– Watching the combination of 17 years of story play out in Kingdom Hearts III is a great, satisfying RPG adventure that both evolves the series and stays firm in some of its story telling ways, sometimes to its detriment. It’s gorgeous Disney themed world introduce some spectacular new combat options and often intriguing landscapes to explore. And yet the story telling within them feels as simplistic and predictable as ever. That said, I’m impressed by how much Square Enix has stuck the landing for one of my favorite long running series. (inspirational music) (beast roaring) A hero losing his powers and needing to regain them is the most common trope in RPG sequels. But here, Sora’s loss is smartly tied into his fight against the forces of darkness. It’s a nice motivation for Sora, which also immediately addresses one of the most notorious criticisms of Kingdom Hearts two.Instead of a long slow intro, he jumps right into the action of Hercules’ world. There’s a sense of urgency and forward momentum, not just to Sora’s quest, but to the plight of the world he’s visiting. It slows down a little after that, but part of what helps the pace all the way through the almost 30 hour story is the wide array of combat options. I expected to be emotionally invested in Kingdom Hearts III story, but I didn’t expect to fall so deeply in love with the battles. Yes, smacking heartless nobodies and then versed around with Sora’s key blade is the main method of mayhem still, but there’s now so much more going on that turns every fight into a varied spectacle that rarely plays out the same way.The fact that you can summon Disney park-like rides which serve as both a visual feast, and a crowd control saver shows how far this combat system is willing to try risky new ideas and be just a joy to watch. (Kingdom Hearts gaming chimes) Each of Sora’s Keyblades can transform too, and they’re a consistent throw to test out. There are some repeated transformation powers, but the options can change Sora from a range dual wielding gun fighter to a close up area of effect crawler yielding a giant toy hammer. (gaming grunts) There’s also the ability to spin on columns or ride a railing mid-battle like in Dream Drop Distance. But that system doesn’t always let Sora as easily latch onto objects cleanly as it should. But with beautiful character summon sequences like Wreck-It Ralph’s, different approaches to fighting Heartless and Nobodies, and team up moves with Donald, Goofy and world specific party members, they all contribute to an incredible variety that prevents the combat from descending into monotony and routine even late in the campaign.- Whoa. (inspirational harp music) – And speaking of those world specific team ups, the assortment of Disney locations to explore in Kingdom Hearts III are stunning. As a life long Disney fan, I couldn’t help but feel sad at not seeing many classic Disney worlds like Aladin or Snow White, but the more modern choices Square Enix has gone with are gorgeous to explore. They’re often paired with beautiful orchestral takes on classic themes. Venturing around the toy store setting of the Toy Story world for example, captures the essence of seeing the world from the point of view of a toy. A single floor of the store feels as vast as previous levels in the series. But while Toy Story’s world is inventive, the worlds of Frozen and Tangled are relatively sparse and unsurprising natural landscapes.They’re pretty, but not nearly as exciting to explore. Those two in particular are also odd cases because they’re the most direct retellings of the stories they’re based on. Where as the others have more interesting creative twists. (piping music) – C’mon everyone, come dance with us. – Linking the worlds together is a wonderfully revamped gummy ship system, which I enjoyed for the first time in a Kingdom Hearts game. There’s nothing all that challenging about it, but choosing when to jump into space battles, hunting clusters of asteroids for loot, and just having the freedom to explore instead of being on rails all the time makes these interstitial sections so much more pleasant. – We’ve got to work together. – Right. (cheering) – I’m pleasantly surprised by how well Kingdom Hearts III wraps up the series spanning story of the power of friendship and the bonds we make with one another. It didn’t really surprise me though, because nearly every major character’s resolution is something I couldn’t called a mile away. There’s definitely a bit of sluggishness to the overall pacing too.Characters are peppered into each Disney world and small updates about the larger story are provided, but the real meat of the confrontations and character shifting moments don’t really factor into Sora’s journey until it’s nearly complete. It culminates in hours of really fun end game resolution with massive battles that really tested my skills in combat. Whereas previous boss battles were often fun in their scale, but not much more than damaged sponges. (battling grunting) Plus this huge end section also includes character confrontations that fan fiction writers would dream of. Much of the nuance will probably be lost on newcomers though. As Cage 3 tackles the larger questions of identity and what it means to be whole as a person with heavy references to previous games. It’s not that difficult to get a sense of the good and bad guys’ goals and Kingdom Hearts III does do a bit of recapping, but you really need to be familiar with the backstory to appreciate some of the most touching moments. – Never hurts to have your head in the clouds. – (laughing) Exactly. (“Dearly Beloved”) – The wait has been long, but I thoroughly enjoyed Square Enix’s evolution of Kingdom Heart’s game play and fidelity to Disney worlds.Square has done a fantastic job of capturing the spirit of these memorable worlds and giving us a massive tool box to battle and explore our way through them. But to see the story of the Kingdom Hearts franchise reach its conclusion is, frankly a little weird, because specific resolutions are largely satisfying, but not all that surprising. I still loved seeing so many characters interact in new ways and rekindle old bonds.And that’s why it’s so exciting to see that Kingdom hearts III is as full of heart as it ever has been. For more, be sure to check out the whole Kingdom Hearts series story in roughly about five minutes, and be sure to test your Kingdom Hearts trophy knowledge. And of course, for everything else Kingdom Hearts III, you’re already in the right place, IGN. – Let’s go Max. (horse neighing) – Whoa. (inspiring music) .