As of this writing, the UK’s biggest annual gaming expo EGX is currently underway in Birmingham. Indie Devs have flocked in their hundreds to showcase their hard work which is all looking fantastic, AAA titles both current and forthcoming are creating a buzz across the NEC and the retro section as always creates a wonderful aura and ode to the glory days of the arcade. But my first day at the con had one selfish objective, and that was to fulfil a 12-year objective of actually getting to play what I have referred to in the past, and rather accurately, might I add, the Chinese Democracy of video games (other games that deserve such a title would be Duke Nukem: Forever and Shenmue 3); Kingdom Hearts 3.
Disclaimer: Trust me, I am well aware that Square Enix has satiated us with an array of handheld spinoffs and pseudo-sequels as well as a sometimes comical amount of HD remasters, my 12 years of longing is in reference to the time between Kingdom Hearts 2&3.
12 years, let me put that in perspective for you. When the franchises last true console effort, Kingdom Hearts 2 came out on PlayStation 2 across Europe in 2006, I was a young, beardless, slimmer music student at the tender age of 17, bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and eagerly awaiting the release of a video game for the first time in years, because at that point my passion for music and girls had dominantly trumped my love of gaming for a few short years. Upon the night of buying KH2 with my less than meagre McDonald’s wages, I was at my childhood home with my college Girlfriend, alone, NO PARENTS! and this genius, telling her I was taking a shower, was actually sneaking in an hour of what I had at that point been waiting only 4 years for (doesn’t really seem too bad now in retrospect). Naturally, I got caught and rightfully scolded in an ultimate rendition of the nerd being caught with his pants down. what followed was years of waiting, granted the KH franchise has continued in fantastic handheld titles like Birth By Sleep, 358/2 Days and Dream Drop Distance as well as remasters 1.5, 2.5 and 2.8! but in the back of my mind it wasn’t enough, not until Kingdom Hearts 3 was a reality.
Fast forward to the 21st of Septemeber 2018 and I find myself still buzzing about finally getting a hands-on experience with Kingdom Hearts 3. A short 15-minute demo that showcased what this title is about perfectly, an evolution of the series but still keeping the familiarity of what has created such a strong cult following since 2002. Yes, my unreasonably high expectations and over a decade worth of anticipation made me want to say I was underwhelmed but for once in my life, my sceptical outlook was finally snuffed on something! and like Edward Bloom and Sandra Templeton crossing gazes across a crowded circus time seemingly stood still for a moment only for it to move twice as quick to catch up, because it was over before it had begun, but it was worth it.
The premium showcase gave you the option of playing a section of KH3’s Toy Story world or attempt to down the Rock Titan boss fight in Olympus (the one we have all watched in awe during the trailers). The first thing you’ll notice about the Toy Box, the unprecedented quality of the visuals. Crisp, beautifully rendered character models and surroundings and practically looks like a Pixar movie plucked straight from the silver screen, I have honestly never seen anything like it, it’s astounding the justice the Unreal 4 engine has done for the aesthetics of Kingdom Hearts 3. Along with the whole Keyblade hack and slash we have all become accustomed to, KH3 has also introduced a number of new mechanics that work really well. Transforming your Keyblade into a giant hammer, conjuring the goddamn Tea Cup ride from Disneyland and summoning an 8-bit beatdown at the hands of Wreck-It Ralph breathes all sorts of new life into bringing it to the heartless and the story elements lead much to the imagination yet still leaves us guessing what lies in store to this game as a whole! And along with the amped up yet familiar soundtrack, the addition of the gleefully nostalgic ‘You’ve Got a Friend in Me’ at the opening of the stage filled me with so much joy it actually left a meandering member of Square Enix’s staff laughing at me.
The Olympus section worked as a perfect partner to the bright and wonderful world of Toy Story, with us diving into the rocky cliffs of Mount Olympus before facing us with the challenge of the behemoth that is the Rock Titan, surrounded in a spacious arena of rain and thunder, reminding us all that this game brimming with familiar Disney faces can be so epic and hold such depth, all topped off with the continuation of Kingdom Hearts likeness and overall progression of downing ginormous foes, and though my time playing this particular part was cut short, it has left me eager to explore further upon Kingdom Hearts 3’s release.
After my long awaited experience with Kingdom Hearts 3, January cannot come any sooner, and after wetting my beak the final stretch leaves me salivating more and more but has reassured that the wait is nearly over. The future looks bright everyone , just sit tight for a few more months.