Disney Gaming: Kingdom Hearts 3 – The Saga Continues

Now that we’ve taken a look back at all the turmoil Sora and his gang have been through the last few games, we’re ready to take a look at the recently released chapter of Kingdom Hearts.  (You can read my recap here, or in a pinch, watch the somewhat opaque videos put out by Square Enix for the same purpose.)

Kingdom Hearts 3 starts off pretty much where Fragmentary Passage leaves off, with Sora, Donald, and Goofy leaving to travel through different worlds to get his lost powers back, while Riku and Mickey head to the Realm of Darkness to search for Aqua.

The Disney:

For the Disney fan, the main attraction of the Kingdom Hearts franchise is the opportunity to play with the familiar Disney characters.  This occurs in a variety of different fashions, but primarily there are the core characters that follow Sora around and assist him as teammates, and the different characters that inhabit their own specific worlds that Sora visits and meddles with (no Prime Directive for him!)  Here’s how the game breaks down in the latter aspect:

Olympus is the first world Sora visits, and is basically a tutorial world where you learn some of the basic mechanics of movement and combat.  For the most part, although you occasionally fight with Hercules in your party, he resides in the cutscenes, giving out exposition and then leaving to take care of some other emergency.

The Toy Box, where Woody, Buzz, and the Toy Story gang reside, has three different locations:  Andy’s Room, the street outside Andy’s house, and Galaxy Toys Store.  Although this episode takes place between Toy Story 2 and 3, many characters such as Jessie and Bullseye are MIA, along with Andy and his family.

The story here is an original one that has Sora helping Woody and Buzz find their missing friends and defeating the usual number of Heartless along the way.  This seems as though it was one of the worlds with the most work put into it, with impressive animation and voice work done of the familiar characters.

Kingdom of Corona, the land of “Tangled” teams Sora up with Rapunzel and Flynn and is basically a retelling of the whole movie.  While there are the usual Heartless battles and an entertaining “simon says” minigame that helps Sora dance with Rapunzel in the village scene, the worlds where it’s just a replay of the film feel less engaging, since we’re already hard-wired as spectators.

Monstropolis takes place after the events of “Monsters Inc.” and has Sora and his team helping Sully and Mike get Boo to her ever-elusive door against the best efforts of Randall and Vanitas.  While neither Billy Crystal nor John Goodman returned for this, the voice matches are pretty good.  This segment ends up having more to do with the KH3 storyline than Monsters, which was some welcome integration.

Arendelle, on the other hand, worked a little less well for me, being another pretty straight retelling of the film.  Unlike “Tangled” however, “Frozen” is somewhat bigger as a story and as a result, this seemed more like a Cliff’s Notes version of “Frozen” with some platforming and combat thrown in.  The part where most of the important scenes are just Sora standing around watching the events of the film gives it a pretty passive feel and doesn’t advance the main storyline much.

The Caribbean is based concurrently with the events of “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” and while it isn’t strictly a rehash of the movie, it doesn’t have much of a story of its own, either.  This is probably the most “open world” of all the settings, as it largely involves Sora getting command of the Black Pearl and then sailing around engaging in combat underwater, ship-to-ship, and even in the sky.

While it doesn’t appear to have a great deal to do with Sora’s ongoing concerns, The Caribbean is a great example of how gorgeous this game looks.  This is really one of the few games I’ve played where the gameplay graphics rival the cutscene graphics–I was initially a little sad to lose the more cartoon-y Sora from KH1 and 2, but the character renderings of both real-life and drawn people are works of art.

The final world players are likely to visit before heading into the start of the endgame is San Fransokyo, the town of “Big Hero 6.” Taking place after the end of the film, it shows the BH6 team trying to protect the town from the influx of Heartless.  Sora and his team (“Keyblade Hero 3!”) rescue each of them individually from the clutches of peril in a clever multi-part timed mission requiring them to race throughout San Fransokyo to locate them.

The frenetic battles are broken up with some lovely quiet moments as well, as Sora gets to know Hiro and his gang and eat ice cream perched unsafely atop hazardously high structures…as all friends do.

