Let us instead go backwards to the time when this was a good idea.
KINGDOM HEARTS 3
Runners up: Judgment, Wolfenstein: Young Blood
SOLON: What depressed you the most about finally playing Kingdom Hearts 3? Was it how if you hit the (triangle)-button in pretty much any fight it locked you into a cutscene where you basically automatically won?
ROSE: I think that’s a big part of it. I think another was just how gimmicky everything was and just how bad the gimmicks were. I played KH2 for at least the 10th time in the leadup to 3’s release and how consistent everything felt and how fun it was to fool around was night and day compared to 3.
ELVIE: And the fact alone that Kingdom Hearts 3 followed Kingdom Hearts 2—a truly great video game of our recent times—just further exasperates how lukewarm 3 ended up being in comparison. Undeniably, I personally still had fun playing it, but 3 reeks of an unfinished game that had with too many ideas left unaddressed. Tetsuya Nomura basically submitted a school assignment that could have been much better if it so obviously wasn’t procrastinated on. This is most egregious with the discovery of a watermark of a 3D software renderer that was carelessly left in the recreation of Elsa’s iconic “Let It Go” sequence. Now they’re trying to resolve these issues and fill in the gaps with DLC, which is a pretty gross and lazy move a lot of video games have been doing that I’m pretty sure we’re all sick of by now. After all, we also witnessed what ended up happening with another video game that was touched by Nomura’s grubby little paws the previous year.
ROSE: I know there was a lot of buildup to Kingdom Hearts 3 that absolutely could never have been fully reckoned with, but the fact that Birth by Sleep, a PSP game, had more of what makes up the ideal Kingdom Hearts experience is crazy to think about! I think Kingdom Hearts 3 is a real indication of exactly what’s been going wrong with modern Square AAA titles: they take far too long and get far too focused on what they “should” do that they end up letting stuff that made a lot of their older titles so incredible just slip through the cracks in favor of a more simplistic or streamlined approach that “anyone can play.”
SOLON: Right! After researching every other entry in the franchise it was weird playing such a safe, by-the-numbers, simple game. KH3 is a pedestrian romp through Disney movies and that isn’t something you can say about any other Kingdom Hearts game in the series. It’s not the worst game in the series, but the House of Mouse found a way to turn a generation defining franchise into Wonder Bread. A soulless monument to a media monopoly. I love Big Hero 6, but if any video game’s most imaginative world is ‘San Francisco but slightly oriental’, that’s a problem. Oh is that not fair? Well you can also go to “mall”, “warehouse”, “forest”, “beach”, or “snow-level”…
ROSE: Exactly! Going back to even the last big entry in the series, KH3D, you have these wild worlds that are vibrant and unique! Tron Legacy with hyper realistic Jeff Bridges contrasted against vibrant scene boy Riku, the crazy spindly rails of Traverse Town, hell. They even made France look good! All contrasted with your funny little Dream Eater buddies who are a pastel nightmare! Which reminds me of how bad the summons were this time around! Bizarre statuesque monolith versions that provide a minigame, rather than say Genie from Aladdin jumping in and popping himself into Sora’s stupid zipper outfit to shoot beams at people!!!! Everything had to operate under the most sterile of ways: if it doesn’t look like a marketing tool than you can’t use it felt like the modus operandi of the game.
ELVIE: It does say a lot when the side games of the series have more development and thought put into them than KH3, which should have been the grand, final to cap off to this trilogy. Kingdom Hearts pulled in many of our hearts—but not too hard so we don’t turn into Heartless—with its bizarre amalgamation of nostalgia and….more nostalgia. It’s freaking weird and they committed to it! What other franchise can really say that proudly panders to the disturbing fanfiction dreams of shipping M*ckey Mouse with a silver-haired anime-esque bishounen? KH3 just sort of forgot what it was supposed to be and who it was for halfway through. Instead, we got a slightly more complex version of the mobile game, Disney Magic Kingdoms. The Re:Mind DLC may address some of these issues but KH3 is definitely a dire reflection of a number of big-budget Square titles recently as Rose has mentioned. It also is unfortunately telling of video games in general where putting out an unfinished product is acceptable when it is viable to just fix it later. Although KH3 also suffered from the secondary effect of when monopolies get out of hand, it’s pretty much inexcusable in that regard for all of the resources it had when it had so many cool things that could have been explored again. Lest we not also a ton of things that continued to be unaddressed. Let. Kairi. Fight!
SOLON: “Yeah but I ain’t paying a $40 pink tax for Kairi to do what she is owed.”