A Non-Kingdom Hearts Fan’s Early Impressions of Kingdom Hearts III

Wow, maybe I shouldn’t say things like this.

Real quick update on me/the site: I’ve been busy with other stuff. Some stuff I can talk about (Mega Visions and Nintendo Force stuff), others that I can’t (What? I just said I can’t talk about them). And to avoid further jinxing myself, that’s all I’ll say. Well, that, and I don’t look like the picture in that linked article. As much.

Anywho, I’m here to today to talk about Kingdom Hearts, and hopefully without anything that might be considered a spoiler. If you’re worried about spoilers, you probably shouldn’t be reading stuff like this anyway.

All the way back at Fan Expo, I got an opportunity to play it, and I was supposed to talk about it here! Then… see above. It reached a point that I figured whatever I had to say might be better saved for when the game is set to release, and with it coming out in Japan today and the rest of the world on Tuesday, January 29th… well, no time like the present.

So here’s the thing: Prior to the demo at the event I was fortunate enough to attend (big thanks to Square Enix for inviting me; I’m really not worthy), I’d never played a Kingdom Hearts game. I meant to, a long time ago, but I didn’t have a PlayStation 2 at the time, and while one would think that throwing Disney World and Final Fantasy into a blender would be perfect for a console shaped like a purple lunchbox, that never happened. I had eyes on getting a PlayStation 2 eventually, so I figured I’d get around to it, but then something happened…

I think this is Safe For Work (I watched it last night and didn’t pay attention to the language), but given the personality involved, I advise watching with caution, just to be safe.

So yeah, that happened. And between that and no sign of a Kingdom Hearts III in sight, leaving many a hungering fan desperate for more? I figured I was good.

Some 14 years on from the release of Kingdom Hearts II, and a sequel is finally nigh. And I’m not going to lie, I was a little bit intrigued. Not so intrigued as to dive through all of that, but with Toy Story, Tangled, Frozen, Big Hero 6, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Wreck-It Ralph (among others) involved? That’s kinda hard for me to ignore. Getting an invitation to come check out the game for myself? That was just the cherry on top.

And you know what? I liked it!

The demo was in two parts. One was a boss battle against this rock monster that carried on for a bit. A lot of it was running straight up a steep cliff in order to reach it, dodging falling rocks and stuff all the while, then a little bit of attacking the feet and climbing up its massive body, sort of like Shadow of the Colossus lite. Building up a meter allowed me to call upon the power of Magic Mountain, summoning a train so covered in lights that they could probably see it all the way in Anaheim.

So that was cool. But what really won me over was the next part of the demo.

Toy Story! Protagonist Sora, along with Donald and Goofy, wind up in Andy’s bedroom, but something is amiss: A mysterious presence has emerged, and Buzz and Woody are trying to decide the best course of action as our heroes arrive on the scene.

You’re given quite a bit of the world to explore, especially considering you’re doing it at the size of a toy. You make your way to a toy store, and while this was softening me up, I think this might have been what delivered the finishing blow:

I hope it’s not a spoiler to say that there are (relatively) giant mech robots, and you can commandeer and pilot them! It’s enjoyable and somewhat short-lived, though you can find more around. A good chunk of my playtime was trying to figure out how to bring one with me, and failing that, scouting for where I could get another. Loved it!

Continuing my way through the toy store, I fought off enemies and solved puzzles up until it was time for the demo to end.

In the end, I think I’ve softened my stance. To be clear, I don’t think I’m quite on board with the whole conga line of a story, but from what I’ve played, I don’t think I really need to be. I just enjoyed dropping into Disney-themed worlds, interacting with characters I know and love, and teaming up with them to wallop some bad guys. And isn’t that all you really need?

Well, it’s all I really need. I’m not about to step in front of the mob of Keyblade-wielding fans that are probably going to rush the front gates of every game store from here to Epcot, but if I get the opportunity to indulge in this long-overdue title, I’ll more than happily do so.

With that said, Kingdom Hearts III wasn’t the only game I got to check out at the event.

Those of us in attendance were treated to a presentation about another upcoming Square Enix game titled Left Alive, whose poster you can see at right.

My thoughts on it: With Konami dropping the ball on Metal Gear so hard that it’s sitting somewhere around the Earth’s core as we speak, I guess there’s something of a void to fill, and maybe this could do it?

I don’t mean to oversell it, though. Left Alive is a spin-off of the Front Mission series, and watching it, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Metal Gear throughout the presentation. That seems to be by design, at least in part, as the aforementioned poster and character designs were created by none other than Yoji Shinkawa, who had worked on Hideo Kojima’s blockbuster series over the years.

Admittedly, I don’t know much about Front Mission. I know that it’s a thing, and it’s apparently related to this, and that’s about it. But what I saw here reminded me a lot of Metal Gear before everything went gonzo with clones, viruses, ninjas, and nanomachines. In the original title (at least on the Nintendo Entertainment System, don’t @ me), the giant walking tank from which the game draws its name — a seemingly revolutionary concept within the universe at the time — was about the most outrageous thing in the entire game, meme-able translation notwithstanding.

Incidentally, Left Alive does feature mechs. If I remember correctly, you can even take control of them! Seems to be a running theme here tonight.

Watching Left Alive reminded me of a more modern iteration of those simpler, more down-to-earth times in that series. Is that what they’re going for? I have no idea, I didn’t really get a very clear answer about that.

The game has you take control of multiple characters whose paths can cross and intersect, with what you do with one character potentially affecting another character’s journey. There are also situations where you’ll encounter Non-Player Characters (NPCs) and may need to persuade them in a course of action — say, convincing a father to come with you and his daughter in a bid to survive — with the results affecting the story later. You’ll also need to use stealth to survive throughout, too.

Like I said, I don’t mean to oversell the game, but I think if you were a fan of the Metal Gear franchise, especially in its earlier days, then this might be one to keep an eye on as we approach its March 5th release date.