The Curiosity that is Kingdom Hearts 3: Analysis & Review

3 weeks ago, I finished a title that I, among many others, had been waiting a great deal of time for. In writing about it, or attempting to at first, I couldn’t quite convey how it made me feel to see it through to its end. You see, there was an expectation we all had, that the game would be able to complete a saga that almost reached its 20th Anniversary by January 29th, 2019. It did do that, or at least in narrative, the final-ish chapter has been told & several parties had met with their concluding resolutions. However, us, the audience, were perplexed as how so many characters didn’t get much of the spotlight aside cameos, not even so much as a playable role in the climax that was Kingdom Hearts 3, the trilogy game that took 13 years to manifest on current generation systems across the globe. Today, we’re going to finally talk about all of this.

Kingdom Hearts 3, yet another iteration from the minds of Square & Disney, places us back in the role of Sora, the main character throughout the series since its conception, as he seeks to put an end to Xehanort’s plans of ruling over Kingdom Heart. Over 9 games, we’ve seen the backstories of many as well as an extensive cast of characters that the audience got to bond with over those many years. Narratively, it’s hard to give adequate light & playtime to them all without having a title possibly beating itself to death over the same theme’s fans are familiar with.

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I think what I personally wanted most out of the game is to be set in the boots of Axel, a reformed Organization 13 member whom we learn was diligent enough to form & create his own Keyblade, one of the main weapons in the series, only to see him for maybe a combined total of 20 minutes before watching him be beat back at the conclusion of the game, his new-found glory shattered. Not to say that a studio should completely cater to a fanbase of one character or another, but there is a lot of that type of love for many of our cast here. Kairi is another example, going so far as to have promotions of her with her own blade, seeking to be a defender in her own right, only to play the captive again in bringing Sora to his knees. Like Icarus, they fell before ever to deservingly be able to reach the sun, and many players felt that.

I find this to be the more troubling aspect of the game, as well as the reason it took me so long to finish this review. So, I’ll jump to the broader aspects for a moment;

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– The gameplay mechanics have progressed far beyond what they had originally, as had the special attacks & transformations. No, we didn’t need to have Disney’s Theme Rides come up as attacks every few minutes, but players were given the option via the L1 button (on PS4) to pass them by once they outlived their welcome. Yes, it was awesome that my keyblade turned into multiple different weapons, including one standout a la Pirate’s of the Caribbean’s Highwind turning into a spear, much like Cid’s Ultimate Weapon from FF7 (a fun easter egg).

– The Gummi Ship missions I could do forever in the format this game gave us. Almost endless space, but not quite, with increased customization upon many players enjoyed sharing via multiple social networks. It felt less like a mini-game at some points and more of its own, and I loved seeing that care in its progression.

– Revisiting beloved worlds was, as always, a blast to do. While some were 100% worthwhile experiences, such as San Fransokyo via Big Hero 6 & The Caribbean via POTC, some fell flat due to how Sora was integrated in.

– Toy Story was fun because of the world players were able to be a part of, but mainstays of that franchise Woody & Buzz Lightyear were the chummiest I’ve ever seen them in any iteration, and that bothered me quite a bit. Sora, and that world in general, would have been better utilized & far more interesting if we’d gotten more of what that duo is known for, as well as what makes voice actors Tom Hanks & Tim Allen’s chemistry so palatable to watch, and it is the duo’s differences. As in to say, their friendship didn’t start off that way, and Sora would have been utilized best within the first storyline the series had to offer, by making that friendship come alive.

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– Frozen’s world was more a cut ‘n’ paste of the film and less of anything having to do with Sora & crew. Even worse is having, as many I’ve discussed the game with have said, feel like an afterthought. Other than the New Organization’s observance there, there was barely a stake for our heroes to fight for, unlike their involvement in Monsters Inc & Hercules. Previous games did have this issue as well, no doubt, but it is most apparent in this title, possibly because it had been anticipated upon for so long, probably because we, the player audience, were hoping a good bit of this was fixed by now, and that Sora & the rest of the cast had evolved as we did the 13 years it took to reach this pinnacle.

In saying as much as I have on my irritation with Kingdom Hearts 3, it’s amazing just how long we’ll wait for the next big thing to happen when it comes to our favorite series. Some sequels come relatively quickly, expectedly after a certain point, like the Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed, or any sports game franchise. Other progressions take quite some time, as we hang on for the next George R.R. Martin installment with “A Song of Fire & Ice”, or, as the news broke today, each multi-year interlude between whole generations of Pokemon to capture & befriend, the next debuting this fall. Others may go even longer than that, but yet we hold out for it, hoping to bridge gaps in the tales at large & sating our curiosity of just how the loose ends will be finally tied up. When, however, does it become too long a wait, and how high can we really raise our expectations after a time?

It wasn’t the worst iteration of the series, that spot still & will forever belong to Re:Coded on the DS, but with as much time as it took to come into being, I wholeheartedly believe there was much more that fell on the side of the main story, including how that universe actually operated, than there should have been. The game heavily relied on the Disney Worlds, but barely played with what Kingdom Hearts really is. Here’s to the updates to follow, as well as the DLC, that will hopefully fill in the holes the initial release didn’t on the first try.

Kingdom Hearts 3 (PS4, XBONE)
Rating: 7/10

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