I’ve had a morbid obsession with Kingdom Hearts III for a fair share of its worryingly protracted development cycle. See, here’s the thing: I kinda like Disney – well, mid-90s Disney anyway. I was a snotty nosed tween when the company was enjoying its cinematic renaissance, so I grew up with legendary movies like Aladdin, Lion King, and, of course, Toy Story. I even had freakin’ Woody and Buzz Lightyear toys, although I had to settle for the chrome Buzz because you couldn’t get the standard version without breaking the bank in those days. I digress.
The point is that I have a lot of time for a lot of Disney franchises, but I don’t have a lot of time for anime. As our resident office weeb Robert Ramsey will attest, I can’t stand it. Now to be totally fair, when I wasn’t singing the Circle of Life during the car ride to school, I was probably humming Stan Bush’s The Touch, so there are elements of anime that I do enjoy. The Transformers are legendary; I even kinda got into Cowboy Bebop at one point.
But no, as a general rule I don't like it – I played through the entirety of Persona 5, expecting to uncover the critical darling that was going to change my mind. But if anything it reinforced my point of view: anime, and by extension anime games, are not for me. Nuh-uh. No way, José Mourinho.
Kingdom Hearts III, though. Kingdom Hearts III.
In many ways, looking at it from the outside, it’s everything I hate: it’s unnecessarily convoluted, it’s got the kind of twee ass pop music that makes me wish I didn’t like twee ass pop music, you can buy t-shirts in Hot Topic with Sora on them that have slogans like ‘I’m Sora Awesome’ printed on the front, and it’s about crystals. I think. Because everything in anime, when all’s said and done, is about crystals. Even Shenmue, the most grungy and grounded game franchise ever, is about freakin’ crystals.
But I saw the demo at EGX 2018 last month and I knew I had to play it – I had to know. Now I’ve watched the story recap and I couldn’t tell you a single thing about the narrative of this franchise, hence why this is a Soapbox rather than a Hands On. What I can tell you is that there are Toy Story characters in it and you play as a dude with big, bushy hair who carries a key instead of a Buster Sword. That’s about the gist of things, right?
Seriously, though, the graphics are very impressive. Do you remember when Sony announced the PlayStation 2 almost two decades ago and said it’d be able to produce Toy Story-esque presentation? I think that’s a bit of an urban myth but look: the Toy Story level in Kingdom Hearts III looks as good as the movie – in fact, it’s probably better. If you just walked past without any prior knowledge, you’d think it's from the film.
I mean it looks and sounds exactly like the movie – Tom Hanks isn’t there, but a pretty decent sound-a-like is. Square Enix has really nailed the look of the Toy Story films: the colours, the gangly animations – it’s all spot on. And being inside Andy’s bedroom is just really, really cool – even if you’re forced to control an action figure Sora, rather than, like, Hamm or something.
I like the way the Toy Story characters interact with Sora and his Disney friends; there’s this sense of misunderstanding and confusion as the two different casts clash. But let’s be clear here: while the visuals and audio scream Toy Story, the script does not. No, the script is your usual anime guff – I’m pretty sure they mention crystals at least once. Oh, and the Heartless, which even I know are the bad guys in this series. I think?
Look, the gameplay’s bloody brilliant. It’s real-time character action style stuff, but it’s got a Final Fantasy-esque menu in the corner where you can perform spells and use items and s**t. The thing I really appreciated is how flashy and over-the-top it is: you’re constantly getting new power-ups which you can trigger with the triangle button, transforming Sora into spinning teacups and later a freakin’ pirate ship. It’s amazing, and it runs really smoothly on the PS4 Pro.
The other level I got to watch (but not play) was taken from the Hercules world, and basically sees you running up a wall while a big monster thing attacks you. It’s got less of the glitz and glamour that the Toy Story stage has, but I appreciated it showing some different styles of gameplay; essentially this level is all about platforming and avoiding hazards. My takeaway was that the game looks great and plays smooth.
But it’s just that story that’s putting me off. I know it’s considered blasphemy among the inner sanctum of Kingdom Hearts fans, but a huge part of me wishes Square Enix would have just done away with all the anime and made a Disney RPG instead. Come up with an excuse to pair Mickey Mouse with Captain Jack Sparrow and let’s get this done. Because I think what the developer’s made here looks and plays nicely, but it seems borderline impenetrable if you haven’t been there since the start.
