It’s been 13 years in the making and all signs are showing that we are finally reaching the end of yet another era in gaming with Kingdom Hearts 3. Without a shadow of doubt this game sits firmly atop many gamer’s most anticipated games of 2019 list, myself included. I’ve been a little too eager for this game, much to the horror of Cultured Vultures gaming division.
With every Disney world announced and recurring characters coming back into the fray, I was excited. With every detail I heard about its flowing combat and smooth transitions between action and exploration, I was head over heels. As a long time fan of the franchise, I could not express nor contain my excitement. Just typing this article is making my cynical embittered heart giddy with delight and whimsy.
With every tidbit and small morsel offered up by Disney and Square Enix since the game’s first teaser trailer way back in 2015, one can feel a little overwhelmed at just how much scope and scale that is being offered in Sora, Donald and Goofy’s latest outing. I have pored over every detail to give you a short list of what we know about Kingdom Hearts 3 and what we can expect come January 29th when it’s finally available to the whole world.
1. A Bit Of Closure
For some of us, January 29th could not come fast enough, KH fans cannot wait to familiarize themselves with old friends from a bygone era of the now familiar cast of heroes and villains, as well as being able to finally get some closure to some questions that have long confused fans of the series.
Let’s be honest here, whilst the overall narrative to Kingdom Hearts is simple to follow, the finer details of the plot require a PHD of some description to even be able to describe. The lore of the keyblade wars, who the seven warriors of light are and how Xemnas intends to rule the universe – I am a huge fan of the franchise and even I still get lost trying to keep up with the plot.
If you’re uninitiated, you should really go out and buy the remasters, but here’s the cliff notes version regardless. Kingdom Hearts is meant to be a tale of friendship, sacrifice and the question of what you would do from stopping the ones you love embracing the darkness and becoming their own worst enemy. It’s a story that rings all too familiar for those who may have gone through this in their lives and perhaps one of the reasons why the series has resonated with so many.
Hopefully this third installment is going to plug a lot of potholes that bog down this simple premise – such as Namine’s existence or the absolute confusing mess that is Ventus and Vanitas. It should probably go without saying though that in order to get those answers, Kingdom Hearts 3 is probably going to confuse us into submission just a little bit more.
2. Riding the Teacups To Battle
One of the many reasons why Kingdom Hearts is such a beloved franchise is because of its action mechanics. If you’re not fully versed in the often complex nature of the JRPG genre, the hack ‘n’ slash combat is accessible to anyone that might be attracted to the game’s remarkable visuals or the small fact it involves Disney.
While the franchise has experimented with fighting mechanics in the past, from the mix and match melding system in ‘Birth By Sleep’ to the card system in ‘Chain of Memories’ (*shudder*), the main titles have always had a simple to use, tricky to master combat system and we will see a return to that formula in KH3.
What we have seen in gameplay teasers and videos is that much of the fat has been trimmed down, though the “drop mechanics” used in ‘Dream Drop Distance’ have been thrown in for good measure. This will complement the already fast paced and often anarchic style to KH and give the player more possible options to gain an advantage in combat.
However, a mechanic that absolutely staggered me in bemusement when I first watched gameplay videos are the inclusion of Disneyland rides! It turns out that the rides in question are part of an “Attraction Flow” attack, which in part is a new addition to the game and are designed to be a part of the summons system. Seriously, how can you say no to a game where you combat the titan’s from Hercules, whilst riding the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad? You just can’t.
3. A Whole New World (or 5)
It’s one thing to bring in the worlds we grew up with as children, it’s another thing to bring back some of the original voice cast to these movies as an added bonus – here’s looking at you, James Woods, for reprising your role as the best Hades in media history. But 13 years is a very long time in gaming, and in that time, Pixar have gone from strength to strength.
Meanwhile, Disney’s animation department has bought on huge hits such as Moana, and they’ve absorbed Marvel and Star Wars into their ever expanding, ever gluttonous galaxy. While fans were left a little disappointed that Sora wouldn’t be fighting alongside Ewoks or Iron Man in this new installment, there are still some huge movie worlds that have been released these past 13 years to still get excited over.
Fans rejoiced with the announcement of a world based around Toy Story and have been very keen to play in the expanding world of Hercules Coliseum, but with movies such as Tangled, Monsters Inc and, my personal favourite of the bunch, Big Hero 6 making a splash in KH universe, Tetsuya Nomura seemed to have listened to long term fans into what Disney worlds we want to explore, even if that does include Frozen.
Whether we see some of the old favourites of Aladdin’s Agrabah or Halloween Town remains to be seen, but from what we have seen, there will be plenty of things to keep us ticking over until the credits roll.
4. Just a Brief Download
Just before we all tucked into the festivities of December, be it pagan solstice, Christmas or if you’re Pastafarian – holiday, Square Enix’s celebrations could have been cut to a dramatic nightmare, when it was reported that an Xbox One copy of the game was released 6 weeks early. Naturally this caused concern for a lot of KH fans who were rightly worried about spoilers, with even Reddit users for KH threads banning anyone who posts them.
Director Tetsuya Nomura has stated that he too was worried about the potential leak and spoilers but thankfully, confirmed to fans that the biggest spoilers – namely the ending, its epilogue and the franchise’s traditional secret ending won’t be revealed until after the game’s release.
While some more cynical gamers saw this as some sort of “cash grab” the fact is it isn’t; this will be a day one update, free of charge to everyone. According to some outlets, this day one patch will also come with a mini prologue movie that will serve as a reminder of previous events.
While we may live in a gaming world fit to burst with loot crates and other netherious means of making more profit, we can be rest assured that neither the House of Mouse or Square Enix is going to fleece us out of more money. At least, not just yet, mainly because Nomura has expressed interested in expanding the game via paid DLC. Either way, if you leaked this game early, you’re a bad person.
5. Fond Farewell
Speaking of endings, it’s been said by Tetsuya Nomura that this third installment will close the book for at least one character: Sora. He has promised some dark moments in this latest instalment, and if I have to be honest, I don’t think I’m ready to say goodbye. This is like Yakuza 6 and Kazuma Kiryu all over again.
While we cannot wait for Kingdom Hearts 3 to arrive, it will also leave the burning question of what will happen after the events of KH3? Saying goodbye to Sora may also mean saying goodbye to Riku and Kiri, Roxas or maybe Organization XIII’s turncoat Axl – or is it Lea in this installment? Probably need to get that memorised.
While it could be the end of an era, it could also be the dawn of a new one, with new heroes, villains, Disney worlds to explore and perhaps a far less complicated storyline that doesn’t leave any sane human banging their head against a wall.
Whatever may be the case, we may have to get the tissues at the ready when the final curtain call comes for the original cast. 13 years of memories, stories and adventure has finally led us to this point, and we can only hope the ending is fitting, well deserved and lights up the darkness in our hearts one more time.