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Review: Kingdom Hearts III (PlayStation 4)By Sasari At 18.02.2019 19:20

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There are many properties where experiencing every instalment is not completely necessary; where a short recap or exposition dump can catch up the audience on what came before. Kingdom Hearts is not one of those franchises. To try and jump into the absurdly complex story at this point would give an experience that is enjoyable since, after all, many of the stories and worlds found within can be enjoyed by anyone from the hardcore Disney fan to a casual viewer, but the overall experience would be absolutely incomprehensible. At the very minimum, completion of the first two games is really necessary just to understand the basics and, honestly, to fully understand it's going to need a great deal more time invested. Those who haven't cleared Birth by Sleep and Dream Drop Distance are not going to understand certain elements. Even those who have cleared every game in the series would be wise to take a refresher, as the insanely complex and layered tale has gotten so big now it requires at least seventeen flowcharts, a lexicon of character biographies, and a timeline that would confuse Doc Brown.

In consideration of this, there's no way to summarise the story to this point here. Kingdom Hearts III picks up immediately after the conclusion of Dream Drop Distance. Master Yen Sid had outlined what had to happen for the heroes to succeed. Seven Lights were needed to stand against the Thirteen Darkness, and to protect the seven Disney Princesses. Seven Keyblade Masters. After the conclusion to Dream Drop Distance there were now two Keyblade Masters: Riku and Mickey. Sora failed his Mark of Mastery exam. Now, two new potential Keyblade Masters have begun their training, as Lea (Axel) and Kairi work with Merlin to become stronger. The final three Keyblade Masters need to be rescued. To that end, Riku and Mickey are diving into the Realm of Darkness to try to find and rescue Aqua, while Terra and Ventus still need to be found.

What of the giant-footed hero? Sora failed his exam and lost much of the power he had acquired over the course of the series. To recover this power, he is once again visiting Disney Worlds, old and new, to learn how he can regain what he has lost. While travelling, he meets a new Organisation 13, made up of members who seem to know Sora, although he doesn't know them. The story from there has to be seen to be believed, and it takes a lot more for it to be truly understood. The complex nature of the storytelling has not changed, and while many of the stages are just slight retellings of iconic stories, the overarching narrative is something fans will adore.

Some of the very best of Disney's worlds have already been used as stages in the other major games and the smaller spin-offs, to the point that it became a hot issue with fans just what worlds could be included here. The decisions those included will be a bone of contention between fans forever, with everyone having their favourite Disney film they would love to see included. What is actually included, though, comes down worlds based on Hercules, Toy Story, Tangled, Monster's Inc., Frozen, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Big Hero 6.

While these are the full worlds, they are neither the only worlds, nor the only Disney characters to be found. 1000 Acre Wood returns once more, there are plenty of Link characters - think interactive Final Fantasy Summons - of Disney favourites like Ralph, Ariel, Simba, and Stitch. Even Meow Wow from Dream Drop Distance. Then, in Twilight Town, Remy from Ratatouille is waiting to cook up a storm, hunting down food ingredients across the worlds to unlock mini-game activities that craft special stat-boosting meals. There is a whole host of items on Remy's menu and unlocking them all has the proprietor of the bistro keeping their new chef well rewarded.

These worlds give for diverse and divergent levels, in both presentation and gameplay. Take, for example, the Pirates of the Caribbean world. When it opens up, it adds in a whole new world of play by adding in underwater sections. It seems, then, this will be the gimmick of this world… until a little while later, when it adds in some Black Flag style ship sailing and naval combat. That must be all this world has, right? Wrong. The story continues with a huge open map of islands that open up and hidden away on each are collectibles and Hidden Mickey's aplenty.

The Pirates of the Caribbean world is absolutely gorgeous. Beautiful shores, crystal clear water, lush palm trees; it's an element shared in every world. Each is fully realised, looking absolutely beautiful in its own way. The overhanging willow trees with their branches tipped in ice that line the mountainside of Frozen. The heady heights of Olympus sit nestled above golden clouds. The metropolis of Sanfransokyo illuminated in the gorgeous neon signs. It's all utterly magical; each world perfectly capturing its source material - from the oddly uncanny valley of Johnny Depp, to the Pixar goodness of Mike and Sully, to the utterly charming 1000 Acre Wood.

