I can hardly believe it, but Kingdom Hearts III is now a real game that I've really played. And I like! You should read my review before the launch of Disney crossover extravaganza January 29 for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
But as much as I enjoyed Kingdom Hearts III, Square Enix made better design and storytelling decisions in 2002 on the PlayStation 2.
I feel a little old when I realize that the first Kingdom Hearts is a retro game now, almost 17 years old. I mean, 17 years before Kingdom Hearts, we had two years to go back to the madness of Mickey Mousecapade in the Nintendo Entertainment System. And since Kingdom Hearts is retro, I thought about pointing out some of the things I would like Kingdom Hearts III to do, as well as its ancestor.
Keep in mind that some of the topics I talk about may be spoilers for you, although I will not talk about important events. But I will discuss things about the design and rhythm of Kingdom Hearts III.
Above: We're going to do … something.
Image credit: GamesBeat
Simple motivation of the character.
Kingdom Hearts has a simple story with characters that have clear objectives. Sora is looking for his friends. Donald and Goofy are looking for Mickey. That's why the trio explores all these Disney worlds. It gives them motivation and helps to push the narrative forward.
Kingdom Hearts III follows the formula of Sora, Donald and Goofy visiting levels with Disney themes, but it is not always clear why. Sometimes, the reason is for Sora to regain his strength (I guess he needs to overcome some levels). Sometimes it is so that I can discover something called "the power of awakening", although no one really knows how to obtain it.
Sora has occasional goals, but he is not sure how to achieve them. When you go to a Disney world, sometimes you feel like you are wandering aimlessly, just waiting for something to happen. Meanwhile, much of the important frame forwarding developments are driven by other characters through cut scenes that you observe between levels.
Above: Death tea cups.
Image credit: GamesBeat
Basic concepts of combat
Kingdom Hearts III has too much at stake with their bout. It is my biggest criticism of the game. Every 5 seconds you can summon a magic pirate ship or turn your weapon into a fireworks bazooka or something like that. It's all very eye-catching and attractive, but it overshadows the basics that make the Kingdom Heart RPG action game battle and use simple magic.
The first Kingdom Hearts kept things simple and clean. You only have your Keyblade and magic attacks. Well, you also have Invocations, which temporarily bring a Disney character to the battlefield. They are the only striking special moves in the game. And these Invocations are situational, since they occupy a precious MP that you would prefer to use in spells like Fire and Healing. Meanwhile, most of the over-the-top attacks of Kingdom Hearts III are free to use and are available either randomly or with such little effort that you will unlock them by accident all the time.
Of course, the pace of the action in the first Kingdom Hearts feels slower, but that also makes it feel more impactful. Each attack is deliberate, while Kingdom Hearts III encourages you more often to use spam buttons and special abilities that cause great damage to any enemy that is near you.
Above: Crazy shit fell into Hollow Bastion in the early Kingdom Hearts.
Image credit: USgamer
The original Kingdom Hearts has a fantastic final act. Not only does it have memorable scenes and great final bosses, but you also have two long and challenging final dungeons with Hollow Bastion and End of the World.
The last act of Kingdom Hearts III is actually a marathon of scenes and bosses. There is no dungeon to put things together. Once you beat the final world of Disney, it's a sprint to the end, with little room for exploration or regular battles. Now, Kingdom Hearts III has a lot of plans to solve at the end, so I can understand why you have to devote so much time to the story.
The end of Kingdom Hearts III is not bad. It has a lot of awesome scenes and bosses. But it is a pity that we do not have a final dungeon to travel as a final test of our skills before the final confrontations.
Above: Flynn with his new anime friends.
Image credit: GamesBeat
Kingdom Hearts III does some things better
I do not want to bring down Kingdom Hearts III. The original Kingdom Hearts can not compete with him in some categories. The depiction of the Disney characters in the Kingdom Hearts III game looks much closer to the originals. Being a PlayStation 4 instead of a PlayStation 2 game helps, but it's not just graphic fidelity. The animations of the characters look much better, and each line of dialogue is expressed (there are no occasional text boxes as in the original Kingdom Hearts).
Kingdom Hearts III also gets more creative with its level design, with some worlds like miniature open world games. The sections of the Gummi Ship, a type of shooting spacecraft experience that you have to do before going to a new world, are also more enjoyable and easy to exploit if you do not take care of them.
Still, I prefer the original Kingdom Hearts. Again, I dig Kingdom Hearts III, but it is often a victim of its own excess. The first game has a better pace and a story that you can follow.
RetroBeat is a weekly column that badyzes the past of the games, delves into the clbadics, the new retro titles or how the old favorites, and their design techniques, inspire the market and the experiences of today. If you have any retro projects or scoops you want to send my way, please contact me.