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Why Kingdom Hearts 3 Worries Me

 

Bit of a strange title, eh? Well, whether I like it or not, it’s the truth.
Kingdom Hearts 3 worries me.

Let me preface this article by stating the following:

  • No, I don’t hate Kingdom Hearts.
  • Yes, I’ve played every game on Proud or higher excluding Kingdom Hearts Unchained X.
  • I’m caught up to the current plot of the games.

Now with that out of the way… Let me explain why.

Kingdom Hearts has always been a series that’s always been close to my heart, from me beginning with Kingdom Hearts 2 (you can imagine that headache), and slowly working through 358/2 Days, Kingdom Hearts 1, Re:Chain of Memories, Birth By Sleep, Re:Coded and finally Dream Drop Distance & 0.2 -A Fragmentary Passage-… I’ve seen it all! Every adventure, every story beat, and every mechanic introduced across the 16 years that this series has been around for.

Now, before I continue, I must stress… This article will spoil EVERYTHING tied to Kingdom HeartsDO NOT proceed unless you’ve played all the games to completion!

Right… Onto my first point of concern.

Kingdom Hearts 3 appears to be a 16 year-old hotpot of mechanics

From all of the trailers that we’ve seen so far, we’ve noticed as a collective community the slow reveal of more and more gameplay mechanics, so much so that it appears that Kingdom Hearts 3’s gameplay is getting scarily bloated – The expansive combat combos of Kingdom Hearts 2, the Limits and Summons of many Kingdom Hearts titles, Shotlocks, the Command Styles, Drive Forms, Flowmotion, Keyblade Transformations… It’s all so much!

The reason why Kingdom Hearts 2 is still played to death today, despite it being over 10 years old is because it knew what it wanted the focus of it’s gameplay to be. Satisfying ground and aerial combos – Here, however, it feels almost like mechanics are forced into Kingdom Hearts 3 out of obligation rather than by design; Shotlocks and Flowmotion, whilst both somewhat fun gameplay elements in-of-themselves, are inherently overpowered, unfortunately – This leads to me questioning the balance of the game, especially with recent Kingdom Hearts games having utterly overpowered commands that borderline break the game (Think Mine Square & the Surge commands in Birth By Sleep, and Balloonra / Balloonga in Dream Drop Distance); in Proud Mode in Kingdom Hearts 1, and Critical Mode in Kingdom Hearts 2, when you died and failed, it was because you did something wrong – You accidentally missed a hit in your combo, didn’t guard correctly, or got too aggressive with your attacks and were punished for it – In Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep and Dream Drop Distance especially, bosses and superbosses punish you not for lacking tactics, or for not understanding them, but for not abusing overpowered mechanics and commands – Something I sorely hope doesn’t carry over to Kingdom Hearts 3.

Kingdom Hearts hasn’t seen true combo-based combat for 13 years

Expanding a little on that last point, the last time where significant combo modifiers were an integral part of Kingdom Hearts was, ironically, Kingdom Hearts 2; since then, the handheld games have focused on a somewhat easier Command combat system, where you can load up attacks and magic without using resources like MP or Drive gauges – Command Styles, D-Links and Dream Eaters all give access to new commands, upgrades and stronger attacks, with no consideration for risk vs reward – You can just equip any old command with anything else, and not see a major difference other than your current attack.

Combos in Birth By Sleep, Re:Coded and Dream Drop Distance are, sadly, nearly totally forgotten in favour for powerful Commands, with you being punished more for using combos rather than for using overpowered Commands – Enemies just don’t stagger any more in the handheld titles, and when they do, they fall into it randomly and break out of it randomly; possibly the worst offender of this is both Master Eraqus in Birth By Sleep and Ansem II in Dream Drop Distance – Both bosses, whilst extremely different, are essentially giant health sponges (Ansem II especially) that focus on projectile attacks and breaking you out of combos and punishing you if you get close – All it devolves into is a game of “how can I deal the most damage to this boss whilst keeping myself safe” instead of “how can I create an opening for myself and lay the smackdown”.

Now with other elements in play, namely Flowmotion, I fail to see how Square Enix can effectively bake this expanded movement system into the game’s combos, especially with Keyblade Transformations, Drives and Command Styles changing your attacks left, right and centre.

The plot is a giant mess (Obviously)

Hoo boy, here’s a big one. So, believe it or not there’s a surprisingly large number of casual fans that are waiting solely on Kingdom Hearts 3, having only played Kingdom Hearts 1 and 2 before. To those people, I have only one thing to say:

What are you? A masochist?

Kingdom Hearts has swelled so much from it’s origins from Heartless and Nobodies, from the Organisation XIII and the various Disney worlds – Now we have time travel, Sleeping Worlds, Unversed, Dream Eaters, Nightmares, Nobodies suddenly having hearts all along, reincarnation, keyblades tied to realms, the Keyblade War, the ancient Foretellers, the Book of Prophecies, the Master of Masters, his strange black box and his eyes that can see into the future.

…Yeesh, you Kingdom Hearts 1 & 2 purists have a hell of a recap to go through.

And the worst part? Oh the worst part of all is that it’s going to get worse – As the inevitable war between the Seven Lights and Thirteen Seekers of Darkness arrives, we’re bound to be asking the key question that surrounds Kingdom Hearts as a series:

“…What…?”

The Final Boss situation

As mentioned previously, we’ve got a god damn war on our hands in Kingdom Hearts 3; thirteen darknesses versus seven lights – So it’s entirely unrealistic for me to expect thirteen final bosses.

…But that’s all I can expect. With the ending of Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep, it was simply 3 lights vs 2 darknesses… And Kingdom Hearts 3 is scaling up to be at least 4 times the size of that epic clash! With the stakes so high, and all the pieces in place, the fanbase has been hyping themselves up for a war and a half.

Long final bosses aren’t even a new thing for Kingdom Hearts – Kingdom Hearts 2’s Xemnas (Including his prelude form) had 7 different forms each, going from his Skyscraper form, to his Castle Form, Castle Core Form, his Keyblade Armour form, his Flying Dragon Castle Form, Keyblade Armour II and then finally his Final Form – Albeit that most of these are small minibosses or repeated forms, the mantra still applies!

In the end of the day, I worry that Kingdom Hearts 3’s final and most important act will be a total flop, and be utterly disappointing.

And finally… The future.

So what would lie next for Kingdom Hearts? Well, it’s already well-known that Tetsuya Nomura is extremely interested in expanding the Kingdom Hearts series further, following the adventures of Sora past the “Xehanort Saga”… However we’ve been with Xehanort and his various forms for so many years now, that it seems near-impossible to have a villain appear that matches his caliber – Think of it much like the ending of Bleach, where it took a long, long time to reach a conclusion that, ultimately, was inferior to the conclusions of old; the story’s already convoluted enough darn it!

Not just this, but there’s the issue with Sora as well – With Kingdom Hearts 3 concluding his main character arc, where does he go from here? Would he have compacted and hardcoded all of his life’s lessons into himself, or would be still be the same goofy old Sora at 30, or 40 years old?

It’s a scary time to be a Kingdom Hearts fan, but an exciting one… Perhaps not even scary… Just… Turbulent.

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