What was the most anticipated game at Tokyo Game Show 2018? Most would answer Kingdom Hearts 3, arguably the biggest game of the show. This is an entry that for many years was a pipe dream, yet now is a reality. The last thing I did at TGS 2018 this year was go hands-on with the long-awaited sequel. And I can confirm it’s real, and it’s fun…when it works.
The demo build of Kingdom Hearts 3 on the show floor featured two playable sections: the Toy Story world and the Hercules world. Before my playtime, I talked with a good friend of mine who was also covering TGS this year. She told me that I could complete both parts in the allotted time period – especially if I skipped the cutscenes, most of which were already shown in trailers. Awesome.
My body filled with excitement as I was guided to my demo station. The TV displayed the menu screen with a large Kingdom Hearts 3 logo. A pair of headphones and a DualShock 4 controller sat in front of me to don. It was time to begin.
I started the Toy Story section and the screen filled with the color as I entered the world of Pixar’s first film. There was Woody, Buzz, and the whole gang, brought to life in a Kingdom Hearts game. As many have pointed out and discussed, KH3 renders the Toy Story characters amazingly well, to the point where I would say it’s practically on par with the original film’s visuals.
It’s probably been a few years since I played a Kingdom Hearts game, but KH3 made me feel like I was putting on an old jacket that still fits like a glove. To anyone who has played a game in the franchise, the controls will be very familiar. As enemies appeared before me in Andy’s room, I began tapping away to swing my keyblade at them. The animations and responsiveness felt smooth overall, including those for movement and traversal, such as dodging and wall-running.
I had a few different keyblades in my arsenal and was able to switch between them on the fly. Launching special attacks initiated dynamic and dazzling animated sequences that lent itself to a feeling of power and whimsy. Kingdom Hearts 3 is a very pretty game in motion, successfully adapting its art style to modern graphical fidelity.
Special attacks were ready to use noticeably often, at a frequency that felt a tad too rapid. This resulted in Sora being a little overly powerful. However, the quick cooldown of the special attacks may have been intentional for the demo, to allow players a chance to see a lot of what the KH3 offers.
Another criticism I have is the special attack where Sora, Woody, and Buzz ride on a firework rocket you steer to hit enemies. The camera felt somewhat close and steering was a bit too sensitive. Both of these factors made controlling the attack awkward and difficult.
Once I cleared Andy’s room of the Heartless, I hopped through an open window to the outside yard and street to battle some more adversaries. Once more, it proved to be no problem as I struck down one Heartless after another. Then nothing happened after the outdoor area was clear.
“Am I stuck?” I thought as the action had grounded to a halt. I navigated through every area I had access to once again. I tried getting to anything that looked like an entrance. I trekked through the yard, back into Andy’s room, and the portion of the street in front of the house. “There must be something I missed, something I did wrong,” I reasoned in my head.
As I scrambled around repeatedly in the game, I glanced at the player next to me. He had started with the Hercules section, finished it, and was already on to the Toy Story one. Soon, he had advanced further in Toy Story, making it to the Al’s Toy Barn store where Sora pilots a mech. How did he get to that part? Additionally, I noticed my framerate dropping badly, below 20fps several times. This occurred even though I was no longer in combat and stuck wandering the enclosed area. I was growing increasingly sulky and frustrated. More and more I began to suspect my game had glitched.
Before I knew it, a Square Enix booth attendant let me know that my hands-on time was up, as the show floor was about to close for the day. I left feeling confused and upset at how little I progressed, souring what had been an exciting day up until that point. Curious to check my suspicions, I met up with my friend who I talked to earlier about the demo.
I told her everything I had played through before I seemingly got stuck. She told me all I had to do was continue down the street in front of Andy’s house. I explained I wasn’t able to, as the game had invisible barriers blocking me from doing so – even indicated with red lines displayed on the HUD map of the road. We concluded it was indeed most likely a bug that caused me unable to continue.
To Square Enix’s credit, there are still several months before the launch of Kingdom Hearts 3, time to polish the game and iron out bugs. Furthermore, the show floor demo units had likely been running for six to seven hours before I started playing. It’s still is a concern, though. We are months, not years, away from release.
I’m sure there will be plenty who put in long, hours-long sessions when playing through KH3. Progress-impending glitches and performance drops certainly would ruin the experience for others. I hope my first experience with KH3 was simply bad luck and not indicative of how the final product turns out.
Again, Kingdom Hearts 3 is a blast…when it works. Here’s to hoping the final version does.