Worth the extended wait
When you wait over 14 years to play a game, the end result had better be worth it. Kingdom Hearts III is one such title, where fans have been waiting with bated breath to see where the adventures of Sora and the gang pick up following the end of Kingdom Hearts II. Sure, there was a wide variety of spinoffs to play through, and even more lore to parse, but the next core entry took far too long to arrive.
That’s why it feels a bit strange to say that Kingdom Hearts III is finally here, and we can’t really believe it, almost like we’re living in a fever dream. But it’s here, and available to the faithful fans who have been dreaming of a conclusion to the adventure that began when many players were still teenagers. Yes, it’s been that long.
The good news is that this Kingdom Hearts entry just so happens to be one of the best, by a mile. It takes familiar mechanics, characters, and environments and builds upon them exponentially, introducing a wide variety of new locations.
There’s too much story to wade through to give you the most accurate rundown of what’s been happening so far, but series protagonist Sora returns (along with his faithful friends Donald and Goofy) on a quest to stop the evil Xehanort from beginning another Keyblade War. He’s on a quest to wield the all-powerful darkness—why? Because that’s what the bad guys do, of course. It’s good to ensure you’re caught up with the story until this point if you want to get the most you possibly can out of it. Otherwise, just go along with it. It’s still fun to tag along, even if you don’t know a Xemnas from an Aqua.
What makes it such a jubilant and exciting prospect is the marriage of Disney and Final Fantasy, although to a lesser degree Final Fantasy with this entry and more so character designer Tetsuya Nomura’s original creations. Kingdom Hearts has grown into a phenomenon all its own with instantly recognizable aesthetics, characters, and exciting reasons to keep coming back. In a nutshell this time around, Sora begins the journey much weaker than he’s ever been, so much of your journey is about helping him transcend his currently fragile shell so he can regain his former glory, all the while working to stop Xehanort in his tracks.
Along your journey, you’ll travel to iconic Disney worlds, like Frozen‘s Arendelle, the Toy Story universe, Big Hero 6‘s San Fransokyo, and a returning favorite, Hercules’ Olympus. Each features its own miniature storyline, where you mingle with Disney characters and watch their respective plot threads play out. You’ll see Tangled‘s Rapunzel deal with her wicked mother, and Hades terrorizing Olympus, as usual. They’re all fun, self-contained narratives that will absolutely appeal to the Disney fan in you even if you’ve seen all their films.
You won’t be doing this undisturbed, of course. The Heartless (read: the bad guys) are back to give you a run for your money. With Donald and Goofy’s help, you can wipe the floor with them, though. There’s also a wide variety of new Keyblades, powers, and other Disney characters who can accompany you in battle. If that isn’t enough, you have entire Disney-themed amusement park rides at your beck and call to do devastating damage to your enemies, which almost feels like cheating sometimes. You have so many abilities at your disposal that it seems a bit unfair to anyone who crosses you.
Aside from the exciting combat and engaging story (even if you haven’t been keeping up over the course of the series) there’s also quite a bit to do beyond that. For instance, there are Mickey Mouse symbols hidden throughout the world that you can seek out and take photos of, recipes to collect so Ratatouille‘s Remy (as Little Chef) can cook awesome new dishes, and a swath of new Gummi Ship customization options for those who love making the adorable little ships feel more like their own diminutive works of art.
There’s dozens of hours of content here, and players of all ages will be thrilled to run around and fell enemies with Buzz and Woody, interact with Anna and Elsa, and even visit Pooh and friends in the Hundred Acre Wood. Kingdom Hearts III is a labor of love from start to finish and an endearing ride that even newcomers will want to get to know intimately. This is how you bring a beloved series around full circle, and we can’t wait to see what’s next—hopefully another core game, eventually.
publisher: Square Enix
developer: Square Enix
system(s): PS Vita, PC