I kind of swept through this game. And I promise that I took my time with everything spare lucky emblems, gummi missions (which I hate), and every little detail in between. But now that I’ve finished it, and with that, the series that consumed thirteen years, more than HALF of my life, I’m going to share the nitty, gritty, non-spoilers of what I think of the end of the Xehanort saga.
Kingdom Hearts 3 is, believe it or not, a direct continuation from the mainline game “Dream Drop Distance,” released back in 2012 rather than Kingdom Hearts 1 and 2, which released in 2002 and 2006 respectively.
For your convenience, I’ll give a brief summary of that game. After the events of Kingdom Hearts 2, Sora and his best friend Riku are summoned by Yen Sid to take a mark of mastery exam and become full-fledged Keyblade wielders, but along the way, adversaries thwart the objective before it is even realized, Sora fails the exam while Riku successfully passes, and Kingdom Hearts 2.9 (Yes. I know.) picks up right when Sora is seeking to regain the strengths he lost during Dream Drop Distance.
[One last punch before we start three, thanks Nomura.]
Sora’s journey through KH3 is reflecting around two main objectives: to understand the “power of waking” that he never achieved in Dream Drop Distance, and to gather the Seven Lights meant to clash with Xehanort’s Thirteen Darknesses and create a powerful weapon known as the X-Blade, or Kai-Blade, Chi-Blade, basically a very advanced Keyblade born of strife and chaos meant to open the door to Kingdom Hearts.
For real this time.
As far as the plot went, I was always worried that it wasn’t going to live up to standards due to the constant flow of trailers. I made that mistake before with Final Fantasy XV. I really loved the characters of that game, and the trailers that made the game look so incredibly actually underwhelmed the plot and some of the character development for me, but I think that was mainly due to a difference in direction. Hajime Tabata changed the production almost completely after Tetsuya Nomura stepped away to finish Kingdom Hearts 3, and Nomura pulled trailers out at well for the release of KH3, but it only heightened me throughout the entire experience. Which is… actually amazing, seeing the contrast of two prolific directors in the same company (before Tabata resigned), tugging at one another’s reins for dominance on their series.
The story of Kingdom Hearts 3, while flawed and having some undeniable pacing issues, was an epic conclusion, one that I was thrilled to experience in every mold. I couldn’t have asked for a better method… though, by the end, I think I had many more questions than I did from the moment I began.
If I were to spend time talking about the characters, I would be writing my own novel based solely on Kingdom Hearts, and there’s already a novel series, so I’ll avoid the copyright infringement. So, I’ll cheat and talk about how the characters have developed, though vaguely for game three to keep from eliciting too many spoilers.
Sora: Sora started off as more of a realist in Kingdom Hearts 1, and when Kingdom Hearts 2 came into the picture, he was completely optimistic, naive, fun, sweet, and charming. You couldn’t help but love his dorkiness. In Kingdom Hearts 3, he retains most of his charm from the second game, but he also becomes a lot more snarky, more wise in his speeches… and he knows how to carry himself in many different ways. He fits the mold of a teenager that is starting to understand what the world has in store for him, how to achieve as well as defy destiny, and I’m honored to say that he’s been my favorite in the series for a vast majority of my time as a KH fan. He’s grown so much, and I can’t wait to see what comes next in the series for him.
Riku: Riku was originally my favorite in Kingdom Hearts 1, but after he turned to the dark side, even eleven year old me was screaming that he was gullible and (much like Sora calls him) stupid. He fell to darkness, lost his heart, but after going through this traumatic experience… he changes, and decides to right his wrongs right until he becomes a full-fledged Keyblade Master in Dream Drop Distance. And while I thought Sora deserved it, Riku for sure earned his spot as the Keyblade Master he worked to become. Riku was always the wiser, more mellowed older brother figure to his best friends Sora and Kairi, and that evolves even more throughout Kingdom Hearts 3. Being along for the ride and seeing Riku change the most of the main cast was an experience that I don’t think can ever be matched by another.
Kairi: There’s no doubt that Kairi is the underdog in much of the storyline, but her purpose never seems to change. She is the princess with a strong will and heart that is the driving force for carrying her friends forward, and though she is always there in spirit, she likes to slip between cracks to make sure she isn’t forgotten. And, she hasn’t. At first, I wasn’t a fan of hers, but over the years, she started to grow on me. And in KH3, she finally decided to find a place on the battlefield, which is pretty admirable. Took you long enough, lady.
