Kingdom Hearts 3 serves as the conclusion of the Xenohort saga. The story takes place after all of the spinoffs and main games of Kingdom Hearts and it continues Sora, Donald and Goofy’s adventures into stopping the Heartless. Xenohort’s plans are nearing fruition and the darkness is slowly becoming more powerful. Other Disney villains are planning to use the darkness to further their own goals.
Sora has lost a lot of his power after the events from the previous game Dream Drop Distance because he failed the keyblade mastery exam. He embarks on a journey to regain his lost powers and to stop Xenohort once and for all. He also must find the new 7 hearts which represent the purest form of light through the Disney princesses from the more contemporary Disney films in order to combat the darkness. He must also seal the keyholes to prevent the heartless from returning and invading the worlds.
A lot of new and older characters make their appearance. Axel, Roxas, Xion, Ansem The Wise, and the Birth By Sleep main cast all appear in the game. Organization 13 along with many other villains also make their appearance. Organization 13 still pursue their goal of becoming whole again and they work closely with Xenohort considering he was the original leader. Xemenas is the nobody for Xenohort like how Ansem is Xenohort’s heartless. They help Xenohort with his plans of using the darkness for his own personal goals and they represent the 13 darkness which is a purer form of darkness.
The story continues its established concepts and themes like the never-ending battle between darkness and light and about friendship. There are many different plot twists in order to keep the story unpredictable, interesting and full of surprises. Sora has learned a lot over the series and he has become a lot more mature but still retains his fun loving, curious nature. His deep love and kindness to others and his willingness to help has not diminished by his experiences.
The story is more accessible to newcomers now as the memory archives serves as a recap to help veteran and rookie players to remember and understand the very complicated story the series is so noted for. It is also a fairly long game and the stakes are higher than ever now. The chemistry between Sora, Donald and Goofy is still there and his interactions with other Disney characters work well. The characters are all very likable and the Disney stories are still highly faithful to the original works.
The controls are familiar to older players and accessible to newer ones as well. Sora feels very free flowing and agile and quite smooth to play. The camera feels comfortable and easy to use. The journal and user interface are now updated to take on a smart phone like interface. It contains very extensive information on the lore, characters, enemies you encounter and worlds you visit. The year the characters debuted and tips on how to defeat the enemies are once again very useful. It also shows the body models of the characters that’s fully rotatable like in previous games.
The Disney styled user interface on the gummiphone looks pretty creative and easy to use making it easier to keep track of your progress. The user interface like in Kingdom Hearts 2 takes its own unique style depending on which world you visit. In Arendelle, it can use a snow and ice design. Situation Commands forms also have their own user interface. Costumes change to suit the world you visit.
The combat is the biggest highlight in the game. It mixes in many elements from all of the previous games while refining and improving it to create its own original format. As in the previous games you can customize the combat to your own personal playstyle and preferences such as going for a balanced approach or focusing more on strength, protection or magic and sacrificing one or the other.
Keyblades are your main form of weapon once again and the gameplay still mixes in the JRPG elements with fast paced hack and slash gameplay. You unlock many different kinds of Keyblades as you progress and explore on your journey. Attacking in mid air with its flow motion mechanic feels unrestrictive and very agile. This improvement gives you the chance to attack from all directions at fast speed. As in previous games, armor and accessories have their own abilities, strengths and weaknesses. The Ultima Blade returns in this game. Being able to select any Keyblade at anytime during gameplay is a new feature. Combat is very dynamic, free flowing and acrobatic and it never feels repeated or stale in the game. Situation Commands forms from Kingdom Hearts 2 makes a return with each Keyblade having its own special form. One keyblade from the 100 Acre Woods turns into dual wielded guns shooting out honey. As you use it, it becomes more powerful like a rocket launcher that shoots out honey, and when the time runs out for the Situation Commands form, it unleashes a devastating attack. Sora’s appearance will also change depending on what Keyblade he is using.
There are many different new types of Heartless unique to the world you visit where you will have to fight Nobodies and Unversed as well. Locking onto enemies displaying their health and name is now an in game feature instead of an ability to unlock. You can still block projectiles and send it back to enemies and be able to dodge roll and attack enemies in mid air.
You can now have up to 4 allies depending on which world you visit. As in previous games, you can customize the behavior of your allies during combat if you want them to focus on offense or defense and you can equip different accessories and items to them and you can choose how frequent your allies can heal you during battle, either frequently or last resort. At certain points during combat, you and your allies can use special attacks for a short period of time and each party member has their own type of special attack. Woody and Buzz use a rocket to fly in mid air and attack enemies and when the time is up it unleashes a devastating attack. When you level up, you get more chances to unlock other party attacks to use in combat.
