The Kingdom Hearts series is very near and dear to my, well, heart, as it is with countless other people across the Internet. To say that I have fallen in love with it and its characters would be an understatement. Perhaps this sounds contradictory, but I am of the belief that if you really love something, then you need to hold it to higher standards. Hold it accountable, so to speak. That is why the following review is going to be rather critical, not because I hate Kingdom Hearts and all that it stands for, but because I love it from the bottom of my heart.
In the end, I went through multiple drafts of this review before I realized that I needed a better way to discuss the game’s shortcomings than to rant for more pages than anyone cares to read. So I’m just going to discuss some of the top areas in which the game fell short and some where it succeeded. Don’t worry; I managed to refrain from spoilers (unless you didn’t play any of the previous games, which, in that case…woops).
The game was too easy. I beat it with Sora on level 43 with very little trouble.
Cut Scenes and Pacing
There are too many cut scenes with poor pacing and awkward pauses or that were just plain boring. To illustrate, several cut scenes had Sora literally having no idea what to do, whereas many others had him talking on the phone. Likewise, the game manages to drag out scenes that add nothing to the overall story, whereas emotional moments that needed more time to shine felt rushed.
A Lack of Original Worlds (and 100 Acre Wood)
We got very little in the way of original worlds. We only get to visit a small portion of Twilight Town, and the only non-Disney world unique to this game is small and is the location of the final boss, meaning you’re too busy fighting to really enjoy it. What happened to final worlds like The World That Never Was or even the End of the World from the first game?
Let’s also not forget that the 100 Acre Wood was one small location and three identical mini games. I always really liked the 100 Acre Wood in the first two numbered games because it was a nice change of pace from the rest of the game. This was just a disappointment. Pooh Bear deserves better than that.
The Story and Villains
The story is a mess, and the reformed Organization XIII feels like failed potential. Honestly, I’m a really big fan of the original Organization. This “new” Organization is just not the same. They just show up, spout some nonsense and a few plot-related lines that never really pan out, and disappear. We don’t even get to fight them until the end of the game. If this was my first exposure to them, I wouldn’t be very impressed. Though I did really enjoy some of the scenes with certain members of the Organization, overall, they were underutilized and felt as if they were truly only there for the purposes of meeting the quota of “13 darknesses”, not to be interesting and important characters.
One other major issue with the story is that a lot of it is dedicated to things that either amount to nothing in the end or turn out to be merely hints about what might happen in future sequels.
The Disney Worlds
Dare I say it, but some of the worlds had the issue of being too big, with very little of interest happening. Don’t get me wrong, some worlds, such as the Toy Box, were a lot of fun, but others, like Arendelle and Monsters Inc, had our little band of heroes running through pretty much the same scenery for three hours. These worlds overstayed their welcome after the first half hour.
In certain worlds, they refuse to stray too much from the movie. In previous KH games, they did a better job combining the Disney movie’s original story and characters with that of Kingdom Hearts. In KH3, remove Sora, Donald, and Goofy, and any silly Organization member that happens to appear, and nothing in the story actually changes. Certain cut scenes were actually recreations of entire scenes from their respective movies, with the difference being you might see Sora lurking about in the background. Now, in this instance, I blame Disney more than I do Square, but it doesn’t change the fact that it hurt the game.
And yet, despite my previous point, they also manage to not properly develop the story and characters in each Disney world. While it is unlikely most people haven’t seen the movies from where these worlds originate, if you didn’t, I don’t think you’d always have a very good understanding of what was going on or who everyone was. And if they’re expecting us to have seen the movies to fully understand each world, then why recreate full movie scenes?
You also don’t usually get to fight the corresponding villain of each world, which is a big disappointment. Fighting such villains as Ursula and Jafar in the original Kingdom Hearts was awesome. But in this game, most of the time, the boss of each world is just another random Heartless.
Furthermore, the Disney worlds seemed to serve no purpose to the overall story aside from filler. I guess Sora is looking for the “power of waking”, but does he find it or clues as to how to obtain it in any of these worlds? No, not really.
Too Many Previous Games
Though playing the handheld entries in the series really served to heighten my emotional bond with the characters in this game, this only illustrates all the more another issue I have. If you did not play the non-numbered games in the series, you will get a lot less out of the game’s story. And considering you would be required (before their console remakes, anyway) to play these games on the GameBoy Advance, PSP, DS, 3DS, and um, web browsers and smartphones(?), that’s really ridiculous. And for me personally, I never played Union-Unchained-whatever, which lessened my understanding of such plot points as, I don’t know…the finale…the epilogue…and the secret reports. Seems important to me, don’t ya think?
Now I do understand that you could buy The Story So Far on the PS4 and catch up with all of the games. But that doesn’t lessen my issue with Union-whatsit, which only appears in this collection as a movie explaining the story. I watched the movie. I still don’t understand everything that happened in KH3.
No Final Fantasy Characters
Nothing more to say here.
Time for some Positives
- The game looks gorgeous! In one world in particular, it is nearly photo-realistic! Just wow!
- Nearly every Disney world is one that we have never seen before.
- Sora, Donald, and Goofy have a better dynamic this time around and really seem like friends. (I just wish everyone would stop teasing poor Sora in this game. You’d think he was an incompetent moron, the way they talk about him, but let me ask you, who defeated Ansem in the first game and Xemnas in the second? Yeah, Sora did. So leave the poor guy alone, Donald!)
- In fact, many of the characters are more animated in this game. In the past, most characters would just stand there during cut scenes.
- I felt that the good guys kind of…stood up for themselves more in this game. There were a number of times where Sora, or one of his comrades, made me quite proud indeed with how well they put the villains in their place.
- The game did a good job tying up all the loose ends all the handheld games created. Was it done in a satisfactory way? Not always. But it was done.
In summary, though I had fun with Kingdom Hearts 3, it was not all that I hoped it would be. Sure, expecting a game to live up to this much hype is a bit unfair, and there were some really great moments. But I had to slog through a lot of crud to get to the good parts. That is not to say KH3 is a bad game by any means, but as a long-time KH fan, and a very passionate one at that, I expect a lot more than what we were given.
As a result, I am not terribly excited about the series’ future. Yes, the epilogue was pretty interesting. But honestly, I really wish that every game and plot development after KH2 had never happened. I wish that Xehanort had just remained as no more than one of Ansem the Wise’s misguided apprentices. I wish certain members of Organization XIII didn’t now have some deeper, but ridiculous, importance.
I wish that Axel never got a keyblade.
But to semi-quote the great Kingdom Hearts fan fic, Those Lacking Spines, he didn’t, they do, he did, and here we are.
Screenshot by The Duck of Indeed.