Analytics Made Easy - StatCounter
Jump to content
  • Sign Up

bay Reviews: Kingdom Hearts III

Recommended Posts

You know what? I'm glad they didn't take too long getting this game out the door.

In all seriousness, to say that this has been a long wait would be an understatement. While there have been plenty of games released on plenty of not-home consoles over the years, the 13 year gap between Kingdom Hearts II and Kingdom Hearts III was a long one. For better or for worse, KH3 was the game that every KH fan has been waiting for since Mickey's letter popped up in the epilogue of KH2. And now, after several years, a full engine switch, multiple HD collections, and a few more delays, Kingdom Hearts III was finally released on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on January 25th, 2019. I will be reviewing the standard PS4 version of the game today. The series has seen plenty of highs, and plenty of lows, since the days of KH2, but to say that KH3 is a hyped game would be... putting it mildly, let's say. That being said, such a long wait is sure to create high expectations. After all of this time, is KH3 able to stand on its own, or is it crushed under the weight of those expectations? Let's find out.

Before we get started, a quick word. This review will be dealing in spoilers from the entirety of the series. However, due to KH3 being less than a month old and the nature of the wait behind its release, I will NOT be delving into specific spoilers for KH3 itself. That being said, I will give a basic plot synopsis and be discussing what I think of certain characters and how they're handled, so if you want to go in COMPLETELY blind, don't read any further. You've been warned.




Kingdom Hearts III takes place immediately following the events of Dream Drop Distance, and the epilogue of Birth By Sleep 0.2: A Fragmentary Passage.

Jesus, these names...

Anyway, Sora has returned from the Realm of Sleep to continue his adventures. However, because of his defeat at the hands of Young Xehanort in 3D, Sora has found himself stripped of most of his strength, as well as the highly coveted Power of Waking. This is kind of a huge problem, since the groundwork for a new Keyblade War is nearly finished by a freshly resurrected Master Xehanort, who plans to pit a group of 13 Darknesses against an opposing 7 Lights to forge the X-Blade and finally unlock Kingdom Hearts. While Kairi and Lea train together to prepare for the coming conflict, and Riku and Mickey venture further into the Realm of Darkness to try and save the fallen Keyblade Master Aqua (and hopefully her own friends afterwards), Sora once again joins Donald and Goofy to travel to various Disney worlds in order to regain his lost power and hopefully uncover the secret behind the Power of Waking. However, Sora is on a strict time limit: if he and the others can't form their seven Lights, Xehanort's new Organization XIII will begin going after the seven Princesses of Heart instead. It's up to Sora and friends to keep them safe, save their old friends, and put a stop to Xehanort's schemes once and for all.

So I'm going to be VERY blunt here: Kingdom Hearts III's story is meant for long time fans of the series, and no one else. Despite what the short recaps in the menu screen will have you believe, I advise STRONGLY against picking up KH3 without having played the other games in the series first, if story means something to you. That's not to say you won't get it, but there there are a lot of moments in KH3 that won't have the same emotional punch if you haven't experienced the rest of the series for yourself. No matter which promo guy from Square Enix tells you that KH3 is the perfect point of entry for the series, don't believe their lies.

Now look, I'm not gonna pretend that the Kingdom Hearts story is high art or anything. KH gets a lot of crap for being overly convoluted and hard to follow, but I've always found that as long as you've played the games in chronological order (of release), things flowed mostly well. Once time travel was introduced in KH3D, however, I had to accept that at some point, the plot had kinda gone off the rails. I was pretty sure that KH3 was going to be a complete mess of ideas and concepts that are barely explained and open up gaping plot holes, especially after 0.2 ended up being a prequel about how Mickey ended up shirtless in KH1's ending, and also Aqua was just there the whole time.

Which is why I was so surprised that KH3 plays things mostly straightforward. To the game's benefit, it largely avoids introducing any more new concepts to the series' expansive lore, and focuses instead on wrapping up the plot threads that have been going for well over a decade at this point. Same goes for the characters, who are (besides the Disney worlds) all returning members of the cast from previous games. Your goal at the beginning of the game is crystal clear: stop Xehanort. Every single thing you do in KH3 is a step to hopefully achieve that goal.

