For what feels like two months now at this point, my wife and I have been trying to play through Kingdom Hearts 3. Tonight we finally finished it, and while I do have a few positive things to say about the game, it was ultimately a completely miserable experience. I?m not the kind of person who forces myself to play games that I don?t enjoy, but on the rare occasion, I will ?hate play? my way through a game ? this was one such occasion. Is Kingdom Hearts 3 the worst game I?ve ever played? No. But it?s honestly hard for me to list many other games that I hated playing to completion more than this one. To the point that I just couldn?t let it slide without taking to my word document of choice to write up a rant about what I honestly feel is a terrible game. First, some additional context. Both my wife and I were lapsed Kingdom Hearts fans until very recently. I talked about this more in my Game of The Year write-up for 2018, but long story short: We both had a fondness for the series to varying degrees back in the day, but fell out of love with it until last E3 when two new trailers got us hyped up for Kingdom Hearts 3. We went ahead and bought the ?All-in-One? pack on PSN and then spent the entirety of July playing through (or watching) the entire series as it is presented in that collection. We ended up falling back in love with Kingdom Hearts, hard. To the point that we were constantly rewatching trailers for 3. And even ended up buying the Sora and Riku Nendoroids that came out a couple months ago.
Needless to say, we were the target audience for this game. And maybe that?s part of the reason why it just feels so disappointing. Because if there was no lingering attachment to the games that came before it, I have no doubt in my mind that we would have dropped this game after the first 10 or so hours. Now before I begin verbally eviscerating this game, I have to say again that there are a couple things I like about it. One is the music. As always Kingdom Hearts has some amazing theme music, as well as some other iconic tracks associated with the series. Kingdom Hearts 3 is no different. As soon as you start the game you?re treated to a beautiful orchestral version of ?Don?t Think Twice?. Later when you start the game for real, you get to listen to the game?s new opening theme ?Face My Fears? which is kind of ridiculous, but I fucking love it to bits. Finally when you get to the credits you finally get to hear the original version of ?Don?t Think Twice? with lyrics, and it actually helped me walk away with this game with a slightly better taste in my mouth. Music is important to video games, never forget that. The other real positive thing I can say about the game is roughly the last 5 or so hours of the game. Which requires you to put a good 30?35 hours in to get to. So? yeah, not the brightest ?positive? around, but I will say it?s the main thing that kept me from completing despising this game. But I?ll touch on that more later. Now then? Look, I?ll be straight with you. I know I?ll probably get some flack for this opinion. A lot of my mutuals, and people I follow seem to love this game. So I know I have an unpopular opinion. I also know that Kingdom Hearts gets a bad rap, but I really can?t stress this enough: I was so excited for this game. I love the story in this series. And the characters. And I?ve loved the older games. I went into this so ready to put it on my game of the year list. But it just fucking ruined me. The act of playing Kingdom Hearts 3 brought almost nothing but misery to this household. At first there was a sense of denial, like ?Hm, I?m just not feeling this one yet. I?m sure it will get better.? That later turned into feelings of annoyance of having to boot the game up and play for a few hours. And that eventually gave way to a real sense of disgust as we had several breakdowns due to how fucking bad this game was, and how much we hated playing it. Again, the only reason we pushed through it is because we were already so invested in the series. We had to see this through. And besides we did pay $100 for this edition of the game technically. So it wasn?t the kind of thing we just wanted to throw away. So, what exactly do I think is wrong with Kingdom Hearts 3? A more accurate question is: what isn?t wrong with it? In just about every way I think Kingdom Hearts 3 is worse than most every other game in the series that I?ve played. Sure it ?looks? pretty. The music is amazing. And the final hours of the game give some decent payoff. But what about the rest of it? The combat is atrocious. Exploring the worlds feels like a chore. Partly because these are some of the worst implemented Disney worlds in the series, and partly because traversal feels terrible. And the story is pretty rotten too for the most part! I guess the best way to tackle all of this is to talk about how this game fails, where other games in the series succeed. Let?s start with one of the sort of positive things I mentioned. The game looks good, right? Sort of. Technically it?s impressive. And I wouldn?t say it?s a bad looking game by any means. But I could never shake the feeling that when compared directly to something like Kingdom Hearts 2, 3 comes away feeling kind of soulless. The HD version of Kingdom Hearts 2 did an amazing job of reminding me that game was one of the most impressive looking PlayStation 2 games back in the day. Even playing this HD port on PS4 I was still blown away by how colorful and charming everything looked. That game had a sense of scope that really defied the hardware it was on.
