Game Review : Why I Didn’t Like Kingdom Hearts 3

This review contains spoilers. Read at your own risk.
Game Review : Why I Didn’t Like Kingdom Hearts 3Kingdom Hearts 3 on January 29, 2019
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one-half-stars

Kingdom Hearts III is an action role-playing game developed and published by Square Enix for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. It is the twelfth installment in the Kingdom Hearts series, a sequel to Kingdom Hearts II, and the final chapter in the Dark Seeker saga. KINGDOM HEARTS III tells the story of the power of friendship and light vs. darkness as Sora and his friends embark on a perilous adventure. Set in a vast array of Disney and Pixar worlds, KINGDOM HEARTS follows the journey of Sora, an unknowing heir to a spectacular power. Sora is joined by Donald Duck and Goofy to stop an evil force known as the Heartless from invading and overtaking the universe. Sora, Donald, and Goofy unite with iconic Disney-Pixar characters old and new to overcome tremendous challenges and persevere against the darkness threatening their worlds.

I was wholeheartedly disappointed with Kingdom Hearts 3, pun intended. The 13-year-awaited sequel to Kingdom Hearts 2 left a lot to be desired. The game suffered from severe pacing issues–literally nothing happens until ¾ of the game is over–an overabundance of Disney and lack of worlds like Radiant Garden, strange story and characters choices, and honestly, the series was at its most confusing ever.

 

Game Review - Why I Didn't Like Kingdom Hearts 3 - Blogging with Dragons
All Disney, all the time.

 

I was literally bored to tears during the Disney segments of Kingdom Hearts 3! Visit a world, sort of help the Disney characters in their story, leave after nothing moves the main plot that I actually care about forward, and rise and repeat in the next world. Literally, the game spends about 30 hours–over an entire day–in this cycle until you finally get through the insane amount of Disney and emerge at the very ending of the game. It is only then, that gamers are presented with the characters and plot they actually care about, and then the game is over! I was simply astonished by how bad the pacing of this game was.

 

Aqua probably would have appreciated some help from Sora.

 

I was also confused as to why Sora was even traveling to the Disney Worlds in the first place. Sure, I get that he needed to regain the power of waking (which he actually never even lost, but was instead ironically *SLEEPING* in the first place). Instead of joining Mickey and Riku to rescue Aqua, who was trapped in the realm of darkness for over 10 whole years, Sora travels just to travel. Even Sora is perplexed, and sits in his Gummi Ship contemplating where he should go next, after every completed world. But no one considers that surely 3 keyblade wielders is better than 2, even if one is “weakened,” right? Or alternatively, Sora could have joined Kairi and Lea/Axel in the realm where time doesn’t matter, to train and gain back his powers. Either of these scenarios would make more sense, provide more time with characters we actually care about, and prevent everything from happening at the very end of the game!

 

Game Review - Why I Didn't Like Kingdom Hearts 3 - Blogging with Dragons
Kairi and Axel train as keyblade weilders.

 

And even though we are told Sora needs to regain powers, he’s not even weak! Despite losing his Drive abilities from Kingdom Hearts 2–which is a huge shame because dual-wielding keyblades was awesome–and his substantial magical abilities, Sora is somehow now able to summon theme park attractions. Why this seemed like a good idea–I’m guessing tourism for Disney World was the main one–is beyond me. It’s irritating to summon Pirate Ship and takes forever. Plus Sora obnoxiously screams, “Yeah!” at least 3 times during the summon. So, I honestly feel that Mickey and Riku, and Aqua, or even Kairi and Axel could have benefited from Sora’s still substantial help.

 

Game Review - Why I Didn't Like Kingdom Hearts 3 - Blogging with Dragons
I hate the Attraction summons.

 

Instead, Sora continues travelling to Disney worlds with Donald and Goofy for extremely vague reasons. While nostalgic, these Disney worlds lack the charm of the other games in the Kingdom Hearts series. Some of the worlds have the exact same segments ripped right from the screens of the movies. Markedly, Sora’s help is not needed in any of these worlds at all. All of the Disney characters do just fine on their own. In most of these worlds, Sora, Donald, and Goofy simply buy time for the Disney characters to go off and do their own thing. What happens when these characters disappear from view is never really explained either, making even bigger plot holes.

 

Game Review - Why I Didn't Like Kingdom Hearts 3 - Blogging with Dragons
It’s assumed that you know the plot of Disney movies.