Mickey, Donald, and Goofy: Because you just can’t unlink these three. Ever. They never change, but they do grow on you and with you throughout the series. Donald and Goofy are ever loyal to Sora, always at his side, even when Sora wants to handle things alone, they’re never far behind. And Mickey does the same for Riku by far. They’re all amazing in their own rights, and the game would never be as prolific and developed as it has become without them there to offer their hands to our faithful gang. They were always a part of my childhood due to my love of Disney movies–but they influenced me more than ever thanks to Kingdom Hearts.
Axel/Lea: Real name Lea, prefers being called Axel, but completely a fan favorite and burning to the core. Axel has always been a motivator from the sidelines since his debut in Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, and his wits and valor carried him from working against Sora’s team to becoming a valued ally, even evolving into a Keyblade wielder himself. If anyone deserves a chance at a better life, it is him, for he always fight for what he believes his best no matter what good or wrong may come of the outcome. His goal has always been to rescue his closest friends Roxas and Xion, but there is more to his journey yet to be realized, and becoming a Keyblade wielder could change that.
The third game took a lot of daring risks with its gameplay, from switching Keyblades to access many different types of play styles to taking selfies and pictures of your own accord. Not a single moment in the gameplay felt repetitive or dull, and I think this was the strongest deck that the third game had to offer. There was so much execution used to the fullest capacity, and it improves on the tactics that were first introduced in Kingdom Hearts 0.2: A Fragmentary Passage.” Plain to say, I loved it.
Not only were the styles of physical fighting top-notch, there was also the introduction of pirate ship battles and commandments, which has a bit of an Assassin’s Creed Black Flag feel, but toned down enough that most anyone can handle it.
[Except me at times, because a certain card-wielding gambler is a cheating jerk that never has ships attacking him when you race, but I digress.]
Overall, I enjoyed the gameplay like crazy, but my biggest flaw? I started the game on proud mode, because I like a challenge. That game… did not feel overly challenging for me. I died twice throughout the whole game, and they were both against the Tornado Titan in the very first world, for very bad reasons. I think once Critical Mode is released, I’ll try to play the entire story again on that mode to eat my own words, but for now, easy run, loved every minute.
I have three major things to say in response to this topic.
One: Yoko Shimomura is a goddess’s gift to composition, and she literally improves her soundtracks with every single release. I loved Final Fantasy XV’s soundtrack, and I usually listen to it when I’m writing. I love all of the KH soundtracks. But KH3… was LITERALLY her best work to date. That should say a lot for a musician’s tuned ear.
Two: The animation/graphics were literally on par, if not better than most of the movies that they originated from. Need an example? Well, let’s just say that Let It Go is actually played in the game, and it literally. Looks. Better. Than the movie. Here’s a comparison. Not at all a spoiler. Shocker, but not a spoiler in any sense.
Three: Utada Hikaru is a goddess as well. I happened to hear “Face My Fears” and “Don’t Think Twice” before the release date, and while both songs have much deeper meanings now that I’ve finished the game, individually, they are brilliant songs. I was so thrilled to know that KH3 was going to have new music, and it was no surprise to me at all that they lived up to standards.
High marks all around for both of those!
An Overall View
Kingdom Hearts is a series that has touched many hearts in many different ways. It is a series that brings people together, offers them solace away from the world. It was amazing–is amazing–and it granted people like me the chance to stray from the normalcies of everyday life. I was eleven years old when I first picked up Kingdom Hearts 1, and I waited thirteen years for the last of the Xehanort saga.
This series… changed my life, showed me how it feels to retain hope. To love. To laugh. It pulled me from the darkest places in my heart, time and time again. Kingdom Hearts is a strong part of the reason why I’m an author today, and this series led me to one of the most important people in my life. My boyfriend, Jordan. Someday, our hearts will be a guiding key towards the future. And there’s much of that I feel I owe to Tetsuya Nomura, and to Sora.
Much like I said, the third game had its flaws. But, those flaws, and the perfections, led us to today. And we all found enjoyment in it, one way or another.
So… here’s to more hope in our hearts. Thank you, Tetsuya Nomura.