It does take a while to get to that goal, however, because KH3 has some pretty severe pacing issues. What I mean by that, is that all of the super heavy plot stuff is in the final act of the game. KH2 did something similar, but it also had a three hour set-piece in the middle to let you know that things were just getting started. Kingdom Hearts III, however, does not do that. You spend about 85% of the game going through the Disney worlds, and the final 15% is the climax. Speaking of those Disney worlds, they're a mixed bag. I'd say it's a pretty even 50/50 split in quality. A few of the worlds tell completely original stories that are able to weave together with the overarching plot pretty organically, and have a few moments that are genuinely amazing (if you've beaten the game, you know exactly which two I'm talking about). On the other hand, a few of the worlds once again fall into the trap of just being a rehash of the movie it was based on. Arendelle is a particularly egregious example, with an uninteresting setting and a plot where every original character is completely irrelevant. It's probably one of the worst worlds in the series, honestly (not THE worst. I haven't forgotten about you, Atlantica).

I mentioned earlier that the climax was where most of the story was, which is disappointing in its own right. But that being said, the climax was pretty much everything I was hoping for, and more. From the moment the endgame begins, Kingdom Hearts III never lets up. It's an endless wave of amazing moment after amazing moment, with multiple characters' plotlines from years worth of games finally coming to a close. On top of the overwhelming excitement, I'm not ashamed to admit I teared up a few times as well. While the overarching plot of KH has gotten a bit out of control over the years, I've always found that Tetsuya Nomura's strongest area was his characters, and that continues to ring true for me. All of my favourite characters had incredible moments and wonderful payoffs. And while the ending has proven divisive among fans, and I can definitely understand why, I was personally largely satisfied with how things played out. I was looking for the end to the Xehanort Saga, and that's what I got, in addition to almost every single character getting their moment to shine.

Key word being almost, because let's talk about Kairi. I'm not going to spoil anything, don't worry, but Kairi has always been a bit of a weak link in the main cast, albeit with hints of a good character trying to break out. She was very much little more than a damsel in distress in KH1, but she also had a fierce and fun attitude that made her likable enough to make you want to go on this journey to save her. And while KH2 Kairi is forced into a brief damsel role once again, she definitely has more agency, as well as a desire to fight back and take what she wants. Kairi becoming a Keyblade wielder and a frontline fighter was one of the aspects of KH3 I was looking forward to the most. Having beaten KH3, I can say with complete confidence that Nomura has no idea what he's doing with Kairi, and whatever attempts he made to give her more agency have fallen flat on their face. This is the WORST version of her by a significant margin, and I can only hope that she's either given her own game to fix what was done to her here, or just left alone for the rest of the series to avoid any more damage being done.




Buckle up, ladies and gentlemen, because there's a lot to get through here.

Kingdom Hearts III is an Action RPG that has ditched the strappings of its portable incarnations in favour of the streamlined mechanics of the original PS2 games. You'll be wandering vast worlds, striking down enemies of all kinds, leveling up, equipping new abilities, and casting magic. You know the gist of it by now. The game was developed by the Osaka team, the guys behind BBS, 3D, and 0.2. Why is this important? 

Well, there's a certain... word in the KH community that has set off a bit of a firestorm. You probably know what I'm talking about, but it's used to describe the difference between the combat of KH2, and the combat of its portable counterparts. Particularly in how air combat feels and works, and your points of vulnerability while doing combos. That's right, everyone, let's talk about floaty combat.

It's a subject I dread talking about because it invokes such strong feelings in everyone. If you like it, then you clearly don't understand how everything post KH2 is actually garbage and the series will never be that good again. If you hate it, then you can't accept that not everything can stay the same and that people might just like a style you deem to be factually inferior. I'm not gonna get into that, I'm just gonna give you the facts: yes, Kingdom Hearts III is floaty. Not nearly as much as 3D or BBS, but it's definitely there. Does it bother me? Not really, because unlike KH3D, the game was designed WITH that floatiness in mind. Unlike previous Osaka games, very few enemies will refuse to stagger when you attack them, and you're given a wide variety of aerial combat options to make staying in the air worth it. The air dash is quick and snappy, and Sora now has the ability to Guard while in the air, which completely changes how you can approach a fight in the skies. The boss fights have also greatly improved from the handheld games. The highly praised Revenge Values of KH2 have finally made their triumphant return. This means that you can combo and juggle bosses just like any other enemy, but if you get too aggressive and push that combo too long, they will automatically break out and counterattack to punish you. Kingdom Hearts III has some of the best boss battles of the entire series, especially in the climax section of the game. I won't spoil it, but I wish I could, because those boss battles towards the end are absolutely stellar.