 

Furthermore, these worlds assume you have seen the Disney movie to actually understand what is happening in the Disney Worlds. This was apparent from the first world I traveled to, Tangled’s Kingdom of Corona, where viewers weren’t even told about Rapunzel’s healing powers until Flynn Rider is straight up dying from a stab wound and she attempts to heal him with her magic hair Granted, developers were right, I had seen the movie Tangled, but it’s been a really long time since I last tried to block Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End from my memory. Even though I had seen the movie, I was still confused at what the heck was going on. I’d also never even seen Big Hero 6.

 

This assumption that players have seen the movies is just bad-storytelling that alienates fans, many of whom have aged significantly during the 13 year gap since Kingdom Hearts 2. To assume that these aging fans have seen every Disney movie during this time is an unintelligent move. Gone are the days when Sora’s entry into these Disney worlds is filled with purpose. Strangely, Sora doesn’t use his keyblade to seal the worlds shut from darkness at all. He just battles the waves of heartless that are there and then goes on his way, leaving the world for good. And when you’ve got a heroine like Elsa with hugely magical powers, it’s more obvious than ever that he’s not needed.

 

This is in stark contrast to in Kingdom Hearts 2, where Sora joins the Imperial Army in Mulan’s world to help soldiers who despaired and turned into heartless, a service only he could provide. This lad to him defeating the Disney foe who used heartless to reach his nefarious goals, and sealing the world with his keyblade. Instead, Sora is just there in Kingdom Hearts 3 and a lot of the time, he’s separated from the Disney characters. It’s hard to feel attached to characters in a game if you don’t spend time with them. This is just another example of the game assuming you already know the Disney characters, their stories, and are attached to them.  

 

 

Game Review - Why I Didn't Like Kingdom Hearts 3 - Blogging with Dragons

 

When in past games, you help Disney characters defeat their enemies–many of whom are commanding heartless or Nobodies–like Jafar, Captain Hook, or Shan Yu, there’s nothing of the sort in this game. Most glaringly, in Frozen’s Arendelle, the big bad of the world, Hans, never succumbs to darkness or even commands heartless like villains in past games. Instead, a giant wolf heartless just pops up out of nowhere for Sora to defeat. This had literally nothing to do with the either the Frozen or the main story and definitely didn’t help to make Sora feel like part of the Arendelle world. It just felt random.

 

So too did the revelation that characters like Elsa and Rapunzel were the spiritual successors to the 7 Princesses of Light. When in Kingdom Hearts 1, these princesses were kidnapped for their pure hearts to be used for evil purposes, in Kingdom Hearts 3, Sora just leaves these princesses there–despite Organization XIII members prowling around and telling Sora that they plan to use these Disney characters again for their purposes. While Sora and the gang later fill this role, it just seems completely arbitrary to announce that these characters were the new 7 Princess of Light, if nothing was ever to come of it!

 

Game Review - Why I Didn't Like Kingdom Hearts 3 - Blogging with Dragons
Organization XIII is at it again.

The appearances by Organization XIII members were also baffling. Instead of driving the plot forward, the members just prattle on about vague plans and disappear into pools of darkness. I don’t think it could be any more anticlimactic if it tried. I remember when playing Kingdom Hearts 2, an Organization XIII member showing up meant something exciting–like huge, challenging boss fights and nefarious actions that threatened the well-being of the characters–but not in Kingdom Hearts 3. They’re all happy to reveal their plans, easily defeated. and even thankful when you kill them and ruin all their plans again, for some reason. There’s definitely no real conflict with these characters either.

 

 

Game Review - Why I Didn't Like Kingdom Hearts 3 - Blogging with Dragons
You only glimpse Radiant Garden in cutscenes.

 

Also noticeably absent were all the other things that drew me to Kingdom Hearts in the first place. Where were all the Final Fantasy characters? I get that developers wanted to focus on the Kingdom Hearts characters and dubbed the Final Fantasy ones not important, but to me they were! Cloud, Leon, Aerith, Yuffie, and Cid were some of Sora’s first friends that helped him find his footing way back in Kingdom Hearts 1 and continued to help him in his battles throughout the series, and even showed up as fellow competitors in the Colosseum. Their lack of an appearance was really disheartening, pun intended. It felt like a slap in the face to see Riku and Mickey explore their home of Radiant Garden, especially when the player never even gets to go there, without even a reference to the Final Fantasy characters’ existences there!

 

Game Review - Why I Didn't Like Kingdom Hearts 3 - Blogging with Dragons
Disappointing Keyblades.

