E3 2018: Hands On With Kingdom Hearts III

E3 2018: Hands On With Kingdom Hearts III

During E3 2018, we had the opportunity to play many new titles releasing in 2018 and beyond. One of the games we tried out was Kingdom Hearts III, on the Xbox One no less. The demo featured two playable levels,  each offering different experiences for the player. The first level was relaxed, allowing players to explore the level, with enemies appearing occasionally. The other level was a boss fight, featuring enemies at the beginning of the level. While there wasn’t much to say about the exploration (Besides its jaw-dropping presentation), I figured we would use this opportunity to talk about the boss-fight level.

The first noticeable difference from previous Kingdom Hearts games were the graphics. With that said, the last main Kingdom Hearts title was on the PlayStation 2, so our technology has come a lot way (2 generations to be precise). For example, on the Toy Story level, characters look A LOT better in Kingdom Hearts 3 than their respective movies. Detail was given to the toys, not seen in the films, and thanks to the smooth Frames-per-second, gave the toys a more “life-like” feel. There were times where the demo would freeze and stutter, but I’m chalking this up to the game’s pre-alpha build.

Those who played Kingdom Hearts 2 should feel right at home with its sequel as the gameplay felt awfully similar, aside from additional abilities and improvements. The summon system has improved and made easier to use thanks to simplifying the required button presses. Now, all players need to do is bring up the summon menu with one button, then choose your desired summon with another. Eventually, the game will begin to suggest summons on the bottom-left hand side of the screen. The button layout and magic system have been refined for the various controllers used throughout available platforms. Whilst previously the Kingdom Hearts series has mainly been played on PlayStation consoles, the series is now moving to Xbox too. This means the button layout must be similar throughout all platforms on all controllers. Examples of the refined layouts are the how easy it is to use the magic system. Much like the summon system, you simply use one button to bring up the magic menu, and then another to use your desired magic ability. While difficult to get use to at first, it is actually a lot more convenient in battle.  This was my first time playing Kingdom Hearts on an Xbox controller but it worked extremely well.

The demos seemed to be created to introduce new players to the Kingdom Hearts series, as enemies and the boss fight were simple but fun. With many of the enemies being weak and slow to attack, it gave new players the opportunity to learn the button layout and abilities without the risk of being defeated. Once you moved past these beginning areas, the later parts of the level would offer progressively tougher experiences. The boss fight, for example, was challenging at first, but once the player discovered what the hints and tips were, the fight became much more enjoyable. During my playthrough, I received a hint to climb up the side of the boss to attack the weak spots on its head. These weak spots were indicated through a luminescent glow on the enemy, making its weak spots readable even in the midst of the action.

One of the most exciting parts of the Kingdom Hearts franchise is the number of characters that are featured in it. Kingdom Hearts 3 reintroduces characters such as Sora, Donald, Riku, and Aqua return for Kingdom Hearts 3 as well as new characters such as Elsa, Olaf, and Anna from Frozen. Something that stuck out to me in previous Kingdom Hearts titles is their outstanding soundtracks and according to the demo, Kingdom Hearts III aims to keep their soundtrack fitting to the game and memorable for years post-launch. The soundtrack captured the emotion and excitement that surrounds this franchise, like this track “Don’t Think Twice” by Hikaru Utada.

Kingdom Hearts III releases worldwide January 29th, 2019, on Xbox One and PlayStation 4.