Kingdom Hearts III: A Simply Sad Nostalgia Trip

The inception of the “Kingdom Hearts” series coincides with the childhoods of many of the video game fans of today, and it holds a central place in their hearts to this very day. “Kingdom Hearts” is a beloved crossover between the vastly different worlds of Disney movies and a Square Enix role-playing game (RPG), winning over fans from both backgrounds. Square Enix, the developer behind a multitude of RPGs including the beloved Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest franchises. The protagonists of “Kingdom Hearts” stand out from these other games by exemplifying what true friendship looks like and how it can overpower any evil in its path. All of these elements had seemingly come together to make “Kingdom Hearts III” 2019’s Game of the Year, and many critics have ballyhooed its merits from all corners of the internet. Despite this, “Kingdom Hearts III” winds up more tangled than a strand of Rapunzel’s hair.
To cover the plot of “Kingdom Hearts” in its entirety would require a small book, but a couple of the main plot points can be explained in order to found a basis for understanding. The story begins on the aptly named Destiny Island, where the main character, Sora, lives with his friends Riku and Kairi. Their peaceful life is interrupted when a portal appears and Riku, eager for adventure, leaps through, with Sora trailing close behind. Sora enters the portal, but he does not find Riku on the other side. Instead, he meets up with Goofy and Donald Duck, who are on a quest to find a hero that can wield the legendary keyblade for their king, Mickey Mouse. Over the course of the first game, Sora and his Disney counterparts bond and become an inseparable trio powerful enough to take on Ansem, a puppet villain controlled by the true baddie of the franchise, Xehanort. All of this is a testament to the strength of the friendship between Sora and both his island and Disney friends, and how good always overcomes evil.
All of this does not sound too bad until you consider the fact that there have been 13 games released between the first game and “Kingdom Hearts III,” only one of which is a mainline entry, causing for innumerable storylines to have to be explained, to the best of the story writers’ abilities through cutscenes that seem to drag on for hours. After being freed from the shackles of confusing plot points, the gameplay feels like it is fun, but upon close inspection, it does not really hold up. The majority of the combat consists of hitting the X button until the special bar is filled up, which grants the opportunity to perform a special move. The special moves are dazzling visually, but they take too long to perform and are exceptionally unbalanced. Despite those major detractors, “Kingdom Hearts III” is still a pretty darn good game. The exploration and world-crafting have never been better, the musical score is fantastic, and it is immensely satisfying to have some form of closure regarding the characters and Xehanort. Despite that, all of the good elements found in the game wind up being crushed by the high expectations that fans of the franchise had since the conclusion of “Kingdom Hearts II.”
Barring longtime fans and people who just want to have a flashily animated romp through their favorite Disney worlds, the plot of “Kingdom Hearts III”, which is convoluted at best, and the mediocre and repetitive combat (press X to win) holds the game back from being one of the greatest games of 2019. That aside, it does fill a hole that had been 13 years in the making. To see Sora, Goofy, and Donald reunited once again is a priceless experience after the barrage of spinoffs that never seemed to be able to recapture the magic of “Kingdom Hearts I and II.” Nostalgia can blind some of the worst parts of the game, but in the end, “Kingdom Hearts III” is a victim of circumstance by being on the receiving end of the spinoffs’ plots and limiting combat systems.