Kingdom Hearts 3 by comparison spends a lot of time feeling like one of those ?Hey guys, I made this classic game, but in the Unreal 4 engine? demonstrations. Like I said, it ?looks? nice, but it doesn?t necessarily ?feel? nice. There?s just something off about it. Even if the game does do some pretty impressive stuff with particle effects and what not. Well, what about the story then? Kingdom Hearts 3 is the culmination of 18 years worth a story telling. It?s got to have some big pay-offs, right? Hm. Yes, and no. I said before that the end of the game ended up doing the game some favors, but the majority of the game feels like a slog in many ways. The game starts out with a cute little joke that it?s ?Kingdom Hearts II.8?. Which is actually pretty good because it directly follows the events after Dream Drop Distance and ties into the ending of the 0.2 ?mini? game starring Aqua. The first thing you do in this game is finally wrap up the whole Hercules storyline. A film from 1997 that Nomura has spent a dozen games trying to get through that single movie?s narrative. It?s a cute way to start the game, but the problem is that the game doesn?t really pick things up from there. Not for another 30 some hours at least. Upon completing Olympus for (hopefully) the final time the game tells you what your objective is. In short, Riku and King Mickey are trying to find Aqua. And Sora, Donald, and Goofy are supposed to get Sora back the power of waking, which quickly takes a detour into the trio looking for Roxas? I guess? But that?s it. You spend almost the entire game with this same objective. And in between each Disney world, the characters come together to discuss how they still haven?t accomplished anything, but they?ll keep looking. It?s? honestly just terrible. I feel like the Kingdom Hearts series has always been one that gets a lot more interesting once you?ve completed the ?mandatory Disney portion? of the game, and while that is indeed the case here, the problem is that the entire time I was playing through the Disney worlds in this game, I never felt like the story was progressing in any meaningful way. Every once in a while we?d see what some other characters were up to. Like Kairi and Axel. Or the various Organization members. But everyone is always just doing the same thing. And I feel like very few meaningful conversations happen. A lot of the narrative is in service of reintroducing the player to the past events and characters of the series. So in essence it?s like one really long filler arc. I mean, that?s the best way to think about it. In between the actual ?important? events of Kingdom Hearts, Sora goes through yet another Disney world, and then a bad guy explains to him something that happened in a past game.
It sucks. But what about the Disney worlds themselves? It?s been a long time since Kingdom Hearts 2, and most of the ?spin-off? games didn?t really tackle many of the newer Disney movies. 3 in the other hand has a bunch of Pixar stuff, and both Tangled and Frozen which are very popular modern Disney movies. What could go wrong? Well, it?s kind of hard to appreciate these worlds when they?ve been utilized so poorly. There?s two different philosophies at play here when it comes to recreating these Disney worlds. One approach is to set the events of the game after the movies so that players can experience. a new story, with familiar characters. The other is to do a really shitty retelling of said movie. The latter ones were usually the worst ones. But not always. So let me break these down for your. I mentioned Hercules already. That?s a series staple, and they actually did something new with it here. So that one is okay. Next I?ll bring up The 100 Acre Woods, which has traditionally been my most hated parts of the series. Not so much here! Thankfully I only had to submit myself to a cool 10 minutes of Winnie The Pooh?s fucking bullshit this time. There are three worlds that have an all new story for this game. Toy Story, Monsters Inc., and Big Hero 6. The Toy Story world, in retrospect is one of the better ones. As I really like Toy Story, and I feel like the giant toy store was a cool dungeon to explore. It had a cool mini-boss in Angelic Amber. And um? Verum Rex. Which? yeah. Unfortunately the Toy Story world is a prime example of some of the worst aspects of the game. It?s way too big for its own good, and exploring it was a problem for me to say the least. But more on that later. Monsters Inc is (what felt like) painlessly short. And had the benefit of being an original story. Even though I personally feel like Monsters U. is the superior movie and setting. And Big Hero 6 has the cast of Big Hero 6, which is a plus. But it?s also one of the worst fucking worlds to have to play through in the entire game.
