Kingdom Hearts 3 players can rejoice; Critical Mode is here, and with it comes a huge difficulty spike. Fans have been asking for increased difficulty since the game released, and veterans of the series found themselves not needing to block, heal or really think about combat for the majority of the game. A hardcore player even found a Critical Mode option in the game's files, lending credibility to the idea that a patch could bring players the added challenge they were hoping for.
Now Critical Mode has finally released, and it's possible the game's audience has bit off more than they could chew. Darkside, the game's tutorial boss, barely gave players pause on normal or even Proud Mode, but it takes two to three hits on Critical Mode to send Sora to an early grave before his journey has even begun.
Darkside uses a variety of skills that prevent players from simply rushing in this time--the almost harmless, floating purple orbs on Normal and Proud Mode now shave off a significant portion of HP if they brush up against you, and the homing missiles the boss fires at you need to be deflected, or it's Game Over for the spiky-haired protagonist. Considering the game has just started, Sora also has no way to heal himself through magic or items. For once, the boss commands a presence the giant monster just didn't have before.
Critical does a lot of things that Proud or Normal mode doesn't. Sora's HP and MP are halved, the AI gets a bit smarter and Situational Commands, better known as "pressing triangle when it pops up on screen" are greatly reduced. There's even a handy skill that removes the carnival rides, or Attraction Commands, which made the game a cakewalk before. In exchange for the difficulty spike, however, Sora gets access to a variety of high-level skills right off the back.
Heartless are more aggressive than ever before, and if you choose to take up the gauntlet, it's fair to say that more than one death will be caused by something body-slamming you from off-screen if you're not careful. Magic skills become homing missiles that need to be dodged or blocked, and the variety of enemies forces players to learn their movements to get an edge over the battlefield. Things get a bit easier once Sora levels up and has some good equipment to put on, but later bosses account for that, too. If you play Kingdom Hearts 3: Critical Mode without skill, you're going to die--a lot.
And fans love it. Let's Players are laughing with joy as they die again, and again, and again. Critical Mode might not be for everyone. The added difficulty makes for a less relaxed experience, but also a more palpable sense of progression when Sora's equipment and abilities actually matter, rather than being the backdrop to a button-mashing frenzy.
Kingdom Hearts 3 feels more immersive to play as a result, and the fun isn't over yet- more DLC is on the way, replacing the need for a Final Mix, or an ultimate version of the game. It's never been a better time to be a Kingdom Hearts fan.