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Kingdom Hearts III

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Role-Playing
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Release Date: March 30, 2021


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PC Review - 'Kingdom Hearts III + Re:Mind'

by Cody Medellin on May 6, 2021 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

A mature Sora sets out on a new adventure, as Kingdom Hearts III makes full use of next-generation console technologies to deliver more exhilarating, action-packed gameplay and various fun features.

Buy Kingdom Hearts III

In 2005, Kingdom Hearts II hit the PS2. It was lauded as a high-water mark for a series that was still unbelievable to many due to the merging of Disney and Square Enix properties into one title. Its unresolved ending made it a painful wait for the eventual sequel, especially since a number of spin-off games added lots of backstory to deepen the world but only added incremental progress to the plot. In 2019, Kingdom Hearts III finally hit the PS4 and Xbox One, the latter of which was a little harsh since Xbox players wouldn't get the complete story until the following year. Two years later, PC players can finally check out this title with Kingdom Hearts III + Re:Mind.

The story begins immediately after the events of Dream Drop Distance. While Sora may have failed his exam to become a Keyblade Master, he also lost a good chunk of the powers he had gained in his journey. The most important of those abilities is what Yen Sid refers to as the "power of waking." With his friends off on their own missions and with Xehanort moving forward with his plan to make the x-blade, Sora needs to find a way to get his powers back and gather up seven legendary Keyblade wielders to fight against the newly reformed Organization XIII.

For a series with more spin-offs than numbered titles — and the spin-offs are better at building up background lore than moving things forward — KH3 does a great job of trying to tie up loose ends. Just about every one of the original characters from the series makes a cameo appearance, and most of them play a significant part in the story or get a proper resolution. The ending opens up another mystery that will no doubt be covered in future titles, but Square Enix deserves kudos for properly concluding the stories of so many characters.

One of the long-running jokes about the series is that the lore is so complicated and twisted that it is difficult to explain it to anyone who's not into the series. That is especially true here, since the game doesn't offer much of a recap of the major beats and the glossary is too dense for newcomers. Characters and past scenarios are talked about as if they're common knowledge. Of course, trying to use what is presumably the last game in the given story arc as a jumping-off point seems ridiculous, but considering that this is exactly what Xbox-only players faced two years ago, the criticism is valid. Fortunately, PC players have the benefit of getting all of the titles in one go, even if the price to do so is much, much higher than what PlayStation and Xbox players paid to complete the series.

If you're just here to see the Disney worlds and characters, you'll be delighted, even though that's not what you immediately feel with your first trip to Olympus from "Hercules." You also return to the worlds of "Pirates of the Caribbean" and Winnie the Pooh," although the former has you visiting new locales based on the later movies, and the latter brings you back to the Hundred Acre Wood with a graphical style that matches the watercolor illustrations of the books. The rest of the worlds are new, with a bigger focus on Disney's recent CG work. The "Frozen" juggernaut exists alongside the worlds of "Big Hero 6" and "Tangled," and Pixar comes on board with trips to the worlds of both "Monsters, Inc." and "Toy Story," and they represent a break from the norm since they, along with "Big Hero 6," tell original tales rather than retreading the events of the films.

KH3 uses the combat system from Birth by Sleep: A Fragmentary Passage, and it also combines some elements from Dream Drop Distance. Locking onto enemies is still there, but it doesn't feel necessary since there's better enemy tracking. The camera is pulled back to better see the action, and Sora can dart around to reach foes. Flowmotion lets players use the environment, and Shotlock lets players hit enemies from afar. The Situational Command system makes a return, so you gain unique attacks after using a weapon or spell for a while, and your allies take care of themselves with Situational Commands of their own. For example, Goofy lets you jump on his shield so you can get a higher boost for a ground smash.

There are a few more changes to the system in KH3. Players can level up individual Keyblades, which can be swapped out with the press of a button rather than a menu. Keyblades also replace the Forms from previous titles, so instead of bonding with other characters, you can transform your blade into different weapons, like giant drills or crossbows. The Flowmotion system upgrade lets players run up and across specially marked walls. You can still summon other Disney characters like Stitch and Ariel to help you in a fight, but you can summon attractions, too. Some are generic, like a train with a lot of light bulbs, but others are more recognizable to casual fans, like Buzz Lightyear's Astro Blasters, Grizzly River Run, and the Mad Tea Party, to name a few.

