Kingdom Hearts 3: A Heartless Review

The ultimate question.

Well, I’m halfway through Kingdom Hearts 3. I’ve been waiting for this to come out for 13 years now. How is it holding up?

While the graphics are stellar and the game mechanics are fluid and seamless, I find myself feeling disappointed with how much of each unique world was shown off in the trailers. I started swiping away long before the game came out, but that wasn’t soon or quick enough to avoid the truth: there are only two classic Disney worlds in this game, and one of those is certainly debatable.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Pixar, and its worlds based on Toy Story and Monsters Inc. are my favorites so far. I definitely appreciate their inclusion, along with the interesting in-world locations and apparent decision to set the plots to sometime after the movies have ended. It’s less predictable, and therefore more engaging.

But contrast all of the worlds here with that of the first Kingdom Hearts. Atlantica, Olympus, Monstro’s Belly, Wonderland, Neverland, Agrabah, 100 Acre Wood, Deep Jungle, and Halloween Town. Now we have Olympus, Toy Box, Corona, Monstropolis, 100 Acre Wood, Arendelle, the Caribbean, and San Fransokyo. There seemed to be a more even mix of older and newer Disney in the first game, but it mostly focused on the classics that made Disney a household name over the years. Some worlds were tedious, but at least there was variety.

As much as I love Tangled and Frozen, their movies have been overplayed in the last 5 years of my life. Particularly the latter. I could spend the rest of my life never seeing anything more from Frozen and be perfectly content.

Corona had a gorgeous setting, but it followed the plot of the movie so closely that I think kids would either find it boring or confusing, depending on how much they remember. It also contained the moment when Rapunzel debates with herself about whether she should stay the course or go home. It didn’t make sense with the flow of the game, and it was also laughable for a wholly-unintended reason; Sora, Donald, and Goofy are standing in the background every time the scene shifts, clearly in her line of vision, but Rapunzel only notices their presence and demands their names when they physically walk up to her.

Sora almost feels like he’s been pasted in. This serves as a good metaphor for their influence in this story, although Rapunzel does try to make up for this by calling out to Sora and making him do chores throughout the trip to the castle.  

Eugene getting stabbed was kind of weird. I know it happens in the movie, and it’s by no means the first time a Kingdom Hearts character has “died,” but there was something visceral about its depiction in this game. Even with no blood, it just felt too real.

To its credit, though, I did want to go back and watch the movie after playing.

Meanwhile, Arendelle also follows the plot of its movie, which sucks if you haven’t seen it in a while, but it changes up a few things randomly. And I don’t mean in a fun way. First, you have to navigate a dark, depressing, Heartless-infested ice maze, and another moment of hilarity comes when you wonder how Larxene even built the damn thing when she was just piling ice boulders on top of each other. Okay, whatever. It’s a metaphor for how Elsa feels inside, isolated and lost. Fair enough.

Then you have to climb the mountain to reach Elsa’s ice palace. Not once, but several times. This was a boring task constantly being slowed down by Heartless fights, and while the snowboarding down the mountain was kind of fun, knowing that it represented me having to make another hike back up was infuriating.

The face I made when told I had to do it all again.

Couple this with out-of-nowhere singing that sometimes obscures the dialogue, and the fact that Sora does next to nothing plot-relevant, making his inclusion in this story feel, once again, superfluous, and Arendelle becomes a half-assed sight-seeing tour. It’s telling that most of the movie’s important moments take place off-screen, or in a dinky way, like Hans randomly appearing at one point, carrying Elsa like a sack of potatoes.

That’s the one thing that bugs me about Kingdom Hearts games: so much wasted potential! The series has never been the best at getting you to take the story 100% seriously, but it can be a stretch even at 40% sometimes, given that it stinks of middle school fanfiction. Sora and the other characters still barely react to anything, and when they does, it’s only what the game deems remarkable.

Elsa building a frown ice palace from scratch, even when Sora basically just saw Larxene do the same thing?  

A boy with a talking duck and dog man, who can all wield magic?


No siree. Not remarkable in the slightest.

Larxene’s act should have been more impressive to everyone involved. Sora wouldn’t remember this, but her thing is lightning. Maybe she inherited Xaldin’s wind powers after his Somebody was reborn?

As a side note, Olaf can melt for all I care. Thank you, Disney, for taking a character who was just barely annoying and proving that you can turn him up to 11.

Right now, I’m in The Caribbean. Did anyone even like this level back in Kingdom Hearts 2? Sora makes a comment to the effect of, “Who could ever dislike this world?” Me. I could.

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was a decent enough, goofy, swash-buckling time-waster. Its sequels were pointlessly over-padded garbage, whose sole redeeming asset turned out to be a horrible human being. While the world looks and feels more impressive than before, I came here for the cartoon worlds! I certainly didn’t come to this game for a tedious scavenger hunt for 300 crabs to inexplicably repair a ship!

Sorry, Sora. It’s true.

I’m enjoying many aspects of the game, to be sure. I love being able to run up walls. I love the Ratatouille-themed mini games. The worlds all feel way bigger and less empty, with NPCs all around that say at least one line in passing. The over-world is more engaging than ever before, and the length and difficulty you experience navigating it doesn’t feel slapped on, as in the previous games. I say this as someone who has always hated the gummi ships.

I’m also dying to know how the overarching story ends, despite the fact that no one ever really dies and every question about the plot can basically be answered by, “Nomura wills it.” But overall, Kingdom Hearts 3 feels weirdly short and sparse where it counts, and its worlds seem to have been put in for popularity, rather than their staying power. It feels “trendy,” like giving Sora an iPhone, but not necessarily thoughtful or impactful.

I can’t rate the game yet, but if you were to twist my arm, I’d give it solid 6/10. Pretty good, but after waiting this many years? I think that’s what did Square Enix in.

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