‘Kingdom Hearts 3’ made me feel 15 again

Kingdom Hearts II was my jam. I can’t recall the number of times I’ve played those opening hours in Twilight Town. When the game came out in 2005, I was a 15 year-old grappling with adolescence and the relentless pressure to figure out my career path. Kingdom Hearts, with its colorful Disney worlds and random Final Fantasy cameos, was the perfect escape from reality. Over time, though, my interest in the series has waned. I enjoyed Birth By Sleep, but found the rest of the spin-offs to be underwhelming and full of needlessly convoluted story beats.

Kingdom Hearts 3, though, makes me feel like a teenager again. At E3 2018, I played two demos that covered the Hercules and Toy Story-inspired worlds. Both were bright, cheery affairs, with plenty of Heartless to pummel with a ridiculous arsenal of keyblade combos, magic and amusement park-themed attacks. I was surprised by how quickly my fingers and thumbs recalled the basic combat system; within seconds I was launching Sora into the air and chaining together a bevy of slices and spells. The fights were chaotic, but in a way that was familiar and strangely comforting.

That’s not to say Square Enix doesn’t have some new ideas. In the Olympus demo, for instance, I had to guide Sora up a huge cliff while a giant Heartless launched rocks from above. The keyblade wielder will now auto-run up surfaces that have a shimmering sheen to them. “There are a lot of open world games,” director Tetsuya Nomura said via an interpreter. “I think a lot of them just focus on trying to go bigger and bigger in a horizontal map. But when I thought about having dynamic actions, I felt that verticality should be very important to these types of games.”

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