There is a light, and it never goes out

Reviews

“Kingdom Hearts 3” is a return to form, but underwhelming finale

3/5

by Ramon Razo, Managing editor

It’s been almost 15 year since players were able to join Sora, Donald, and Goofy on their battles against darkness. While “Kingdom Hearts 3” could never fill the hype-hole left in the souls of many fans who have waited 2 entire console generations that doesn’t mean the game gets a pass on being a well-crafted but ultimately weak series finale. Whether it’s worth the wait is really something that only be gauged on a personal basis, and it’s an equally difficult task to try and rank this in the series as a whole.

“…Once we set sail…it’ll be great…”

Entire websites have been crafted discussing the game’s convoluted story. What is important here is that this is not a game for people new to the series to jump on to. While the game features some useful and very entertaining videos to recap previous titles, if you’re even just a casual fan who longs for the days when concepts of keys, doors, hearts and sea salt ice cream were more metaphor than anything, this game will just disappoint. The game is a series finale to 15 years and almost as many games, so much like “Infinity War,” it’s not a stand-alone piece.

“There will always be a door to the light.”

All it takes is a cursory glance at “Kingdom Hearts” and its massive words to see that the game is jaw-dropping. Graphics in modern gaming isn’t something that always stands out; you need to have a punch or style. Whether its being able to create characters designed only for two dimensions, snow effects, dazzling particle and light effects, vibrant colors and even photorealistic pirates, KH3 might be one of the best-looking games we’ve ever gotten, if not for the sheer vibrancy and life flowing through everything.

Adding to the spectacular presentation is Yoko Shimomura’s incredible score. Even non-fans of this series are likely familiar with the incredibly powerful and touching pieces she’s made over the course of 20 years, and this new game is worthy of the praise she’s received for prior entries. The game’s level music draws inspiration from the setting in both their environment and film settings, crafting some mood-setters that are as catchy and memorable as pieces like “Twilight Town” and “Destiny Ilse.”

Also, in the sound department, it’s nice having so many recurring voice actors, both from previous games as well as actors reprising Disney roles. As it was in previous games, there is a certain “anime” vibe for some line delivery, but none of it is deficient. It’s also just nice to know Haley Joel Osment, even after 15 years, can still draw out a 15-year-old kid voice.

“Darkness is the heart’s true essence.”

While the look and sounds of KH3 are all wondrous to behold, issues really start to pile up when players pick up the controller. The Kingdom Hearts series has never been the most complicated RPGs, nor the most technical action game. An RPG is never going to play like “God of War” or “Devil May Cry,” since an RPG will always heavily incorporate stats, but “Kingdom Hearts 3” has regrettably gutted both of those elements.

KH3 has a lot of really good ideas built into its core gameplay from previous titles like shot-locks and free flow. There is even some interesting, if at times tedious, diversions from exploring and fighting. However, what drags everything down is a lack of challenge. Anyone who had similar issues with Square Enix’s “Final Fantasy XV” will also feel the same unease here. A good measure for quality gameplay is how the game challenges players to make meaningful decisions over a certain time, allowing the player to be engaged with what they are doing.

KH3 has engaging visuals and a lot of incredible looking tools. The issue is that it doesn’t require you to gauge what does and doesn’t work.

For instance, when engaged with a horde of enemies, while you are responsible for keeping track of where you are in battle, dodging and healing, all tension and challenge is gone when the game allows you to pull off incredibly powerful team moves. “Attraction” attacks, and key blade transformations that while are pretty due massive amounts of damage to enemies while costing the player nothing, and that doesn’t mean magic points. It means that doing these incredibly powerful attacks doesn’t open up the player to attack, requiring they think fast, and none are demonstrably better than the others.

An overpowered arsenal like this removes a lot of agency from the player. What you’re left with is a game that looks so very, very cool but requires little from the player other than they chime in here and there for upkeep.

Pulling things all together, please do not misconstrue that “Kingdom Hearts 3” is a substandard game.

Far from it.

There is obviously a lot of polish leveled at every aspect of the game, from the slick menus to the incredible amount things to do. The problem is that the game takes severe steps backward in terms of how the game plays and plays-out, even though it draws from so much good material from previous entries. If you’re willing to put up with a game that requires little from you in terms of challenge, but a lot in terms of investment, “Kingdom Hearts 3” is a colorful adventure worth diving in to.