The AI in this game is a big improvement over the previous game as they are now more lifelike. Whenever they explore on their own, it can lead to additional opportunities for finding treasure or battle situations. Sometimes, there is party commands in order to travel across certain areas faster like Goofy using his shield as a sled to slide across the ground or Rapunzel using her hair to swing from ledge to ledge.
Summons make a return in the game and you can find more as you progress. Each summon has its own different types of attacks and abilities. Simba uses fire so you can jump in mid air causing fire damage to spread to enemies and when their time as a summon is up, they release a devastating attack to all enemies in the area.
Attraction rides are new feature in the game. They are based off many rides from Disney amusement parks and they occur in certain times during combat. They are used for a period of time to create massive waves of damages to enemies. They all have their own different functions on how to use them. One ride you can use as a carousel and pressing the right button at the right time will cause damage to the nearby enemies. The finishing attack for attraction rides happens at the end where many of the enemies are killed. You can get a high score depending on how well you did in the attraction ride segment.
The boss fights are bigger than ever and each has its own strategy on to defeat them. Enemies now attack in multiple directions and at a greater scale. As in previous games, you fight powerful types of Heartless and Disney villains. Scenarios are pretty over the top, fast paced and can be intense at times. There is one part of the game is where you fight 10,000 Heartless, Unversed and Nobodies. In some parts you do get to play as Riku and Aqua with their own movesets and abilities and the same kind of control scheme Sora has.
As in the Kingdom Hearts 1 and 2, you can equip many different special abilities like being able to glide in mid air or double jump for yourself and your allies. Finding AP points can help you to exceed the maximum limit of how much special abilities you can have at a given time for yourself and party members. Winning certain fights gives you access to new abilities to use in combat and more slots to equip accessories and armor.
You can also find strength, defense, and magic points to help you increase your damage output, and how much damage you can sustain. Magic makes a return with a variety of spells like fire and blizzard and they upgrade into more powerful variants as you progress. Grand magic is a new feature in the game where during combat, casting certain spells like fire or blizzard enables you to use a more powerful and deadlier magical attack after using the same spell for a while. As in all of the other Kingdom Hearts games, defeating enemies will award you XP and items to help level up for you and your party members.
The dialogue is awkward and quirky but very entertaining. There is a good mix of serious moments and lighthearted slapstick Disney moments. The games humor is more self referential from jokes referring to the long development cycle and how certain characters like Axel, are popular with fanbase. The voice acting is excellent with many of the Disney cast reprising their roles and the soundalikes doing a great job impersonating the original voice actors. Its way more believable and emotional than the previous games. The characters are now fully voiced instead of using dialogue boxes.
The worlds are unique and more realistic. There are less worlds in this game but the focus more on size and what can you do in the worlds. The game takes full advantage of the next gen console capabilities like having seamless transitions and more details in the world environment. Much of the worlds you visit are faithful retellings from the original plot or new and original stories made for the world, like Big Hero 6 takes place after the first movie. The worlds have their own hidden secrets and Easter eggs to discover. In the Hercules world, you can create a shield for Goofy by finding the hidden forge and aligning the cauldrons in the right position to create the new shield.
There are about 3 different galaxies to explore each with its own hazards and places to discover. There is the occasional treasure sphere to find where you have to connect the lines in order to open up the sphere and grab the valuable contents. Shooting a meteor can also lead you to having either a synthesis item or a part for your ship. There are also certain streams where you can travel faster from place to place to reach to your destination. Also, there are checkpoints that you can use as starting points instead of your previous location.
Each of the world has its own unique gameplay mechanics and features. In the Toy Story World, you can control a robot through a first person format and to be able to play an in mini game where you can fight off other robots in an arena where the environment is very destructive and destroying certain features like generators can be used to rack up points leading to a high score.
Sora, Donald and Goofy now blend in well to the world and environment design and they can now use a ship, The Leviathan, to travel across the world. Naval combat is a new feature exclusive to this world. You can now dive underwater and even use the Keyblade during underwater fights too. You do not need to worry about running out of oxygen either so you can freely explore the underwater realms.
You use white crabs to upgrade your ship. Once you find them all, you can use the Black Pearl in addition to the Leviathan to travel swiftly to other islands. Exploring the seas and vanquishing enemies earns you a variety of items. The ship has its own Situation Commands attacks. Each weakpoint on the enemies’ ships has its own color representing what kind of Situation Commands attack you can use. Blue can be used to launch a tidal wave attack against the enemies’ ships. This is one of the most creative aspects of the entire game.
Problem solving is another important aspect in the game where you need to solve small puzzles in order to progress during the game. Flow motion makes a return from Dream Drop Distance and it plays an important part of exploration and the world are made to accommodate this feature. This will help you to access areas that cannot be reached through conventional means like in Dream Drop Distance. In certain worlds like Arendelle or Monsters Inc, you can not only grind on rails but use your Keyblade to attack enemies. You can jump from wall to wall like in Dream Drop Distance and jumping from a higher distance allows you to inflict massive damage to enemies. It is also used to open crates that cannot be unlocked by usual means.
