2005 was a very different time, a time where Tony Blair was Prime Minister, Netflix got by through mail order DVD’s, Hoobastank was at the height of popularity and Game Hype Editor Damien O’Neill still had an Irish accent. It was also the year that Kingdom Hearts 2 blasted onto the RPG scene and simply blew away a 16-year-old me. That’s close to 14 years Ladies and Gentleman. 14 years of speculation, rumors, broken hearts and teasers. Little did I know that when I plunged my keyblade into Xemnas for the ultimate blow all the way back then that the wait for a true follow up would have ime arms crossed and foot tapping all the way until 2019. Yes, as I have stressed in the past, our thirst has been kept at bay with handheld greats like Birth by Sleep, 358/2 Days and Dream Drop Distance (Chain of Memories and RE: Coded were there too, sorry fanbase) that have chronicled the history of this rich lore, not to mention the onslaught of HD remaster collections 1.5, 2.5 and 2.8 I MEAN COME ON GUYS! But to be fair these weren’t just box sets lumped in together 2.8 gave you a look into in-betweens and way back when’s of the franchise which was awesome. But after years of dedication on January 29th, I felt something I can say I thought would never happen, as the title screen cascaded in displaying the usual pastoral image of Sora and the beautifully revised version of Dearly Beloved sashayed in like an old friend I hadn’t seen in years, I was overcome with emotion. Because it had finally happened. Kingdom Hearts 3.

Review - Kingdom Hearts III | Game Hype
‘There’s more to light, you might be surprised.’

I have always been wary that my ridiculous expectations would ruin this for me but everyone reading, take my bias out of the equation and I can still tell you with a humungous smile on my face, that it’s phenomenal. Every signal main entry and spin-off having a part to play in this incredible 3rd installment, combined with a white knuckle plot, characters both new and returning settling into their role perfectly, the score toying with your sensations as well as instigating so much nostalgia, unbelievable storytelling and oh so much to offer, Kingdom Hearts 3, to this writer has been well worth the wait.

Review - Kingdom Hearts III | Game Hype
When you try your  hardest not to sing You’ve Got a Friend In Me … can’t be done!

Kingdom Hearts 3 picks up where Birth by Sleep 0.2: Fragmentary Passage leaves off, with Sora, Donald, and Goofy being tasked with regaining Sora’s Power of Waking, with the trio traveling across many different and yet all too familiar worlds. While this is all going down Riku and Mickey are in the Realm of Darkness in a search for the lost Aqua who in term will help them find her two comrades Ventus and Terra. All of this is to gather the 7 Lights foretold in a prophecy who are to fight the 13 Darknesses in the upcoming Keyblade War. Let’s face it, it is known far and wide that the Kingdom Hearts series has one of the most in-depth and confusing plots in all of gaming (more so than Metal Gear Solid COME AT ME!) and to anyone reading who has had Kingdom Hearts 3 catch their eye for the love of god do not start here! you will not be able to follow a single iota of the story, take a couple of years out, tackle the rest of the series first, be amazed, fall in love with it then come back. But to the people that have an understanding and profound appreciation for Kingdom Hearts, you will find one of the best stories ever told within a video game in this 3rd installment, from beginning to end KH3 keeps you engrossed and on the edge of your seat with emotional storytelling, revelations, reunions, epic encounters and Winnie the Pooh, and with perfect pacing my 30+ plus hours of playing through the main story seemed to fly by. This in part, is thanks to the new Disney properties that make their grand entrance within the story from Monster Inc, Big Hero 6, Tangled and Frozen seeing Sora discover these foreign lands, making new connections and new villains is just incredible and what makes each new entry so special and the original places debuting bring nothing but fascination and awe.

Review - Kingdom Hearts III | Game Hype
Like previous entries, Sora, Donald and Goofy get a change of appearance depending on the world.

