We have been stung before….
I am currently enjoying a comprehensive video describing why Final Fantasy XV was a mediocre disappointment. Below is the video but also please click here to support its creator Super Eyepatch Wolf.
This has inspired me to consider an upcoming release that is on the horizon. This is the only game I can think of late that has given me the same first love butterflies as FFXV gave me upon release, this game is Kingdom Hearts 3. FFXV is not a bad game and I enjoyed a lot of it in parts but it did let me down in many ways that are outlined in the above informative video. In this article, I will not get down into what went awry with FFXV as Super Eyepatch Wolf has done a stellar job of outlining this and I feel I can’t disagree with any points made in the video.
Some history for you…
Kingdom Hearts 1 was the result of a collaboration between Disney and Square that came to us in 2002. It combined solid action RPG mechanics with lovable characters from both Disney and Final Fantasy. The result shifted over 25 million copies of Kingdom Hearts Series software. Upon release, the reception was generally positive with many critics praising the fun battle system, stunning visuals and enchanting audio. There were a few minor concerns regarding the camera angles and tedious gameplay mechanics such as the Gummi ship. Nothing to stop a successful mainline sequel being released in 2005, a mere three years later to equally positive acclaim. The game also spawned many spin-offs that are integral to the further convoluted story of Kingdom Hearts lore. I considered embedding another YouTube video below for the explanation of the story but there are literally so many that instead, my advice to you would be:
- Visit YouTube.
- Type “Kingdom Hearts story”
- Pick the one that fits into the timeframe you have.
They generally range from a few minutes to over an hour and still you may come out of it with your heads spinning like a bridesmaid at a wedding. It has taken a further 13 years to get the next mainline console instalment of the Kingdom Hearts universe. Seem familiar Final Fantasy fans? Within that time I could have spawned a child and lead them to the franchise and had them complete it for me but I digress. Hopefully, this is where the similarity between FFXV and Kingdom Hearts 3 end.
One of the main reasons I loved the original two mainline games was seeing my favourite Final Fantasy characters interact with the Disney universe. This appears to have been massively rationed in Kingdom Hearts 3. If I were to pick out my favourite moments in my experience of KH. Appearances of Sephiroth, Cloud, Tifa, Squall (Leon), Tidus, Selphie, Wakka amongst other would all be up there. KH3 seems to be exclusively Disney and Kingdom Hearts characters and what seems so far to be almost zero influence of Final Fantasy.
Nomura responded to concerns in an interview with USGamer “When you look back on the first Kingdom Hearts, Sora was still a new character, so we kind of had the Final Fantasy characters as supporting characters,” Nomura said. “But now that it’s been 15 years, the original characters are more polished than they were before, so I don’t imagine think they need the Final Fantasy characters’ help as much as they did before.” He expanded on this further alluding to the sheer volume of characters now being a sticking point and preventing further Final Fantasy characters being introduced. I actually disagree with Nomura on this as I don’t believe fans of KH saw the inclusion of Final Fantasy characters as mere engagement and plot devices but more as an integral part of the KH universe. I can understand that as further characters exclusive to KH are introduced and begin to play a bigger part it will leave less room for characters from the other franchises to be introduced however this has not stopped them adding further Disney characters in their stead with the inclusion of worlds such as Tangled, Frozen, Toy Story, and Monsters Inc. I think the inclusion of a Final Fantasy world or two in the place of one of the Disney worlds would go a long way to reinvigorating the original fanbase. The game seems focussed on new gamers whilst forgetting the audience that has stuck with the franchise over the last 17 years.
I can understand the inclusion of Frozen in the universe as who wouldn’t want a slice of that money filled pie. Toy Story also appeals to both young and old. As much as I think Tangled is an infinitely better film than Frozen (don’t @ me!) did we really need the worlds of both Frozen and Tangled? Frozen was always going to be in there so in my opinion, Tangled could have been replaced with a Final Fantasy themed environment be it a Midgar, a Garden, A Terra/Gaia or even a Spira/Zanarkand?
Are we now too old?
This is possibly linked to the first concern of mine. When I first started playing Kingdom Hearts I was 13. I was old enough to be a competitive gamer but also young enough to still enjoy the likes of Mulan, Hercules, even Alice in Wonderland. I am now fast approaching my 30th Birthday. Much like many of KH’s core fans, I am possibly too old for the musings of the Winnie the Pooh characters or the silliness of Monstropolis. There are plenty of worlds for the younger gamers who are new to the series however I can’t help but feel neglected and a little disappointed with the worlds as though they are there to entice new younger gamers to the franchise rather than deliver a satisfying experience to those that have stuck with the franchise for the last 17 years. I don’t begrudge Square Enix doing this (lies!) as it makes financial sense to attract new fans and increase market share however I am just a little disappointed from a personal perspective as having waited 13 years I had hoped that the developers would have remembered many of the original fans will certainly be adults and therefore certain aspects and the gameplay, story and character need to graduate and mature with the audience. On first glance, it seems they have not done this and I hope to be proven wrong in the final version.
A fragmentary passage was released in January 2017 and was painted to be an indicator of what was to come from the franchise in the upcoming KH3 release. The snippet was generally favourably reviewed but one thing I have seen echoed in a few corners of the community is concerns over the “floatiness” of the combat. The concerns have been that floaty air combat makes the game feel less concrete and adds unnecessary air lag to the gameplay. Jumping is always seen to be a risk in any game involving combat offset by the reward of greater damage. The video below outlines the issue with floaty combat in Kingdom Hearts. This is addressed by short, snappy combos in KH2 that are satisfying and really have that wow factor.
Bl00dyBizKitz does a thorough job of explaining the risk vs reward mechanic and the downfall of removing control from the player simply for the purposes of looking flashy. Please visit their channel and subscribe.
To leave you with…
Kingdom Hearts 3 will probably be a great game. Even if it is not the game I would like it to be. I will buy it and I will most likely enjoy it but can I handle another disappointment like the one FFXV gave me? I almost need it to be good to give me hope for the next Final Fantasy in the series and convince me that Square Enix has not lost their way with they flagship RPG titles and not forgotten about the fans that enjoyed the games 10-15 years ago. Younger audiences may well read this and envision a bitter man whinging about how things were better in his day. That is fine. Enjoyment of games will always be subjective.
Daniel Jones, January 2019.
Kingdom Hearts 3 will be released on January 25th 2019.
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