 

In fact, the only reference to Final Fantasy at all–was the continued existence of moogles at shops (that you couldn’t even talk to at all), and the Ultima Weapon. This is simply bizarre in a game that was developed as a marriage between the two franchises of Final Fantasy and Disney. Noticeably absent were the cool Final Fantasy keyblades of Fenrir, Metal Chocobo, Sleeping Lion, One-Winged Angel, and Lionheart. Heck, there weren’t even original keyblades like Oblivion or Oathkeeper either. Instead, it was all Disney keyblades and worlds all the time. Except for Twilight Town, there wasn’t a single visitable original Kingdom Hearts world. I was really dismayed at not being able to visit Radiant Garden or Traverse Town, places that seemed like a no-brainer in a game that is really being carried by fan-service and nostalgia.

 

Game Review - Why I Didn't Like Kingdom Hearts 3 - Blogging with Dragons
Er, the new 7 Princesses of Light, minus Donald and Goofy.

 

As part of this fan-service, every single past character appears in this game at the very end, one after the other, in a confusing rapid-fire sequence of events, after about 30 hours of only Disney stories that end as soon as you leave the world–yep, that’s right, there’s absolutely no replayability in this game. Once a world is done, it’s done. There’s no second trip that unlocks new events, items, powers, or characters.

 

But maybe no more characters is a good thing. I’ve played Kingdom Hearts 1&2,  Re:Chain of Memories, Birth by Sleep, and watched 358/2 Days, so I think I have a better understanding of the egregious mess of a plot than most newcomers to the series. But in Kingdom Hearts 3, I was completely out of my league. All the past forms of each major character were present. That means there’s the original person, their Nobody, their Heartless, and sometimes their replica or dark form waltzing around. It’s freaking ridiculous! How bizarre it must seem to newcomers to have two characters that look exactly alike being separate, but very related individuals. I also knew nothing about the Kingdom Hearts mobile game, Union X, so when characters and settings showed up from that as well in a blatant attempt to make the mobile game actually relevant and profitable, I had to sigh.

 

Game Review - Why I Didn't Like Kingdom Hearts 3 - Blogging with Dragons
Kairi is as useless as ever.

 

What’s more is that I was really annoyed with the portrayal of most of the females in the game. Kairi, who’s been training in a time capsule world to develop her Keyblade-wielder abilities, declares to Sora that she will protect *him* this time, but doesn’t even draw her Keyblade and gets kidnapped again. Where is the character growth in that? Aqua, a Keyblade master, who has much more experience than Sora, similarly states, “You’ve seen me weak too many times already,” before blocking him from helping her fight, and then gets her ass kicked. While this does, in fact, make Sora appear stronger, which I expect was the intended outcome, developers forget that we once played as Aqua in Birth by Sleep and that she was our hero too. We don’t want to see her so easily defeated by everyone she fights.

 

Game Review - Why I Didn't Like Kingdom Hearts 3 - Blogging with Dragons

 

And as Aqua is the only other Keyblade wielder we get to play as besides Sora, this is even more disappointing. Roxas was a playable character in Kingdom Hearts 2, but we never get to play as him in Kingdom Hearts 3. The same is true of Ventus and Terra, who we could also play as in Birth by Sleep. It was cool to play as Riku, but if the game is bringing everyone back together, and even separates them into separate boss battles, why couldn’t we play as our past heroes at all? 

 

Game Review - Why I Didn't Like Kingdom Hearts 3 - Blogging with Dragons

 

Though I did really enjoy seeing all of the old characters again–Terra, Ventus, Aqua, Xion, Namine, Roxas, Axel, and Eraqus, I honestly wish that the series would have ended with Kingdom Hearts 2. To me, that was really the perfect ending for the characters. Other installments and spin-offs only served to make the series way more confusing than it needed to be all in the pursuit of making more money.

 

Game Review - Why I Didn't Like Kingdom Hearts 3 - Blogging with Dragons
Boss fights are consistently a breeze.

 

I was also less than thrilled with actual gameplay of the story. I remember struggling like hell back in Kingdom Hearts 1 to beat the very first boss of the game in the Wonderland world on Normal mode. I tried everything to defeat this opponent and it felt like a huge success when I finally defeated him. This game honestly didn’t offer any challenges at all of this magnitude. Each battle was easily dealt with–whether an Organization boss fight, a huge battle against unstoppable waves of Heartless and Nobodies, or anything else. In fact, my boyfriend in his playthrough, even forgot to equip higher level magic skills like Firaga, Curaga, and Thundaga until the very end of the game and still had no problem whatsoever defeating any opponents. This shows just how broken the game is on normal mode. I haven’t yet played the game on Proud or Critical and can only hope this is different on those difficulties.

