I may have very positive feelings about Kingdom Hearts 3 – it may be my favorite Kingdom Hearts game and a front runner for Game of the Year – but I’ve got a lot of little problems with it too, which really do start to pile up…
I mentioned before that the game really drops you in with a ton of tools at your disposal – which is a great variety and freedom for long-time fans, but straight up overwhelming for newbies like me! I gravitated to a handful of spells, keyblade forms, and whatever specials I got through my companions or attractions, but rarely touched shotlocks, summons, or figured out how flowmotion works. Speaking of specials, summons seemed worse than ever and with only five available makes me think they were kind of an after-thought. I got a lot of use out of Simba for a spammable AOE for mobs of small enemies, but every other one seemed needlessly confusing or time-consuming. The attractions on the other-hand were way too frequent and basically impossible to avoid triggering – you can just ignore them, but they can easily clog up your menu. They’re fun the first couple of times, but take way too long and are underwhelming. I never felt like the Splash Run attraction ever killed anything and using any of them changes the music to a much worse battle song. The train was amazing both times it showed up in the story because it was a scripted set-piece and didn’t over-stay its welcome.
While I enjoy the freedom to skip Gummi Ship battles for the most part, the ones you could partake in were super dull and repetitive without any distinguishing visuals. You always just float in place as enemies swarm in front of you – snore! The Hundred Acre Wood was never my favorite locale, but at least the previous games had some variety to it – this time it’s just three of the same boring Candy Crush clone with zero strategy or skill, just keep shooting in the same spot over and over again and hope you get lucky. I guess I should be thankful there weren’t more bad games. The old-fashion retro Game-and-Watch games were a fun idea and throw-back, but 80% of them are trash. I had fun with the lawn-mowing one, the whack-a-mole rhythm game, and the octopus one, but any of the sports ones were absolute torture.
The Toy Box is tied for my favorite world, only because the toy store was needlessly complicated in certain parts. It was hard to keep track of where you needed to go next and each store had a lot of twisting maze-like vents and corridors. Arendelle is just as lifeless with the same pacing issues as the film – you’re literally just climbing up the mountain, falling back down, climbing up again, just to go back down again all with the same repetitive backdrop. San Fransokyo and The Caribbean suffer from the opposite problem, they have big open areas to explore, but their main objectives can be completed faster than any other worlds making them feel weirdly hollow. I wasn’t interested in fully exploring them until the end-game, but at least I kind of enjoyed the aesthetics of The Caribbean and the ship combat was okay. I had high hopes for Monstropolis and when I realized it was a pseudo-sequel to Monster Inc 1 I was really intrigued. Unfortunately, while riding the door rails was cool, the rest of the world seemed like a generic factory level. We don’t even see any other monsters besides Randall, even some generic background monsters without dialogue would liven the place up. And boy, was Randall a disappointment, we don’t even get to fight him, and then we just let him casually walk back through the door.
That’s another small annoyance, Kingdom Hearts is insistent on always fighting generic heartless bosses instead of Disney villains. We get the Titan fight and Davy Jones (the best bosses by the way) and everything else is, like, a dumb wolf or a blob monster. Even if they’re just quick mini-bosses I wanted to clash with Randall or Zurg or Hades again. Just another way the Disney stuff is less and less relevant. And even the Final Fantasy nods are completely gone now, minus spells and Moogles. I never thought they were interesting characters, but their absence seems so weird. I kinda wish Nomura would commit to a really fleshed out Final Fantasy scenario like Midgard or something. The number of worlds we got was sort of light, but for the most part they make up for it in scale. On the flip-side, it was so strange that Twilight Town was so tiny, why not add at least one other zone? I mean, I’ve always preferred Traverse Town, but it felt odd not having any sort of central hub world, especially since most of the worlds can be completed in a single visit. And needless to say, the end-game farming for the Synthesis achievement was down-right agonizing. Without a guide I would’ve seriously pulled my hair out – why wasn’t there an unlockable perk to make rare drops more frequent like most other mainline KH games?!
The first thing I noticed was that this game is 99% voiced which is an incredible achievement. Unfortunately a lot of the sound-alikes were super weak, which is more apparent for these iconic Pixar films. Woody and Jack Sparrow were the most notable flops – Jack was the most obnoxious because he always sounded like he was doing Jack’s fake authoritative voice instead of his more wily charismatic mannerisms. The animation was flawless on all accounts which just makes the voices stand out like a sore-thumb. It’s at least not as bad at the KH2’s voice acting. They built up Kairi and Axel from the very beginning as these new keyblade recruits who were gonna help us in the final showdown and they get completely bodied in the first fight we see them in at the very end of the game. I know Axel is a fan favorite, and he has some pretty incredible lines, but hot damn was he a disappointment.
And Kairi, Kairi, Kairi… why on Earth is this character simultaneously so significant and so irrelevant? From the very beginning of the series, she was the girl-next-door damsel in distress and her inclusion felt justified, but every time we save her – nothing ever happens and we promptly forget about her. It’s not even clear if Sora and Kairi are even into each other, Nomura seemingly goes out of his way to diffuse any romantic tension between them – even making Sora and Riku’s interactions feel more genuinely romantic. Kairi was such a bit player in the rest of the series cause she had nothing to offer, but then we gave her a keyblade, so maybe she’ll be… oops, she’s just a bargaining chip again. There’s no pay-off here, and Nomura refuses to let these two kiss or have any satisfying resolution, instead he lets them hold hands through a portal and then Sora’s like, peace out I’m going to the real-world now ~ Bye!
And oh boy, did they ever sell the box. I can only assume this unsatisfying series of red herrings is the launching point for the next KH series, but I can’t help but think it’s all a big commercial for Unchained. The Ephemer reference and all the keyblades in the final Heartless fight were genuinely amazing fan service, but the side-plot of Malificent and Pete and the gang looking for the box had one good pay-off with Davey Jones’ heart box totally being something that would be significant in a KH game, but totally isn’t.
I absolutely wasn’t surprised that everyone who’s ever died has come back and even the characters we thought were dead can come back with super convenient replica technology. All the friend trios are reunited and most of the Organization guys were redeemed or plotting to backstab Xehanort the whole time. Also, if you needed 13 darks to fight 7 lights, why did I need to fight all 13 of them, my buddies were pretty useless in the final showdown. Xehanort’s motives and redemption felt earned, even though it was the most convoluted and retarded way he could have gone about it. But overall these nit-picks didn’t detract from me fully enjoying the game and easily recommending it to fans and first-timers alike!