Kingdom Hearts! Oh my gosh and golly gee it's finally here! I feel like this is a bookend to my High School life, thirteen years after it should have ended. To give you some context into what I'm talking about, the original game launched in 2002 for the PS2. It was a weird mishmash of Final Fantasy, Disney, and original characters all joining into one epic RPG. I honestly thought it looked incredibly strange in the previews, but oh baby was it amazing. Chain of Memories was a nice distraction on the GBA, but 2006's Kingdom Hearts II was where it was really at. That was a few months away from me graduating in fact. So what do I mean when I said this new game is like a bookend for High School?
Well, I've loved the spinoffs that have come out after the second game, but my passion felt so solitary when it came to playing them. Friends who were once into it, were growing out of the hardcore mentality because of the varying degree in quality of said spinoffs and because they weren't on a mainline console. So High School was the pinnacle of the fandom, not just in my area, but I think 2006 was the last best year for the series. I'm sure a lot of other people have fallen off since then and are just coming back now some thirteen years later. Is it everything they wanted? Is it everything I wanted? Well, that's a discussion for another time. First, here are some helpful tips and revelations that may make the first few hours better.
25 It’s Been A Long Time
Kingdom Hearts III has been a long time coming. The last game to come out was Dream Drop Distance for the 3DS in 2012. That is unless you want to count the HD collections or the mobile game. For me, I'm going to go with "I've been itching for a new entry since 2012 and maybe even 2006." Basically what I'm getting at is, I wasn't expecting how emotional the title screen was going to make me. Hearing the music blast and seeing that logo, Kingdom Hearts III, was a triumphant moment.
24 The Choices Don’t Really Matter
Kingdom Hearts III is an amalgamation of everything the series has brought to light since the franchise began in 2002. For example, like in that game, you could choose how your character would progress. Well, that returns now, albeit a bit truncated. Don't worry though. Whatever choices you make will only affect how your leveling up will begin. For example, if you want to focus on magic, you'll get more mage-like abilities up front and more warrior-type skills later on. You won't be missing out on anything. The order will just be different.
23 Lip-Syncing Is Mostly Fine
While that title screen did have me in tears, Kingdom Hearts III has a rough start for various reason I'll get into. One of the most jarring things that had me worried was the lip-syncing.
You shut your mouth when you’re talking to me!
When Master Yen Sid was talking to Sora, Donald, and Goofy, his mouth movements were ridiculously off. I was basically like, uh oh, but thankfully that does not reflect the majority of the game. It can be off sometimes, but I would say 90% of the time it's all good.
22 Kingdom Hearts 2.9?
Besides the lip-syncing issues, Kingdom Hearts III has a pretty slow start. In fact, after you do all of your setup and watch some cutscenes, the game has the gall to put on the screen, Kingdom Hearts 2.9. I laughed and screamed at the same time. Going into Olympus, the world based on Hercules is essentially a tutorial level. It's completely new from anything this universe has shown before, but because it brings back characters we've seen in every game, it still felt like a rehash. Not bad, just slow.
21 Zero EXP Mode
Are you a tough player that has to prove to others that you are superior to them? Well, good news. If you find Kingdom Hearts III too easy there is an ability in your menu (from the start for Sora) called Zero EXP. Equipping it will make sure you do not level up for the entirety of the game. So if you want to start from level 1 and end on level 1, that is entirely up to you. It's not for me, but good luck to all of you hardcore players.
20 Same Old Kingdom Hearts Charm
Aside from the lip-syncing, cutscenes can still be kind of, uh, let's say a little hokey. The deliveries are all good, even if they have different actors. They don't drag on thankfully, but they are kind of ridiculous.
What is Donald trying to say?
I thought in all these years, for a PS4 game in 2019, it would be different, but in a way I'm glad it hasn't changed. Kingdom Hearts has a certain charm to it and if you don’t gel with it, it can be incredibly off-putting.