Kingdom Hearts III adds a LOT of new stuff to combat. So much so, that I'll probably forget to mention something. Most of these are tied to Situation Commands, KH3's version of the Reaction Commands of KH2. Upon attacking enemies for long enough, you will gain certain Situation Commands to play with depending on what you have done. Casting a certain spell several times will allow you to cast Grand Magic, a hyper Za-level version of that spell with insane range and devastating power. Every now and then, a party member with request a Team Attack with you, giving you what is essentially a Limit from KH2 minus the MP cost, the catch being that it's random. If you strike an enemy with a green circle around them, you can summon an Attraction Flow, a powerful, interactive AOE attack that will summon a different Disney Ride depending on the enemy you strike and where you strike it. You have Links, this game's version of Summons, that allow you to call upon a Disney character for a powerful attack at the cost of a full MP bar. Finally, and what you'll likely see most, are the Keyblade Transformations. After attacking enemies for long enough, you will be able to transform your Keyblade into a new form, granting you access to new abilities, attacks, and finishers. Every single Keyblade has at least one transformation, with several of them having two. And while there are a couple of recycled transformations, a grand majority of them are completely unique, encouraging experimentation with your Keyblades to find what you prefer most. In addition, you can switch between up to three Keyblades at once without going to the menus, and if you're in a Keyblade Transformation when you switch Keyblades, the transformation will still be in effect when you swap back to it.

There is so much going on in KH3 that it can almost be overwhelming. I admittedly started ignoring Attraction Flows because of their long intro sequences and minimal selection, but in general, it's unlikely you'll go 30 seconds in combat without something crazy happening. You will always have plenty of options, and all of them are viable. Unfortunately, all of this overwhelming power does come at a price: Kingdom Hearts III is a pretty easy game, even on Proud Mode. Besides a couple of deaths to the final boss because of my own carelessness, I was able to power through every challenge in KH3 with relative ease. In addition, beyond a few mini-games and some Battle Portals, there is an unfortunate lack of post-game content here. I fully expect the inevitable Final Mix DLC to fix that whenever it comes out... but I'm not reviewing the Final Mix DLC, I'm reviewing vanilla KH3. And even compared to vanilla KH1 and KH2, KH3's post-game content leaves a bit to be desired.




Kingdom Hearts III is absolutely gorgeous, let's just make that perfectly clear. The attention to detail is staggering, from the environments, to the lighting, to the character models, everything just comes together. Disney Worlds are far more expansive and detailed than they have ever been, and as a result, they feel alive in a way that they really never have before. The game is also bold in its artistic design, with certain worlds changing the aesthetic of the game. The Caribbean brings KH3 closer to realism than ever before, while 100 Acre Wood makes the characters look like drawings popping out of a book with the black outline around them. I was playing on the standard PS4, and despite the overwhelming number of particles that can pop up on screen, the framerate was always very stable. It would occasionally dip when things started getting REALLY crazy, but even then, it was far from getting to the point where it was a problem.

As is the case in every KH game, the soundtrack is absolutely stellar. Yoko Shimomura returns once again as the head composer, and she delivers some absolute gems, especially when she gets the change to remix some old favourites. Takeharu Ishimoto also lends his hand to the series once again, and I've been seeing his work getting a lot of hate in KH3. I'm just gonna say this: no, he's not Shimomura. That does NOT mean that his music is BAD, it's just different. Ishimoto's style of composing is what gave us the Vanitas theme, and if you don't like that song, you must not like KH music.

