Last week Kingdom Hearts 3 received an update adding Critical Mode to the game. A feature the fan base was surprised to find omitted from the game at release, crying out that the vanilla Proud Mode was too easy.
I felt this was the perfect time for this long time fan to talk about KH3 and how it holds up to the franchise I grew up with and loved so dearly.
A Long Wait for it
KH3 is the final chapter in the Dark Seeker Saga or Xehanort Saga, to the uninitiated; this is a story spanning across 9 games and a mobile game. The game holds the lucrative spot of being one of three of the games to hold a numerical value, the 3 tacked on at the end means it’s a true successor to Kingdom Hearts 2 a game that was released back in 2005. It was a 14 year wait, with a half dozen side games to tie us over.
So was it worth the wait?
As a long time fan, my initial response was hell yeah it was worth it. The combat is fun, the story has closure, and the Disney is… magical? But after having some time to think on it, and to try my hand at getting the platinum trophy, I think the rose tinted glasses have come off.
We’re Going to Disney La-… Worlds, Disney Worlds.
The new worlds are fun, and feel right at home in the series, Monsters Inc. and Big Hero 6 were two of my favorites, and the returning Pirates of the Caribbean was the best looking world by far.
The cutscenes in these worlds were exciting until I realized the majority of the scenes were just in engine ripoffs of scenes from the movies. With important narratives from those movies omitted. Frozen was terrible in every regard, with Sora and the gang having little to no impact on the events that transpired, I only knew what was happening because I had seen the movie. In retrospect the majority of the Disney worlds and the events that happened in them didn’t seem to affect the overarching story anyway. Only the introduction to the game and the ending had any real bearing or impact on the narrative. Maybe it’s always been that way, being young when playing the old ones made the magic a little more… magic.
The combat feels fresh but familiar, the reaction commands make a return from KH2 with small tweaks, being less contextual and more combat oriented than before, but there are now attraction commands mixed in that bring combat to a grinding halt so Sora and pals can take a ride on a carousel. While useful to thin out hordes of enemies, I felt as though they cheapened the experience and made some fights trivial. (As of writing this the same update that added in Critical Mode also toned these commands back.) but the combat is smooth, and I don’t feel like I’m just mashing the attack button anymore.
The story. THE story. Story?
I’m not going to summarize the story here, I’m not even going to attempt to fill you in on what’s happened before this game. Instead I’m going to go into how the game delivers the final chapter of the saga.
What starts out like every other KH game before it, slow and mysterious, bigger things always lurking in the shadows and Sora and company always just on the heels of the big bad. It felt like at some point the writers went, “oh shit, we’re at the end! Quick put all the bad guys in one place!”
The ending felt rushed, the final fights that were built up to didn’t feel climactic enough to justify the means, and not to mention the weird injection of a character from the mobile game Kingdom Hearts: Union Cross/Key (or whatever it goes by now) who randomly helps Sora defeat the big bad with the power of friendship; friendship in this instance were the keyblades from the mobile games users. Even as a long time fan, that little bit bugged the heck out of me.
It reminds me of pouring water from a bucket, you start out slowly dripping the water because the bucket is heavy, and as you get closer to the bottom you end up holding the bucket upside down and letting the remaining water dump out.
In the end it did close out a lot of the open ended stuff, but for those that didn’t play the side games or resort to using the KH wiki or watching a YouTuber explain what the hell happened, I could see it being confusing, and lacking.
So wait…. is it Worth it?
Ugh, I wish I’d stop asking myself that.
The game is fun, it has its problems, but overall it’s fun. The problem lies in the pacing of the story, and maybe the writing for the Disney worlds was always bad, 14 years gave me enough time to grow up and see it for what it is.
It’s fun, combat is fun, the movement is fun, the mini games aren’t fun, but that’s something else entirely.
All in all, if you’re a fan of the series, play it, if you’re new to the series, borrow it from a friend, this isn’t the game to start on, I’ll say that much.
Also, spoilers: there is no Sephiroth fight.