Kingdom Hearts 3 review – Disney-themed romp’s charm is skin-deep

PlayStation 4, Xbox One; Square Enix
This mashup of animated film stars and Japanese action heroes has new characters to enrol, but beyond exciting theme-park action the connection between worlds feels superficial

Kingdom Hearts started out in 2002 as a happy accidental collision between Disney and Square Enix, a cheerful adventure that brought the American animation giant’s instantly recognisable characters into the drama-fuelled world of Japanese role-playing games. Since then things have got … rather more complicated, as subsequent games have taken the series further away from its roots and towards its own identity, layering on lore and extra characters and plot twists. After all this time, Kingdom Hearts III now tries to reconcile Disney’s ever-expanding dream world with Square’s brand of drama – with mixed results.

The game is mostly content to ignore all the backstory baggage and instead keeps the tone cheerful. Sora, the boy who wanted nothing than to save his friends and return home, has lived through some harrowing events, but here he essentially starts at zero, once again journeying through various theme-worlds inhabited by Disney characters in preparation for a final showdown with the shadowy Organisation XIII. Kingdom Hearts III makes it very easy to forget about all the impending doom, mostly because it doesn’t bring any of it up until very late in the tale. Attempts to bring the audience up to speed end in bits of plot exposition that sound like conversations between amnesiacs: “Do you remember us doing that thing?” “It’s on the tip of my tongue … You mean that time when we went and did that other thing?” “Yeah! This is an important bit of information I probably should have mentioned sooner.”

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