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November 2018

Kingdom Hearts III

Platform(s): PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Role-Playing
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: Jan. 29, 2019


PS4/XOne Preview - 'Kingdom Hearts III'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on June 15, 2018 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

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

Pre-order Kingdom Hearts III

Sometimes, it's difficult to believe that the Kingdom Hearts franchise exists. Somehow, Disney and Square Enix got together for a series that involves spikey-haired JRPG protagonists adventuring alongside Donald Duck and Goofy. More amazing still is that it's one of their longest ongoing franchises. After the release of the PS2's Kingdom Hearts 2, the franchise had meandered in spin-offs, side games and prequels.

Of course, one of the big appeals of any Kingdom Hearts game is the new Disney worlds, and Kingdom Hearts III has a doozy of a collection. Pixar films are appearing for the first time, including "Monsters Inc." and "Toy Story." In addition, some of Disney's biggest hits, like "Big Hero 6," "Frozen" and "Tangled" will appear in some form or other. Even Ralph from "Wreck It Ralph" can be summoned. There are some returning favorites, such as "Hercules" and "Pirates of the Caribbean," but the majority of the worlds in KH3 are new.

The combat system in Kingdom Hearts III is a clear evolution of both Kingdom Hearts 2 and Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep.  The core combat system is similar to the older game, with action-based combat and magic spells you can use as long as you have MP.  The Flowmotion system from Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance is also present in a somewhat simplified form. Sora can run along almost any wall, which gives him a ton of mobility and options for approaching fights.

Similar to what was seen in Kingdom Hearts 2.8, you have context-sensitive special moves that appear as you attack. Some of these are more powerful versions of spells, such as Thundaga being available after casting Thunder multiple times. Far cooler are the new weapons. Sora's keyblade can transform into different forms, such as a giant hammer or a pair of claws. The new weapons are incredibly powerful but temporary, and they're also really fun to use. In particular, I adored the clawed weapons that vaguely reminded me of Anti-Form Sora, focused heavily on high-speed combo-heavy gameplay.

Perhaps the most dynamic element of the enhanced combat system comes in the form of the "Disney ride" attacks. By building up a long enough combo, you'll gain the ability to summon an extremely powerful attack based on amusement park rides, such as whirling teacups, a swinging ship, or a roller coaster. These attacks all play out as little minigames. For example, for the ship, you have to rotate the ship back and forth to make it swing and knock enemies around. These attacks also have another form, which involves help from NPCs in the environment. In the "Toy Story" world, Buzz and Woody can join Sora on a toy rocket ride, allowing them to zoom around the environment to smash up Heartless.

Of course, not all combat is so simple. There are also interesting gameplay mechanics and features. We got a glimpse of one in the "Toy Story" world. During a trip into a toy store, we ran into Heartless using giant robots. Sora could knock the Heartless out of these and then take it over. When you do so, the game changes into a first-person view, and you have direct control over the mecha. You can fire lasers, punch, and jet around to battle enemies. There are even three different type of mecha with other special abilities.

All in all, Kingdom Hearts III is shaping up to be exactly the game fans have been waiting for. I'm not entirely sure I could explain the story, but the gameplay is fun, punchy and quick, and the visuals are amazing. There's not a hair of difference between "Toy Story" and its in-game version. It might have been over a decade in coming, but assuming the full version of Kingdom Hearts III is as fun as our demo, it'll have been worth the wait when it comes out on January 29, 2019 for PS4 and Xbox One.

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