For a franchise that has waited 13 years for a direct entry into its series, Kingdom Hearts 3 has a lot to live up to. The odd Final Fantasy and Disney crossover is a lasting memory and a stand-out game to a lot of modern gamers’ nostalgia, and as a result this may be one of the most anticipated releases of our generation. The question is, was it all worth it?

Kingdom Hearts 3 keeps to a similar routine to its predecessors; Sora, Donald, and Goofy venture across several different worlds that are all an homage to one of the many Disney films produced over the years. Kingdom Hearts 3 took us back to worlds of games past, but also introduced new worlds like Tangled, and the still popular Frozen.

Pixar have entered the fold this time round, with Sora now able to journey to the world’s of Monsters Inc. and Toy Story. Whether it’s clambering across door conveyor belts with Boo or exploring a ginormous toy shop with Mike and Sully, these two worlds and the countless other trademark Disney worlds share a great deal of charm and beauty that you would only expect the films themselves to produce.

The story woven in and between the worlds Sora and company venture to is hard to grasp if you’re new to the series, but it does try its best to accommodate those that may have yet to experience Kingdom Hearts’ long, ever-developing, complex and deeply confusing story. Kingdom Hearts 3 stays consistently complicated, but does attempt to tie up loose ends in the overarching plot and engage players in stories on Disney worlds that typically follow the plots of their respective movies.

Square Enix have done away with the constantly criticised controls from previous games, polishing and refining the gameplay to be addictively repetitive (though never monotonous) yet refreshing and exciting in every encounter. The inclusion of attractions – theme park rides that Sora, Donald and Goofy can use to vanquish enemies – and keyblade “form-changes” – the Shooting Star keyblade can transform into two ranged pistols, for example – ensure that the combat keeps the player on their toes and aware of the battle around them.

Small faults are unfortunate for a game that Square Enix have had plenty of time to inject infallible love into. There is the occasional bug and the cutscenes, for new players, could be seen as long, tedious, and an overload of information. The starting few hours could drag for players that aren’t nearly as invested in the franchise’s story as gamers that have played and enjoyed previous entries. It is hard, however, to criticise what the game struggles with when everything else is done so immaculately.

There may be small criticisms of the worlds – Frozen’s world becomes very dull after the novelty’s run out – but it is undeniable that Square Enix have transformed these cinematic masterpieces so expertly into playable experiences. It is infectious, ridiculous fun to battle atop the rooftops of San Fransokyo with Big Hero 6 and that is very difficult for your enjoyment to be halted by hiccups.

In today’s gaming climate, it is very unlikely that a game like Kingdom Hearts 3 is released unless it’s a remaster of a nostalgic platformer. Kingdom Hearts 3 stands as testament that the childish, enjoyable fun that we experienced in our childhood has still got it. A game like this is so refreshing and novel to modern gaming, it is painfully difficult to criticise it for the few occasions where it only narrowly misses the mark.

5 stars

Image: Kingdom Hearts 3 | Square Enix & Disney

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