When the first Kingdom Hearts game came out on the PS2, I was younger than Sora. Now, I am twice Sora’s age. I’m wondering how long it will be before Kingdom Hearts IV comes out and Sora becomes young enough to be my own son.
This takes place after Kingdom Hearts II and the other interquels that came after it chronologically. He is sent back to Yen Sid along with Donald and Goofy in order to embark on another adventure.
Since there is so much complicated, canonical lore, I don’t want to get in-depth into it–and not just because of the spoilers. All I can say to make the story comprehensible is that there are three forces in the Kingdom Hearts lore–light, dark, and nothing. If a person dies, their heart–i.e. their whole self–is transferred over to the darkness or the nothingness and become a Heartless and a Nobody. That’s…the best way I can describe it.
It is a shame that I could not find an official strategy guide for this game. If there is one, then it would probably have pages of diagrams and charts.
Just like the previous Kingdom Hearts installments, there are a lot of dynamic interactions and bantering between Sora, Donald, and Goofy. They mostly revolve around Sora wanting to regain his powers back. Though, there were the misunderstanding scenes which I felt were unneeded. Even in a game that is targeted towards children, it can be distracting.
I was also surprised about how much emotional depth Sora had that the previous titles did not show–especially near the final battle. It may have been due to the improvement in the graphics, but this game definitely showed a side of Sora that definitely made him a human being. Although he can be whiny, he is by no means the Disney tag-along that we all know.
Like every other Kingdom Hearts game, the theme of the heart plays a big role in this game. It mainly has to do with memory and identity, in other words when memories coincide with altering identities that exist within a character depending on their Dark self or their Nobody self. Basically, the heart represents the soul.
Another theme is time travel, which involves two of the antagonists. It would not necessarily help the complicated plot, but it does explain why the complications exist in the first place.
The game also tends to be meta about the convoluted lore, which can be quite cheeky. I thought it was humorous that Axel was the most meta character in the game.
As for the conflict between the light and the dark, it is played out throughout the rest of the worlds, which is where every group is trying to gain a hold on these worlds. It does help to understand why they are important in the first place and can connect to the worlds in the previous installments.
As expected of a Kingdom Hearts game, there is an incredible diversity of worlds each with its own unique environment and characters. Sometimes, the party will take on new forms or have new outfits based on blending into these worlds. This is, of course, a major part of the Kingdom Hearts series. So, I do think that when matched with the graphics, they do pop out. The only exception being Arendell where the party continues to wear the same clothing in spite of being in a cold world.
The battle scenes are expansive, which definitely made the fighting more natural. I never thought I would glide around in a Kingdom Hearts game in a metropolitan level like San Fransokyo, but it somehow works. Another up-to-date improvement to this game was the implementation of the open world on the Gummi ship and the Caribbean. All of these open world elements felt fluid and natural.
I was hoping for a big pay-off with this installment in terms of adding more worlds, such as previously visited worlds in the series. I would have been content enough if the previously visited worlds could be available as DLC content, however they were not there. I was also disappointed that there is no tournament-style worlds like Olympian Coliseum. When I reached the final stage, I still felt underwhelmed by the capabilities of this game to offer far more expansion than the previous titles ever could.
As it can be expected in any Kingdom Hearts game, there are characters from the Disney franchise. Though they are at various points in their own original story-lines which did make it confusing, such as Toy Story taking place sometime after the first film, while Pirates of the Caribbean was played out in its third film.
While the Kingdom Hearts series also syncretizes the Final Fantasy series, there are barely any Final Fantasy characters in the game. It is more Disney-oriented–and Pixar-oriented–which I did think was a bit disappointing. I would hope that at that point in the Kingdom Hearts series, the third official installment would become a more unique entry. Though, the only unique part of it is the convoluted lore.
I did not like how the game took wholesale the direct CGI scenes from the films they borrow from, especially when it did not involve the three protagonists. The scenes from Tangled were the worst parts of it. I did think it was too derivative and time-consuming. Though, I did think that the famous “Let it go” scene from Frozen did not distract me from the flow of the game. Even my Siberian Husky paid attention to that scene. Though, I do not know if it was because of Elsa’s singing or because of the snow and ice because she loves prancing around on it as all Siberian Huskies do.
I always thought it was strange how Donald and Goofy kept reminding Sora not to disclose the fact that they do not come from these worlds they keep visiting in order to preserve the order of the worlds. You would think that Sora would already know at this point not to do it, though in spite of the numerous installments, it seemed that Sora somehow forgot.
