The game dropped January 29th internationally, with Japan receiving the game earlier on the 25th. At the time, I was on social media blackout to avoid spoilers, some of which still did unfortunately make their way into my line of vision. However, I was able to dive into the game mostly blind and enjoy what was in store.
Overall, I love Kingdom Hearts III. Being a longtime fan of the series, I felt quite gratified when I heard the beautiful new arrangements on the soundtrack, viewed the gorgeous worlds on my screen, and experienced gameplay which combined the greatest aspects of the previous games’ and added extra. Playing is fun. The player character, Sora, can explore and battle underwater. He can run up the sides of buildings, swing on tree branches, and glide through the air. What I view as the most important addition to gameplay in the series’ third numbered title is that Sora now has a phone. He has a phone and he can take pictures. He can take selfies with Disney princesses. Amazing.
Now, on to the not-so-great things about the game, namely the handling of one particular girl whom fans looked forward to seeing in action, kicking butt with the rest of the heroes. Unfortunately, this character, Kairi, who has been training to fight for an undisclosed – perhaps immeasurable – amount of time, is only seen in combat briefly before essentially becoming a plot device. Her role is significant; story-wise she more or less brought Sora back from the dead, but almost as soon as this deus ex machina occurs, she is “killed” (people rarely die permanently in Kingdom Hearts) to exacerbate Sora’s rage. At this point, I literally shouted, “No! She was sacrificed for manpain!” I’m not exactly surprised, but I am disappointed. Aside from this upset, the bulk of the plot felt crammed into the latter half of the game. Granted, KH3 had over a decade’s worth of resolution to take care of.
I think the funniest thing is that the series isn’t over. Not at all. Fans have known that III wouldn’t be the last title for some time. Now that the game is out, the epilogue and secret ending of the game have fans excited for future games related to the events of Kingdom Hearts X and Kingdom Hearts Unchained X/Union Cross, which take place a long, long time before the events of the first game, as well as the possibility of a future title that adds other Square Enix titles back into the mix.
Notably, Kingdom Hearts III lacked the presence of characters from the Final Fantasy franchise (save for Moogle merchants and small easter eggs), for which the series is partially known. Fans speculate, however, that the game’s secret ending hints toward the return of characters from director Tetsuya Nomura’s 2007 title The World Ends With You as well as the possibility of a “rebirth” of the concept of Final Fantasy Versus XIII, a title first unveiled in 2006. Versus XIII was initially headed by Nomura, who was later removed from the project. Versus XIII since underwent many changes including a considerable amount of reworking in both the creative and technological departments, eventually becoming the next mainline game in the series, Final Fantasy XV. To this day, many fans including myself are extremely curious about Nomura’s vision for the game.
Many fans refer to Nomura as a madman, and I am inclined to agree. His unpredictability is exactly why I’m excited to see what he has in store for Kingdom Hearts and fans.