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

Games TM - - CONTENTS -

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...

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