In terms of vocal performances, there's the occasional rough delivery and bland expression here and there, but the voice acting is mostly strong across the board. Haley Joel Osment gives his best performance as Sora since KH2, and the rest of the cast around him bring their A-game when it really counts. Unfortunately, there is one notable absence in the cast. For reasons unknown, Hayden Panettierre was never asked to reprise her role as Kairi, and is voiced by Alyson Stoner instead. She doesn't do a bad job at all, but it is a noticeable change, and she just isn't able to convey the attitude Kairi had in her previous appearances. In addition, there were several notable moments where it was very clear that some characters didn't have voices at all. I understand that there are reasons, and that if they don't have a voice in Japanese, they won't have a voice in English. But it's still awkward when characters are talking about what some characters are feeling, while those characters are in the room.




I have loved the Kingdom Hearts series for a long time now. Loving something, however, means being able to recognize its flaws. And make no mistake, Kingdom Hearts III is a flawed game. The story takes too long to get going, Kairi gets done very dirty in this game, there's a lack of engaging post-game activity, it's too easy, the Disney worlds, while gorgeous and expansive, were a mixed bag of quality, and not everything gets wrapped up in a nice little bow, like I believe many people were expecting. There is sequel baiting here, and I know people will be annoyed by that.

But when Kingdom Hearts III succeeds, it SOARS. The game is absolutely breathtakingly gorgeous while running super well, combat has a ton of variety and fun to it, the Gummi Ship takes yet another leap forward in quality from KH2, the soundtrack is excellent, it has some of the best boss battles in the whole series, most of the characters resolutions are expertly handled and hit their emotions with perfection, and it manages to end a saga that was stretched way too thin, far better than it had any right to. I was going back and forth on whether to give this a seven or an eight, but this was the deciding factor for me: when the secret ending finished and I was looking at my results screen... I was sad that it was over. That's why I'm giving Kingdom Hearts III a:

8 / 10

Kingdom Hearts III is far from perfect. It has plenty of flaws, and I can understand why people might be let down, especially after such a long wait. That being said, I never really let the hype get to me. If you spend 13 years dreaming of something, of course it will never live up to those expectations. I went in to KH3 looking for a few things: a resolution to the story so far that left me satisfied, and strong gameplay to go with it. And through all of KH3's shortcomings, I got both of those things. So at the end of the day, I'm happy with that, and ready to wait for whatever that madman Nomura has planned next.


So that was my review. Did you think I was too harsh, or too lenient? Was there anything I missed? Let me know.

baylaust out.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Damn KH3 really brought all the oldies back from the dead xD

Excellent review, and one that I pretty much agree with word for word. If anything, I think you got the balance dead on, as when I keep thinking about KH3 I find myself becoming more and more torn. I think what really bugged me is the lack of many things that I felt were staples of the numbered entries, and as for resolution, it was very so-so for me.


Xehanort's ending was just a little, bland, for my tastes. All I really needed was for him to die while reaching out to kingdom hearts and saying its name in a raspy last breath.

The rest was extreme fanservice and while I'm fine with accepting it all at face value, the part of me that's spent the past few years theorising and theorising is dying for consistency XD

So I'm probably harsher on its cons. I think what I should have realised is that KH3 is a game following 3D, which meant most of it's direction in terms of story is taken from that game. I probably would have had less expectations.

On 2/16/2019 at 5:58 AM, baylaust said:

Which is why I was so surprised that KH3 plays things mostly straightforward. To the game's benefit, it largely avoids introducing any more new concepts to the series' expansive lore, and focuses instead on wrapping up the plot threads that have been going for well over a decade at this point. Same goes for the characters, who are (besides the Disney worlds) all returning members of the cast from previous games. Your goal at the beginning of the game is crystal clear: stop Xehanort. Every single thing you do in KH3 is a step to hopefully achieve that goal.

This is double-edged sword for me. I can appreciate the reason for Nomura to streamline the plot, In fact he mentioned that he rewrote the ending multiple times to make it simpler. And in the context of KH3 on its own it's fine. But as a conclusion to almost ten years of build up it falls a little flat to me. It's also not just the plot he's streamlined. KH3 seems to be brevity personified.


Other than that I pretty much agree with all you said, my rating would probably be something like: 8/10 it sucks but I like it

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Create New...