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Feature Article

Kingdom Hearts 3 Shows The Series' Charm Has Not Gone Away

Adventures in Disneyland.

If there's one thing that's harder to grasp than the complex story of Kingdom Hearts is that the original game will be 16 years old this year. But with Kingdom Hearts III coming to PS4 and Xbox One in 2018, all those years of putting together the most unlikely groups of characters from the Disney pantheon with others from the Final Fantasy series will reach a conclusion. We recently had the chance to go hands-on with the game at a premiere event with the developers, and there was a lot to see when it came to series' growth over the years, and just how much things stay the same.

While we still don't know how the incredibly dense story will tie up in this game, we do know it picks up after the side-story Dream Drop Distance, with an older Sora continuing his travels with Goofy and Donald in tow. There's nearly twenty years worth of some intricate plot to be resolved in this conclusion, which will be a big undertaking. But in a strange way, the next game did show a sense of growth about it, giving a feeling that it's aware of its legacy and impact it's had over the years by showing more of Sora's maturity.

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Much like the previous games, Kingdom Hearts III is still a celebration of all things Disney. This also marks the first time that Pixar-themed worlds will be in the game, which includes Monsters Inc. and Toy Story. In the demo, we got to play through portions of the early worlds you'll explore, which recontextualizes the iconic locales of Disney films to fit the space of an action-RPG. As the first Kingdom Hearts game on modern consoles, the next game takes advantage of the new hardware, featuring some impressive visuals. Playing on Xbox One X, performance was mostly solid, save for some dropped frames during some of the hectic combat encounters.

First up was Olympus, a more combat-focused section, pitting Sora and the gang against a massive Titan. In order to reach the Titan, you'll have to run up the cliff-face while raining down large boulders from the mountaintop. This section also helped introduced many of the more stylish contextual abilities and skills in Sora's repertoire. One such ability is to call in various Attractions, allowing Sora to conjure vehicles themed after Disneyland rides--such as the train from Big Thunder Mountain and the rideable tea cups from the Mad Tea Party ride. These Attractions are not only gorgeous spectacles to watch in battle, but also offer interesting ways to switch up your tactics while dealing damage in rapid succession.

The Toy Box world--based on the Toy Story series--was where things really opened up. Transforming the trio into action-figures based on characters from a video-game, they team up with Woody and Buzz Lightyear to stop the Heartless from taking over toys as they search for their missing owner, Andy. But in familiar Kingdom Hearts fashion, similar events from the film clash with the conflict dealing with the Heartless, resulting in some bizarre, yet oddly satisfying encounters. You'll start off by exploring Andy's room, before eventually moving onto the Galaxy Toys store to battle Heartless-possessed toy robots and kaiju action-figures.

Kingdom Hearts III maintains Kingdom Hearts II and Dream Drop Distance's focus on movement, and it utilizes a number of special combat moves that change depending on the location and party makeup. One of Sora's new skills is to transform his keyblades into new weapons for a limited time, allowing him to open up new combo attacks and special crowd-control moves. One such Keyblade can transform into mage's staff, summoning a large sand tower to damage all enemies nearby. Moreover, team-focused attacks also make a comeback, including the standout Rocket Charge special where Sora, Woody, and Buzz ride a firework rocket as they ram and spin into enemies before jumping off as the rocket explodes. And of course, summons are still present, but now a part of the Link system. With it, you can call in support from Ariel and even Wreck-It-Ralph, who places special blocks that can stun nearby enemies.

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These were undoubtedly fun to use--and a bit surprising to see how off-the-wall many of these skills are--they can be tough to keep track of, with all the moves and skills you have at your disposal. This might have been because the Toy Box level is a little later on in the game, where you'll have new weapons and abilities to use, but it felt overwhelming and somewhat daunting to try and figure out the mechanics of these moves, how to activate them, and which ones to use exactly for certain situations--which has me worried that some younger fans may find themselves lost with certain aspects of gameplay.

