Monday, February 4, 2019

Kingdom Hearts 3: The Good, The Bad, & The One Reason I Keep Yelling At The Screen



Here's a first for me: I started playing a video game the very day it was released! Me! The girl who stumbles on to every Popular Thing at least 2 years too late!

I didn't plan to play Kingdom Hearts 3 this soon, but John brought it home Wednesday night as a surprise. "Here," he said, "you can play this while I'm re-plumbing the house." Which was the most romantic thing anyone has ever said in the history of the entire world.

I'm about 9 hours into the game, and as one might expect, I have thoughts. Good thoughts. Bad thoughts. Conflicted thoughts. Thoughts that make me think in short, choppy sentences.

That's right, this is a job for... BULLET POINTS.

The Good:

- The Fighting 

The fighting in Kingdom Hearts has always been fun, but in KH3 it is INSANELY fun. Button-mashing galore, eye-candy combos left and right, and new special moves that call down Disney rides (like Splash Mountain or the Tea Cups) to bash your enemies with. SO SO FUN. 

It's all pretty easy, too, since you use the same 3 buttons to do all your combo moves. So just keep mashin' away, follow the prompts on screen, and cool things are gonna happen.

- The Exploring

The graphics and areas maps are gorgeous, of course, and just like the previous games you can smash most things around you to get health and rewards. There are also hidden chests, food ingredients, and a scavenger hunt for Hidden Mickeys that make exploring just as much fun as the fighting.
 


 - The Themed Lands

Let's be honest, this is the main draw for all of us, right? Getting to play inside your favorite Disney movies? And seeing all of Sora's themed outfits and Keyblades?

In Toy Story land, they're actual toys! Eeee!


Honestly, these 3 things are all I want out of Kingdom Hearts: I want to explore the Disney-themed worlds, watch a fun cut scene or two, and smash bad guys with giant teacups shooting fireworks. You know, the little things.

Ahhh, but enter...


The Bad:

- The Gummi Ship travel


Ug, tedious and not fun. The graphics are a little better than the last KH, but let's be real: no one is playing Kingdom Hearts to customize a LEGO rocket ship and navigate - slowly - around asteroids. Basically an unskippable intermission on the way to the good stuff.

That's a minor quibble compared to the one TRULY bad thing, though:

- The Cut Scenes

 ::DUN DUN DUUUUUUUN::

Just how agonizing are the KH3 cut scenes? Let me count the ways:

1) They last freaking forever. In my first 4 hours of "gameplay" more than half that time - I'm talking over 2 hours - was spent watching cut scenes. According to this review on Euro Gamer there are about 238 cut scenes, and the game only lasts 30-40 hours. That works out to roughly 6 cut scenes per hour, or one every 10 minutes. And these are NOT short scenes.

So yeah, just as you're breathing a sigh of relief when one cut scene is finally over... ANOTHER ONE STARTS PLAYING. Many agonized screams. Many. "Just let me plaaay!!" A few times the game literally let me walk 10 feet before triggering another cut scene - and once a scene started while I was mid-fight! NOWHERE IS SAFE.

Another issue: the cut scenes often end by putting you in a completely different area, or even off the whole world, back into space. So if you're not done exploring yet you have to backtrack. Are you imagining the face I'm making right now? Because I am making a face.  >.<

Of course, cut scenes in themselves aren't bad, provided they're telling a good story.

::deep sigh:: 

::slowly and sadly bonking head on keyboard::
2) The story is bad, y'all. So bad. It's often clear the writers aren't native English speakers - phrases that are technically correct but sound odd  - and then the plot itself is a huge, confusing, unwieldy mess. Everyone's talking about hearts: don't lose heart, follow your heart, someone else is INSIDE his heart (??), now the bad guys are splitting hearts... it's all pretty bewildering, which, whatever, games don't need a coherent plot, right? Except they WON'T STOP TALKING ABOUT IT.
 
