After waiting longer than Aqua did in the Realm Of Darkness for a friend to finally reach out to her, Square Enix's Kingdom Hearts 3 is finally available and it’s pretty damn good. The Disney worlds are large and gorgeous, the combat has way more depth than past iterations, and the story is cheesy anime nonsense that comes across as a Shakespeare parody with its melodramatic speeches about the heart. However, while it’s a superficially fun voyage that turns everyone back into ten-year-old children, Square Enix’s long-awaited “finale” is far from perfect.
With most of us having waited for Kingdom Hearts 3 from childhood to adolescence, it’s understandably difficult to admit that Sora’s newest adventure is rough rather than immaculate. Still - to sound like an angsty emo without a heart – if you open yourself to reality you will find that the game's light is spoiled by darkness.
Major spoilers beyond this point
The Disney worlds don't matter
When Sora isn't an intolerable messiah who berates cloaked hunks for not having a heart as big as his, he spends his time ruining the canon of every Disney movie. This isn’t a huge problem as the Disney worlds are the game’s biggest strength, but when you actually reflect and untangle the cobwebs you quickly realise that the adventures in Tangled, Toy Story, Monstropolis, and Pirates Of The Caribbean are superfluous pit stops.
The Kingdom Hearts community will no doubt argue that the worlds are necessary because they awaken the power within Sora to venture to the Realm Of Darkness and reawaken deceased hearts, but it’s utter nonsense. Elsa and Rapunzel as the new Princesses of Heart never goes anywhere, Davy Jones’ chest in Pirates Of The Caribbean isn’t the black box Organization XIII is seeking, and the narrative easily could have had Sora rescue Aqua, find Ventus, and confront Xehanort without all the Disney magic. Then again, that game would be awful as - despite being pointless - dancing with Rapunzel, being a pirate, and watching Elsa belt Let It Go are the game’s shining moments.
It NEEDED Final Fantasy
The biggest disappointment in Kingdom Hearts 3 is that there’s no Final Fantasy characters. Even if you’re not a fan of arguably Square Enix’s most popular franchise, the absences of Cloud, Tifa, Squall, Aerith, and – especially – Sephiroth are a kick to the teeth. In denial Kingdom Hearts fans will argue that Sora, Roxas, Ventus, Xion, Axel, and the rest of Organization XIII are the only spikey-hared emos necessary, but that’s complete and utter bull.
Kingdom Hearts 3 needed to resolve Sephiroth and Cloud’s storyline from Kingdom Hearts 2, and the likes of Tifa, Aerith, Squall, and Cid were needed to spare us from the likes of Hayner, Pence, and Olette. With Olympus being the game’s first world, it doesn’t make sense as to why the colosseum isn’t included. It would have been a befitting stage for the conclusion to Cloud and Sephiroth’s rivalry, and it would have allowed us to spar with Final Fantasy’s greatest villain again.
Kingdom Hearts 1 and 2 are better
Look, Kingdom Hearts 3 is a very good game and an adventure I enjoyed for the most part. And, in some ways, it is better than the previous instalments. The attractions are visually stunning, the keyblade transformations provide some variety, and the cutscenes seamlessly mirror the Disney films. However, while I like Kingdom Hearts 3, I absolutely adore Kingdom Hearts 1 and 2.
The reason the original Kingdom Hearts are better is because there was an actual challenge. Thanks to the frequent attractions and keyblade transformations, along with Rage Mode making it impossible to die, Kingdom Hearts 3 is far too easy and occasionally boring. You can seriously just stand still in front of the Heartless and Nobodies and they will take an age to finally attack you. Even the bosses are a breeze, which is saying something when you have to fight the previously impossible to beat members of Organization XIII in groups of three.
Kairi is the WORST Kingdom Hearts character
This is no doubt a controversial point, but I’ll stand by it regardless of any flack. Although the series has a lot of annoying people like Hayner, Pence, Olette, Xion, Evan, and the “dance water, dance” tool who I still have nightmares about, Kairi is Kingdom Hearts’ worst character. Yes, she’s got nice hair and the cutest puppy dog eyes, but she’s basically Sora’s Mary Jane Watson.
Like Mary Jane, she is constantly in need of saving. And when she doesn’t need to be rescued, all she does is write letters to herself. She is pointless. I don’t mind there being a damsel in distress for us to rescue as the protagonist, but don’t give that Princess Peach a keyblade when she’s not going to do anything with it. When you compare her to Aqua, the always crying Xion, and whatever Namine is, Kairi just comes across as a lifeless doll similar to the stuffed puppets Phil trains Hercules to rescue.
It wasn't worth the wait
Although I will again reiterate that Kingdom Hearts 3 is very good, the small leaps in quality aren't enough to justify the excruciatingly long wait. Yes, the cutscenes are beautiful, the gameplay is fun thanks to the multiple keyblade transformations, and the attractions make me want to go to Disneyland, but there are still plenty of instances where Sora’s newest chapter feels too much like the Kingdom Hearts of old. While this isn’t terrible as no one wanted Kingdom Hearts 3 to become some unrecognisable abomination, there still should have been more improvements to truly make the instalment feel next-generation rather than something that could’ve been on the PlayStation 2 but without the graphics. The keyblade transformations are pretty much Kingdom Hearts 3's Drive Forms, other than The Caribbean the worlds are deceivingly big and remain linear with only one way to get about, and although boss fights offer different stages they don't provide anything mechanically different and visually impressive compared to the battles against Chernabog in Kingdom Hearts 1 and Jafar in Kingdom Hearts 2. The only thing that makes Kingdom Hearts 3 next-gen is its Pixar-like graphics and insane amount of enemies on screen, and it's not enough.
And the ending is an annoying cliff-hanger that really irks me. The series was never going to end, but there should have been closure for Sora, Kairi, and Riku, as well as the entire Organization. But, instead of that, we get a rehash with Sora dying and needing to be rescued by Riku, while Luxu keeps the mysterious black box a secret for the next game. Kingdom Hearts 3 should have been an ending that provided closure, but instead it creates even more loose threads for the inevitable next instalment.
Although the Disney worlds didn't matter, they are undoubtedly the main draw that keeps fans coming back to the series and you can find our ranking of the included worlds in Kingdom Hearts 3 here.
Meanwhile, if you're a fan of zombie and survival horror games, you can see what nobody admits about Capcom's Resident Evil 2 Remake here.
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