Diving into these two worlds for Kingdom Hearts had me wishing I could experience more, especially with the new visuals and increased scale of each world. While it was overwhelming to get a handle of the new mechanics, and the frame-rate drops during some moments felt jarring, I did feel some reassurance that things were looking good for the next game in the action-RPG series. Perhaps it was nostalgia playing into it, but there was an extra twinge of excitement in seeing these characters come back in a big, if somewhat bizarre way. Which seems to be the norm for the series.

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Avatar image for JVII
JVII

Because it never had any.

Avatar image for ecs33
ecs33

Wow this looks great. Haven't played KH since the original. I think I'll pick this up.

Avatar image for naruto945
naruto945

I'm still gonna buy it but I'm slightly bitter about it I'm about to be a dad in October I was 13 when I beat KH2 for the first time they just simply took too long I'm not even sure if the gameplay still appeals to me.

Avatar image for bobbo888
bobbo888

I love when you're a grown ass man but play video games with Disney characters....

Avatar image for csward
csward

@bobbo888: Some people have the confidence to do what they love without worrying about the judgement of others. You'll understand when you grow up.

Avatar image for bobbo888
bobbo888

@csward: confidence has nothing to do with the fact that your maturity level is on par with disney.

Avatar image for JVII
JVII

@csward: And some people have the mental capacity to recognize when they are wasting their time on a game with absolutely no depth in any regard. Open a book or watch a TV drama series for an exponentially more intellectually stimulating experience.

Avatar image for timthegem
timthegem

The Cubs won the World Series. Donald Trump became U.S. President. Full House and Roseanne came back. But nothing is more shocking than Kingdom Hearts III being more than just a ticklefart.

Avatar image for genji_shimada
Genji_Shimada

@worldserpent: You're on your own with that last part.

I and most of the world will be buying this day one. This game won't go on sale until 2 years after it releases. Its going to beat GTAV in sales.

Avatar image for bobbo888
bobbo888

@genji_shimada: Sooo you're a Donald Duck and Goofy fan huh?

Avatar image for boodleout
boodleout

@genji_shimada: dude, Disney is way too late to the party. I couldn't give a flying poo.

I'd repurchase no man's sky before this and before that I'd hunt down Sean Murray and make him give me my money back.

Avatar image for deactivated-5b0457a4d6084

@genji_shimada: No chance in hell in beating GTAV in Sales, please stop eating shrooms.

Avatar image for naughtydog94
Naughtydog94

@genji_shimada: Either you're incredibly deluded or just trolling. Most people in the world don't even own a games console. KH3 will be on sale within a few months as with other any other game. Furthermore GTA V is the third best-selling game of all time (behind Minecraft and Tetris) with over 95 million copies, and the most financially successful entertainment product of all time, among other records. Kingdom Hearts 3 is not even considered the most anticipated game of the year. How can you think it will be beat GTA V in sales?

Avatar image for deactivated-5b0457a4d6084

@naughtydog94: id go with incredibly deluded.

Avatar image for deactivated-5b0457a4d6084

@worldserpent: Yup No Chance

Avatar image for Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

Good lord how long will it take to make this game.

Online
Avatar image for HAWK9600
HAWK9600

It's "The Series's"

Avatar image for zmanbarzel
ZmanBarzel

@HAWK9600: No, “series’ “ is correct, or at least more correct. While “series” works as a singular noun (which would then use apostrophe-s), it’s also a plural when you’re referring to the individual components and not the whole. In this case, it’s the individual games that have charm, not the overarching entity composed of those games.

Avatar image for HAWK9600
HAWK9600

@zmanbarzel: Nah

Avatar image for Smosh150
Smosh150

@zmanbarzel: The Grammar Nazi correcting the Neo-Grammar Nazi. The younger generation must learn the true teachings.

Avatar image for deactivated-5b2c8e0382c99

@Smosh150: I’ve never understood why people call other people, “grammar Nazi.” You mean they want you to spell something the correct way? Oh no. Do you also call doctors, “medical Nazi” if they tell you the correct treatment of something? Do you call engineers “engineer Nazi” if they want something built correctly? Do you see my point? Calling someone a “grammar Nazi” is just plain dumb.