3) There are long, awkward pauses between most lines of dialogue. Square Enix must think Americans talk like slow idiots, because the pace... is... excruciating. To be fair, the last KH games were the same, but c'mon guys, you've had 14 years to fix this!

There are exceptions to the awkward pacing, and the scenes that are lifted straight out of the movies (like Tangled) play great. But all the extra content with characters explaining the "plot?" AGONY.

4) And you are...?

KH3 dives in with zero refreshers from the last game - which most of us played over a decade ago - so other than Sora, Kairi, and Rikku, I have no idea who any of these people are. And there are so many people, talking about even MORE people! Which, again, wouldn't matter, except I'm being forced to watch hours of cut scenes of characters I don't remember drone on about following hearts and not losing hearts and someone's AFTER our hearts and sweet Jiminy Cricket just let me play the game.

 These guys talk a lot. You can tell they're bad by the matching fetish wear.

Around hour 5 I discovered something absolutely miraculous, though: if you hit the Select button during a cut scene, YOU CAN SKIP THE SCENE.

This has saved my sanity more than a few times already, though I'll admit most of the time I'm afraid to skip and miss something cool/important. So I'm being held hostage by slow-talking strangers explaining really dense plot points, when all I want to do is find more ingredients for Remy to cook with, dangit. (No joke, I fell asleep waiting for a lecture about "data streams" to end.)

All of which brings me to my real dilemma:

John did buy me the game, but he ALSO rented it from RedBox, so I could try it out first. I've been playing the rental disk for 2 days now, and I honestly can't decide if I like KH3 enough to keep it. I think I may cut my losses with the $8 rental fee, return the game, and wait a while 'til the price comes down. 

That said - and despite all my complaining - I do like Kingdom Hearts 3 and want to finish it. I just don't think this much aggravation is worth $60. I mean, if I wanted to be frustrated playing a game, I still have Overwatch. Heyooo.

So there you have it, gang. Who else is playing KH3? Who plans to? What do you think so far? Is the nostalgia worth the aggravation, or - and here's a thought - am I the only one who finds the cut scenes aggravating? 0.O Does it get better after you get to the Tangled world, since that's where I left off? Tell me in the comments!


21 comments:

  1. Thank you for validating my experience with all Kingdom Hearts games! My husband is a huge fan but MAN. The plot is just BAD, man. It's BAD. It's not complicated because the writers are smarter than you. It's complicated because it's POORLY WRITTEN. And I try not to bash on things people love, but KH had such good potential! But they went all Final Fantasy on it and made it pretentious, convoluted, and cutscene-heavy instead of leaning into the Disney joy that people actually WANT. It's hard to see a series with such epic upsides and downsides.

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  2. Ok so more cut scenes, but as soon as you load the game (before you even hit play) there's a set of 5 short movies unlocked that help get people caught up.

    It's weird of course because KHIII is the THIRTEENTH(!) game in the series. Other games were Japan only, on platforms like the Nintendo 3DS and all sorts; so you miss a lot of the plot if you only play KHI and KHII. They did release some of the Japan only games on PS4 last year (year before?) but I don't think they had as much hype as these. In fact one was a weird 1/2 game 1/2 movie thing.

    I mean don't get me wrong - the plot is still super weird, and not the best written one; I do feel a lot gets lost in translation from Japensese, which is fair.

    I'm enjoying watching my husband play it - he's a huge KH fan. I'm just there for the pretties and finding the hidden Mickeys for him to photograph.

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  3. I went to Arendelle (Frozen) after Corona (Tangled) and that was when I remembered that my hardest boss fight in all of the other Kingdom Hearts games was with the controls.

    My "why won't you let me just play" moments aren't the cutscenes, it's having to use the weird flowmotion controls to get to the next section, and if you miss you get dropped to the bottom of a ravine and have to climb it again.

