Can you play Kingdom Hearts III without playing the previous games in the series? The long-awaited game launches this week, and for many of you, it brings about the conclusion of a story that started way back in 2002. It's certainly a momentous occasion, but there's also equally just as many people who haven't the foggiest idea what's going on. Up until the more recent PS3 remasters of Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD reMIX and Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 HD reMIX, and then the PS4 re-release that brought the entire franchise under one roof, the adventures of Sora, Goofy, and Donald Duck were spread across multiple platforms.
It was a franchise that was tough to get into, and while Square Enix has made every entry more easily accessible, the questions surrounding the overarching plot still remain. Kingdom Hearts is notorious for its convoluted story, to the point where even some of its most dedicated fans have a tough time explaining proceedings. So, if you're brand new to the latest Disney crossover and interested in what all the fuss is about, should you even bother trying to understand what's going on? We're here to lend a helping hand when it comes to getting a somewhat basic grasp of what exactly this is all about.
Can You Play Kingdom Hearts III Without Playing the Previous Games?
In a word, yes, Kingdom Hearts III can absolutely be the first entry in the series you play, but if you want to have a better understanding of what's going on, you're going to need to do some light research. Here's a couple of steps you should take before, and during, play if you want to get your head wrapped round what's happening in Kingdom Hearts III.
Watch All Five Chapters of the Memory Archive
Lasting roughly 20 minutes, the Memory Archive that ships with Kingdom Hearts III is essential viewing for anyone new to the series. Accessed via the main menu, the recap is split up into five videos that summarise different factors within the plot. As newcomers, we did this ourselves and if we had to give a short rundown of all events, this is what we came up with:
Xehanort, the main antagonist of Kingdom Hearts, believes that light and darkness should be in perfect balance, and in order to ensure that, he wishes to recreate the world in his own way. To do this, he needs to bring about another Keyblade War. If he succeeds in that, he intends to create "Kingdom Hearts" by forging the x-Blade, the only object that can summon the entrance.
To complicate things, Xehanort has split his heart into 13 different pieces, all with different hosts. Collectively, they are known as Organisation XIII, although there are other people working for them too.
Sora, Goofy, and Donald Duck are trying to stop Xehanort's plans.
There's so, so much more to the story, but if you want to jump into Kingdom Hearts III without playing any previous entries, the Memory Archive needs to be what you experience first.
What the Memory Archive Doesn't Tell You
While the Memory Archive is a great place to start for anyone jumping into Kingdom Hearts III blind, there are certain aspects it doesn't cover in much detail that could lead to a lot of confusion down the line. And the biggest missing facet of all has to be the explanation of the Realm of Light, the Realm Between, and the Realm of Darkness.
The first two are straightforward, they're the planets and the space in-between them that Sora and friends visit either on foot or inside the Gummi Ship. The Realm of Darkness, however, is a place closed off from time where people can become lost, unable to return to the Realm of Light. In the early hours of Kingdom Hearts III at least, there are characters referenced who are trapped there.
One more potentially puzzling element is the idea of Nobodies. The franchise plays around with the concept of taking one's heart in order to save another a lot, and when this act is performed, a Nobody is created that serves the Darkness. It's already a little abstract to begin with, but to make matters worse, the Nobody is virtually identical to the original person that created it. This creates situations where two characters can look exactly the same, but their intentions are opposite of one another. For example, Sora has a Nobody himself named Roxas.
Use the Gummiphone for Further Explanations and Lore
We most certainly don't have all the answers to your burning questions, and so once you've made a decent bit of progress, make sure to check out the Gummiphone if you want to conduct any further research. Found in the main menu once you reach Twilight Town, the Gummiphone will provide you with an extensive glossary that covers all manner of terms, names, and phrases, as well as recaps of the story so far and descriptions of characters. If there's anything else you're not sure about, and we're sure there will be, the answer will most likely be found within its contents.
While we have put a good amount of research into this piece alongside roughly five hours of game time with Kingdom Hearts III, we are most definitely not franchise experts. If we've made an error explaining the plot or misrepresented a certain aspect of the lore, we apologise, but also please link us to a source in the comments below so that we can get things right.