Kingdom Hearts 3: First Impressions Review

It’s here. After thirteen long years of questioning whether or not it would ever actually happen, I can say with much joy, that Kingdom Hearts 3 is finally, definitely a thing.

Easy for you to say, Donald.

But the question remains: does it live up to the hype? Given the gap between (numbered) games has taken almost the entirety of Sora’s life span at this point, we can only hope, right?

And so, without further ado, I present my Kingdom Hearts 3 first impressions review! Since it’s only a first impressions review (I’m only three-ish hours in), no need to worry about spoilers, if that’s a thing you tend to avoid (like yours truly).

Enjoy! And who knows – maybe – just maybe, it’ll convince you to join the dark side that is the KH fanbase… if you haven’t already. You’ve been warned.

Graphics: 5/5

As with Let’s Go Eevee and Spyro: Reignited before it, I found that Kingdom Hearts 3’s graphics do not disappoint. In fact, they’re so good that I’ll admit to stopping the game from time to time just to bask in their glory and cry a little. (Okay, a LOT.)  

And, I mean, can you blame me? That detail! After having just played through Kingdom Hearts 2, it’s thrilling to see the beauty thirteen years can make. It’s just so… so… aaah! Just look at it!

(This is what I mean when, as a demisexual, good graphics can turn me on just as much as any hot guy. Just sayin’)

I’ve only played through Olympus at this point, but I am beyond psyched to get to Tangled, Big Hero 6, Frozen, Monsters Inc., and Toy Story – in other words, the worlds that already have that computer-generated look. As is, it straight-up feels like I’m playing through a Pixar movie! (Which should come as no surprise, given how closely Pixar collaborated with Square on this.)

In replaying KH2 this past month, I was bummed to recall just how bare the environments often were. In some cases, I even found it plain creepy. Twilight Town, for example, just felt like a freaking ghost town! But now?

People! Yay!

There are real, actual NPCs! Not to mention all the fun little movie shout-outs I noticed in the environment in Olympus.

Sorry, Achilles…

I dunno, but I’m beyond psyched to get checking out all the other worlds and their intricacies ASAP. (Now if I can just stop pausing the game and crying every other minute…)

Nostalgia: 4/5

So firstly, I just gotta mention: wow! I’m totally shocked but ecstatic that after THIRTEEN years, they managed to get almost all the original voice actors – both from previous Kingdom Hearts games and from the original Disney movies. Wow. Seriously, that’s no easy feat.

I was especially pleased to hear the return of Haley Joel Osment as Sora, since, one: his voice is synonymous to Sora’s at this point. And two: considering Osment rarely appears in stuff these days, I was kind of afraid he’d vanished off the face of the earth.

At this point, the only voice that sounds off to me – and therefore subtracts from the nostalgia factor – is Mickey’s. It sounds similar enough, but there’s still just something… off about it, for me personally. (Though that could just be the former Disney Cast Member in me talking. Who knows?) You can check it out for yourself below.

Though I’ve yet to get to the Toy Story world, in looking up voice actors, I learned that Woody, unfortunately, isn’t voiced by Tom Hanks in this. However, he IS voiced by Tom’s younger brother, Jim Hanks, and I’m looking forward to hearing how he handles the role!

#SoraSelfies???

Other than some voices being different, the only other thing knocking down the nostalgia factor a bit for me is the inclusion of a smart phone-like apparatus.

Personally, it’s just really starting to be a pet peeve of mine that they’re always including smart phone knock-offs in video games these days. *gets out old lady cane* I mean, we’re addicted enough to these little babies IRL, we don’t need them in our video games, too!

And here it was especially jarring considering that, in-game, it has only been a year since Kingdom Hearts 2.

Yes, I realize the setting is complete fantasy, and this is a world where Sora and co. are flying space ships around and wielding keys as blades and shit, but still… I can’t help but think how there’s no way the smart phone would’ve been included if this game came out just a couple IRL years after the second one, you know?

I guess Sora really HAS been consumed by the darkness…

Writing: 4.5/5

More and more, Kingdom Hearts is proving to have an insanely intricate storyline. Back in the day, I thought it was overly dramatic and convoluted just for the sake of being overly dramatic and convoluted… but in preparing for this game, I’ve realized… the writing may actually be genius.

I assumed the non-numbered games were just spin-offs, and therefore didn’t play many of them, but as I caught myself up on the storyline, it’s become more and more obvious that each one really did bring a lot of juicy plot to the table. And that’s further compounded by the references Sora and co. have been making to the other games in just the first few hours of this one.

In other words, it’s all coming together! Nothing was wasted. And now that I can see the big picture, I can really appreciate this story for what it is: a masterful mosaic in the making.

Now, at times the writing can be overly cheesy, in my opinion, but ultimately I find that Kingdom Hearts 3, as its predecessors, is able to blend the lightness of Disney with the angst of Final Fantasy in a fun and believable way. Plus, the meta jokes about the insane wait between games just couldn’t go unnoticed.

No, Hayner and Donald. It really really HAS.

Battle System: 4/5

The battle system, for the most part, has been super fun! They’ve added a whole host of new mechanics that spice things up, and I’m loving it.