Overall, this was my personal favorite world, but I’m not gonna lie:  Most of what I hoped to get out of KH3 was just to fly around with Baymax anyway.

The Gameplay:

As the fourth of the major games in the series, KH3 gives the player an overall smoother gameplay experience than any of the others.  While KH2 and Birth By Sleep (BBS) both offered big leaps of control and customization over KH1, there is an almost insane amount of detailing that can be done on virtually every piece of equipment Sora touches, from keyblades to gummi ships.

Bonuses to enhance gameplay can be achieved through a variety of minigames playable throughout the story, such as gummiphone photo missions, or a Ratatouille-themed cooking game that yields consumable foods that provide temporary stat boosts.

Link Summons, a replacement for D-Link abilities in BBS and the Summons command in pretty much all the other games, gives Sora the capacity to call on characters from other worlds to help him in a tough battle.  The options include Ariel, Ralph, Stitch, Simba, and Meow Wow (from Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance. (DDD))

The biggest improvement however, for the casual gamer, is the massively decreased level of difficulty the game has on the Beginner level.  Because I am combat-skills-impaired, even on the easiest level of KH1, 2, and DDD I would hit the fourth-from-the-last Boss fight and have to contemplate going on Craigslist to hire some teen to play through it for me, fearing that I would never see the end of the game on my own.  KH3 didn’t really give me much of a problem in any fight, even without doing extensive cooking or manufacturing or customizing.  Additionally, they’ve added in the option of having gametime slow down while you’re casting a spell which I found to be a PHENOMENAL help–in some of the previous games I gave up magic as a defense almost completely because it took me so long to page through the menu to the spell I wanted, I was invariably killed before executing it.  Some probably feel that this takes away from the challenge of the game, but personally I’ve never found frustration to be all that entertaining, so this was a huge plus for me.

[On startup, the game gives you a choice of Beginner, Standard, and Proud levels–the main advantage of playing on the Standard/Proud levels (besides self-esteem, I guess) is the inverse ease of achieving the Secret Ending after the game’s finish.  Once you pick your level at the beginning, it is unchangeable without starting over.]

Probably the most attractive addition to combat this time around is Attraction Flow, in which Sora can magically call upon the force of Disney Park attractions to defeat his enemies.

While the attacks are pretty and markedly effective when done correctly, there is some trial and error involved, as it took me most of the game to figure out how to aim a carousel or a mine train or a pirate ship.

The only step back was in the number of save spots KH3 gives you:  In KH2, you get 99 slots to save your position in case you miss something or want to go back to a certain situation or redo a fight or look for more treasure chests.  In KH3 you get NINE.  Nine!  That’s not even enough to save once for each world you’ll visit!  For those of us old enough to have started playing video games in the era when you could make one mistake early on that would prevent you from ever finishing and now save reflexively every few minutes, this is incredibly anxiety-producing.

The Wrap-up:

Kingdom Hearts 3 is a gorgeous game that has the capacity to accommodate a wide range of playing styles.  Whether you enjoy collecting plants and creating culinary masterpieces with Remy, or building the perfect gummi ship to travel between worlds, or racing pirate ships on the open seas, or fighting Boss battle after Boss battle, or just watching a new story with familiar characters unfold, KH3 gives you the options to indulge yourself.  While the game does wrap up the Dark Seeker saga of Xehanort fairly definitively, there are some matters in the secret ending that are left purposefully vague.  Will there be a Kingdom Hearts 4?  Only Sora and series developer Tetsuya Nomura know for sure.

Kingdom Hearts 3 is out in stores now, and can be purchased at https://store.na.square-enix-games.com/en_US/games/kingdom-hearts 

Are you ready to play? Or have you already delved into the world of Kingdom Hearts 3? Let us know below!

You can read more about Disney’s Kingdom Hearts in these other posts:

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Jeanine resides in Southern California, pursuing the sort of lifestyle that makes her the envy of every 11-year-old she meets. She has been to every Disney theme park in the world and while she finds Tokyo DisneySea the Fairest Of Them All, Disneyland is her Home Park... and there is no place like home.

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