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So... It's been almost a month since KH3 released. Enough time for emotions to simmer down and solid opinions to form. And my opinions? They are very conflicted. This is gonna be a long and rambly post that goes through a lot of my feelings toward this Final Chapter, so be warned. This also kind of my review I guess, so let's goooo. Let's start off with the easy stuff: Gameplay. It's brilliant. The Air slide is absolutely perfect, and being able to use items and guard midair is amazing. I will say that the game is quite easy, I played through on standard mode and even in KH2 standard mode there were parts I felt challenged by (damn you hot rods). This game though, I felt like I died probably four or five times, and at least twice it was because I wasn't paying attention. However that is probably gonna be an easy fix with a critical mode patch. Attractions are a little annoying with their frequency but you can easily choose not to use them. However an option to disable them would be so welcome. The music is absolutely amazing, Tension Rising being a huge favourite of mine. I have nothing else to say because it's all just so damn good, The Other Promise, Vector to the Heavens GAH IT'S ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL. And then the writing and story..... sigh I'm under no illusions when it comes to Tetsuya Nomura and his mastery over the craft of storytelling. But I have always maintained that he could always bring out the emotions - whether they be of sadness, excitement, and anything inbetween. However due to how streamlined and rushed the endgame is, and how the buildup is practically non-existent, I'm not so sure that I can even say this much anymore. In KH1, when everyone is separated and you have to go your own ways, it's heartbreaking because there was all this buildup to Sora, Kairi and Riku finally being together again, and then Riku steps upto the plate and as far as Sora is concerned practically sacrifices himself. You feel that sadness and then Simple and Clean hits and then "Nothing's like before". KH2 has you search for Riku as your driving purpose, and the ending is sooo satisfying because you've finally earned your happy ending. Days and BBS end tragically, and in Days' case, it's somehow worse because we all know what happens to Roxas. You play through Roxas' monotonous routine, you get to see him develop and then you see it all snatched away. In BBS, it's a tale of three friends and how their bonds with each other are tested, and at the end, you feel for these characters and their fates. The key thing here is buildup. KH3 didn't have much of that. At all. This was supposed to be the magnum opus of the series thus far. Even Nomura considered it a finale of sorts otherwise why would he have called 2.8 the Final Chapter Prologue? And yet, and yet... The story fell flat. Practically every twist and turn was shown in the trailers. The trailers created an image of a KH3 that was not true. How many of us felt Aqua would be an early game boss due to Nomura expressing surprise at how shocked the fans were. In fact Nomura was shocked at how much he was asked about FF inclusion. Nomura was shocked at Radiant Garden coming in fifth place in a popularity poll. Nomura then expressed a desire to make Disney Worlds so good that fans would love them more. That's not how it works big guy. This is a man who is clearly not in touch with his fanbase at all. For the past seven years we have all been hotly anticipating this title, being shown bombastic trailer after bombastic trailer; each one trying to outdo the other in terms of hype amplification. This is a drastic change from prior years when we had handheld after handheld, each one being more experimental than the last that led us all into an expectation that perhaps that would now be Kingdom Hearts' direction. And then 2013 came. Just from the look of the gameplay, and the 2015 trailer giving us the first real snippet of story, and every trailer after that showing off how Numberish and not Spinoffish KH3 was shaping up to be. Alas, the real secret the trailers kept us from would be the prevalence of UX plot points. The vastly reduced Original Worlds, the complete absence of Final Fantasy, the absolutely dire pacing of the story and the complete lack of explanation of anything that this game created is something that has not been present in every KH game, let alone a numbered one. It's sad that the finale of this years long saga goes out with a frustratingly loud misfire. I wanted to like this game so badly, and tried to convince myself that these were all surface level complaints but honestly? They're not. These are the things that set the numbered titles apart from the mediocrity of the spin-offs. KH3 felt like a spinoff. And I hate that I feel that way.
So for Christmas, I got a $20 Nintendo e-shop gift card. And with that, I got a 2D platformer called Shovel Knight. I initially only played about thirty minutes of it before getting distracted by Super Mystery Dungeon. However, I've recently been playing it a lot more. And I enjoy every second of it. Shovel Knight just does so many things right in terms of what video games are capable of doing, and what many games don't even bother to do. For starters, the game has a great difficulty curve. It's starts off rather easy and somewhat simple. And as you progress through the game, the game gets steadily harder and complex. This seems like something completely natural for video games to do, but these days, it's usually either insanely hard stuff, or a difficulty setting with a static difficulty curve the whole way through. But with Shovel Knight? Nope. It presents its levels, and asks you, the player, to beat it. Not that the game isn't able to be played by everybody. In retrospect, the game is actually quite forgiving, but still punishing. Whenever you die, you get sent back to the last checkpoint and lose a large sum of your current money. However, if you manage to make your way back to where you died, you get the chance to reclaim whatever money you lost the last time you died. This is a very good system, because it gives you a sense of, "get up and try again". And it's much better than a lives system from a game like Mario. You can try as many times as you like without much repercussion. And now, I would like to talk about my favorite thing about Shovel Knight. Once I realized that this game was doing this, I started tearing up. And that's the fact that the game has no tutorials, but still teaches the player. Games these days shove so many tutorials down the player's throat, that you just kinda wish they were just not there. But Shovel Knight comes along and ditches them completely. Rather than tutorials, the game teaches by playing. The best example of this, in my opinion, is in Shovel Knight's stage. One of the reoccurring gimmicks in that stage is ice stuck to the wall. Touching it causes the ice to fall as a platform onto spikes below. So, how does the game teach you this? Well, you fall down a pit, and you fall onto that ice. That's how you learn that touching the ice makes safe platforms. There is no sense of danger at that point, and only in points after that. At that point, if that causes you to die, then it's your fault. The game does this consecutively. It presents a gimmick in a safe environment, and then mixes that with more dangerous situations. This makes every single death not your fault. This is something that I really wish more games did. It truly is a beautiful thing when a game can do this. And that's all I really want to talk about. And for anybody wondering how much I really like this game...well, let's just say that, from a design-only perspective, this is one of the best games I've ever played. I'm not sure what I would rate it on a 1-10 scale, but it would definitely be at least an 8.5. Well, that's all folks! Thanks for reading, if you did!