Dee Assassina: It’s been over a decade since I last played a Kingdom Hearts game, as I did not have a chance to play the re-releases, so my grasp on the story is weaker than most. I did try to replay the first KH, but it didn’t hold up well enough to keep me playing. Despite being somewhat confused as to what is going on in the convoluted story, that didn’t take away from my enjoyment of Kingdom Hearts III.
Keiko Fukuyama: Straight off the bat, I want to say I was asked to keep this a bit short, and I am going to try. But Kingdom Hearts holds a very special place in my heart and one of the few series that invokes me to really discuss… And unlike Dee, I have played all the side-games and just recently replayed the whole franchise … So, I may be able to offer a slightly different look. While I would always find it hard to recommend a Kingdom Hearts game to someone whom has not played all the previous ones, I do find it a series very easy to recommend to diehard Disney fans.
Dee: If you love Disney, then you would have appreciated most of KH3’s charm as each world in the game has a self-contained Disney story. Each self-contained story is basically the same exact story told in the respective Disney movie (e.g. Arendelle [Frozen] is a love story between Elsa and her sister Anna), where Sora, Donald, and Goofy just happen to be there. Yes, that means me, Sora, Goofy, and Donald, had to sit through an entire sequence of “Let it Go”. I didn’t have as much attachment to the Disney stories in Kingdom Hearts III as I did in the previous games because they were modern Disney movies that were created for this generation of kids. There was little creativity involved in changing the Disney story to be at least somewhat unique to Kingdom Hearts, but that may be have been for the best in efforts to avoid the story being anymore tangled than it already is. Thankfully, there is a menu option that allows you to review snippets of the previous games, but it only explains so much.
Keiko: As Dee said, if you are a diehard of the newer batch of Disney movies, like Big Hero 6 or Frozen, you will really love Kingdom Hearts 3, as the oldest property represented in the game is likely the Pirates of the Caribbean stuff which was based on the 3rd movie…
With that said, Disney Fanservice is really the best place for me to start as well. When you are in a Disney World it looks like you are in a Disney World. With the graphical engine that Kingdom Hearts III is running, it is almost easy to imagine you are watching Frozen and not playing it. The music sounds like you are in a Disney movie; references to Let It Go aside, the basic music to the worlds is right out of the Disney library and it is amazing. The little kid in me sang along with “You got a friend in me” as I explored the world of Toy Box.
Dee: Each world is beautifully crafted with vibrant colors and a lot of detail. The worlds are a lot more open than the previous games in the series and are a delight to explore. Plus, there are many collectibles (e.g. lucky emblems, treasures) sprinkled throughout each world. Not only was each world visually unique, but some of the gameplay sequences in each world played out differently. For instance, in Toy Box (Toy Story), you played from the perspective of a toy and used a giga mech for certain battles. Even Pirates of the Caribbean had naval combat that was reminiscent of Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag (and later Origins and Odyssey). Since the different worlds are so beautiful and unique, it will be a treat to go back and clean up collectibles.
Keiko: Easing the transition into the Disney World is made easier when the characters start to talk, as in every other KH, the Disney voices are largely the real deal. Sure, big hitters like Tom Hanks and Tim Allen are not here (and Mandy Moore is not either; but part of me suspects there may be some bad blood on her part after Square fired her after Kingdom Hearts 1 as Areith) and even then, if the main actor is not filling their voice, the Disney Approved Double is. These are the guys who usally fill in, like Jim Hanks as Woody when Tom can’t do it… So, while the dialogue at times is very over the top cheesy, it at least sounds damn good and very damn Disney!
Kingdom Hearts 3 is simply put, one of the best-looking games out there. I know a lot of you just rolled your eyes, because yes, it may not have the hyperrealism of some games, but what it does looks astounding. From the previously mentioned Disney Worlds to the special lighting effects during combat, KHIII is just a joy to watch, especially running at a nice 60fps on a PS4 Pro. It is a joy to the eyes to watch some of the spell effects flash across the screen in a perfect recreation of Monstropolis.
Dee: The combat in KH3 is the best in the series, as it introduces a new summon called attractions, which is a flashy Disney park ride (e.g. a swaying pirate ship, a carousel, a water tube ride). It also gives the player the ability to change keyblades on the fly, which is good to tackle different combat scenarios. Some keyblades have fast duel-wielding attacks, while others have AOE attacks for crowd control, and they each have a unique cool finisher attack. These new features made most of the combat a spam of two buttons, and little need to press the block button. It is simple but fun, yet a little displacing when you have the last few battles, which have a huge difficulty spike and force you to finally bring out you combat skills.
Keiko: Yup! Combat may hands down be the best in the series. While the series has always existed around it being open for anyone — where you can really press “X” to win — there has always been a bit of a deeper strategy to the combat. From dodging, to parrying, there have always been little nuances to make the combat much deeper than it seems on the surface and Kingdom Hearts 3 is no different, with almost every single bit of combat improvement from the last few games returning, and some new or tweaked ideas. At your disposal you have co-op attacks with your party (from KH2), flowmotion attacks that use the environment to your advantage (Dream Drop Distance), the long range, magical shotlock moves (Birth by Sleep) to tweaks to old favorites like form changes from KH2 being completely redesigned.
This time around instead of just changing your form, some keyblades themselves change form when the meter fills up. The ability to freely change between 3 keyblades adds a lot of depth to the combat — especially when you factor in that every keyblade does something different both in combat and for its special. This makes keyblades truly feel unique this time around. There is always going to be a keyblade to fit your style, from raw strength to brutal mage; do you want to rain in some AOE or maybe even have some defense? Heck, there is even a keyblade that lets you pretend the game is an FPS! Plus, with the ability to upgrade them the mog workshop, even the basic Kingdom Key can be useful late game.
While this is not Dark Souls, it is deep, a lot of fun and helps keep things fresh. Never once should you get bored in combat, as it is usually a joy to just fight, or sometimes watch. The team attacks always look fun, and the new “Attraction” attacks Dee mentioned above are some of the coolest things to look at in game.
Dee: Another improvement to the series is the gummi ship, which is essentially a Star Fox game implemented as way to travel to each world. The gummi ship is historically the least enjoyable aspect of Kingdom Hearts, and although there’s a huge improvement, it’s still the least enjoyable part of KH3. This isn’t just a means of traveling, but also a way of collecting loot and unlocking treasures.
Keiko: Now, story… this is where Kingdom Hearts is either going to make or break you. The Disney stories are always right out of a Disney movie, and if you know the movie, know what to expect. But that has always been part of the charm: playing a Disney movie. What is neat is Square Enix does kind of buck that trend, as a few Disney Worlds actually tell a completely new story unique to KHIII but set in that world. The story in the Toy Story world Toy Box, for example, is not out of any movie and just feels really fresh.
In the end, Kingdom Hearts III is a game that is indeed a long time coming, and, at times, does feel like that too with some dated mechanics. But the package put together is still an excellent experience from start to finish.
What is more, I think I had a smile on my face every single second of the experience. 4.28/5 Bibles / 2 Reviewers a Fragmentary Review -Final Mix- birth by review.
Dee: For me, KHIII evolved the series in many ways but still feels a little outdated for a video game in 2019. Nonetheless, it is a simple, fun, flashy experience that will make adults feel like a kid again. 3.75/5 Bibles.
-Dee Assassina & Keiko Fukuyama