SDCC 2018 Hands-On Impressions: Kingdom Hearts III

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I purposefully skipped cutscenes to maximize my playtime

After more than a decade of waiting, Kingdom Hearts III is not only real, but playable and on its way early next year. After happily stumbling upon a ticket to come back and play the game, I was ready to team up with Sora in the Toy Story world to kick the Heartless out of Andy’s room.

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Souveneir

Kingdom Hearts games have been plentiful on handheld devices that, while good games in their own right, lacked the technical power present in the current XBOX One and PlayStation 4 consoles.  The visual fidelity was overly striking and Andy’s room looked just the same if not as good as the Pixar film itself. Seeing Sora’s jacket rustle as I moved and Goofy’s ears flop about while spinning around with his shield showed just how far the presentation had evolved from the past entries.

Combat will feel instantly familiar to anyone who has played a previous Kingdom Hearts game. The command list lets you attack, consume an item, or cast magical abilities at your foes. Sora is still an acrobatic maniac with flashy keyblade strikes and combos that last for days at a time. My AI pals Donald, Goofy, Buzz and Woody however, definitely did their fair share of fighting and were much more helpful than companions in past games. Partner moves are still a main attraction in fighting in tandem with Disney legends. Running up to Buzz had him equip Sora with a giant toy hammer that let me pound into my foes at a surprising speed. It was both silly and immensely satisfying laying into the Heartless and a welcome change of pace from Keyblade strikes. I was also able to ride a rocket with Buzz and Woody, where we could take flight and then lock onto a grounded enemy and unleash the rocket straight at them. This was very reminiscent of the climax of the first film where Buzz and Woddy are trying to get back to Andy’s car whilst “falling in style.” It was a great addition and I cannot wait to see this sort of homage implemented into the other worlds in the game.

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Needs more Randy Newman

Another welcome addition that I discovered while playing was the sheer freedom I had in Andy’s room and in the locations that followed. Kingdom Hearts games in the past have had very fragmented worlds with many “rooms” with short loading times in between. I was able to traverse Andy’s room in any way I chose. I could jump on his bed and weave through his trinkets that were on top of his dresser. Kingdom Hearts has had  large areas previously, but this was definitely a different feel than what had previously been done.

After dismantling the Heartless, Buzz told us that we had to go down the street to the toy store. So I jumped out of the window in Andy’s room, fought more enemies on the rooftop, jumped down onto the front lawn, and fought my way to the toy store all with zero loading screens or separated areas in between.

Finally at our destination, Sora took command of a toy robot where I entered a first person point of view and could run, shoot, and punch my way through opposing toy robots. The pace of combat was very quick and frantic and there was never a lack of action on screen. Should my robot be defeated, I could attack an enemy and steal their robot to get right back into the fray. It was very plain to see that with combat being very familiar, the environment was tuned to make encounters diverse and more distinctive than before.

The other part of the demo included a portion of Olympus, but my time ran out just as I began playing.

I was originally hoping that the eagerly and long awaited Kingdom Hearts III was going to live up to fan’s expectations, but I’m now confident that it will. January 29th isn’t soon, but it definitely promises what has the potential to be the best game in the series.

 

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