Shotlock returns in the game and each Keyblade you use has its own effect on enemies. While not as powerful as in Birth By Sleep, its more balanced out in order to work with the other gameplay mechanics for combat but is still useful in taking out enemies from a distance. Shotluck can now be used as a grappling hook to reach from ledge to ledge which can be quite handy. You can even swing from pole to pole with the shotluck and sometimes it is also used for puzzle solving.
Wall running is a new feature where once you head close to a wall, you can jump on it and run across it. World exploration is friendlier to new players and gets fairly easy once you learn where to go. You can explore the worlds at your own pace. Objectives are varied and solutions are not always obvious.
There is also LCD Game And Watch type games scattered around the world and occasionally you can pick them up in Twilight Town at certain points based off early Disney cartoons. Each LCD game has up to 3 levels and it focuses on a different scenario based on the early Disney cartoons. The main goal is to get a high score. In Twilight Town, the LCD games you collect can also be watched as movies. The LCD games are overall fun and creative distractions and finding all of them will give you the retro Keyblade.
The art design and graphics qualityt are exactly like a Pixar film. Each of the worlds is very highly detailed and is an almost exact replica of the original films. The updated character and visual designs are great too. The animation is very well done and more fluid than before and the cutscenes feel very much like a Pixar film. The music is a mix of previous songs from Kingdom Hearts, some new songs, and some remixed versions of Disney songs. The audio quality has also greatly improved.
The game has its regular save points where you can restore health and magic and it also has an auto save feature now. There is a new feature where you can take pictures and selfies all across the worlds you visit. You can unlock different selfie poses as you progress and your party members can also take out picture with you as well. The game also has its own parody of social media where characters comment about the events happening in the game and this occurs during the loading screens.
The Moogle shop has photo missions where photographing certain objects or people in the worlds you visit will reward you with new synthesis items. They provide you hints as to where to go and what is it that the Moogles would like to have in their photo collection. Lucky Emblems are a new feature as well where they are hidden Mickey Mouse symbols all across the worlds. You can also take photos in the gummi ship of constellations, some of which are based off the Final Fantasy creatures like the Cactuar. Finding a certain amount of them will give you different rewards such as AP or magic boosts. The Moogle shop functions the same way as in previous games but there is a more variety of items to buy then ever in this game. Synthesis returns and you can find items to create a more powerful items and there are different recipes to create new synthesis items.
You can now upgrade your Keyblade by finding the right items in order to increase its damage and magic output. You can buy a rare kupo coin to restore yourself back to full health if necessary but it should be used only in extreme situations.
Buying a certain number of items gives you a postcard which you can send into Twilight Town in exchange for a free prize. Buying a lot of items will give you a moogle card which will give you access to exclusive and powerful items. You can buy from Moogles at the Moogle shop in any of the locations you visit near savepoints.
Gummi ship is the mode of transport from world to world in Kingdom Hearts 1 and 2 but this game is an incredible improvement from the previous games. The Gummi Ship sections are now fully explorable in contrast to the arcade style from Kingdom Hearts 2 and 1. You can boost the Gummi ship to go faster and barrel roll to dodge enemy fire. The ship’s movements are much more fluid than previous games. Instead of just being put on a set path, you now have full control over your Gummi ship and can choose your destinations. The scale of the Gummi ship battles has increased with more enemies appearing. Gummi missions have their own different objectives from discovering new worlds, constellations and defeating special boss type enemies. Completion of them will unlock new rewards relating to your gummi ship.
The customization is very extensive and each item has its own strengths and weaknesses. One could increase speed but the other can reduce attack or defense. You can find different items and blue prints to build or to customize your own ship and you can also buy ship items from Huey, Duey and Louie’s shop in Twilight Town or in the Gummi ship menu.
There is a wide array of ships to choose from each with their own stats where one area is either weaker or stronger than the other or balanced. You can equip teeny ships like in Kingdom Hearts 2 that helps you get more additional firepower for your ship. There is a new feature where you can equip different special abilities for your ship like being able to automatically repair it. You can use it as many times as you like when its fully reloaded. You can level up your Gummi ship to deal more damage and to take more damage through either missions or by collecting xp points. You can find different items for synthesis, munny or to level up or collect health/XP points for your ship.
In space, there is many hazards you encounter. There are volcanos erupting, metors flying around and deadly enemies that are given star ratings depending on how dangerous they are. The objectives are either surviving waves of enemies or taking out a certain number of them. You are graded depending on how well you did which gives you access to new and more powerful items. There are different boss fights in space and you have to hit certain weak spots in order to damage them.