As far as the concept of the heart, I will say that it can relate to the Bible, where heart is one of the most commonly used nouns. There can be Christian themes in this game to those who wish to seek for it.
As far as the collaborative attacks with the other party members, I definitely felt they dramatically improved the most since Kingdom Hearts II, especially the attraction commands. The Form system was removed, which was helpful because I felt that I needed to rely solely on Sora and felt distracted every time there is a collaborative command. Before, I mostly relied on Sora’s abilities, but now I almost anticipate the other party members to make these commands. What’s more, if you do not want to execute a specific command or if it is interfering with another command, you can simply press the down-pad button to change commands without it depleting your MP.
What I especially liked about this game was the Kupo Coin, which literally saved me so many times. What it does is completely restore your HP once it hits zero. Although it can only be used once at a time, it is definitely a major step in the improvement of the gameplay.
The final boss battle was definitely on point. It puts to test everything you learned throughout the game and culminates it into a satisfying final battle.
Most of the side-quests in this game involve the Moogle shop or minigames. I did think that the minigames with the Flantastic Heartless tried to serve the purpose of improving the skills, however I did think these minigames were bit of a nuisance. Although by far better than reappearing on the same stage over and over again just to find those rare Heartless, they did feel pointless.
As for the Remy Mini-Games, I was actually more frustrated by them than by even the most difficult boss battles.
Whereas in the previous installments, the characters were stilted in their movements, but now I see that the characters are more dynamic in their movements. It is not just those subtle improvements that I noticed, but also the fact that the in-depth scenes from the first two games are exactly what are in this game, which definitely shows how much the graphics have upgraded in this series.
I especially liked Jack Sparrow’s movements. By that, I mean his signature movements from the film series, such as the drunken-like waddles and the twitching of his eyes. The graphics really brought them to life.
The one irritable factor, however, has to be the cutscenes. There are so many cutscenes that ruin the flow of the gameplay. Adding to what I previously noted about the scenes directly from the films, they are not only uncreative, but also waste time that would have been spent exploring or fighting Heartless or Nobodies.
As far as graphics overall, I definitely got the feeling that this was meant to be Nomura’s vision ever since Square Enix and Disney started collaborating.
I do think that it is weird at this point that Haley Joel Osmond is still portraying Sora. It was one thing for the voice change in Kingdom Hearts II due to puberty, especially since he was around Sora’s age when he first started portraying him; but now it is weird hearing Osmond as a grown man portraying Sora.
Also, it is weird to hear King Mickey talking in a serious tone with Riku. This may be because there is a different voice actor, since the original voice actor for Mickey Mouse in and outside of the Kingdom Hearts series passed away a decade ago, with Birth by Sleep being his final voice appearance. Or it might be because we are all used to hearing Mickey talk in an upbeat cadence.
Hikaru Utada once again makes an appearance in the Kingdom Hearts series, though with a twist. She is more well-known for her pop songs like “Simple and Clean” and “My Sanctuary,” however, in this game she has a more jazzy aesthetic to her vocals. It is a bit of a jarring transition, though I did work in this game.
Does It Tie Up Well?
However convoluted the lore is, nonetheless there is a form of reconciliation involved that tied the series all together. Although I still felt unsatisfied, I guess that is the whole point of what makes this series easy to become attached to.
There are also cliffhangers in the end which definitely made me look forward to a sequel a lot more than the ending of Kingdom Hearts II. This was a game that left me wanting more out of the series.
While the graphics and the gameplay improved the most, I cannot say the same for the rest of the series. It is not like a game that can be played at any point for the first time and then played down the series, rather it is a hot mess that only us who grew up on Kingdom Hearts could ever hope to enjoy. There was a lot of hype without a huge pay-off.
Recommend This To…
- Those who want Kingdom Hearts nostalgia, since everything will make sense–in the best possible way.
- Not for younger gamers who were never introduced to the first Kingdom Hearts, since this installment feels more targeted towards the nostalgic demographic. While at least I was anticipating the movement of the plot, a new gamer might feel overwhelmed by the lore. I would suggest starting from the very beginning. Kingdom Hearts I and II will help you acclimate to the gameplay. The interquel games like Birth by Sleep will help you to understand the plots and themes at the bare minimum.
- Any psychology students, since the concept of self might be more appealing to you.
- Kingdom Hearts. Squaresoft. 2002.
- Kingdom Hearts II. Square Enix. 2005.
- Kingdom Hearts III. Square Enix. 2017.
- Top 100 Common Nouns in the Bible. King James Bible.