Kingdom Hearts 3: The 13-year wait is over

Story and Photos by Oscar Carranza

Fans of the “Kingdom Hearts” series have been waiting since 2005 to continue the main storyline and it's been a busy 13-year wait. Since the second in the series was released, developer Square Enix has released four games that can be considered side stories, but hold crucial information for the story’s development. 

“Kingdom Hearts” is a Japanese role-playing game from the same developers as Final Fantasy. The series made its debut in 2001 with a character cast consisting of Sora, the main protagonist of the mainline series, Donald Duck, Goofy and other Disney stars.

“Kingdom Hearts 3” is an accumulation of the best features the previous titles had from combat and storytelling to visuals and mechanics. The verticality becomes a crucial feature to many zones like “Big Hero Six” San Fransokyo, adding depth to the levels and the fighting mechanics have been refined to favor fast-paced, flashy combat.

“KH3” takes place immediately after the events of “Dream Drop Distance” and “2.8.” It begins with Sora, attempting to get his strength back as the immediate objective. The second half feels like a different game and focuses on the story we have all been waiting for. In order to gain his strength, Sora travels between worlds including Disney’s “Tangled,” “Frozen,” “Hercules,” as well as Pixar’s “Toy Story” among others.   

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The switch to the Unreal Engine proved crucial; the game’s features and animations look beautiful. “Kingdom Hearts 3” has become a cinematic experience with cutscenes featuring cinematic techniques that carry emotions. The in-game camera has also been refined, certain battles begin with the camera panning towards enemies to add drama. 

“KH3” truly captures the magic that Disney and Pixar encapsulate, from the color pallet, animations, stories to the writing. Special battle moves incorporate amusement park rides, which are executed amazingly and add to the fighting mechanics.  

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The worlds are phenomenally created. Square Enix has managed to transition the cinematic plots into a video game without losing any of the emotion. Seeing Rapunzel fall in love with Flynn Rider or Buzz Lightyear and Woody Pride strengthen their friendship is powerful and just as magical as the movies they use. 

However, by no means is “KH3” a perfect game. The pacing of the first half of the game is bad if you’re not the type to be swept up by worlds. Yes, the Disney and Pixar worlds are visually nice, but not all of them translated their plots as well as others and some don’t give enough context needed to follow along. The “Pirates of the Caribbean” world is a perfect example losing those who haven't watched the movie and this applies to any of the other worlds as well.

The small additions of effects also improve the experience on a minor scale but ultimately adds up. The addition of a phone camera to find the new collectibles in the game adds a different dynamic as you can point the camera at Goofy and Donald Duck where they will strike a pose or comment on the picture.   

I was swept up by the original “Kingdom Hearts” at a young age and it proved to be the perfect time to dive into Sora’s story. With the massive wait, many fans may lose interest or are no longer swept up by the story. The magic and beauty of the games may be lost to many simply because the time gap. 

“Kingdom Hearts 3” is not a game for newcomers and feels geared towards the hardcore fanbase. There is no way for someone new to the series to pick up “KH3” and understand the story. Lucky for those interested, Square Enix has released “The Story So Far,” which includes every game prior to “KH3.” Unfortunately, it’s only on the PlayStation 4.

By far, “KH3” is the most exciting and beautiful game in the series when it picks up in the second half. It attempts to make sense of the chaotic story and succeeds. For anyone on the fence, “KH” is still the same game you played when you were younger and worth picking up.  

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