Anticipation for Kingdom Hearts III has been palpable since the second entry in the franchise arrived in 2006. Surprisingly, gamers went an entire console generation without so much as a meaningful peep out of Square Enix regarding a true, third main installment in the franchise. Multiple spin-offs were released on various handheld platforms to tide us over, but nothing satisfies me like the narrative impact of a console iteration.
Finally, when all hope seemed lost, at Sony’s E3 2013 conference, Tetsuya Nomura drew back the curtain on what we’ve all been waiting for: Kingdom Hearts III. This is Square Enix’s chance to demonstrate its faith in and competence with the series’ long-term future. So long as Kingdom Hearts learns from its past, it can shine bright in the future--here are the five most important history lessons.
Hit the ground running
I’m easily in Camp KH2 when it comes to selecting my favorite entry in the franchise, but there’s one aspect of the second console entry that really grinds my gears in subsequent playthroughs: the prologue. While I appreciate what Square Enix was trying to accomplish by utilizing Roxas as an instrument for getting the player through the initial expository sequences, it went on a bit too long. It takes several hours before you’re in control of Sora again, and I feel that such a move killed the adventure’s early pacing. If it were a brief segment, that would be fine, but when I’m subjected to menial tasks and nerf bat tournaments that do little more than eke out a bit of extra fan service and game time, it gets to be a little much. There’s little action in the prologue until its climax (dual-wielding Keyblades!?), which seems out of place in a franchise that sports such a fun combat system. Kingdom Hearts III needs to give us reason to care right away.
No more musical worlds
I’m a fan of Disney’s The Little Mermaid, and didn’t mind Atlantis’ inclusion in the original Kingdom Hearts. So when it came time to return to where the seaweed is always greener, I was all for it--until I saw what Square Enix did to my favorite underwater excursion in the sequel. There’s virtually no combat in the Atlantis of Kingdom Hearts II, as each time you return, you’re subjected to another cringe-worthy rhythm sequence that casts familiar characters in a nonsensical light. I’m assuming this was done to not only disrupt gameplay tedium, but to also introduce more cinematic appeal. I can appreciate the effort on both counts, but only if player engagement and meaningful plot are among the results. I get that musicals are a part of Disney’s lifeblood, but honoring the company’s storied sonic history can be (and has been) done better--see the incorporation of music into the environment and combat of Dream Drop Distance’s Symphony of Sorcery, based on Fantasia.