Kingdom Hearts 3 arrives on PS4 and Xbox One (no PC version) after 13 years of waiting since the last game released for a desktop console, Kingdom Hearts 2, for PlayStation 2. The journey of the main character, Sora, with the faithful squire’s Pato Donald and Goofy come to an epic conclusion that justifies this break. The following analysis seeks to evaluate the history and chronology of the Square Enix game, which takes place within stages inspired by Walt Disney films, such as Frozen, Toy Story, Monsters SA, Tangled, Operation Big Hero, Pirates of the Caribbean, Hercules, and Winnie-the-Pooh. Gameplay and graphics are also taken into account, as well as the importance of the protagonist’s personality to the plot. Kingdom Hearts uses the eternal struggle between Light and Darkness as a metaphor to teach a lesson about bonds and friendship. That is why, Sora, Donald Duck and Goofy team up for the last battle (Photo: Reproduction / Murilo Tunholi)
After all, what is the story of Kingdom Hearts?
In a world where Light and Darkness are in constant conflict, an evil group called Organization XVIII aims to open the Kingdom of Hearts, or Kingdom Hearts, to make everything consumed by the shadows and there is no more light to drive them away. The protagonist, Sora, wielding his Keyblade – a key-shaped sword with magical powers, must prevent the main enemy, Master Xehanort, from using the organization to start a war between users of the special weapon and obtain the χ-blade (pronounced Keyblade), which opens the portal to Kingdom Hearts.
The storyline of the franchise is complicated to understand, as it is a dense and deep story with time travel and characters with more than one identity that was divided into nine different games. Furthermore, the release date of each one does not refer to the period of history in which they are spent. Kingdom Hearts 3 was designed with the objective of sewing the loose ends and concluding the journey, ending the confrontation against the darkness that began in 2002. To explain everything that has already happened, Square Enix decided to launch several collections for PS4 that have all games released to date. There are also videos explaining a little about the events that happened right on the main menu.Sora must defeat the Heartless in stages like Andy Story, from Toy Story (Photo: Reproduction / Murilo Tunholi)
Sora’s new journey begins with many flashbacks to try to situate the player within the narrative, but it still may not be enough for those who chose this game as the gateway to the series. Kingdom Hearts 3 is still a great game to start, but the experience is completely different if you know the franchise. In this situation, the game’s creator, Tetsuya Nomura, obeys the popular saying that it is not possible to please Greeks and Trojans. Decisions had to be made and the fans came first.
The final chapter begins shortly after the events of Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance, for Nintendo 3DS, in which Sora fails the test to become a Master of the Keyblades and loses part of the powers that she had accumulated since the beginning of the adventure. Now, the hero’s task is to visit the worlds inspired by Disney films and help solve the problems caused by the Organization in each one. It may sound crazy, but the game’s creator, Tetsuya Nomura, managed to perfectly fit the actions of the enemies in the already known plot of the films.Walt Disney worlds can be visited through the Gummi Ship (Photo: Reproduction / Murilo Tunholi)
The setting of Disney worlds
The franchise is famous for the presence of universes inspired by Disney’s feature films. Kingdom Hearts 3 continues with the same formula and executes it in the best possible way. All worlds, as well as the relationships between the characters inserted in them, make sense for the final story. From the friendship of Woody and Buzz Lightyear with owner Andy in Toy Box, even the feelings of true love between the sisters Elsa and Anna in Arendelle are necessary for the plot to develop. The healing properties of Rapunzel’s hair are targeted, as well as the production of energy through emotions in Monstrópolis. In addition, the hearts of Dave Jones and Baymax are the main means that the Organization has to study feelings. And it all happens in a natural way.The Kingdom of Corona, from Tangled, is present in Kingdom Hearts 3 (Photo: Reproduction / Murilo Tunholi)
The worlds in the third title are the ones that most differ from those included in the games already released. There are eight Disney universes: four completely new and four that have appeared previously. Each of them can be played independently, as they connect only at the end. In addition, after completing all the objectives of a universe, you are presented with a themed Keyblade with unique powers that allow different strategies. There are weapons for all styles of gameplay, whether for hand-to-hand combat or focused on dealing ranged damage.
