Three days have passed since I received my deluxe edition copy of Kingdom Hearts III for the PlayStation 4 and from what I’ve played so far, I’ve enjoyed. Since the game was announced in 2013, it’s been a long time coming for the fans of the Disney/Square Enix adventure RPG series. So, does Kingdom Hearts III live up to its hype?
The Deluxe Edition comprises of the game disc itself in the standard retail packaging, with a black steelbox case imprinted with the symbols of Mickey Mouse, hearts, and keys. The inside of the box is clear plastic, like the standard package. There’s also a small hard-cover book with different artwork of characters, items, weapons and worlds. It’s not glamorous, but cool to flip through. Finally, there’s small enamel pin of Sora wearing a crown secured to the outer packaging. Overall, not bad for $111.99 CAD (the game itself retails at $79.99 CAD).
For those who’ve never played a Kingdom Hearts game, the story can be daunting (even for someone who’s played all or most of), considering this is the third “main” title in the series, intertwined with half-dozen spin-off titles as well as remixes and remasters of the first two main titles. Without any spoilers, the first hour or so of the game helps recap the events previous to bring the player up to speed on what’s happened, who’s who and so forth.
As anyone who’s kept tabs on the development of Kingdom Hearts III knows that it this is a work of art. Over the years, clips from the game were shown at E3, D23 and whenever Square Enix felt like teasing fans, it generated a lot of buzz over how the Disney worlds are recreated in stunning detail, as well down to the outfits and weapons. With the power of the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles, Square Enix was able to take advantage of the hardware and the Unreal Engine to make Kingdom Hearts III so visually appealing. In an interesting twist, they kept the designs the same when dealing with cut scenes from previous games in the series instead of recreating them in this new space. I will say this, Kingdom Hearts III is cut-scene heavy, so keep that in mind as you will go 10+ minutes at a time without any battles or exploration.
The game-play is improved and Square Enix has crammed as much new functionality into the game as they can. Attraction Flow brings various rides and attractions from Disney Parks around the world to use to as well-timed and coordinated battle tactics — using Splash Ride, for instance, lets you move around and jump to create a trail, once Finish is selected, the ride follows the trail created to take out enemies in its path. It’s a neat way to take out large groups of Heartless in one fun swoop. With Mad Tea Cups, Sora, Donald and Goofy, jump into oversized cups and saucers which spin around and damage nearby Heartless or Nobodies. It’s not as nauseating as the actual ride, though. Shotlock is new allowing Sora to target multiple enemies or one enemy multiple times — it’s tricky to use as each use depletes the gauge; once expired it needs time to refill. In conjunction with Shotlock is Airstepping which allows Sora to jump to objects or bosses in the distance (also helpful in escaping said bosses). Airstepping still works if the gauge is empty, which is handy in tight situations.
Music is a huge part of the Kingdom Hearts franchise, and yes, there are familiar themes and leitmotifs — especially “Destati”, “Hand in Hand”, and more. But on top of these classics, there’s also new music, even songs from previous worlds were remixed to give them more oomph for this game. Of course, the biggest hit is the Utada Hikaru and Skrillex composition, Face My Fears, as the opening song for the game. It fits so well into the game overall, given how everyone has to overcome their fears to find those that matter to them. The voice acting is decent, considering the return of Haley Joel Osment as Sora, Tony Anselmo as Donald Duck and Bill Farmer as Goofy, though in some scenes the voices sound slightly awkward. And in Olympus and contrary to his character, Phil does not speak at all (not sure if Danny DeVito was available for the role).
My adventure so far with Sora, Donald and Goofy is off to a great start and I look forward to the enjoying more of the magic Kingdom Hearts III has to offer.