Avatar image for Smosh150
Smosh150

@frosty988: Taking things too seriously is just about the same. Especially when it was an obviously silly comment.

No, I called them that because I found it comical, nothing else to it. I was actually going to correct the guy myself until I scrolled to the comment below. The (s') possessive is not always well known.

Avatar image for deactivated-5b2c8e0382c99

@Smosh150: I agree with you. I can assure you, I’m not taking it too seriously. It’s just an annoying subject for me. My frustration with it is how many people actually seriously mean it when they call someone a grammar Nazi. It’s never made any sense to me.

Avatar image for Smosh150
Smosh150

@frosty988: I getcha, I can totally understand little pet peeves like that. I am at fault in that regard for sure. Was just having a little bit of a laugh at saying something like that.

When they do seriously mean it that can bother me too, but my philosophy is if I'm doing the wrong thing I am alright with being corrected or correcting. Not that I'm perfect at grammar or punctuation, I don't really do it correctly 100% unless I'm writing something that needs to retain professionalism.

Avatar image for deactivated-5b8d89c601cb1

Oh my god this game is cute I wanna die!

Avatar image for freedom01
freedom01

one of the most anticipated games for this gen. Really looking forward to playing it.

Moderator
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Thanatos2k

@freedom01: It was one of the most anticipated games of last gen too........

Online
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freedom01

@Thanatos2k: how can it be the most anticipated game last gen, when SE officially announced it at the beginning of next gen in E3 2013?

Moderator
Avatar image for rawkstar007
rawkstar007

@freedom01: Where is this rule that says a game has to be officially announced before it can be anticipated? Doesn’t that, you know, partially defeat the fun of it and make it borderline contradictory? Someone should call the Half Life 3 conspiracy theorists ...

Avatar image for freedom01
freedom01

@rawkstar007: let me just clear this up, Im not saying that you cannot anticipate a game until its officially announced. What I'm trying to say is that the people were not going crazy for it due to the fact that SE never making any official announcements of it and also stating in 2010 that they are not working on it.

What they(SE) were doing were releasing side stories one after another, leaving fans wondering when SE will be going back to the main storyline. So it was hard to be anticipated for a game that SE was not working on at the time.

Were fans hoping that SE would announce and release KHIII last gen? Of course, but Nomura himself already said in an interview in 2010 not to expect a release of KHIII during their Kingdom Hearts 10th anniversary for 2012. Also SE was busy working and releasing side stories and prequels for it, a release for the game last gen was seen as not happening.

As soon as this gen started with E3 2013 with confirmation of the game, that's when fans went crazy.

Moderator
Avatar image for Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

@freedom01: Because we've known they've been working on it for much longer than that, and there was no Kingdom Hearts game the entire PS3 era.

Online
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freedom01

@Thanatos2k: There is a difference between speculating that the game is is being developed and a game being officially announced. And last gen, SE has stated that they were not working on KHIII due to being very busy with other games.

We knew the game wasn't going to release last gen since the gen was already ending. And SE already saying that they are not releasing KHIII for their Kingdom Hearts 10th Anniversary in 2012

Also, KH 1.5 and 2.5 were out on the PS3 era, though both did release at the end of last gen and during this gen respectively.

Moderator
Avatar image for genji_shimada
Genji_Shimada

@freedom01: I am sorry moderator-san, but you are wrong.

an·tic·i·pa·tion

anˌtisəˈpāSH(ə)n/Submit

noun

the action of anticipating something; expectation or prediction.

"her eyes sparkled with anticipation"

synonyms: expectancy, expectation, excitement, suspense

It doesn't have to be officially announced for it to be anticipated.

Also, was deleting my comment really necessary? I am very sorry. I did not mean to hurt anyone. I trust your judgment though, if you must delete me and remove my comments to make an example of me, then you must do what you have to sensei.

