NOTE: This will be a spoiler-free article in terms of story.
As of writing this post, I’m just shy of 10 hours into the game. I’ve been slowly going through the story, having fun collecting things, messing around, etc etc. I’ve just arrived at my third world, the story really hasn’t started to show its hand yet, but the nostalgia factor is what’s keeping me running at full speed right now.
The moment I hit start and got the orchestral version of “Don’t Think Twice”, everything hit me all at once. All those emotions when I was in my mid-teens, playing the first two games. The music, the visuals, the combat, it all came back to me, like it had never left. Kingdom Hearts was back and not only was it back, but it hadn’t compromised its original state. Sure, it’s added more special moves, newer worlds and more, but the core of the series is still very much there. I don’t feel like I’m playing “the new and improved” Kingdom Hearts, I’m just playing an improved Kingdom Hearts.
First off, the graphics. Holy fucking shit is this game gorgeous. The mixture of current-gen limits, mixed with the vibrant, anime-like visual style that the series has always had, it looks absolutely incredible. In particular, the third world I’ve landed on, the Toy Story world, looks unbelievable. It definitely gives me the same reaction the trailers did, it legitimately looks like I’m playing a game within the confines of the film series.
The music is also very much the same to how it’s always been. Hearing familiar music from the first world of Olympus brings back the nostalgia, but also hearing this new orchestra version of “You’ve Got A Friend In Me” in the Toy Story world, it gives me an irresistible desire to have the biggest smile on my face at all times. But then again, when has Yoko Shimomura disappointed us?
Lastly, the gameplay. What can I say? They made it bigger and better. Wall running, more special moves, actual boss mechanics that isn’t just “hit this spot, then hit this spot” or just smacking the shit out of him. The Rock Titan as you saw in the trailers is a great example, there’s a lead-up to the boss, rather than just fighting a giant rock out of nowhere. The fighting is quicker, more chaotic, with more options that should make me so much better at the game, but instead I still get hit by everything cause I’m not paying attention to shit. I’ve gotta say, not that it would’ve been hard to top the gameplay of a PS2 game, but the fighting in KH3 is easily the best the series has ever had.
Hell, even the Gummi Ship sequences are kinda fun now and they’ve never been for me. There’s more exploration to these sequences, little collecting here and there, it adds just enough to be a pretty decent improvement, but still has a lot to be desired. I don’t like how there’s just one enemy alone in a massive range on the map and can only be attacked if in close proximity, to which it takes you away from the open space and resumes the classic sequence-driven fight. This should’ve been an open world with enemies littered around the map (apart from the couple ones that are situated on asteroids and don’t move at all) that you’d be fighting regularly as you flew around. But it’s still better than what it used to be.
So yeah, I’m really happy that I can say with a straight face that Kingdom Hearts 3 thus far, has lived up to what I had hoped for. Now I’ve seen many different reactions from people and I think they may have overhyped themselves in comparison to myself, though I’ll obviously have a more finite opinion once I get to the end of the game. But for now, it’s certainly what I wanted and I’m so relieved that this is the case.
Though admittedly listening to Haley Joel Osment, who is two months younger than me, still voicing a tiny teenager…it’s a little odd now.