Finally we get to the ?retell? worlds, and boy, oh boy? First, another unpopular opinion for you all: I actually think the Frozen world might be my favorite in the game. Yes, it?s a shitty retelling, much like these other ones. But I actually liked the Ice Dungeon and exploring the rest of the world in general. I thought it was very pretty. And I really liked the music. Speaking of which, I thought that including the entire scene for ?Let It Go? is the single best thing I could say about any of these Disney worlds. So while I understand where people are coming from when they say they?re disappointed in how very little the game does with one of Disney?s biggest movies, I? dunno, I enjoyed it? Then we have Tangled and Pirates of The Caribbean. And? fuck, man. First, Tangled is the worst world in this game. Easily. I say that as someone who watched this movie (as well of most of these other ones) just recently for the first time and really enjoyed it. Maybe that?s why it was so insufferable to sit there and watch what I feel like is the worst example of one of these ?retold? worlds in the series. It skips almost all of the good parts. It?s a prime example of how lifeless this game can feel when lines ripped directly from the movie are being recited without any sort of music or sound effects to breath life into them. And the world itself just fucking sucks. It?s a boring ass forest that goes on for way too fucking long. Lastly, Pirates. Jesus Christ. Where do I even start with this one? A part of me appreciates all the work they put into this world. The ship combat, and exploring these islands feels like a pretty impressive thing to build out for just one world in this game. But there are two things about this world that drove both me and my wife up a god damn wall. The story, and the crabs. Do I even need to talk about the crabs? At one point the game asks you, in all seriousness, to stop what you?re doing and spend half an hour searching this gigantic town for an absurd (we?re talking like 300, no joke) amount of crabs. Why? No reason. Then there?s the story. Which, my fucking god man. I realize now that this was just retelling one of the Pirates movies. But the whole thing felt like a fucking fever dream. The game thrust you into this truly bizarre story of a movie that makes even less sense when they give you almost no fucking context for any of it. The part where a ?fake? Jack Sparrow suddenly transforms into a pile of crabs made me lose my fucking mind. Directly following this we see a scene where a bunch of characters (who we don?t really know anything about going solely based on the game) have a face-off. And Davy Jones who is a squid-man is just standing in a bucket of water on an island? oh my fucking GOD. WHAT?! Anyway. I don?t really know what else I can say about these worlds. I enjoy most of these movies, but the way they are presented in this game feels like a hot mess. And that?s before I even started talking about the gameplay, which? ?sigh.
Kingdom Hearts 3 is one of the worst playing games I can easily call to mind, that I?ve put any significant amount of time into at least. There was never a point in this game where I enjoyed the act of playing it. Whether it was traversing these needlessly massive areas, or if I was just mashing my way through its numerous bullshit battles, or playing one of the many dumb mini-games. It always, always felt terrible. I was only recently made aware of the whole ?floaty? combat issue that more modern Kingdom Hearts games have. So it?s hard for me to analyze how different this game?s combat is than Kingdom Hearts 2, or Birth By Sleep. Other than to just say those games felt dramatically better. In the first couple Kingdom Hearts games, I guess combat was more grounded? There were less aerial shenanigans overall, and things had more of a weight to them. I also feel like whenever you compare Kingdom Hearts 2 to 3 you see just how disappointing this game is. Let?s bring up the boss battles as an example. In Kingdom Hearts 2 a lot of the boss battles are with iconic characters and creatures from either Final Fantasy, Disney, or even Kingdom Hearts itself. The run-up to the end of the game that has you facing the Organization XIII members are an incredible show of just how amazing that game?s boss fights were. Each Organization member was based loosely off a job class from Final Fantasy, and it showed in your fights with them where they had really interesting moves and mechanics to deal with. That?s just not the case in Kingdom Hearts 3. Up until the last hour of the game, every boss you face is just some shitty Heartless, Unversed, or Nobody creation. Or it?s just the fucking swarm of Heartless that you fight a dozen times throughout the series. All of these battles feel like shit because the game?s combat is awful, but also they don?t feel epic or creative in scope. And even once you do start settling the score with the Organization members at the end of the game, it?s usually a 3v3 circle jerk where everyone is just spinning around and ejaculating particle effects onto one another. There are very few rewarding boss fights in this game. The only two I can think of in-fact are Anti-Aqua, and your final encounter with Master Xehanort. Because that battle with Armored Xehanort right before that? Holy fucking shit man. GARBAGE. As you can imagine, none of the trash mobs feel that rewarding or engaging either. The game goes out of its way to try and impress the player with super team-up moves, and those god awful ?Attraction? attacks (I beat Anti-Aqua with that dumb ass Pirate Ship. How immersive!). At all times Sora is just flailing around the screen as the camera violently swings around trying to keep up with the action and where it?s going.
