Kingdom Hearts III Preview - A Kingdom Hearts on steroids

We have waited long enough. For thirteen years. What will an hour and a half queue ever be?


Me and my (when she wants) sweetheart we were asking ourselves this same question, while we were looking for reasons to snub a whole fair and in favor of Kingdom Hearts III. But we didn't really need concrete reasons: after more than a decade of waiting, spent between various secondary chapters and inter-generational remastered, a playable demo of Kingdom Hearts III he could easily keep us at the Square Enix booth all day. Fortunately, the wait in line lasted just two hours.

But, now, some context: twice a year, London's monumental ExCeL center hosts MCM Comic Con, a large comic and video game fair dedicated to geeks from all over the world. We've covered the event in the past, and one of our visits to the show also earned us a great interview with D, on that occasion one of the many prestigious guests of the organization. This time, Square Enix was present on the show floor with a demo of Kingdom Hearts III, on both PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

The latest chapter of the Sora saga will be available in late January on both consoles. But what seems to have changed from the old chapters?


To learn more:
Kingdom Hearts: Don't call them Spin Offs


Bigger, more powerful, bad
20 minutes between toys and titans

Our trial was restricted to a total duration of 20 minutes, divided according to our speed between Toy Box (Toy Story)Mount Olympus (Hercules). Each section of the game was relatively short, so you could play both multiple times if you were quick enough. We started with Mount Olympus.

What became clear from the start was that Kingdom Hearts III appears to be a Kingdom Hearts on steroids: Sora can run on walls, do very fast aerial combos, transform his Keyblade similar to what happened in DDD (Dream Drop Distance), and in general the action is even faster and more dynamic than it was already in the advanced stages of Kingdom Hearts II. The so-called "contextual commands" change according to the combo performed: a combo of physical attacks can activate a Limit Form with our companions, but a combo of magic can trigger an advanced level magic attack: Using "Fira", for example, will allow us to attack with "Firaga", even if we have not yet unlocked it.



Similar, but different

Everything is faster, in short, and the limit commands like “Papero Flare” (big and expected return) no longer seem to require the use of MPs. It is also possible to change Keyblade in combat, a possibility that will allow us to chain increasingly complex combos.

On the other side, the MP management system has remained substantially the same as in the second chapter, and in general the gameplay structure hasn't been turned upside down - which, if you're a fan of the saga from the beginning like us, is absolutely good. I doubt we can expect any major changes to the "roomed" maps from previous chapters; but, in contrast, the individual areas are undoubtedly much larger, and the mechanics introduced seem enough to guarantee a great variety.

On Mount Olympus, we delighted in taking on hordes of new Heartless e the Titan of the Rock, in a scenic boss-fight like few others that also allowed us to use the curious "train" seen in past trailers. It was time to get to know Woody and the others.


"Adults are just grown children, anyway"
It's still Kingdom Hearts, after all

And we were pleasantly surprised with the quality of the writing in the micro-scenes shown: the exchanges between Sora, Donald and Goofy are still fresh and hilarious, and the dialogues in general seem to have kept the voice and tone of the main series: Sora is undoubtedly more mature than in the past, but his playful spirit has remained unchanged, and his interactions with Woody, Buzz, Rex and the others have brought us more than a smile.

The world of Toy Story was also an opportunity to try out new combos and abilities, some of which seemed to come straight from worlds Sora passed. And we faced another boss battle against a fearsome toy, defeating him aboard a plastic Mecha; it was then that we understood how, wanting to be optimistic, Kingdom Hearts III boss battles have the potential to be more varied than ever, overcoming even the battles of the second chapter in the atmosphere and mechanics.

The atmosphere of the series seems preserved, cured, protected; and we, when we realized it, instantly went back a decade younger.

In the image, the "Big Magic Mountain" train, undoubtedly a reference to the Big Thunder Mountain of Disney parks.

There's no rose without thorns
There are some technical defects ...

But it's not all plain sailing. Our test, albeit brief, raised a couple of technical doubts regarding the performance of the experience.

Overall, Kingdom Hearts III has an amazing graphics engine, beautiful to see and admire in combat, and the facial animations are more beautiful than ever, finally abandoning (and obviously) the very flat idle-faces of some characters in the first chapters.

Yet, in more than a couple of situations, our proof (on Xbox One) was undermined by terrible drops in framerate in some crowded areas, e a too long loading forced us to restart the game from the dashboard, after about three minutes of waiting. Furthermore, during the boss-battle in the Toy Box it happened to us that our Mecha got hopelessly stuck on top of another, forcing us to go out due to an obvious collision problem.



… But there is still time!

All in all, however, these technical problems can still be easily solved in the coming months, and it is possible that the version shown at the fair is even several months old, consider the testing steps it may have required before being presented to the public.

For the rest, therefore, our hearts remain full of hope: Kingdom Hearts III it looks as fun as we would like it to be, and the experience - in a small way - has fully satisfied us at a playful level. Our only concerns now lie with longevity and the script: with all the meat on the fire, in this chapter, the concern is that history may have some problems, or that the cuts already announced are not as minimal as one might hope.

All that remains is to wait for January 2019 for a (hopefully) definitive denial of all these doubts.

Comment Kingdom Hearts III impressed us positively, exactly as we would have hoped. The technical problems encountered during our rehearsal are not so serious that they could not be fixed before the release, and, in any case, what we were looking for was mainly a respect for the tones of the main series. Luckily, we were satisfied; and, given how much more dynamic this chapter is than in the past, January could not possibly be further away. Pros and cons Faster, more complex, more varied
Atmosphere of the series well rendered
Amazing graphics engine ... x ... But with some reservations
x Worrying drops in framerate
x Some anxiety about the script

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