    I don't actually mind the cutscenes or the crazy plot, it's the controls and the horrible camera (What? You're in combat and just triggered a space ship with laser guns to mow down your enemies? Cool, that means you want to be wedged into a corner where you can't actually see any enemies, and you'll use the whole timer up trying to get turned around so you can shoot!) that keep making me stop playing these games.

    I want to love them! They're bright and fun and have such an amazing sense of humor and are so fun to go exploring in... but holy crap the controls are so frustrating for me!

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    1. Ahhh, I've had similar struggles - I thought maybe it was a game glitch! I can't figure out why during the Chariot move during fights the camera is locked on my face - and I can't look anywhere else! o.0

      If the fights were harder - and I'm sure they GET harder - I could see that being a dealbreaker. I had to quit Epic Mickey for the same reason. :/

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    2. There is a way to change your camera! In Config, there's a whole lot of options to change, from the sensitivity of the camera to just turning it to manual. And yes, every single time I use Blaster, I'm pointed the opposite direction from the enemies. Thanks game.

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  4. I actually finished the game yesterday myself. I've loved the series ever since it began and have played all of the seventy-eight thousand games (and seen the plot-important extra movie bits). Having replayed the games right before playing KH3, I didn't have trouble following the story. You have to remember that Kingdom Hearts 1 and Kingdom Hearts 2 are actually the first and third games in the series. Kingdom Hearts 3 is the thirteenth (counting games and everything else). There are no spin-off games or unimportant games in the series, they all have a lot of plot and new characters are introduced in more or less all the games. The story admittedly has a myriad of twists and you do kinda need to know everyone and everything to follow it. And it is mainly told through the cutscenes, which is unfortunate if you don't like watching cutscenes (I personally love a breather between gameplay). The pacing was a bigger issue in my opinion w/ the cutscenes and gameplay, they could have married them a bit better.

    The weird pauses in dialogue have been a part of the games since the beginning as you said. It could just be that English and Japanese have different wordcounts for saying the same thing and they're playing it safe? Could be that they just needed a better voice director for the English version. Idk.

    I whole-heartedly recommend watching the 'reminder' videos that you unlock after starting the game and, armed with all the knowledge in/of the world, trying to finish the game. It is a worthwhile story in my mind, but I can see how it can be confusing and frustrating to follow. (I laughed for a good ten minutes when someone said at a game conference that you don't have to have played the other games to understand what's going on.) They try to explain stuff as they go, but that just adds a lot more time spent watching cutscenes.

    All in all, I really enjoyed the game and suggest you give it another go. It's a wonderful story about how friendship is magic and how you should love and respect everyone you meet. There are so few games out there where kindness and love are as expressly important as they are in Kingdom Hearts. It's a story about love, not just romantic love like most movies/books/video games, but love for your friends and everyone else.

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    1. Ahh, I'm learning so much here: I had no idea there were intro scenes you can watch from the menu, or that there were so MANY other spin-offs.

      I'll definitely give this another go later, since I want to see the other lands. For now we returned it, though, and John and I are playing through The Last Of Us. Talk about the extreme other end of the spectrum, ha! - but wow, does it drive home what a good story can do for a game; I can't wait to watch John play tonight to see what happens next.

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    2. Good to know! I think I'll be checking those out soon, since I've just play KH & KH2

      I'll probably go back to The Last of Us at some point, but it just feels so brutal. Maybe I can alternate between it and KH3. :-)

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  5. Echoing what others have said, it is vastly important to the plot that you play all the other games. That's why I'm not even letting myself buy KH3 until I finish 1.5+2.5 at the minimum. A couple years ago I played 2 after only having played 1, and spent the next several hours asking my friend a million questions about plot points I missed by having skipped CoM.

    Also, the excessive cutscenes aren't new, but it's a bummer it hasn't gotten better. The beginning of 2 is AGONIZING because it's about 3 hours of cutscenes interspersed with tutorial level mini-games, while playing a character most players might not know about and definitely don't care about.

    I AM excited to see that screenshot of what looks like an actually realized Olympus land, rather than just the the Colosseum. I get really tired of Colosseum tournaments really fast.