I honestly don?t know how anyone could possibly enjoy this shit. And to make matters worse they?ve gone back and removed any of the neat mechanics that were introduced throughout the course of the series like the ?Deck? system from Birth By Sleep. Birth By Sleep is apparently the originator of the ?floaty combat?, but it wasn?t really all that noticeable to me because I really enjoyed the Deck system. It actually made me feel like I was putting some thought into my loadout, and strategize during battles. Kingdom Hearts 3 by comparison feels like a budget action game that is more concerned with style over substance. To make matters even worse, all of the Disney worlds you explore are huge in nature. And always feel like they go on longer than they should. And I don?t know who thought the whole wall=running mechanic was a good idea. Because it feels like shit, and makes most of the areas in the game look even worse because there?s a constant flickering glow laid over every surface you can run up. That?s not all though, because the game likes to make itself feel even more like a slog whenever it decides to dive into the various mini-games in each world. The cumbersome mech battles in Toy Story are the least of your problems here when you have shit like Rapunzel stopping you to stealth around to find some birds. Or the game stopping for an entire fucking hour for you to look for ?pieces of Olaf? as Donald Duck fucking screams into your ear ?WHERE?S OLAF?!? over and over and over again. That?s another thing. The cooking mini-game. Not only does it suck, and is kind of unnecessary. But your party members nag you the entire game whenever there?s ingredients around to collect. Oh, also the Gummi Ship is back for some inexplicably fucking cruel reason and it sucks even more shit than ever ? so I hope you?re down for that!
Phew. This review is already longer than I wanted it to be. But, hey, I?ve been holding all of this in aside from the occasional vague tweet on Twitter. However, before I go, as promised, there was one other thing I liked about the game. Once you?re finally done slogging your way through the Disney worlds, the game finally decides to get interesting as it thrust you into what I feel like is the only real new story developments in Kingdom Hearts 3. Starting off with your confrontation with Anti-Aqua, and leading all the way up to the game?s Epilogue. I felt like the story events during these parts did provide a pretty decent sense of closure for what this series has been up to this point. To the point that I?m a little bummed there?s going to be more of it. Don?t get me wrong, the Epilogue certainly has my attention. But I feel like after finally resolving things between the casts from Kingdom Hearts 2, and Birth By Sleep, I felt like that was a good jumping off point for the series. Do we really need to start up another story spanning however many number of games? Nomura has already said there will be ?at least one other game? before Kingdom Hearts 4. Is it really worth it? I don?t know. As cool as it is to settle things with Xehanort, and the Organization. I still felt let down by how a lot of these confrontations and scenes were handled. They just didn?t feel as impactful are stuff from previous games. That said, the ending is pretty damn good. And it actually got me a little emotional. So I guess that?s not for nothing. Unfortunately this all came at the expense of making me play a really shitty game that I fucking hate. And that?s disappointing, and frustrating. I wanted to love Kingdom Hearts 3. I was so excited for it. But it?s honestly been some of the worst times I?ve spent with a video game. Every time we sat down to play, it soured our moods. We put playing it off time, and time again for any other activity we could think of. It took us two months basically to play through a game most people finished in a week. I don?t know what else to tell you. I think Kingdom Hearts 3 is a terrible game. Peace.