19 Where Are All My Save Slots?
One of my favorite things to do in any entry in this series is to create multiple saves in multiple worlds. At the very least I may save in the beginning and at the end just so I could say, as in an example in Kingdom Hearts III, play Toy Story in its entirety, or go to the end to fight the final boss again. Well, it's a bit trickier with this game because there are only 9 save slots compared to Kingdom Hearts II, which had 99. Yeah, I would say that's a step back. At least there are autosaves now.
18 Can You Hear Me Now?
One of the most jarring things about this game is the fact that Sora now has a cellphone, called a Gummi Phone. This should clue you in that Chip and Dale made it for him. It has a lot of uses like being able to call friends during certain points in the game to further the story. This is also where Jiminy Cricket writes his journal and data entries now. Best of all it has a camera, which is used for a variety of mini games.
17 Mickey’s Hidden Emblems
One of these mini games is finding Mickey's emblems. Now here's where my tip factors into things. You don't get the Gummi Phone until the second world, aka Twilight Town. In Olympus, I saw at least four Mickey emblems and just thought they were cool Easter eggs so I didn't take note of their locations.
Did Mickey plant all of these himself?
Oops. I had no idea this was a mini game. So don't be like me. If you start to see some emblems in Olympus, make sure you remember where they are.
16 This Boy Is On Fire
One of the crazier things I wasn't expecting was Sora reacting to attacks. Everyone talks a lot more now, even out of battle, which is cool, but this is different. For example, if a Heartless enemy shoots fire at Sora, or if you wander into fire, Sora will grab his behind and jump into the air, which reminded me of Mario and old cartoons. It kind of interrupts the flow of battle at times, but it is a nice little touch.
15 Top Chef Sora
Another thing that gets unlocked in Twilight Town is being able to cook. Sora will stumble upon Remy, the rat from Ratatouille, on his travels. You then learn he's a chef at Scrooge McDuck's bistro. Here you can gather ingredients and play short mini games to cook food. Eating said food would grant you boosts to stats for about 30 minutes, depending on your meal plan. Games have done it before like the Tales of series, or Monster Hunter. It's not original, but it is a welcome addition.
14 The Worlds Are Alive
While Olympus had me kind of down, there were some cool revelations in it that I wasn't expecting. One of the craziest things was the fact that there were now NPCs. Yes, NPCs were in Kingdom Hearts games before, but they were few and far between.
Square Enix is overcompensating for something.
Olympus was just a taste, because there's a lot of NPCs now and some of them even have related side quests. It seems like Square Enix took the criticism from fans about having big empty worlds with no one in them.
13 So Many Mechanics…
As I said earlier, Kingdom Hearts III has brought in a lot of stuff from every game in the series. The biggest of which is in the gameplay. The form changing from Birth by Sleep is alive and well in the Keyblades, letting them take on new shapes like spears and hammers. There is flow-motion from Dream Drop Distance, which basically lets you parkour off of walls to then strike foes. It's a lot to take in, but you can ignore it and just mash X if you want. Don’t get too anxious.
12 Mini Open Worlds
One of the most impressive improvements comes in the form of the world integration. Kingdom Hearts III is like a set of mini open worlds. Before, areas were kind of small and had a lot of loading zones. There are still some loads, but every area is huge with seamless integration from one area to the next. Some worlds are more incredible than others. I think my mind is still trying to grasp how The Caribbean was even possible. It's very ambitious, to say the least.
11 You Can Warp Between Save Points
It's disappointing the save slots have been reduced, but on the other hand, there is autosaves so that almost balances itself out. Another handy feature is being able to access every save point in a given world so that you can warp around.
Saves the hassle of backtracking.
In the other games, if you were landing on a planet, it would ask where you want to go, but now its even better integrated. It helps out a lot, especially when returning to old worlds to track down secrets.