The worlds also have a more diverse range of enemies to take on than ever. Heartless, Nobodies, and Unversed are all in attendance, alongside the iconic Disney villains, each coming in various styles fitting with the worlds they inhabit. The Frozen world has Snowmen Nobodies and Reindeer Heartless, Tangled has fluffy Dandelion Heartless, and Monster's Inc. has… well, Monstrous Unversed!

Mini-games and side activities have always been a big part of Kingdom Hearts and Square Enix has given plenty to keep this latest update interesting. Those previously mentioned Hidden Mickey items are a new collectible to hunt down. Anyone who has ever visited a Disney Park will be well aware of the "Secret Mickeys," the iconic Mickey logo built out of anything and everything, then hidden away in plain sight. There are sites dedicated to hunting them and it is a nice little distraction between queuing for rides and inhaling enough unimaginable amounts of sugar, Kirby style. Kingdom Hearts III has added the fun of this scavenger to the game. Here they are entitled "Lucky Emblems" and every world has a few scattered across it - whether it is the logo scratched into the side of a building, a suitably trimmed bush, or some conveniently placed rocks.

There are plenty of returning elements, too, including one that has been polarising to the fan-base over the years: the Gummy Ship is back. Traversing the worlds in a 3D space shooter is actually quite enjoyable. Hidden on those worlds are old school Game & Watch style mini-games to unlock and play on the Gummy phone.

How about the combat? The core of the combat is much the same as it's always been, mashing attacks with optional familiar Final Fantasy magic attacks. It's all style over substance, and here it's been turned up to 11. Donald and Goofy have always been able to throw in some extra team attacks, but now the team is able to summon rides straight from the Disney parks' Electronic Light Parades. Materialising a towering luminescent Pirate Ship that throws hurls waves at the enemy. A radiant stunning carousel spins, releasing waves of energy, damaging any enemies nearby. The Toy Story Buzz Blaster ship gives a first-person experience with a high score to rack up, just like in the parks. These get old when overused, and shouldn't be summoned as often as they pop up, but used sparingly and they are wonderful additions.

These aren't the only new additions. Gone are Sora's old forms; now his Keyblades are the ones doing the transforming. After completing each world, a new Keyblade is unlocked and each comes with its own unique combat style and attacks. The Shooting Star Keyblade can transform into a pair of arrow firing pistols that track enemies, which can then transform into a second weapon, a huge rocket launcher style cannon. The Keyblade from Monster's Inc. can transform first into a pair of robotic claws that do huge damage and can then transform into Yo-Yos. These Yo-Yos maintain the huge damage of their precursor, but add some massive AOE to the mix. Style over substance? Yes… but so… much… style. The combat looks stunning and is a fun mashy experience.

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Final Score
The prospect of Disney parks and reality are two very different things. No-one thinks about the crowded places, the huge bills, or the huge waiting times. They think about the Disney magic. Kingdom Hearts is very much the same. There are some negative elements, paramount of which is the utterly incomprehensible story and the repetitive gameplay. However, like the parks, all those negative elements are soon forgotten when experiencing the game. Each of the Disney worlds completely captures the magic of the movies, plucking the heartstrings and embracing the nostalgia. This is exactly what fans of the series wanted and, best of all, somehow, someway, all the crazy plot threads are dragged together, kicking and screaming, into an utterly satisfying conclusion. The prospect of [i]Kingdom Hearts III[/i] being the end of the road is a sad one. Sora's tale may be over, but there are so many other Disney worlds left to explore. The world needs a [i]Moana[/i] level with Mau'i helping to take on a huge Tamatoa boss. [i]Wreck it Ralph[/i] deserved its own levels, as did [i]The Incredibles[/i], and so many more. Here's hoping, one day, Kingdom Hearts will return.

9

/10

User Comments
#1 Insanoflex - on 18.02.2019 at 23:18

i quite enjoy the gamepay in this one.

there is alot to like... yet the story and how its told is still as incoherent as its ever been.


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