There are also returning worlds both Disney and Kingdom Hearts originals which makes for a comforting familiarity while also providing progression for the series. Kingdom Hearts 3 also acts as a sort of culmination or coming together of pretty much every Kingdom Hearts game you can think of, with each entry having something to do with the plot one way or the other some kind of amazing crossover episode, seeing characters mingle or do battle together for the first time is something fans of the series will love because I know I did. However, once or twice I found a new plot point come into play only for it to almost be brushed aside and not mentioned again, maybe they will be expanded upon in future games, or maybe even the Final Mix should that be made but for now, it is just a very small con in an otherwise flawless story. And before I forget……Kingdom Hearts 2.9! Well trolled Square Enix, well trolled. There is a lack of Final Fantasy characters which truth be told is hard to not notice but in my opinion it is also refreshing to see the series standing proud on its own two feet.

Review - Kingdom Hearts III | Game Hype

As for the graphics, in the past, I have used the phrase ‘Pixar quality’ in order to describe the beautiful computer-generated environments and character models, but in Kingdom Hearts 3’s case this is actually more literal than a term of description and combined with the help of Pixar studios and the Unreal 4 Engine, the backdrops, surroundings, character models and everything in between looks vibrant, pristine and just a tonic for sore eyes. Each world portrays its own unique, vigorous palette from the clouds and stone of Olympus, the greenery and fauna of the Kingdom of Corona, the purity of Arendelle and the golden sky of Twilight Town everywhere you go is a marvel in its own right and that goes double for the original creations in the later parts of the game. Kingdom Hearts 3 also expands on some of the returning worlds, letting you see parts only mentioned in previous games, while broadening each and every new one, making them more expansive and less secluded like in other entries and they all begged to have every inch explored. Longtime series composer Yoko Shimomura also makes a return and not only places refined and reimagined familiar scores throughout to remind you why you fell in love with this series in the first place but also new ones that complements KH3’s playfulness, majesty and sheer epicness throughout the entire game with the orchestral movement during the opening cinematic taking my breath away the first time I loaded it up. Voice acting is somewhat of a mixed bag with Haley Joel Osment, Jessie McCartney, and David Gallagher among many others stepping back into their fictional shoes seamlessly, and even some big names like Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Zachary Levi and James Woods reprising their iconic Disney Characters fantastically and the legendary Rutger Hauer filling in for the late Leonard Nimoy as Xehanort does the part serious justice. Corey Burton also continues to take the role of Ansem from the late Christopher Lee with an almost identical portrayal, it truly is a star-studded cast! It makes the odd stale and robotic renditions that pop up from time to time pretty unnoticeable.

Review - Kingdom Hearts III | Game Hype
With form changes you can bring the pain with a variety of weaponry!

Gameplay offers the press x to win style we all know and love, but movement and battle has become a hell of a lot more dynamic and lightning quick in Kingdom Hearts 3 with so many ways to dispatch Heartless, Nobodies and Unversed which appear in bigger numbers and with some ridiculous health bars attached to them. Battle mechanics from previous games like flowmotion and shotlocks are brilliant additions and are pretty good for crowd control. Also introduced is the attraction flow commands and keyblade form changes, attraction flow lets you call upon the power of erm…….Disneyland rides to absolutely decimate you foe in many different ways, mow them over in a giant pirate ship, send them flying in mad teacups or give them hell in a carousel, these are just a few but they all look awesome and are also good ways to wait out time for you MP to refill (but you didn’t hear that from me).  The Gumi Ship makes a return too, with a more immersive experience in a  wider spectrum, with more room to explore for treasure, challenges and huge optional bosses, it really says something if they managed to make the Gummi Ship fun!

Review - Kingdom Hearts III | Game Hype
The design for bosses transcends anything created in the other games!

Keyblade form changes also make an appearance with each keyblade you possess having the ability to take a new shape in the midst of battle, with laser guns, staffs, spears, drills or hammers being at your disposal as you make your way through the game and all have a different tactical edge in their own and with the great addition of having a loadout of three keyblades you can switch between at anytime the world is truly your oyster in Kingdom Hearts 3. Boss battles also appear in a big way in KH3 with the giant heartless all looking like a monstrous feat begging to be overcome and all of them hold a different kind of challenge for you, it’s not until the latter part of the game however, until boss battles become a true threat with some happening in some very non-traditional ways. Much like other games there are also side quests to undertake. Find ingredients for Ratatouille’s bistro, uncover all 90 of the hidden lucky emblems and fill Jiminy’s journal to your hearts content, there is always something to do whether you want to take a break from the main story or wait until the post-game where you can tackle the battlegates and take on some pretty savage adversaries.