In preparation for playing Kingdom Hearts 3, I took a step into the way back machine and decided to go all in and play the whole damn series over again from the beginning.
As it had been a decade since I last play Kingdom Hearts 2, I could barely remember what happened.
Having touched only Chains of Memory on the Gameboy Advance (yes, THAT long ago) I figured I really needed to visit Sora and the gang again to get the full breadth of experience.
So I dove back in and played them all in order, including watching all the videos from the fantastic mobile game that I had no interest in playing, yet was completely relevant to the Kingdom Hearts lore.
This was a herculean undertaking, with a total of 9 games (2 of which are just available on PS4 as videos) and then another 5 odd hours of youtube cut-scenes you are looking about 120 hours total to go through it all on Easy or Normal modes.
What did I get for the experience?
One of the most amazing video game stories every told.
It is my absolute recommendation that anyone planning to play Kingdom Hearts 3 give this method a go. Sure it will take a while, but hey, why bother playing if you are not a fan of the series? And if so, then why not give yourself the best experience possible.
With all that said and done, I managed to finish up just prior to the release of Kingdom Hearts 3.
So how can you make a game in a franchise that is so beloved after so long and hope for it to be a hit?
I am not sure, but Square-Enix did just that.
Having just played all the previous titles it was clear that KH3 is a perfect evolution of the series.
Combat has change significantly from the days of KH1 (which by contrast feels terrible in retrospect), with things being very fast paced now and well designed.
Not only do you have the standard compliment of skills present in some of the other games, they now add a plethora of “Limit Break” skills that are both good and bad. On one hand they look incredible, they are all designed around classic Disney amusement park rides, from the tea cups, to the giant swinging boat ride.
Now they look amazing on the big screen, and the first time you see them, the visual spectacle will have you watching mouth agape, BUT, but the 40th hour playing, you are totally sick of them. You have ridden the damn boat about 500 times, it is enough already.
Sadly this is the pitfall a lot of games fall into, how do you make some cool special moves without them getting tedious long term. I don;t have the answer, but this was one that KH3 missed on.
With KH3 we also see the love it or hate it Gummi ship return. I personally have always been a fan from the KH1 days, but I can see why people could dislike it. This time round you have full 360 degree free roam game-play.
This plays out in giant sphere shaped worlds, where you travel between worlds, and allows you to have preset encounters on the map. Get close enough to an enemy aircraft and you entry somewhat of a mini-game. Fighting waves of enemies pseudo Galaga style to meet certain conditions. Like shoot down X number of enemies, or to kill so many ships in a time frame. All garnering you a rating and netting you different items the better you do.
On top of this there are some of the games biggest boss fights here, flying against massive enemies and fortresses.
Personally I had a blast with the Gummi areas, the controls were tight and the places you visit fun and fresh.
The core of the game plays out like all the other games, go to a world, trigger different story points, then fight a boss to continue on to other world, all the while giving you snigglets of the overlying story.
One of the big pitfalls though with KH3 is, Square takes for granted you know all about Kingdom Hearts. The story makes little to no sense at all if you are not familiar with the lore.
Without it, it is just a collection of cool places to visit without much point.
That is not to say it is not a good game on its own, but if you are playing for story alone and have not played the other games, you will be lost.
There is a lot of fan service here to those that know the minutia of the Kingdom Hearts universe.
All that said though, we have never had a game that so captures the Disney world, from Toy Story world, to Monsters Inc., it is literally like playing a Pixar movie. It looks out of this world. From the posters in Andy’s room, to the fluffy clouds in Hercules’ realm, it is all meticulously designed and you can see the care that went into making it.
The story itself wraps up almost 20 years of building in a nice neat little package, but still leaves you with some mysteries for the future of the series.
I will not go into detail as I do not want to spoil anything, but almost every question asked over the years gets answered and in a way that makes sense.
My only gripe is for some reason, Square decided to drop 99% of the Final Fantasy side of things from the game. Now only having things like constellations to find in the Gummi ship that are named after Final Fantasy monsters, like Cactar and Toneberries.
It was a big disappointment to not see Cid, Cloud or any of the other band of friends you had over the years. Not sure why they were not included, but it definitely felt like they were missing on purpose.
All in all Kingdom Hearts 3 is a great game, even with its few wart, and it is the game fans have been waiting 10 years for.
A 9.5/10 and a must play for fans of the series.