The game that fans have been waiting 13 years for, Kingdom Hearts 3, is finally available for actual people to actually play. This is a game that some people weren’t entirely sure was going to see the light of day, and I’m surprised it’s out now in 2019. KH3 has been hyped up to be the climax of the current story line of Kingdom Hearts. This fact, combined with the length of time that’s passed since Kingdom Hearts 2, means that expectations are very high for Kingdom Hearts 3. I’m a big fan of the series myself (it’s probably obvious if you’ve even read anything else on this site), but I’ve been trying to temper my expectations and trying not to get swept up in the hype train that is KH3. I played this game on a PS4 Pro complete with the Pro exclusive boosts for the game. Does the 12th instalment of the series live up to the hype of being the culmination of nearly 17 years of games and storytelling? We’re going to find out right now!
If you want to see everything I’ve written about KH3 leading up to this, click here for the start of my Progressive Looks series!
Premise & Story
Kingdom Hearts 3 starts pretty much immediately where 0.2 left off, even beginning with the final cutscene from 0.2. As a result of Sora getting captured by Xehanort in Dream Drop Distance, he failed his Mark of Mastery exam and lost all the powers he gained over the course of KH2 and Dream Drop Distance. Now he must go on another journey to regain his power and acquire the Power of Waking so that he can face off against Xehanort with the rest of the Guardians of Light. His first stop is Olympus so that he can ask Hercules about regaining one’s lost power, and that’s where our game starts. The game doesn’t do much of anything to help ease newcomers to the series into the story. You’re pretty much expected to have played most of the 11 other games as names and concepts are brought up without explanation. I wasn’t personally put off since I’ve been marathoning the series up until this point, but I’m almost certain that people not well versed in the Kingdom Hearts are probably asking themselves something along the lines of “What the heck is a Xehanort?”.
The story itself is unfortunately really poorly paced. Almost nothing happens in the overall plot until about 20 hours in, and then the game just throws everything at you in rapid succession until the very end. At one point the party addresses the fact that they have no idea what they’re doing, where they’re going, and why they’re going there. Sora himself even says something along the lines of “I DUNNO WHY WE’RE HERE” when asked why they landed on a certain world. It’s probably the worst pacing I’ve ever seen come out of the Kingdom Hearts series, and the stories in the Disney worlds aren’t exactly great either. Much like the rest of the Kingdom Hearts series, a lot of the Disney world stories are watered down retellings of the movies they’re based on, but others do have their own original plots. They start to become pretty cookie cutter when you start adding the Kingdom Hearts stuff to it though, to the point that I could call how certain character interactions would go the moment the character appeared on-screen. It was both funny and aggravating to watch unfold.
If you’ve played Kingdom Hearts 0.2, then you know what to expect from KH3 visually. It’s a very pretty game, which is to be expected given that it was made using Unreal Engine 4. The amount of detail seen on a lot of the character models was great and the area design was well done. With regards to performance, I can’t speak for how well it would run on a base model PS4 as I played on a Pro. However, the PS4 Pro offers two different graphical modes: a fixed mode that seeks to keep the framerate at a consistent 30fps, and an unlocked mode that can vary to higher or lower than that 30fps mark. I found myself preferring the fixed mode as I like having a consistent experience, and the framerate on the unlocked mode dipped a little too low for my liking at points. The load times in KH3 are pretty rough sadly, which adds a lot of extra time to the playthrough. I’ve watched a few speedruns of KH3 and even with a PS4 Pro with the game installed on a SSD for faster loads there was a difference of about 30 minutes or so between the in-game timer and the external timers used by speedrunners. This was made even more annoying by the game’s very awkward attempt at appealing to those who are super into social media with mock Instagram posts using a plethora of hashtags. Not sure who made that decision.
The audio of KH3 is a bit of a mixed bag itself. The music is absolutely phenomenal, even when compared against the rest of the series. I’ve had a few select songs from the OST on loop while I’m working and I’m still not tired of them. The voice acting on the other hand… It’s rough. Really rough. A lot of the dialogue delivery felt like it was phoned in, with one standout offender being Mickey Mouse. How in God’s name do you botch Mickey Mouse? The first time I heard him speak I couldn’t help but shudder. It’s not all bad though; a lot of the Disney characters either had their roles reprised by their original voice actors (James Woods as Hades) or had really good replacements (Jim Hanks as Woody).
