WHY WE MARVEL AT THE AMBITION OF KINGDOM HEARTS III
Square enix’s latest RPG is offering more mechanics and more fan Service than we can keep up with
format: PS4, XBOX one | Publisher: Square enix | developer: Square enix BUSINESS division 3 | release: TBC 2018 | Players: 1 “AT ITS CORE, KH3 REMAINS A GAME ALL ABOUT FAN SERVICE, ALMOST ABOVE ALL OTHER THINGS”
We’re likely looking at a 12-year gap between the launch of Kingdom Hearts II and Kingdom Hearts III, but the development team seems to have gone to extra lengths to make sure that the wait seems justified. This isn’t a simple expansion on old ideas or a slightly prettier re-skin of the series. Tetsuya Nomura and his development team have set their sights higher than that, and we’re more and more impressed with the results every time we see it again.
At its core, KH3 remains a game all about fan service, almost above all other things, and in this respect it fully embraces the world of Disney in ways that would be unimaginable before. Each world appears to be its own beast, with Sora, Donald Duck and Goofy adapting their look and playstyle to blend into their surroundings to even greater degrees than we’ve seen previously. But it goes beyond simply looks, with Sora taking on a monster persona in Monsters Inc. or becoming a toy in Toy Story. Even his combat abilities appear to be unique to each world and level up as you build your combos and attacks.
The newly revealed Monsters Inc. stage is a good example of this as Sora’s keyblade takes on a new, more industrial look in the factory, turning into mechanical grabbing arms after a while and then finally (although perhaps not finally, but this is all we’ve seen in action so far) into two yo-yos that can be swung around and become huge spinning blades or crushing weights, depending on the attack. By extension, each of these weapon states has its own unique moves and combos attached to them, creating a lot of variety in the realtime action experience.
Small touches from the previous games carry over too, such as the command menu changing its style to match the world you’re currently exploring. There are also more significant elements though, such as the appearance of a Laughter Power meter in the Monsters Inc. stage that seems to react to the laughter of Boo, the young girl from the movie. What that might unleash once it’s full we’re not sure, but it suggests even more location-specific gameplay will be available.
Speaking of travel, the Gummi Ship makes a return as your means of transport between Disney worlds, but with improved functionality to be enjoyed here too. There will be two distinct modes to using it, with an exploration phase allowing for full 360-degree flight and much larger areas to fly around than have been in the series to date, and a battle phase that takes you into full dogfight mode with a lot more enemies to face than has previously been the case. Given the scale of some of the combat we’ve already seen on the ground, the promise of Gummi Ship combat sounds very enticing indeed.
Which brings us back to the moment-tomoment play that will ultimately be the mainstay of the experience and the impressive scale on which it will all be taking place. The addition of two extra squad members alone means that in each world you’ll be picking up characters to join the fray and command along with Goofy and Donald, but the power of the Unreal Engine, which wasn’t even the engine originally intended for this sequel some years back, is really being brought to bear. Not only are there more characters on screen than ever, but the particle effects from combat and the way in which enemies react and interact with Sora has been vastly improved. And the way in which bosses and world traversal have been combined are mightily impressive, bringing to mind some of the fluidity and scale of a game like Sunset Overdrive more than classic Kingdom Hearts. The Toy Story boss in particular is insane in its execution, with floating platforms and objects flying all over the place. We’ve been tempering our expectation for a while having waited so long for this sequel, but we’re really starting to be won over by this new adventure and its impressive new features.
Left: ariel has been revealed as an assist character, appearing here in a tangled stage. this has been taken to mean that an underwater stage may not be likely, but you never know. Perhaps more exciting is the potential for summon characters with some...