The hallmarks of Square Enix RPGs are the fights against the bosses of each level, and this is no different here. At the end of each world there is a boss to be defeated. The first battles are easy, but the difficulty curve increases with each challenge until the last second of the game. Do not think that you will see the same mechanics on two different enemies, as this does not happen at any time. Even the little Heartless that appear during exploration are unique and represent the environment in which they are inserted.The enemies are different in each world, as in Operation Big Hero (Photo: Reproduction / Murilo Tunholi)
Sora’s precious naivete
As much as the original characters created by Nomura have characteristics that resemble others already seen in games of the Final Fantasy franchise, Sora walks against this common place and has the personality of a teenager who does not know much about the world. The protagonist’s naivety and innocence makes all feelings of love and friendship true and enhanced to the maximum. There is nothing in Kingdom Hearts that is not resolved with the united power of friends, and there is no problem, as that is the meaning of the game.Sora conquers all Toy Story toys in Kingdom Hearts 3 (Photo: Reproduction / Murilo Tunholi)
The main positive point of Sora as the protagonist is that the boy never lets himself be taken too seriously. Even struggling with darkness, facing losses and increasingly difficult challenges, the young man keeps his good mood and the smile on his face. This charisma makes all the characters that have already appeared have some connection with Sora, and these connections are what make games special. Even in titles that the protagonist does not appear, as is the case with Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days, for Nintendo DS, it is possible to see that, if there were no Sora, there would be no story.
Even a few years older, Sora is still one of the best parts of Kingdom Hearts 3. You can feel the evolution and maturation of the little boy who had failed the test to become a master. The anguish he feels whenever he is reminded of failure is clear, but the desire to get up again and help his friends is greater. Nomura’s idea may be to show that there is a little bit of Sora inside everyone, and that it is necessary to show it more often.Sora’s innocence, similar to that of Baymax, is the character’s best characteristic (Photo: Reproduction / Murilo Tunholi)
And the gameplay?
The time invested in completing the plot did not make the gameplay receive less affection. Combat is the most advanced to date and does everything that previous games do, only better. All systems are present, from the different Keyblades, spells and even the Links, abilities that allow to summon helpers like Wreck-it Ralph, Ariel, Simba and Stitch during the combat. Even the Dream Eaters that first appeared in Kingdom Hearts 3D are back.
In addition to the mechanics that have returned, there are also new features, such as the use of Disney park attractions that can be invoked in some situations. You can bomb your enemies with roller coaster fireworks, make them dizzy with swirling cups, use a pirate ship to launch them into the air, among other options that make combat extremely fun.The Magic Carousel is one of the attractions of Disney parks (Photo: Reproduction / Murilo Tunholi)
Sora’s experiences have only accumulated resources to be used in the final battle and, in some cases, may seem like a lot, but the goal is to allow the player to choose how they prefer to play. If you like spells more, invest in MP and Elixirs to get it back. If you prefer to defer swords on creatures, choose skills that better move and defend. Kingdom Hearts 3 has many options, but all of them are optional and can be switched in the middle of the game without any problem.
The mini games are also back and fulfill the role of breaking the routine of fighting in a row. The Gummi Ship, the spaceship that Sora uses to get around the worlds, has its own mechanics and can be fully customized. You can even create one from scratch using just blocks, just like building a game. It is also possible to waste a lot of time in the mini games of each world, like sailing the Caribbean seas with the ship and trying to score more and more on the SanFransokyo racing circuit.Kingdom Hearts 3 classic mini games (Photo: Playback / Murilo Tunholi)
Graphics and soundtrack are part of the experience
The graphic quality of Kingdom Hearts 3 is one of the game’s strong points. Each Disney character seems to have come directly from the feature films and the entire design of the game follows the style of each world. What is most impressive is the change from the cartoon style to the realistic as soon as Sora lands in the world of Pirates of the Caribbean. The environment graphics as well as the character models seem to have come out of a completely different game.
Small details like footprints in the snow, sun rays and light particles on the screen make the difference. Whether at the bottom of the ocean or in the middle of the clouds, everything was designed to convey the best possible graphic quality. Some scenes are worth admiring, such as the recreation of “Let It Go” in the world of Frozen.Kingdom Hearts 3 has realistic graphics in the stages of Pirates of the Caribbean (Photo: Reproduction / Murilo Tunholi)
Speaking of music, Kingdom Hearts has always had a memorable soundtrack, especially the opening songs “Simple and Clean” and “Sanctuary”, all performed by singer Hikaru Utada. The game’s tracks are well crafted and leave that feeling of nostalgia whenever they play. The experience of exploring the Toy Story-inspired world and listening to the instrumental version of “Amigo Estou Aqui” makes it all the more rewarding. The mix of different universes delights both fans of the game and admirers of Disney’s work.
Hikaru Utada’s themes have also returned and can be heard during some scenes. But the most noteworthy are the unprecedented “Don’t Think Twice”, which, with a smooth rhythm, serves as a closure for the story. And, for the beginning, the singer opens the game with “Face My Fears”, which conveys all the action and energy in the song that is a partnership with Skrillex, famous for the works with the electronic rhythm.
Kingdom Hearts 3 is the perfect conclusion to a series that touched the hearts of gamers and today is part of the repertoire of many who had fun with PlayStation 2. The title is mandatory for fans of the franchise, but it is also a good one starting point for those arriving now. There are countless ways to catch up on the storyline, whether by playing the compilations available for PS4 or watching videos on the Internet. After a long wait, the unusual mix between Square Enix and Disney is at its best.