Avatar image for freedom01
freedom01

@genji_shimada: I already posted my response on what I'm trying to say, not posting it again. As for you comment being deleted, that was my mistake, was on mobile at the time and might have pressed the delete tag by mistake, so I'll restore that

Moderator
Avatar image for genji_shimada
Genji_Shimada

@freedom01: I apologize for what I am about to say moderator-san, but it was mentioned numerous times by square before being announced. It was supposed to actually be a PS3 exclusive originally. No, it may have never been officially announced, but make no mistake it was originally intended to be on PS3. I'm assuming that there were complications with Disney being involved. Disney won't even allow Kingdom Hearts to be digitally downloadable, so it is not a stretch to think they had a part in why it has been delayed so long.

Also, all other things aside, the game was one of if not the most popular PS2 series of all time and at least top 5 for that generation. The second game ended directly indicating a sequel. It was a huge financial success and was in no way a niche game. Even without an official announcement it was safe to assume they were making a sequel for PS3, it would have been stupid for any company to intentionally not release what would have been a console seller back then.

Again, I apologize master, please forgive me if I have insulted you or hurt your feelings.

Avatar image for freedom01
freedom01

@genji_shimada: "It was mentioned numerous times by square before being announced. It was supposed to actually be a PS3 exclusive originally"

Do you have any source to back up that claim, because I never heard SE say such thing. All they said was they are looking for possibilities but they had some problems with the consoles technical requirements. Never had they stated anything about being exclusive.

March 24, 2010: "About the next title, Kingdom Hearts 3 depends on Final Fantasy XIII Versus, but development of the next title is already underway. There are two titles other than Kingdom Hearts 3 in conception, and I think I’ll release one within this year. As from next year, I want to put out a title with multiple main characters." source

September 27, 2010: ""But the problem is that the opportunity of developing the sequel is not currently [possible]. The team is busy, I am busy.""

About a release for the PS3: "Yes it might be possible. It is my desire to develop the next Kingdom Hearts on the existing platform, but the problem with a new console is that it has new technical requirements ... So, yes, I'm willing to create something on the existing console because when we aim for another non-existing future console, the release of the title will be far in the future." source

September 28, 2010: Nomura said "2012 is the 10th anniversary of Kingdom Hearts, so we'd like to celebrate in some way. However, I'll say this in advance, just because it's the 10th anniversary, Kingdom Hearts 3 still won't be out." source

"I'm assuming that there were complications with Disney being involved. Disney won't even allow Kingdom Hearts to be digitally downloadable, so it is not a stretch to think they had a part in why it has been delayed so long."

No, SE themselves stated that they were very busy at the time with other games and had no time to work on KHIII. Not only that, they have stated that they had problems with the new hardware (PS3) meaning that they were having problems with the cell. Also, you can get Kingdom Heart HD 1.5 & 2.5 and 2.8 digitally on the PSN store

"Even without an official announcement it was safe to assume they were making a sequel for PS3"

The sequels they were working on was on the 3DS, other than that, they were working on prequels and side stories on the handhelds.

Moderator
Avatar image for TrueLink
TrueLink

It's starting to look like I can't keep putting off playing through Dream Drop Distance...

Avatar image for dacontag
dacontag

@TrueLink: definitely do. It’s really important to the story

Avatar image for lionheartssj1
lionheartssj1

This looks like fun. I really need to finish KH II, it fell way back on my backlog. Way back.

Avatar image for videogameninja
videogameninja

This is one of the few games (much like Final Fantasy 7 remake.) that is going to have a wave of high expectations upon release.

Fans and gamers have been waiting for what many would say has felt like an eternity. A part of me is worried that it will be almost impossible to live up to those expectations but then again when you hype a game and it takes years and years to come out it kind of comes with the territory.

-HYPE: DOUBLE EDGED SWORD NINJA APPROVED-

Avatar image for chrischronos
ChrisChronos

@videogameninja:

KH games for the most part have always delivered and kept the fanbase happy.. Don't think that's going to stop any time soon.

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