Kingdom Hearts 3 is the twelfth installment in the franchise which started all the way back during the PS2’s starting years. With the series being as old as it is, it’s pretty clear that this installment will be many gamers’ first introduction to the series. This review is aimed primarily at those players.
If you’re familiar with the Kingdom Hearts franchise, then you’ll know it has a long and complicated history. If you’re not, then here’s a guide we put together just for you. Done reading it? Good. On to the review then.
The Story – A Confusing Mess?
Kingdom Hearts 3 is the conclusion to the Dark Seeker saga. While the series has spanned over multiple platforms, the mainline games have been restricted to the PS2 & now the PS4/Xbox One. The game starts off with the final scenes from Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8. With Master Xenahort’s return, our protagonist Sora finds himself without his power. Accompanied by Donald Duck and Goofy, Sora must travel across the realms in order to regain the power of awakening- the ability to restore lost hearts. With me? Good.
Now, if there’s one thing you need to know about this franchise, it’s the obvious Disney crossover. Sora’s world co-exists alongside those of our favorite Disney?Pixar franchises. Characters like Hercules, Mickey Mouse and even those from Toy Story and Pirates of the Carribean make quite an appearance here. Each of these worlds factors in with their own mini-stories to tell, which when strung together make the bigger picture. You could very well start the game midway through and still enjoy it and the story of that world. It’s the main story which, more often than not, gets confusing.
Gameplay – Classic, But Confusing Kingdom Hearts Fun
The core gameplay of the Kingdom Hearts series has always been hard to explain. At best, one might explain the games as an action-RPG. But that is too vague of a term to describe it. One moment you’re fighting bad guys with classic hack-n-slash moves, the other you’re flying a space ship and shooting lasers. There’s a lot of variety in gameplay here, which often reminds me of Nier: Automata. However, unlike that game, here it feels a lot more incoherent. With the bombardment of tutorials popping up in every level, you never feel like the game lets go of your hand.
We’re looking at roughly 30 hours of gameplay here, most of which is taken up by lengthy (and awkward) cutscenes. The little time we get to play the game is taken up by tutorials and new mechanics every so often. This leaves a bad taste. I love the Disney crossovers, but hearing Donald and Goofy go at it for the umpteenth time does get tiresome after a while. And while it may have been a central part of the previous games, as a gamer in 2019, Kingdom Hearts 3 feels a bit dated in its design.
Visuals and PS4 Performance- Pretty On The Outside
Ah, let’s talk about the better parts at play here. The character designs here are on par with any other feature-length Disney movie. I know that we might not get another Hercules film, but the animation and visual design here is the next best thing. Having played the game on the PS4, I could easily notice the lack of good optimization. To start things off, the game runs at a resolution of 1600 x 900 on the base PS4. The pro consoles (Xbox One X & PS4 Pro) can’t run it at native 4K, with the One X (the most powerful console on the market) running at 2560 x 1440.
To make matters worse, the game has an unlocked framerate. Now, normally that should mean smoother gameplay, but when frame times are not steady it gets jittery. The game targets 60fps across all platforms but seldom does it reach that target. The One X runs it at around 50-60 fps which is still good, but the rest of the consoles fall below it. The game does include an option to lock the frame rate at 30fps, but with a title with such a heavy emphasis on spontaneous action, it’s not desirable. For more about the performance, check here.
While the game itself does look gorgeous, it’s no use if I can’t really experience to the fullest.
Verdict- Does Kingdom Hearts 3 Deliver on The Promises?
Kingdom Hearts 3 is a fun game. But it never does anything beyond that. The moment-to-moment gameplay has its charm, as do its colorful characters, but to say that it’s enough for fans who’ve waited so long to play it is stretching it. I can clearly see the passion behind the project, but sadly most of it gets hidden behind the confusing & incoherent mess of a story that Square Enix has provided here. The game does provide glimpses of polish as a AAA title in 2019, with addictively fun battles and innovative gameplay mechanics, if only few & far between.