Kingdom Hearts III has been a long time coming. First establishing a massive following way back in 2002 with the release of the original Kingdom Hearts, Square Enix, together with series director Tetsuya Nomura, created a game in which children could play through happily, while adult gamers could sink their teeth into some great action-RPG elements and a convoluted, grandiose story arch. Kingdom Hearts III follows in the successful footsteps of its predecessors, making necessary changes, breathing new life into the series and, most importantly, providing another grand entry in the series.
So as not to risk spoiling anything story-related in Kingdom Hearts III, I’m going to refrain from penning anything pertaining to the plot. The only thing I’ll say, however, is that it’s still a convoluted story to follow and, possibly, doesn’t answer all the questions you may have. Herein lies my only gripe with the game – the pacing of the story can become tedious, sometimes taking you out of the action for as much as 20 minutes at a time. Thankfully, not all story-heavy portions are a slog to get through. Some of these actually give you a better insight into past and present events, which are nice, but unfortunately, badly placed within the flow.
Moving on from the narrative, I want to discuss the graphics first. The change to a new engine shows from the moment you get into the game properly. Colours pop, with even dull shades appearing vibrant in this game. One early sequence has you breaking through a collapsed cave mouth; the gloomy atmosphere of the cave dissipates as you shatter the rubble, allowing bright, natural light to pour in, driving away the darkness.
The visual fidelity never ceases to amaze, whether it’s during cutscenes or larger-than-life combat encounters.
The game truly looks phenomenal. Whilst playing through Kingdom Hearts III, I couldn’t help but get upset with Disney for going the (mostly) live-action route with their recent remakes, instead of remaking their classic movies in a similar animated style to Kingdom Hearts III. Anyway, my frown got turned upside down pretty quickly the more I marveled at the beautifully-realised worlds in the game. The visual fidelity never ceases to amaze, whether it’s during cutscenes or larger-than-life combat encounters.
The Gummi Ship sections are back, bigger, and better than ever before. Instead of functioning as an on-the-rails sequence, we get to choose our own destination in a semi-open space world. Traveling between worlds presents a range of activities to enjoy. Capturing constellations on your Gummi phone, solving treasure spheres, and engaging in combat are all equally fun. Truth be told, I never customized my Gummi ship in previous games, because, well, it was damn complicated. This time around, the process has been simplified and gives us some much-needed freedom to experiment. On the subject of the Gummi Ship and all things related, the classic mini-games you get to play on your Gummi phone is a nice diversion from all the fighting and story-heavy beats.
Going to town on the wide variety of enemies in Kingdom Hearts III was never a boring affair. With so many options at your disposal, no two battles play out the same. Starting a battle with standard melee and magic attacks quickly evolves into a dizzying amount of options for you to choose from. Teaming up with Donald, Goofy or the accompanying character is one way to go while using your equipped Keyblade’s alter form opens up completely new possibilities. If these are still a bit bare bones to your liking, why not use a Disney Attraction, like a swinging boat or spinning teacups to lay waste to the Heartless? These flashy moves start off with animation to queue the ability. Thankfully, you don’t need to watch it every single time. Square Enix gave us the option to skip these little “cutscenes” on demand.
Starting off with basic magic and evolving them into more potent spells was a painless process as well. (Pro Tip: healing magic consumes an entire MP bar, whether you have 10 or 100 in it. Use all other spells before casting a healing spell to get the most out of a single bar of MP). All this still excludes the abilities and actions you unlock with your Action points under the Abilities tab in the menu. On the subject, a couple of hours into the game, Kingdom Hearts III started to feel extremely challenging. Playing on Standard difficulty, I set out to investigate. After some time I came to the realization that I had a bunch of Action Points just waiting to be assigned – I was playing the bulk of the game with the standard abilities you start with. So, in other words, don’t be like me, because I’m an idiot.
The score of each world is nothing short of marvelous.
Personal predisposition aside, audio design in Kingdom Hearts III is equally impressive. Each Keyblade smash, swipe, and stab has its own unique sound effects. The score of each world is nothing short of marvelous. Keeping to each world’s original theme song and mixing it up with orchestral arrangements works wonders, especially in the Toy Box and Kingdom of Corona worlds.
In the opening paragraph, I mentioned “making necessary changes”. These changes are evident in many ways. Sora now parkours over obstacles, no longer requiring you to jump over everything. Skipping in-combat cutscenes is a thing now, as is equipping multiply Keyblades at any given time, swapping them out on the fly. Flowmotion is accurate and provides you with means to fight and explore vertically. All these little things might sound like wasted development, but trust me; they contribute to the quality of the game in a big way.
Kingdom Hearts III brings answers to a lot of the questions we’ve had since the ending of Kingdom Hearts II. During the course of your adventure, the story can become a bit boring, but thankfully these don’t last very long and you’re thrown into the action again. Great voice acting, fluid combat, fantastic graphics, and all the little details that are are easy to miss make Kingdom Hearts III the crowning jewel of the series and one every single fan should experience.
As a footnote for this review, if this is your first Kingdom Hearts III game, I highly recommend you read through our A Nexus Guide: Kingdom Hearts Explained. These four short features can be read while you wait for your copy of Kingdom Hearts III to download or update to the latest version.
Kingdom Hearts III
Kingdom Hearts III is the crowning jewel of the beloved series, bursting with energy, heart, and magic the likes of which we rarely see in modern gaming.