Taylor Mitchell, A&E Editor
Connections are important. The bonds we develop with people define us and help us grow. In a way our friends and family are what gives us strength. This is the message of Kingdom Hearts, and it’s a message a lot of people hold dear. For me, it told me that maybe being alone isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. That is not even mentioning the fact that Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days is literally the story of a teenager learning to emote and develop friendships. This is something that, to me playing my first game of the series, hooked me in. It was a game that was about something I was going through in a very real way. The thing about this series is that over its 17 year history, a lot of people have stories like this one. It’s a series that resonates with people. I remember not long before the game released Kotaku and a few other publications made statements that the game wasn’t reviewable, at least not unless it was done by a fan. Now in the name of criticism, I wholeheartedly disagree with this assertion. Everything can be reviewed because every piece of media has an objective value, but I understand their sentiment. This game is so wrapped up in its fanbase that it has become, to its fans, as a game outside of the mass market. To these fans it is a product made for them alone. I don’t think this follows the intent of the developers, or even the reality of mass media. I can, however, understand the idea. Yet, this is enough philosophizing let us get on with the review.
First off, is the gameplay. This game is all about options. The main form this takes is situation commands, which are a hybrid of Kingdom Hearts 2’s reaction commands and Birth By Sleep’s command styles. They have a multitude of different effects and unlock requirements and can do several different things. You can summon theme park rides, transform your keyblades, trigger combination attacks. They are optional, but offer a good variance of abilities that make them interesting to use. I specifically like that, for the most part, they don’t feel as mandatory as reaction commands could be in Kingdom Hearts 2. They can be helpful in tough spots, but you don’t really need them which just feels nice. Athletic flow is also a welcome addition to the base formula. Having Sora run on walls and dart from pillars is super fun.
Another part of gameplay are the gummi ship sections. These space shooter sections feel better than they did in 2, due to their greater focus on exploration. The space between worlds feels like an actual world to itself which is something it had previously lacked. Controls can be a bit weird at times, especially when trying to make the ship dive, but you eventually get used to them. While I enjoyed my time with it, I feel like some people may not like the huge gameplay change of these sections. With that in mind, its will likely be up to each player to decide how much they want to engage with it, and some may enjoy it more than others. I will add that the customization options for the gummi ship is the most robust and easy to use it has ever been. So even if you don’t like the flying you sure to like the building.
Second, we have the story to look at. I over all thought it really holds up with other games in the series. There are some interesting twists and turns to it. I want to say that I sometimes felt like the trailers showed to much before release, but that ended up not being the case. The game also has some really epic moments, especially when you get close to the end. It still has the problem of not being great for newcomers, but by the end it does give a decent enough explanation for most things. I also want to say some of the Disney stories aren’t the best. Specifically when they are trying to tell the story of the film, like in the Frozen and Tangled worlds. Since they stick so close to the films they don’t really have that much for Sora and the boys to do until the end. The boss fights for these worlds are two of the more creative and epic in the game, but that is their highest point. I am also annoyed that they randomly include songs in the Frozen world but not in the Tangled one, but that comes down to preference. With that in mind I do want to say the Pirates of the Caribbean world doesn’t really have this same problem despite telling the story of the franchise’s third film. This is generally because it instead chooses not to really focus on that story and instead make it more about the overall plot. The original stories in the other three worlds work much better, they fit into their film stories after they happen and give the gang more to do.
Kingdom Hearts 3 is the game I think most fans wanted. It’s a good game that respects its history while trying to welcome new people in. Is it perfect? Not a chance but I don’t think it has to be. All it has to be is significant to the people who have been waiting on it for so long. I think it does that very well. I also think that with a bit of a recap, new people can easily come in and enjoy it. It’s a game for fans that tries its best to be for first timers.