obstacle course-based challenges or Candy Crush like games. Even after completing the games main story line, there is further content to unlock with secret battles, collecting recipes for Remi from “Ratatouille” and so much more. There’s plenty of stuff to do to keep you revisiting these beautifully crafted worlds.

Where the game suffers is with the story line. It’s a fun and enjoyable romp, but it’s so needlessly dense. While each Disney world is enjoyable in a vacuum, they don’t really add much to the final confrontation of the game. We are dealing with a cataclysmic event that will destroy the very fabric of our universe, but we have time to dance with Rapunzel. The last few hours of the campaign are pure fan service at its best and worst. If you’re a fan, you’ll love that each thread is tied together in a satisfying way. If you’re not, then you’ll probably ask why Donald is still a wizard. That’s not to say you can’t derive any enjoyment from it however as a fan of the series, many story beats left me scratching my head just as often pumping my fist with excitement.

Overall, Kingdom Hearts III is an entertaining game that would probably have been better served by coming out a few years earlier than it did. In many ways, it feels like a last generation game that was continuously punted into this generation. The hints littered throughout KH3 for future installments is exciting. Hopefully it doesn’t take another 14 years to come out. Despite its flaws, KH3 is a stand out game for fans of the series and of action role-playing games. For a franchise that is nearing 20 years since it’s first release, Kingdom Hearts III is proof that at its heart, it still has the same magic as the original.