The last time I was this excited for a release of a game, was all the way back in 2009 with the launch of Final Fantasy XIII. Come January 2019 I’d not long finished my Kingdom Hearts 3 readiness playthroughs of all the games, as I know many other friends had been doing the same, and booked my week off work ready for hours upon hours of playing.
Fast forward to Tuesday morning, up and out early to pick up my copy. I saw multiple other people doing the same excitedly being handed their copies ready to rush off home & play the last episode in the Dark Seeker Saga like myself, but not before taking my copy on a breakfast date first!
Launching the game for the first time, you’re met with a beautifully orchestrated selection of cutscenes cherry picked from all the previous games in the series, and then into the impressive opening sequence teased back on December 9th with Hikaru Utada & Skrillex.
The game starts off as to be expected where Fragmentary Passage ends, with Riku & King Mickey off to find Aqua, and Sora. Donald & Goofy are off to help Sora hopefully regain his power of waking in Olympus with the help of Herc.
The first few things I noticed upon starting the game, were of course the fantastic new visuals, which are even more impressive having just played through all the games very recently dating all the way back to 2002.
The combat is buttery smooth, with the only game in the franchise even coming close being Fragmentary Passage, which was released back in January 2017.
With the new and vastly improved combat comes a wealth of new mechanics to get used to, but a lot of familiar ones franchise fans will already be accustomed to.
One of the new features of Kingdom Hearts 3’s combat is a double edged sword, or I guess.. Keyblade. In previous games you’d either look forward to getting a shiny new Keyblade upgrade, or sometimes feel obliged to change your old Keyblade you loved over to a newer one due to improved stats. This is not the case with Kingdom Hearts 3, as players can now upgrade their Keyblades as they progress through the game, meaning if you have a preference in magic over strength, vice versa or simply just love the Kingdom Key, you’ll be able to keep this relevant throughout your entire playthrough.
Another new feature to the combat is ‘Attractions’. These are as the name suggests, attractions from Disney World, which you can call upon in battle to use as a weapon against your enemies!
Summoning is still a part of the game, however it has been renamed ‘Links’, where you can call upon old friends such as Stitch, Simba, Dream Eaters, Ariel etc. to come and fight alongside you and give you that little bit more of an edge in battle.
All of these things amount to by far the best combat experience I’ve had in Kingdom Hearts over the many games I’ve played of the franchise.
Other returning features which always seem to split the fandom in two with regards to if they enjoy them or not, are the Gummiship missions & Minigames.
Personally Gummiship missions were the bane of my existence back in Kingdom Hearts 1 & 2, they were linear paths you couldn’t deviate from and were very reminiscent of old arcade games which have never been my thing. Alas it was a necessary evil to get from A to B.
In comes the Kingdom Hearts 3 Gummiship, with a huge open space where you can free roam wherever you please, search for treasure, accidentally ignore your waypoint you set for the world you chose and fly to the wrong one, but all in all an experience improved 10-fold, and actually hugely enjoyable.
Minigames are something I love in all games, and always enjoy taking a break from the story to have a play around. They’ve been a staple of Kingdom Hearts games and with the latest instalment this hasn’t changed.
After I worked out what the heck I was supposed to be doing, the Festival in Kingdom of Corona is the minigame I’m most fond of in Kingdom Hearts 3, dancing around with Rapunzel and the other citizens of Corona. I’m also quite fond of traveling through the worlds doing impromptu photoshoots with oversized Flan too!
Now for the story.
It would be quite easy to say that the Disney worlds included in Kingdom Hearts 3 don’t really progress the story at all, and at times Donald and Goofy will even mention that they don’t know why they’re even visiting the worlds, which honestly I can agree with, but I don’t think this game is any exception to how the other games were with regards to Disney worlds progressing the overarching story.
The cutscenes and the plot for the whole Dark Seeker saga has always been my reason for enjoying these games, as convoluted as it may be, over my time playing these games I’ve become very invested in the characters and their progression to their end goal.
The cutscenes do slow down the gameplay quite considerably with Kingdom Hearts 3. There’s a lot of them, and oh my are some of these cutscenes long, even to the extent of including the entire ‘Let It Go’ sequence from Disney’s Frozen.
With that said, I personally play games for the story, and Kingdom Hearts is a franchise with one heck of a story to follow, and the extra long cutscenes are definitely welcomed by me, as this is where most, if not nearly all the main plot is progressed.
A week ago, I wrote a piece saying I was hoping for closure, and that’s not quite what I’ve gotten.
I’ve been presented with a game I’ve fallen in love with, one I never want to end, one I will spend every free moment I have playing to try and get my first ever platinum trophy, whether that’s grinding Sora up to level 99, or searching for Lucky Emblems, no part of this game is a chore.
It’s been a long wait for this game for so many people, and I hope others like myself agree it was well worth the wait, and it’s been one hell of a ride.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got Orichalcum to collect.