    Also, is the command menu pretty similar to the command menu in 1 and 2? One of my least favorite things about that command menu is that I can't quickly and easily navigate to magic, items, summons, drive forms, and special commands without leaving the attack button. Since it takes so long just to get to get to them, I usually ignore all those other fun mechanics in favor of just attacking repeatedly (and creating a Cure shortcut). That's why I'm currently enjoying BBS so dang much because attack is always tied to X, while I can use the d-pad or the shoulder buttons to flip through my other options. I'm kind of dreading going back to the old command menu style if that's the case.

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    1. Haven't played BBS (only watched a playthrough), but yeah, the command menu is the same as in KH1 and 2. Shortcuts are still your best friend. The extra combat stuff (combos with allies and such) are on triangle (on PS4, idk the xbox buttons), which is lovely and streamlines at least that bit of the combat. You can also shortcut summons (or links, as they're called in 3), I can't remember if you could do that in the old games.

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    2. Echoing Anony up there, but yeah, everything in the command menus and buttons seems the same or similar, and quite easy to use!

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    3. I just started last night (birthday present), and the button mapping is driving me crazy. I'm used to square => attack, X => jump, so having them on the X and circle keys, respectively, totally messes me up during combat. I'll probably get used to it after a few hours of play, but for now...

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    4. flipdaddy, I'm always in the exact same scenario when I play Kingdom Hearts games. At least ten times a game I press X trying to jump, and invariably end up swinging my keyblade and falling down a cliff.

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  6. I plan to get it after the price comes down a bit. I can't justify paying $60 for a game. Meanwhile, I'll keep chugging away on Assassins Creed Origins which I bought for Christmas at half price. ;)

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  7. Thanks for confirming my idea to finish playing the games on the PS4 disc we bought last year with the previous games on it before buying this one. I played all through KH1, played part of Re-Chain of Memories (this one is SO excruciating, with cards and stuff) and then gave up to play Breath of the Wild on my daughter's Switch before she left for college, which I also haven't finished yet. Knowing they haven't fixed the confusing story issues is a huge disappointment, and I'm not super excited for really any of the worlds in this one either as they just aren't my favorite movies.

    I still want to play it, but it can totally wait until the price comes down a ton.

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  8. I've only ever paid more than $15 for a game once, and never again (it was SPORE). I just can't see that any game is worth $50-60. I know console players are used to that overpricing, but sheesh, I just can't even.

    Best game I ever played cost $15 (Stardew Valley). Second best game cost $5 (Waking Mars).

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  9. Thanks for the game review!! Looks like the other commenters have addressed your questions and to that I say great job!! (Now I’ll be waiting for thr price on this to drop too so I can give it a try.)

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  10. I skimmed the comments and I'm not sure if anyone posted these yet, so I will:

    I also played KHI and KHII ten+ years ago and loved them and then got TOTALLY lost with the new game because so many other games and timeline weirdness had come out in the meantime on platforms I don't have. So yeah, I feel you coming in and being like "WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE???"

    These two videos helped a lot. The first one goes by game release date more or less and summarizes what happens in the games pretty well. The second one is a timeline of the games in the order that they happened to the characters-- covering the history and lore of the world of Kingdom Hearts. Both explain pretty well how Sora is like a weird matryoshka doll of hearts. (I wanna say the first one contains cuss words and the second one doesn't but don't hold me to that, FYI)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tjiHufVEc7g

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nDnSGnl29vo

    now I will also say that neither of these videos make the plot GOOD, just a lot more understandable. Still not 100%, but at least now you kinda have a grasp on the overarching plot.

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    1. Oooh, that's super helpful, Caitlin, thank you! <3

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    2. You're welcome, Jen! Happy to help! <3

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  11. Oh, you are DEFINITELY not the only one. The overarcing story of KH is bad. Like SO BAD. You had the right idea with skipping cutscenes, Better to ignore the story and just focus on the gameplay.

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