 

Game Review - Why I Didn't Like Kingdom Hearts 3 - Blogging with Dragons

 

I also felt let down by the huge boss fights at the end of the story. There was no purely epic moment like in Kingdom Hearts 2, where Sora is reunited with his best friend Riku, who helps him fight. The game really does try to provide this WOW-factor moment, but the endless waves of heartless, Nobodies, and unversed aren’t even challenging and the attraction summons make short work of these foes. And the giant waves of keyblades from the graveyard, while pretty cool, is also super-overpowered against the foes. I never felt any doubt or tension that I would win the battles, even was Sora was putting himself back together in the after-world in a hugely ridiculous segment that made me cringe.

 

Game Review - Why I Didn't Like Kingdom Hearts 3 - Blogging with Dragons
Playing as Riku was definitely a highlight of the game.

 

And even though I was thrilled that I got to explore Hercules’s world instead of just appearing in the Colosseum, I did actually miss the battles of the Colosseum. These were endlessly challenging fights that required you to start over when you lost. The challenges of the Flan heartless provided in Kingdom Hearts 3, don’t make up for this absence. Shield-surfing, bouncing, shooting cannons, and taking photos, while fun and cute isn’t enough of a mini-game or sidequest in an RPG game. Another example of this is that instead of collecting torn pages from the 100-Acre-Wood book in order to enter the world of Winnie the Pooh, the book is just handed to Sora. The challenge is completely gone. There’s also no 101 Dalmations to collect, optional bosses like Sephiroth and Grim Reaper to fight, postcards to send, or Trinity Points to jump on to gain new powers. Instead, we can collect ingredients for pointless recipes (I never even ate food once because the fights were so easy), and are given the ability to take selfies and to to take shots of some Lucky Emblems in each world.

 

 

Game Review - Why I Didn't Like Kingdom Hearts 3 - Blogging with Dragons
Lucky Emblems

These Lucky Emblems, while lacking as a sidequest, do unlock the secret ending to the game. I’m filled with dread by the secret ending for the game. Joking aside, it really does seem that Riku is now in a world that strongly resembles Final Fantasy XV, complete with the theme song of that trash-fire of a game playing. This is really strange to me after the distinct lack of Final Fantasy in the entire game. Why the developers would want to combine these worlds at the end of the game, after blatantly dividing them is concerning, as the two franchises haven’t even been doing a good job telling their stories even remotely well separately.

 

Game Review - Why I Didn't Like Kingdom Hearts 3 - Blogging with Dragons

 

Ultimately, if you’re a huge fan of this series, you will like Kingdom Hearts 3 just because of the nostalgiaSeeing all the old characters in beautiful, updated graphics is definitely a treat that any fan will love. The game is certainly true to the spirit of the original, but fails to execute it all in a way that makes it a contender for the best installment of the series. I was dismayed by the plot holes, the lack of Final Fantasy characters, the ease of gameplay, the lack of replayability, and the actions of many of the characters. The lack of sidequests and familiar characters only leaves players with the mess of the main story and the tediousness of the Disney worlds. While the game is still fun to play, it feels like a shadow of its former glory and incomplete in comparison to past entries in Kingdom Hearts–and I don’t want to rely on DLC to change this. I honestly feel that more confusion is only ahead for the series and I am not sure if I will bother playing them in the future.

 

Game Review - Why I Didn't Like Kingdom Hearts 3 - Blogging with Dragons

one-half-stars
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Game Review - Why I Didn't Like Kingdom Hearts 3 - Blogging with Dragons

Posted February 8, 2019 in Games

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4 responses to “Game Review : Why I Didn’t Like Kingdom Hearts 3

  1. Dan Gaynes

    While I agree with most of what you said, you have to admit that the introduction of the keyblade forms, the attraction summon things, and flowmotion added another somewhat refreshing and unique aspect to combat.

    I’d also like to add how cheap it was to call the most-desired weapon in the in-game universe the X-blade (X is basically pronounced ‘key’ in Greek)

    • Good point on the X-blade.
      I respectfully disagree. To me, a “weakened” Sora shouldn’t have been able to summon theme park rides at all. The forms also left a lot to be desired in comparison to the Drive forms of KH2, in my opinion. Also, I thought the method for cycling through forms and attractions was super clunky. But to each their own!

  2. ? agree

    Felt like a shadow of its former glory

    And so many plot holes

    Insane that this took 12+ years and this is what they decided to release

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