This is the big one. The one question that’s been burning in everyone’s hearts since this game was first announced. Is Kingdom Hearts 3 fun? Overall, the answer is yes. If you’ve played 0.2, you know what to expect out of KH3. You’re looking at an action RPG that makes use of a command menu of 4 options: Attack makes Sora use basic physical attack combos, Magic brings up a submenu with all of the spells that Sora has learned, Items brings up a submenu of consumable items that Sora has equipped, and Links brings up a submenu of all of the summons that Sora has acquired. These summons call forth a friend of Sora’s that can help deal a lot of damage to the enemy, such as the Meow Wow from Dream Drop Distance or Wreck-It Ralph. Your combat options are boosted by the addition of Situation Commands as well, extremely powerful commands that pop up once you’ve filled up a meter. These can be anything from super-powered spells to the overpowered Attraction Flow, commands that summon Disney park attractions that decimate your foes. I mean it when I say these moves are overpowered too. Attraction Flow commands are extremely long animations that deal a ton of damage to your opponents, and they leave you invincible throughout the whole thing. Something new that KH3 introduces to the combat is the ability to equip up to 3 Keyblades at once and swap between them on the fly. This is probably the coolest part of KH3’s combat for me, as each Keyblade has its own set of stats, passive abilities, and Formchanges. Formchanges are Situation Commands that transform the equipped Keyblade, drastically changing up your moveset and providing more variety to the combat.
There’s quite a few things that can be done outside of combat that can help you in battle as well. You’ve got your standard fare of passive abilities and equipment, but KH3 offers a slight twist to equipment. Along with item synthesizing there’s also the Keyblade Forge, which allows you to upgrade your Keyblades, making them stronger and granting them new abilities. I really like this mechanic, as it allows each and every single Keyblade to be somewhat viable, as no one Keyblade completely outclasses the other at an equal upgrade level. You really like the Keyblade you get from the Toy Box? Upgrade it! Want to use Sora’s starting weapon the whole game? Upgrade it!
Despite all of the cool stuff you can do with KH3’s combat, the game is just way too easy. I managed to steamroll through the game on the game’s highest difficulty, Proud Mode, without much issue. And that was with pretty much avoiding Attraction Flow like the plague in an attempt to make the game more challenging. Even without Attraction Flow, the game was a breeze. Most Situation Commands in general were really strong, and certain magic spells were way too powerful and spammable. I didn’t even use any of the buff food that was available to you in the game. It was honestly pretty disappointing; I expected much more of a challenge. I wish that KH3 came with a Critical Mode available at launch, as I think the game could have really benefitted from that extra spike in difficulty. Maybe a later patch or DLC?
It’s not a Kingdom Hearts game without mini-games, and KH3 has those in droves. Only a handful of them are required for story progression, and most of them are lumped up in two places. One such places is the Classic Kingdom menu that you can find on the Gummiphone given near the start of the game, which contains a ton of short and simple games modelled after the old Game & Watch handhelds. They’re a nice little diversion that you can access at pretty much any time if you want. The other place is the kitchen in Twilight Town, and it’s a series of cooking mini-games. With the help of Remy from Ratatouille, you can cook a number of dishes that can buff Sora’s combat capabilities. I tried out the cooking mini-games once or twice and I got pretty bored with them after that, and I didn’t see the worth in doing it for the food. The biggest thing I want to discuss on the topic of mini-games however, is the Gummi Ship. Instead of flying individual Gummi Ship courses blocking the way to each world, you pilot the Gummi Ship through a huge solar system-esque environment fully packed collectibles, secrets, and optional missions. You can fly from world to world and only see the parts of the universe that are required for the story, or you can look for every blueprint and treasure sphere you can find. The optional Gummi Missions are lite versions of the missions from KH2, which is great if you were missing the KH2 Gummi Ship (I was). I could probably spend hours doing just Gummi Ship things.
This part is really hard for me to write. I feel like Kingdom Hearts 3 is a difficult game to talk about in general, as if you’re already a fan of the series, you’re not going to let what I say sway you at all. You’re probably not even reading this and are still playing KH3, and that’s okay. I’m a huge fan of the series myself, and I definitely was one of those people. I’ve tried my best to be critical of the game despite my love of the series. KH3 did a lot of things right, but in the end I still came out of it feeling disappointed. I was disappointed in the combat balance and difficulty, and I was disappointed in the story. I don’t want to go into story specifics because of spoilers, but I was pretty angry with some of the story beats the writers decided to go with. I ultimately had a lot of fun with this game though, and I’m sure a lot of others will too. If you’re an action RPG fan, a Kingdom Hearts fan, or even a Disney fan, KH3 is not a bad game to pick up at all. It’s worth a single playthrough if nothing else. I truly hope that post-launch support will address my issues with the combat, and if that happens I may revisit this review.
I give Kingdom Hearts 3 my Recommendation.
Total playtime: 26 hours, 32 minutes.