Kingdom Hearts 3 Review: More Disney than Final Fantasy

For a series to have taken more than a decade to complete its original trilogy, it seems as if the third entry would have been the all-satisfying farewell to a character as compelling as Sora. But after investing hours into this lush action RPG, one cannot feel compelled to wonder as to why the developers focused more on Disney product placement than actual plot exposition. Not that this is a bad finale to the Kingdom Hearts trilogy, in fact, it was gratifying in some key portions of the story. Sora’s tale of redemption against the dark ones still is as engaging as it was back on the PlayStation 2 in the early 2000s.

Everything about Kingdom Hearts 3 is perfect on the surface but it is what is underneath that counts. The subtext of this fantastic adventure series is what is truly lacking in this current gen conclusion. Director Tetsuya Nomura, known for his past work with past Final Fantasy entries, seems to have lost his grip on what made Kingdom Hearts such a brilliant amalgamation of the two worlds. The world of Disney completely consumes this RPG and for some, this may be a great visual element. But for others who are die-hard fans of the franchise’s predecessors, it is truly disappointing when the majority of Sora’s journey is told through the point of view of the house of mouse. Not necessarily a bad way to end the series, but certainly not worth the wait, Kingdom Hearts 3 is definitely worth the purchase and warrants its 60 dollars plus price tag.

The Worlds of Disney Have Never Looked Better

For those who have never played the Kingdom Hearts series but love the Disney cinematic universe, this game is definitely a splendor to behold. Even if you have never played through its forebearers all one has to know is that there is a warrior of light named Sora who must traverse through the Disney world in order to combat the dark ones from consuming the land. Simple enough, but the developers throw in characters from the classic Disney vaults along with Pixar’s cinematic universe, the game becomes something more than just iconic characters popping in and out of the screen. KH 3 is full of Pixar references, from the brutish Wreck it Ralph to the frosted lands of Frozen, every aspect from the current lineup of Disney’s computer-animated software line is represented to full capacity..

Donald and Goofy are once again Sora’s main AI allies along his quest, and these two sub characters were truly the highlight of the game. Donald’s pessimistic views and Goofy’s foolish humor are the stuff that symbolizes why these two characters animation legends. Every shot, every word, and every line of dialogue is of the highest caliber of production. From a visual standpoint, KH 3 is mesmerizing to behold. Some portions of the game actually take place after the events of certain films, as for instance with the Toy Story sequences. This gives the game itself a sense of importance within the Disney universe and places it directly within the timelines of certain canonical films. Truly a remarkable notion when one considers how the video game medium and the world of cinema are so intertwined in this franchise. The house of mouse is the most represented company in this product, more so than even Square Enix’s classic Final Fantasy universe. Cloud makes a brief, if not unconvincing, cameo in this game which is where the storyline starts to run into problems. When Fred from Big Hero 6 is more prominent than anyone from the world of Final Fantasy than one easily sees the target audience that Nomura and his team were catering to. 

What Happened to Square Enix?

One of the main issues with this game is the fact that its plot and setting are imbalanced. The game is oozing with Disney cliches and character placements that at times are jarring to behold. If the writers of the story focused more on Sora and his battle with the seven Key Blade masters than the worlds of Tangled and Frozen would have been a welcomed appearance. Instead, players are bombarded with Disney iconography and it is more of forced worship than actual proper fan service. One of the most mesmerizing aspects of this title are the varied gameplay styles within these Disney worlds which help to distract the viewer from the mundanity of seeing the house of mouse appear over and over again. The first person shooting segments of the Gigas in the Toy Story world are as differential and interesting as the puzzle solving segments of the 100 Acre Woods world. The endless amounts of mini-games also are a welcomed feature in KH3 and such nuances are what Square Enix should have focused on rather than Disney fan service. For some, this is much appreciated, for others it is a lesson in not placing environments in front of good storytelling.

Writer Masaru Oka needed to place his own voice in the final product, and there are moments of exposition brilliance. When Sora engages Yen Sid in his quest to regain the power of memory, the plot becomes intrinsically engaging. But long-winded cartoonish animation sequences and mindless romps through the Disney cinematic universe subsume what could have been a mesmerizing finale to Sora’ story arc. Hence, with all this being said, Kingdom Hearts 3 is still a fun, if not mindless, journey through a facile RPG world. Disney received literally all the coverage in this hack n slash RPG and not rightfully so. Square Enix has just enough depth in its back catalog to have easily made a deeper presence in KH 3’s plot. 

The Verdict

At the end of it all, Kingdom Hearts 3 is a fun action adventure with some visually stunning Disney fan service. If you are looking for a satisfying end to Sora’s quest against the Key Blade masters than you are not going to be thrilled by the way his story arc concludes. The game’s creators should have focused more on the writing of story rather than flashy cartoon-like visuals that exist simply to fill the void that is the plot rather than enhances its exposition. This is really the main issue with this title. For a storyline to have taken from the PS2 era till now to conclude, it is jaw-dropping to think that Sora’s journey is finished with the authorship of the highest caliber. Sure, venturing into the world of Toy Story again is delightfully nostalgic. But nostalgia alone cannot make up for subpar storytelling. After investing dozens of hours into the game, one is easily left wanting more and not in a good way. If Sora is to be truly a Square Enix character than why was not the company that gave birth to his inception more present? A major factor, and an important that its developers needed to answer before placing this game onto store shelves in 2019. That being said, Sora’s story needed a conclusion after almost 17 years since his debut on the PS 2. Definitely pick this title up if you love Disney way more than you love serious Square RPG’s. But if you are seeking a fulfilling story arc to a trilogy, Kingdom Hearts 3 is not the game for you. 

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About Anthony Frisina 70 Articles
Anthony Frisina is a graduate of the City University of New York-Brooklyn College with a BA in Political Science with a minor in Psychology. After finishing his undergraduate degree, Anthony went on to attend Brooklyn College's Film Academy and Writer's workshop program, achieving an interdisciplinary degree in Screenwriting and Film theory in the Fine Arts. Transforming his love for classic American cinema, Anthony went on to adapt a number of his own works into different mediums, including his well-received Western novel The Regulator. Anthony likes to spend his free time writing articles for magazines and periodicals that cover a wide range of topics, from science fiction to popular culture. As a screenwriter, Anthony has had his screenplays featured at numerous spec script writing competitions across the country where he one day hopes to write the next great American film.

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