Kingdom Hearts III
E3 2018 Hands-On Preview
Derek Heemsbergen Derek Heemsbergen

PlayStation 4, Xbox One

Square Enix

Square Enix

Action RPG


US 01/29/2019
Japan 01/25/2019
Europe 01/29/2019

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Yoko from Ehrgeiz did it first, but Sora does it better.
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Set a course for PAIN.
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Dad says you can't go play unless you finish your chores.
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Hey, where's the sea salt ice cream?
"Kingdom Hearts III felt exactly like I expected it would, which is to say that it's still a good-to-great action RPG with a miserable camera and a lot of proper nouns to digest."

Far be it from me to assess the final quality of any game before it releases, but in an industry full of sequels and reboots, I have at least a vague idea of how I might feel about an upcoming game if it bears a familiar title. Kingdom Hearts III is one such game; I've had enough experience with Sora and company over the past fifteen-plus years that I know what to expect from his latest (and final?) adventure, at least in terms of the big picture. I have no idea how his climactic confrontation with series antagonist Xehanort will play out, nor do I know every Disney world and character that will make an appearance, and neither still do I have a full grasp on every facet of the long-awaited sequel's new combat mechanics. But if I squint hard enough at the blurry conception I have of Kingdom Hearts III right now, I can state with a fair amount of confidence that I'm going to play it and like it well enough. I might even love it!

But the demo I played at E3 this year made me feel virtually nothing.

While that may sound damning, it's not. It's just that my appetite has already been sated. After squeezing everything I could out of Kingdom Hearts 0.2 - A Fragmentary Passage, this latest taste of Kingdom Hearts III was an extra bite I didn't need to take.

Of the two demos available at the show, I played one that featured a slice of the Toy Story world. (The other, a battle against a shadowy colossus, was something I'd seen enough of both before the show itself and while peering over attendees' shoulders while I was waiting in line to play. Like a handful of other Kingdom Hearts bosses — I seem to remember a similar fight in Agrabah against Jafar — it looks gimmicky, but fun.) As I explored Andy's bedroom and the street outside his window, I got to try out several of Sora's new transforming Keyblade attacks. These were the highlight of the demo. I felt powerful and moved fluidly, dispatching foes with an array of dazzling techniques. The fact that the Keyblade changes not just its appearance, but also its form, with every world is an exciting prospect that has me eager to see what else lies in store.

The other section of the demo put me into a giant robot (well, a toy robot, but with Sora being the size of a toy himself, perspective is key here) that I controlled in first-person to battle the Heartless. Honestly, it felt a little clumsy, and it took me a few moments to become acclimated to its slow, methodical punches and weak-feeling artillery. Then again, Kingdom Hearts has always been a little clumsy, hasn't it? As a wrinkle that is likely exclusive to the Toy Story world, robot combat works well enough, but I wouldn't want to fuss with it beyond the section I played.

Aside from the abilities I was able to use in combat, Kingdom Hearts III felt exactly like I expected it would, which is to say that it's still a good-to-great action RPG with a miserable camera and a lot of proper nouns to digest. And digest it I will — it's been too many years since Kingdom Hearts II, and I'm too invested to leave its tangled plot threads hanging. It's also relentlessly beautiful, full of incredible particle effects and flashy animations. I'm into it all. I'm just ready for the full game at this point.

Bring on the XIIIth month of 2018 already.

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