The story is a complicated one to follow, to say the least, and requires you to have played some (if not all) of the series’ previous entries to understand exactly what is going on. Along the way, the game tries to catch you up and remind you what you’ve missed, but if this is your first entry into the Kingdom Hearts world, you’re likely going to feel lost despite the helping hand. You can still enjoy the game quite happily without a full understanding, as each of the worlds you will visit has its own contained storyline, but if you do want to try and catch up then the recently added Memory Archive offers the perfect chance to do so by offering short stories summing up the past games. Players who have played these previous games in the series are rewarded with the continuation of the story of the battle between dark and light, the reappearance of Organisation XIII, with both new and old members, and an intense and emotional conclusion which will only leave you wanting more.
Obviously one of the big selling points of the game is the inclusion of the Disney characters and worlds. Some of the worlds this time around you will have visited before, such as The Hundred Acre Wood from Winnie the Pooh, The Caribbean from Pirates of the Caribbean and Olympus from Hercules. Re-visiting these locations offers new stories to tell, and each of the worlds offers a unique experience beyond just aesthetics. For example, visiting the Caribbean lets you become captain of your own ship and sail the seas exploring islands and taking down enemy ships as if you were in Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. Giving each world its own special traits encourages you to keep traveling through the game to see what the next one will be.
Along with these previously visited worlds, there are also some brand new and pretty impressive settings to visit. The Toy Story and Monsters Inc. worlds have cute and colourful environments just the way Pixar first imagined them, and the Frozen, Big Hero 6 and Tangled worlds offer some fantastic scenery and locations to explore, from the icy mountains of Arandelle to the towering buildings of San Fransokyo. You can see the care and attention that has gone into recreating these worlds, and it’s nice to see some of the proper voice casts from the films making appearances as well, though not everyone signed on for the project. This helps immerse you into the world and feel like you are really part of a Disney film.
When you’re sitting through one of the many cutscenes you might also feel like you’re in a film. There were a number of occasions that my controller turned itself off because I hadn’t pressed a button in so long, and sometimes the game teases you with a fight and instead takes you into another cutscene. This can get a little annoying by the time you get to the end of the game and you feel like you’ve taken a back seat for some of the stories, but the cutscenes are impressive to watch, especially the ones that mimic the Disney films. Whether it’s watching the ending scene of Tangled, where Rapunzel’s mother has captured Flynn or watching Elsa create her ice castle as she sings Let It Go, sometimes it’s hard to tell whether these are the actual film clips or animated copies, and that is a huge compliment to the game. While these scenes are beautifully done, retelling the story already told in the film, some of the other worlds carry on the story where the film finished, and these are done equally as well.
For someone who has played the previous games in the series to pick up and play this one would find it all quite familiar, and sometimes that’s for worse. Combat is largely the same, allowing you to do your usual base attacks, magic spells and link spells, where you can call on Disney allies to help you out. All of this combined with some familiar worlds and a lot of familiar characters, makes you feel that no time has passed since Kingdom Hearts II, and although the game has progressed, maybe it hasn’t done as much as it could have done in such a long time. Obviously, the graphics have improved, as has the free-flowing combat and the overall feel of the game feels cleaner, but that’s not to say you won’t have problems with some awkwardly placed cameras and disjointed movement at times, same as before.
There are new keyblades to play around with, and consequently, new special attacks. Part of the fun is learning which ones are the best for the enemies you are up against. The ability to upgrade them, and also have three equipped to switch among at any one time, means the fights are partly strategic and part hitting the enemy with everything you’ve got. Add in some bonus attacks based on actual Disney rides and attractions, including pirate ships, teacups, rollercoasters, and carousels, and there is more bizarre fighting fun to be had than ever. There’s often a lot going on on the screen, with Sora, Donald, Goofy and usually at least one other character fighting it out, so figuring out what is going on can be a little overwhelming at times, but you also have one on one fights to deal with too, which mean another different strategy to get to grips with.
When you aren’t completing the story or fighting enemies, there’s a whole host of other activities to keep you busy too, including a special Flan heartless who has an activity for you to complete, such as beating enemies in a certain amount of time, taking the optimum picture, sliding down on Goofy’s shield and knocking down mini flans, amongst other things. You also have lucky emblems to look out for, a number of chests and treasures with regular and special rewards, and even mini-games to unlock and complete. The story is only part of the game here, and there’s probably an equal amount of time to sink in again once you’ve completed it in order to allow you to finish up everything else. On top of these, there are also side games to complete in some of the worlds, and ingredients to collect to allow you to cook food with Remi from Ratatouille. There’s a whole load of stuff to keep you entertained here, and with achievements linked to all of them, there’s great incentive to do them.
The worlds can be explored at your own pace even as the game offers recommended levels in different regions, but you can travel to and from them at your own discretion to complete the extra activities. Travelling between the worlds has its own experiences as well, with the gummi ship making a reappearance allowing you to fight enemies in space, discover constellations and find hidden treasures. It makes traveling between the worlds less of a chore and gives you more of a purpose to do so, and your ship can be customised to be as weird and wonderful looking as you like. The game will sometimes nudge you where it thinks you should go next, but for the most part it’s up to you, which creates a welcome feeling of agency.
Among the game’s 45 achievements, a lot of them will come from simply completing the story. On top of the story, you’ll want to do pretty much everything else the game has to offer. Completing all the sections of the Gummiphone, which tracks enemies, adversaries, lucky emblems, recipes and game scores will see another chunk of achievements unlocked. Leveling up Sora and keyblades will give you another couple of achievements, and you will have to sink a decent amount of time into the game in order to do anything, but it’s definitely time worth spending with the game.
Check out our Best Xbox RPGs Available in 2017 article for a compilation of other great games in this genre.
Fans of the series have been waiting for this game for a long time, and Kingdom Hearts III will not disappoint them. Both the new and old worlds are a joy to play through, and you are given the freedom to explore them as and when you want. The story is complicated, there’s no denying it, and this is not an easy jumping on point for people new to the series. If you put your time into this game there’s an abundance of rewards to get out of it, only tarnished by some minor gameplay issues. Sora’s last adventure is magical.
- Close care and attention paid to the Disney worlds
- Freedom to explore the worlds at your own pace
- Large variety of things to do outside of the main story
- Each world’s story stands on its own
- Chaotic but effective fights and gameplay
- Newly added Memory Archive helps you with the difficult story
- Complicated and hard to follow story with A LOT of cutscenes
- Some minor gameplay issues
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