Though they’ve spiced things up, the core battle system remains the same, however. And honestly, it’s a core battle system that feels a bit dated to me. I guess it’s still just not quite as… dynamic, as I’d hoped?

But that lack of fluidity is more than made up for by all the new little tweaks, such as the specials based on Disney theme park rides. As a former Disney World employee, I can really appreciate that.

Kingdom Hearts: the FPS???

Oh! And you can have more than two party members out at a time! That was nice. In Kingdom Hearts 2, you’d have to swap out either Donald or Goofy every time you got a guest party member, but now the guest party members just join – no compromises required. Party time!

Overall Gameplay: 5/5

Now overall gameplay, on the other hand, doesn’t feel dated at ALL. Kingdom Hearts 3 has got so much good going for it here… where to even begin?

I guess… Sora can run up walls now?

Yeah. This is a thing.

And party members can sometimes help you out as you traverse the worlds, too.

Don’t try this at home, kiddies.

But I guess my favorite part is that the maps are continuous now? Like, in older Kingdom Hearts, you’d just hop from area to area, right? And each area would be relatively small and self-contained… but now, it’s all connected! Which really adds a sense of realism that the other games lacked.

I LOVED getting to see how Thebes was connected to Mt. Olympus, for example. And when you move between worlds in the gummi ship, that’s all connected too.

No more select-a-stage/world-map feel, and no more gummi ship missions prior to landing on a world. You just kind of… fly wherever the hell you want. And there are enemy encounters you can fly into in order to initiate a Galaga-esque little mini game, which is way more fun for me, personally, than the Starfox-style “missions” in Kingdom Hearts 2!

Fun: 5/5

Without question, this game is getting a perfect “fun” score from me. I had such a blast running around Thebes and Mt. Olympus, laying the beatdown to Heartless, titans, and the occasional Hercules action figure – and that was only the first world!

Considering this is the first Kingdom Hearts game where I’m genuinely psyched about every single Disney world included, I know there’s more of where that came from.

Not to mention, I’ve already had some good laughs from this game and its silliness and am just all-around appreciating a distinctive lack of angst from both the overall plot… and Riku.

I dunno if it’s the hair or what, but he’s just so much more likable now!

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention THE MUSIC. Though I’m not including an official section for it in this review, my god. I think this may just be the best Kingdom Hearts soundtrack to date, and that’s saying something. Clearly I need the OST in my life. Like, now.

The Verdict: 4.5/5

Good points:

  • Voice-acting
  • MUSIC! <3
  • Incorporating Disney rides into fights (seriously, how even???)
  • Plot lines coming together
  • New specials in the battle system
  • Unlimited party members during fights
  • Continuous maps
  • Sexy, SEXY graphics *tear*
  • Self-awareness of thirteen-year IRL time skip
  • Sora is obviously a ninja now
  • Angst-free Riku?!

Bad points:

  • In-game smart phone, ugh.
  • Battle system still clunky at times
  • Mickey sounds off
  • Super cheesy writing at times
  • New gummi ship system can sometimes be confusing

So, Kingdom Hearts 3: worth the wait?

I’d say so! Though I’m only a few hours in, all in all, I’d have to say that Square totally nailed this one! It’s got everything I loved about the earlier games, but so much MORE.

The worlds are lush, vast, and intricate. The music and voice-acting are spot-on. Save for the occasional clunkiness, the battle system, quite frankly, kicks ASS. And what can I say? I really, really enjoy running up those walls.

In Conclusion

Whether you’re a Kingdom Hearts vet or a newb, I highly recommend joining the dark side and checking this baby out ASAP. And – who knows – maybe we won’t actually have to wait another thirteen years for another numbered installment.

The ever-worsening battle against impossibly long game development time frames.

So tell me, adventurers: have you played Kingdom Hearts 3 yet? Do YOU think it lived up to the hype? And am I the only one who’s legit considering trying out some parkour in hopes that maybe someday, I too, can run up walls?

What I’m Playing: …What do YOU think? XD
What I’m Watching: Jane the Virgin, Season 3 – Just passed the halfway mark and WTF actually??? I’ll spare you the spoilers and just say, I feel like I’m watching a completely different show at this point. I am yet again reminded why I’m just not a huge fan of TV writing.
What I’m Listening to: Resist, Within Temptation. Yup, this. STILL. The full album just released and all I can say is: AAAAHHH!!!
What I’m Reading: Conversations with God, Book 4 – Not quite feeling this one as much as I was feeling the original trilogy, but i’m still only a quarter of the way through at this point, so maybe I will?
What I’m Writing: Tribe-born – It’s coming along slower than I’d like, but it’s coming!
What I’m Contemplating: How to get a KH3 OST for free… but while also managing to avoid my computer contracting a virus. (Back in mah day, pirating music on the internet was easy, dammit!)

About the author

Hannah

Carmen Sandiego wannabe by day, and that nerd that lives in her mom's basement by night, when Hannah isn't traveling the world, playing video games, or speaking about herself in the third person, she can be found... well, truth be told, she probably can't be found. Some say she is a shapeshifter, others, a servant of The Many-Faced God. Some doubt she even exists at all. But one thing is certain: she's the creator of Own Your Powers and she pops up to help out her fellow adventurers with such IRL sorcery as tarot, astrology, and Human Design.

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