And look, I don’t have the heart or stomach to learn about Sora and the Heartless this late in the game. No, thank you.
Where do you stand on Kingdom Hearts III? Are you a long-time fan, or are you a newcomer unsure whether to pick this sequel up? Agree that the Crystal Maze is the only acceptable use of crystals in the comments section below.
I haven't played it, but I feel much the same. I'd play the heck out of a Disney RPG, but Square Enix can keep all the anime mumbo jumbo.
I've never played a Kingdom Hearts game so have no interest in its convoluted story or history. However a great looking Disney RPG with plenty of familiar faces and developed by Square? Count me in and I'm very excited for the launch of this game
one of the best franchises ever.cant wait. word up son
@get2sammyb my view is dont worry about the story. Ive been there since the start and the story has been the least interesting thread for me. Its the gameplay, and the mad mish mash of disney and final fantasy that just works. Honestly all i wanted from ni no kuni was a ghibli equivalent.
I played kh over 10 years ago. No way im remembering the story in that. But im still stupidly excited for this. I mean the feeling of running through a toy story world, hanging out with wreck it ralph, hopefully melting olaf (fricking snowman!!!) will be as epic as ever. And each world will tell its own self contained narrative as part of a bigger whole. And if you dont fret about the story, you will find alot to love.
I don't much care for anime at all. Except trigun, friggin Vash the stampede is pretty awesome.
Ive thought about getting 1.5 and 2.5 and whatever else u need to get into this series, but I feel like once I do that I'll be burned out and won't wanna play 3. I did that exact thing with uncharted I played though the nathan Drake collection in a couple of weeks, but now I just can't get into uncharted 4.
@get2sammyb if you want a basic rundown for the story well 3 kids are on a island when it's attacked by a guy calling himself Ansem, he is trying to unlock the door to the hearts of all worlds, Sora as the Keyblade master stops him while fighting various Disney villains along the way while his friend Riku is manipulated and falls to the darkness but eventually finds his way back, they then find out that Ansem is really a man named Xehanort who by teaming up with different versions of himself from different times is trying to create a X-Blade in order to summon the true Kingdom Hearts and gain it's power while Sora, Riku and Mickey gather people to stop him
now there is a LOT more too it but that's the basics
I feel the same way about most Western AAA games. There are patterns in their design that I absolutely cannot stand, and it's why I generally stick to Japanese games.
With that said, I like anime, and I like Disney, but I'm not sure the two go so well together. Seeing FF characters interact with Mickey Mouse was weird in the first game, and it's still pretty weird. Weird in a bad way. Like ice cream on pizza.
@Ralizah you say that BUT.....
@FullbringIchigo What the hell?
@get2sammyb OK simple, bad guy is trying to destroy all worlds, Sora and friends are trying to stop him
@FullbringIchigo I was referring to the pizza! But yeah, it extends to the summary too. (Thanks for attempting to explain.)
@FullbringIchigo That looks good to you?
I don't think it's unreasonable to play the game without much care for the story beyond the basics. The hook for the series for me was always exploring the Disney worlds and the sublime gameplay. I care about the story but mostly on a surface level. I haven't really looked at it under a magnifying glass beyond whatever I've simplified.
@Ralizah Still better than pineapple on pizza!
I never played a Kingdom Hearts game, so I'm looking at this weird convoluted story with annoying squeaky-voiced Disney characters, and a bunch of wannabe Final Fantasy characters. I have no idea what's going on, nor what it's about, but my intuition tells me that my best option is to avoid it
@FullbringIchigo Now I feel dirty for actually enjoying savoury ice creams. Mmm, my one visit to The Fat Duck changed my whole opinion on weird foods. Kingdom Hearts however, I've completed every game except 1. Which is weird.
@Ralizah honestly if it tasted nice i would eat it
@nessisonett that is strange, how far did you get if you mind me asking?
@get2sammyb it's not really that difficult a story to understand, it's just people seem to over complicate it when they try to explain it to people who have never played the series
@Octane No. Although I won't defend pineapple on pizza (fruit doesn't belong on pizza; full stop). It's not as bad as putting fish on pizza, though.