10 Attractions Are Ridiculously Overpowered
Another great thing about combat are the Attractions. It's not really explained how Sora can now magically summon these classic rides from Disney Land into existence like the teacups, but it doesn't really matter. They're all pretty dang cool and super useful. In fact, I would argue they make the game a bit too easy as they are incredibly overpowered. Using them in normal fights is one thing, but summoning them in the middle of a boss battle seems unfair!
9 Graphics Take Awhile To Get Used To
Kingdom Hearts has looked the same, artistically, since 2002. It doesn't matter if we're talking about the PS2 hardware, or the Nintendo DS. Every game looks the same and that's okay. I got used to the art style for over a decade. Then our first taste of the new look was in Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue with Aqua's new prequel chapter. It looked weird then and even weirder now in Kingdom Hearts III. It doesn't look bad; it's just incredibly jarring like going from 2D animation to 3D.
8 Where Am I Going?
For the most part, Kingdom Hearts III adheres to modern game design, the biggest of which is the aforementioned autosaves. Phew, that saved me a lot of hassle. One of the worst letdowns though is the map. Yes, there is a mini map, but you cannot look at the full thing.
This game needs a map patch, stat!
You can't even enlarge the mini map at all. Because the worlds are now huge, this made tracking things down a lot harder. I still can’t believe it.
7 Kupo Coins
Since the very beginning of the series, Sora had an ability called Second Chance, that allowed him to stay alive, with 1 HP, even after being dealt a fatal blow. It was a random chance of success, but it was still something. While that still returns, there's also an item called a Kupo Coin you can buy at a measly 400 Munny. It will automatically revive you on the spot, but the catch is you can only buy one at a time.
6 Speed Up Combat
As I mentioned earlier, combat can be pretty hectic what with all the new mechanics and button prompts flashing on the screen. Going into Attractions, or summoning characters can be cool and powerful, but the animations take a while. If you go into the options menu, you can shorten and even turn some of these animations off, making combat flow just a tad faster. These animations were cool to see once, but I definitely advise you to turn them down, otherwise you'll get burned out.
5 Everyone Is Here To Fight
In the first two games, Donald and Goofy join Sora. When traveling to new worlds he gained new party members like Aladdin from Agrabah. The thing is you could only have three party members in your team at a time meaning one had to stay behind. In my case, I always chose Goofy because Donald's magic was just too good.
You got a friend in me.
This time not only do you not have to switch characters out, many of the worlds give you two members. For example, in Toy Story world, both Buzz and Woody will accompany you.
4 The Key To Combat
There's a lot to love about the combat, but my absolute favorite thing is the improvements they made to the Keyblades. After each world, and through various side quests, Sora always got new Keyblades. They looked cool and had some individual bonuses, but they all acted the same. This time not only can you equip three Keyblades for battle, but as I mentioned earlier, they will now change forms. The one you get from Toy Story world will transform into a hammer and the Hercules weapon will turn into a yo-yo-like shield.
3 Control The Stacks
If you don't know what you're doing, or what things are happening on screen, battles can be overwhelming. As I said, there's a lot to take in. The weirdest thing is that abilities will stack above your normal menu bar. At first, I thought you had to use them in order, as I'm pretty sure the game doesn't explain this. However, if you hit L2 it will switch the order. This would have made the game a lot better in those opening hours, I tell you what.
2 Gummi Ship Evolution
Chip and Dale have also improved your Gummi Ship, aside from making you a phone. Well, I guess in this case, they didn't make the world more open, but you get what I’m going for here.
A whole galaxy of candy.
This time space is open. You can go from world to world at your leisure, or explore the vastness of space and look for secrets. It took some getting used to, but it was a change for the better.
1 Spells Are More Dynamic
Depending on the form your Keyblade takes, spells will also take on a different form. Normally a fire spell will launch at any enemy like a missile. However, if you get the Toy Story Keyblade into its hammer form and use fire, it will surrounding you like a burst shield. Another cool thing is that if you use a bunch of the same spells in a row, it will prompt a more devastating version of that spell at no additional cost. As I said, there's a lot to the mechanics.