King­dom Hearts 3

HANDS-ON WITH THE LONG-AWAITED RPG

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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

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