Imagine battling the forces of darkness in Andy’s room from “Toy Story” while being aided by Donald Duck and Goofy and smacking foes with a giant key — you don’t know what you’re doing, you don’t know how you got there, and like in all Disney movies, it doesn’t matter. Who cares? You’re the good guys. The creatures you’re killing are the bad guys. There’s bright lights and jolly music. That’s “Kingdom Hearts III” in a nutshell. You can read the rest of this review, but the truth is that Kingdom Hearts is best played when not questioning it. Better yet, it’s best played by not thinking, putting away all semblances of logic and letting your monkey instinct for stimulation take over, seriously.
If you are new to the Kingdom Hearts series, and if you expect to get a story from your games, then “Kingdom Hearts III” will be a slog for you. That’s because “Kingdom Hearts III” (as well as the rest of the series) has one of the most convoluted plots in gaming history. As the concluding chapter to a 17-year-old franchise, you are expected to know what feels like a million characters and all of their individual motives and relationships. Even worse, some of these characters share the same name or are alter-egos of other characters. All you really need to know is that you play as “anime boy” Sora, whose defining feature is his disproportionate head-to-foot size ratio. His mission is to travel throughout Disney’s most beloved corporate holdings, regain his powers and fight the big baddies.
Your entourage includes Donald Duck and Goofy, as well as any Disney character whose world you happen to be in at the time. The rest of the story has all the standard adventure tropes such as forces of darkness and light, super villains trying to unearth powerful ancient relics, and apprentices training to become grandmasters. In all honesty, none of it really matters because it's impossible to follow anyways. Luckily for fans of classic Disney movies, Kingdom Hearts is a dream come digitally. Running alongside the likes of Woody from “Toy Story,” or Elsa from “Frozen,” is a joy. Their worlds are so accurate they look like the actual movie. However, I’d like to have had some of these characters join my entourage. Donald and Goofy are great comic relief, yet it would have been funny if I could have swapped one of them out for say, Captain Jack Sparrow or Hercules.
Sora’s main weapon is the Key Blade. After successfully completing each world, Sora is awarded a new Key Blade specific to that Disney movie. In addition to more effectively smacking enemies, these new weapons have movie specific abilities that make combat feel more like whimsical fun rather than life or death violence. As Sora stacks ability after ability to his roster, the screen becomes a flurry of rainbow chaos, causing your brain to panic, but your eyes to smile. Even better is that Sora’s ultimate abilities include summoning famous rides from Disney theme parks. Destroying an entire mob of monsters by riding a glowing merry go round is what I’m talking about when I say it’s better to not question “Kingdom Hearts III.” Though the gameplay mechanics are amazing, my one complaint is the auto lock system. When locking onto enemies the camera’s attempt to keep Sora and your opponent in view feels choppy, which breaks the fluidity the action RPG experience.
Kingdom Hearts III is fun, yet it’s not rewarding to grind through the story unless you’re a long-time fan. The novelty of theme park ride weapons and visiting classic Disney locations is why you will come. Unless you didn’t have a childhood, it will be the reason why you stay.