While the system allows for plenty of ways to fight regular enemies and bosses, it also feels like the system favors flash over function. This is especially true when summoning attractions; the sight of a Main Street Electrical Parade-inspired pirate ship swinging back and forth in the sky is ridiculously cool, but it might be wiser to use other, less time-consuming and flashy attacks. The dashing is awesome, and the Flowmotion system has a less chaotic feel to it, but Sora's heavier attacks still don't feel as crisp as with other characters, like Aqua. The fighting is enjoyable, especially with boss fights, where the different gimmicks make for interesting and lengthy skirmishes.

The convoluted yet comprehensive story and overwhelming but fun combat system take players on a 40-hour journey with just the main story beats. As in any good modern JRPG, there's a decent amount of side content. Aside from the extra side areas, you have a bevy of minigames at your disposal, including one that involves cooking with Remy from "Ratatouille." There are a few LCD games that are inspired by old Disney shorts and a puzzle game dealing with fruit in the Hundred Acre Wood. Even the Gummi Ship is more fun, since it has become a more open shooter; you can just use the vehicle to get from point A to B without dealing with combat if you hate it, though.

As the title implies, the Re:Mind DLC is included, and it is a bonus since it's integrated into the main game rather than something separate at a higher price point. Players have the option to turn on modifiers to make the game easier or harder, adding some granularity to the standard list of difficulty options. The Slideshow option shows off some of the screenshots you've taken in a movie format, and after you've beaten the game, Orchestra is a live performance of some featured songs in the series.

There are two major focal points to the DLC that will be interesting to those who want to get more out of the title after completing it for the first time. Re:Mind is the first, and it can be considered both new and repetitive. Instead of going to a brand-new area, you return to Scala ad Caelum. In lieu of playing through a new tale in this area, you replay the fights that lead to the conclusion. The chapter is expanded with scenes displaying new perspectives from other characters, but the attempt to flesh out the story doesn't feel that significant. For longtime fans, this may bring up memories of Kingdom Hearts Re:coded, where the payoff is minimal. On the bright side, you get to control Aqua, Kairi, Riku and Roxas, but their participation feels fleeting since you're playing through most of this portion of the DLC as Sora.

The second point, which opens up once you beat Re:Mind, is Limit Cut, which is essentially a series of boss fights against the various members of Organization XIII. Unlike Re:Mind, you may fight against the same characters, but the battles are new and their inherent difficulty is high enough that leaving it unlocked at the end is logical, since you need to be at a high level to have the fights feel fair. Beat this, and you'll get a bonus boss fight; beat that, and you get a bonus ending that depends on whether you win or lose. The bonus scene is nice, but the fights are fun for those who crave a challenge, especially since the combat system is rather excellent.

Much like the previous Kingdom Hearts releases on the platform, the PC version of Kingdom Hearts III + Re:Mind has a few benefits over the other console iterations. While it doesn't support ultrawide resolutions, it does support uncapped frame rates, so those who have high-refresh monitors or TVs can take advantage of that feature. The unlimited frame rate doesn't apply to pre-rendered cut scenes, though, which creates a disconnect; the game's lack of substantial loading times means a lot of frame rate shifts as the game frequently switches between gameplay and movie. Keyboard and mouse controls are present, and while the game still feels more natural with a gamepad, players now have full customization over every key. You still can't fully customize the gamepad controls, though.

The move to Unreal Engine has improved the game's graphical presentation. The overall art style remains the same, but it looks like the number of polygons and colors have increased in the characters, making them fit right in with the CG Disney worlds. The increased lighting and particle effects go a long way toward making each scene look vibrant, and the same can be said for the increased enemy count on-screen. Even the cut scenes look better, since there are a number of them rendered in real time versus being recorded movie files. The audio has always been a high-water mark for the series, and that remains unchanged here, with the voice work being top-notch and the music being just as epic as in previous entries.

Except for the open-ended ending, Kingdom Hearts III + Re:Mind succeeds in being a very good game and a proper conclusion to the long-running series. Longtime fans will see all of the lore finally pay off and many loose ends get tied up, since they are the only ones who can fully understand what's going on. The combat has been tightened up to the point that it feels almost perfect for action fans while not alienating longtime players. The Re:Mind content lets things down a tad, but it is otherwise a must-play title for franchise fans.

Score: 8.5/10

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