I tried the first game, and it was kind of horrendous. The combat is spammy, the attacks happen so often that they become a total chore, and a few of the early worlds are insanely tedious to navigate. I've tried to get into it three or four times, and I just keep dropping it.
@Ralizah Anchovies are fine though.
@Octane No. God no.
I can't stand anime either, but I am excited for this. I grew up in the 90s as well, and come from a big Disney family. I have tried playing the first game in the series on PS4, and could not stand it. It was just dated when I tried it. I did play 2.8 or whatever the heck it was called, and had a blast with the gameplay there. Assuming that was a preview for 3, I think I will have fun with it.
@Cheski did you play KHII, it's a lot smoother than the first game is
@FullbringIchigo I did not. I might give it a shot if I catch up on some other games.
KH3 was a reason I bought a PS4, but I massively under-estimated the release date.
The other two reasons were Black Friday and Uncharted 4.
@Cheski cool but just know the start is a bit slow but it's well worth it
While I'm not getting this Day 1, I am planning on playing through the collections on PS4 beforehand because story is quite important to me with stuff like this. Pray for me.
Don't care about the story either. The game looks great and that's more than enough for me.
@FullbringIchigo Neverland I think, I played it way after the other games. I realised I hadn't played it after completing 2.8 and I think it was just too much of a step back in terms of gameplay. It wasn't bad by any stretch, it just felt a bit dated so I'll go back at some point!
I like Kingdom Hearts, even though it has incredibly corny dialogue and story.
@get2sammyb Please tell me you are not reviewing this game, I man without culture it's not worthy to even play this game let alone review it, let @ShogunRok review this game
@FullbringIchigo Surely, that can only be catered towards kids.lol
I played KH1 with my daughters (the PS3 remaster) and they loved it. I thought it was OK but I'd much rather be playing FF. Oddly, none of us really care much for anime (though my youngest gets into Miracle Tunes and Pretty Cure if that can't even be called anime???) but exploring the Disney worlds was fun.
I am a Kingdom Hearts expert, love all things Disney, all things dumb anime and j-pop, and all things action games.
This series...as uh...'Kingdom Hearts' as it gets, will always be dear to me. Heck, got a PS4 Pro and 4k TV JUST to experience this game in the most optimal way possible.
I did not like this article and the dude's views on kingdom hearts tbh.
As a person who only started my kingdom hearts journey in 2016 (Because I thought the game looks like cr#p and childish) find the story to be A.) Absolutely amazing . B.) Fuuuullll of holes and stuff that make no sense.
In the end it's what you enjoy and what you find "Fun" I will suggest the game to anyone I meet and I highly recommend giving the story a chance.
I mean, it's about friends, hearts, love and good vs evil ... The good old mufasa vs scar ; aladdin vs jafar ; hercules vs hades.
It's "My"childhood all bottled up in one place if you would like to put it that way.
Anyway KH3 ... I really can't wait to see the next part of the story.
@nessisonett yeah i get that, it's one of the reason i had a big break between playing 2.8 and going back to 1.5
@get2sammyb Kingdom Hearts has a special place in our family. It was the game that introduced my then 7 year old daughter to gaming and she hasn't looked back since - moving on through games including FFX, FFXII, Resistance 1-2-3, GTA5 and The Last of Us. It's a pity that KH3 has taken so long to arrive.
I suspect there are other dads out there who have their own similar stories.
My only gripe about KH3 is the blatant marketing of various Disney Rides in the game; I find them a bit too garish, overcooking the Disney franchise. As far as I can recall the 'Summons' in KH and KH2 were characters from the movies.
BTW where were you when the first Kingdom Hearts arrived?
@get2sammyb of course on the HD collection you can just watch every cutscene without having to play the game at all so if you wanted too you could just watch the old games instead of playing them
it would be like a really long Disney movie
"Because everything in anime, when all’s said and done, is about crystals."
I didn't enjoy the combat of KH 1 and 2 on PS2. I love Disney and theoretically I want to be a KH fan, but so far videos of 3 are beautiful to watch but I'm not sure if the gameplay is any better.
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