Having not played any other Kingdom Hearts game, I was excited to go into this one. I had heard a lot about the story, characters, combat, and world-building of the series. But as I played through it, I never really fell in love with it. There was almost always something that put me off from whatever it was that I was doing. Whether it was Donald incessantly bringing up ingredients, or the float-y simplistic combat, or how easy the game was, or how awkward the writing was. There was always something that stood between me and my absolute joy in playing the game.
That being said, almost everything is at least passably well done. There are a ton of mini games you can play on your Gummiphone (of which most are actually quite fun), the cooking QTE’s add a level of interaction to something that could have easily been delegated to a simple short cutscene, flying around in the Gummi Ship is fun at times, taking a ship onto the sea in the Pirates of the Carribean world can be quite fun. But nothing is ever truly amazing.
And that is this game’s greatest problem. It does so, so much. It has the coverage of a large lake or sea. But the depth of a large pothole filled with water. If driving the car represents playing the game, running into the water-filled pothole represents actually playing the game. It’s fun to drive the car around and do donuts in the parking lot, but this parking lot is filled with potholes. Every time you hit one, it just ruins the moment a bit too much.
Despite these many, glaring issues, Kingdom Hearts 3 manages to not only avoid being abysmal, it actually succeeds in being a good game overall. While almost everything falls just short of expectations, there is so much here to latch onto. As it turns out, doing donuts is still fun even when hitting potholes.
While most of the worlds here are simple re-workings of scenes from their respective movies, worlds like Monstropolis, Olympus, and Toy Box offer new stories. The Hercules movie was a huge part of my childhood but the Olympus world was fairly underwhelming. Also, I don’t know if they just couldn’t find a voice actor or something, but Phil doesn’t talk in this. The guy doesn’t shut up in the movie so it comes off as extremely awkward when he shows up here but doesn’t say a single goddamn word.
Notable worlds (for me) were 100 Acre Wood, Arendelle, and Toy Box. 100 Acre Wood is simple and compromised of only a few mini-games. But these mini-games are fun to play and a run in with the Winnie the Pooh characters is always welcome. Arendelle’s world was well put together and the story here plays off the movie fairly well (despite being slightly too expository). It also contains a rendition of “Let It Go” which is a fantastic song (and I will defend this position whole-heartedly – Frozen was a great movie with a great soundtrack).
But the real star of the show is the Toy Box world, based on the Toy Story series. By far the most interesting level in the game in terms of both story and in terms of gameplay and execution. It was a TON of fun flying around in the different mechs that were available (the mech controls were actually really well done) and the level was fun and intuitively designed as the player makes their way around Galaxy Toys. The story here was also original and it was just great to see Rex and Buzz and Woody and the rest of the gang here again. Toy Story was likely the biggest movie of my childhood (and Toy Story 2 is still one of the greatest sequels of all-time… OF ALL-TIME!!!).
In terms of the story, I was sometimes lost and unable to keep track of what was going on. Despite this, I feel like the complexity of the series’ story is often over-exaggerated. As someone who had never played any of the prior games (and there are a lot of them), I didn’t feel COMPLETELY lost the entire time. I was actually able to put together a lot of what happened in the previous games which helped me to understand what was happening in this game.
If you couldn’t tell, I am quite divided with my feelings on this game. On one hand, it is technically impressive and has a lot of decent content to offer. On the other hand, it is extremely flawed. But in my opinion, the game’s strengths greatly outweigh its weaknesses. And I am definitely going to go back and play all of the other games.
Kingdom Hearts 3 is an extremely well-made game with a ton of heart but also a ton of flaws. Many levels clearly had more time put into them than others, but none of the levels are particularly bad (though some are pretty boring at times). The Toy Box level alone lifts this game up considerably as it is easily one of the best gaming levels I have played in recent memory (Caution – Heavy nostalgia detected!). At the end of the day, I can only call this game ‘great’ because anything less than that wouldn’t be an accurate reflection of the game at its best.
8/10 – Great