Kingdom Hearts 3
HANDS-ON WITH THE LONG-AWAITED RPG
It’s all too easy to become distracted by the addition of Pixar worlds and characters to Kingdom Hearts iii, but there’s a whole lot more to this long-awaited sequel than mere fan service alone.
Sure, you’ll be able to cause havoc in the world of Toy Story with Buzz and Woody by your side, but what’s more interesting is that there’s more to the combat than ever before. Kingdom Hearts II featured fairly simple button-mash-friendly action-rpg systems that only became a challenge once you raised the difficulty up to brutally punishing levels. Kingdom Hearts III, on the other hand, aims to tone down the mashing and keep players engaged at all times (and across all difficulty levels) thanks to rapidly changing combat.
Some of these ideas are new, while others are drafted from a decade-plus of spin-offs and side-distractions. Protagonist Sora feels more mobile, while his signature Keyblade weapon can transform into different forms depending on what you’ve got equipped. In our hands-on, a Monsters Inc.-themed blade could transform into a set of enormous yo-yos that handled uniquely, offering a sort of area-of-effect melee move set to help decimate hordes of enemies in record time. Others add completely different types of abilities; the Tangled Keyblade turns into a magical staff, awarding you with ranged, mage-like abilities and unlocking a whole new combat style.
This focus on keeping things fresh also leaks into world design and series staple mechanics. One new summon ally is the titular character from Wreck-it Ralph, with the player taking direct control to build and destroy barriers around enemies. Little mechanics like this feel dynamic and exciting in a way Kingdom Hearts hasn’t before, with this vision carrying over to world design that features more interactive touches and gimmicks that we found to be charming and satisfying.
This is the stuff that we found most exciting about Kingdom Hearts III. We’re pumped to adventure in the worlds of Pixar and are thrilled at how gorgeous it looks, but by far the most exciting thing about this long-awaited sequel is how it appears to be working hard to add significant depth to the series’ now-dated formula.
Kingdom Hearts III doesn’t feel outdated at all; it does, in fact, feel pretty fresh, rejuvenated even. The way you can joyfully ricochet from one unique mechanic to another within the flow of combat without interruption only helps contribute to the overwhelming feeling that Square Enix has created a playable theme park here.
The Disney crossover elements are, of course, as charming as ever, and yes, there’s still a sprinkling of convoluted plot lines in sight, but all of this is familiar and to be expected. The way this game handles feels new. Where exactly that magical Disney fairy dust has been for the last ten years of stodgy spin-offs we don’t know, but with Kingdom Hearts III the series feels like it finally has its mojo back.
“THE ENTIRE DEVELOPMENT TEAM IS POURING THEIR LOVE FOR THE FRANCHISE INTO KINGDOM HEARTS III AND IS STRIVING TO CREATE A GAME THAT ALL PLAYERS WILL ENJOY. WE ARE CURRENTLY AT THE LAST STAGES OF DEVELOPMENT, BUT WILL WORK TIRELESSLY UNTIL THE END TO DELIVER THE VERY BEST KINGDOM HEARTS GAME TO DATE” TETSUYA NOMURA, GAME
DIRECTOR, SQUARE ENIX BUSINESS DIVISION 3