Cooking is another new feature introduced in the game. In Twilight Town, you can cook foods with Remy from Ratatouille. Each food you make requires its own ingredients and follows its own recipe and each mini game has its own way to creating the recipe like cutting the ingredients or cracking an egg. The special menu becomes available after a while from gathering ingredients and preparing new recipes where you can create more powerful food to eat. Each world has its own unique ingredients and finding these will help in unlocking new recipes. You can also buy premade food and ingredients from the Moogle shop. Eating higher quality food provides better results. It gives you special bonuses for a period of time like increased health or defense and you can eat an entire serving in order to get more benefits. You can preserve your favorite food so you can have them on your journey. Eating a full meal will give you all of the special bonuses for a period of time. There is a lot of extras, replay value and stuff to do in the worlds you explore. Treasure chests are scattered around the worlds containing many different items to use during your journey.
Flans are special types of Heartless. There are about 7 of them and they each have their own unique challenge similar to the mushroom type Heartless in Kingdom Hearts 2. On one mission, you have to use the camera at the right time to get a pic of them doing out of ordinary behavior of what Heartless normally do by doing cute stuff. Completing them successfully will give you new items to customize your Gummi ship. Mini games are now graded based on your performance. Doing well gives more rare and powerful items. Each world has its own minigame. In Arendelle, you can go sledding with Goofy’s shield. You can unlock new difficulty settings after beating the game. You can re-watch cutscenes in theater mode. There is a hidden ending which you can get after collecting all of the Mickey Mouse emblems depending on your level of difficulty. Yozora is the epilogue where Sora and Riku wake up in a place that looks a lot like Shibuya in the World Ends With You. There is also a lot of story elements from the cancelled Final Fantasy Versus 13 game. One character appearing in the ending is based off Noctis Lucius Caelum from Final Fantasy XV. Verum Rex, a prominent fictional video game within the Kingdom Hearts 3 world is clearly based off Versus 13. The name itself is even Latin for true king, a very important motif in Final Fantasy XV considering Noctis journey to reclaim his throne.
Secret reports can be collected after you finish the game and you unlock them by defeating waves of enemies and powerful hidden bosses at scattered marks across the worlds you have visited. They help provide additional context to the backstory of the game. As in the other Kingdom Hearts games, there are some pretty odd and bizarre story decisions and gameplay design problems as well.
The characters in the story were not handled that well. Kairi is still a clueless person as she keeps leading Sora and Riku into many dangerous situations. Even as a Keyblade wielder, she really is very incompetent. Hayner, Pence and Ollete are still the stereotypical kids and not that different than in Kingdom Heart 2 or 358/2 days. Maleficent and Pete have very little to do in this story and they do not really do anything to stop Sora and his friends. You don’t even fight them at all in the game. Xenohort is one of the most dangerous characters in the entire series. The game creates a sympathetic backstory for him even though many of his actions were his own fault entirely.
The Final Fantasy characters are not there at all. They were very established core elements within the story and lore of the Kingdom Hearts series and were vital to stopping the Darkness throughout the Kingdom Hearts games. There was no explanation of what happened to them. There is no mention of them and its like they never existed. Radiant Garden is only in the cutscenes too and that was another important location in the series.
The main point of Kingdom Hearts games is a crossover between Square Enix franchises and Disney franchises and this is one of the most disappointing elements of the game. There is not much difference in the levels of difficulty. The Winnie the Pooh world is one of the weakest in the entire game. The mini games are really no different from each other and it felt forced in. The story itself felt like padding and filler instead of an original idea where Sora and Pooh go on many different adventures in the 100 Acre Woods. It was pretty short too and the overall story in the Winnie The Pooh world was unengaging and a complete waste of time.
The attraction rides in the game are way overpowered and it gives an unfair advantage in battle. One minigame you spent about 5 minutes looking for Olaf’s missing body parts in Arendelle and it was pretty distracting and it had no real purpose to the story and got in the way of the main story in Arendelle.
Some characters come back without any explanation or backstory. It is not explained how Xion suddenly came back to life after her death in 358/2 days and Namine only suddenly appears near end of the game.
Despite some small annoyances, Kingdom Hearts 3 is highly engaging and entertaining. There is a lot of replay value in the game and I had a great time with it. Its one of the most ambitious Kingdom Hearts games I have played. Kingdom Hearts and Disney fans will really enjoy this game.
The game does get about 5 stars out of 5.
Well I look forward to seeing where Kingdom Hearts go next and I also look forward to seeing how Noctis and Sora are connected and how is the next Kingdom Hearts games going to be utilizing the elements of Final Fantasy Versus 13 and also The World Ends With You in the next spin off or sequel.