After 14 long years, Kingdom Hearts III has finally graced our consoles. Stuck in development limbo for 14 years, fans of the series were worried this game might not ever see the light of day, or worse, that it would be rushed out unfinished. Now that it’s here, does it live up to the hype?

From the first few hours of the game, it’s clear to see it’s anything but rushed. When you arrive in the first Disney-based world you’re immediately drawn in by an overpowering sense of nostalgia and the realisation of how much you’ve been missing Kingdom Hearts.

The first Kingdom Hearts came out at the perfect time. It hit everyone who grew up enjoying lovable Disney films and Square Enix’s Final Fantasy characters with a whole new way to explore and interact with them. It was a marriage between the two companies which should never have worked as fantastically as it did.

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People quickly became enamoured with the story of protagonist Sora, as he travels from world to world with iconic Disney characters Donald Duck and Goofy, beating villains to a pulp with a giant ‘Keyblade.’

The game has been made in such a way that flaunts an insightful care and appreciation as to what made the series so endearing and enjoyable, and it shows.

Protagonists Sora, Donald Duck and Goofy (Square Enix/ Disney)

The overall experience of visiting these worlds has been greatly improved. They all follow a basic formula: visiting a Disney/Pixar world for a retelling of the film, or films, while the original worlds progress the main story.

In past games, Olympus for example served as home to none other than Hercules and was a world which acted as a pit stop on your travels. Now, this is no longer the case and this treatment and pixel-perfect design in Kingdom Hearts III improves and differentiates it greatly from previous instalments.

This game represents the best of the series. The stupendously stunning worlds are presented to you in the best way possible. You’re able to finally interact with beloved Disney characters in such a rewarding and charming way giving you a level of immersion and a tangible role in the story of so many Disney films.

It’s incredibly easy to get lost in these magnificently animated stories, all with their own unique aspects. Pressing forward quickly becomes an afterthought as you want to squeeze and savour every ounce of nostalgia out of the experience. Put simply, the game is extremely fun to play.

Picture: (Square Enix/ Disney)

The worlds aren’t the only things being tweaked. The combat has seen a refinement to it which, at least at the beginning of the game, makes it plays out in a much slower pace, yet still being focused mainly around button-mashing to attack. 

There’s certainly more depth to combat, however. Now you’re able to change protagonist Sora’s weapon on the fly. Overall though, it doesn’t do much in the way of adding to what was already there in previous games.

The more unwelcome changes become apparent when you’re constantly spammed with on-screen prompts to unleash special attacks in combat. Despite how beautiful they look, they are wholly unwelcome when they pop up every few seconds during a fight. These commands instead serve to dull down the difficulty of the game and the experience overall.

For veteran fans of the series, there’s certainly a lot for you to love. The characters are as endearing and fun as you remember, and the game will brutally tug at your heartstrings as it has done countless times before while you climb towards the game’s stunning conclusion.

The game is not without its issues. The story can become muddy and unclear if you’re not paying attention, or if you don’t have much knowledge of the overall series. Add to that having to listen to hours of exposition delivered to you by the shrill quacks of Donald Duck and the grating, yet still endearing, cartoonish drawl of Mickey Mouse. Suffice it to say, it gets hard to focus.

This is the end of the main, overarching story of Sora, Donald and Goofy's journey. It has been told over numerous games and while the story has suffered from a lack of clarity and convolution at times, it always finds a way to shine through.

With all this in mind, Kingdom Hearts III is the perfect finale to the much-adored series. It serves as a bittersweet anodyne to the players who have been here since the first game and you can rest assured this is an entry you don't want to miss.

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