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Kingdom Hearts 3 [PS4/XB1] - Delayed to 29th January 2019


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I finished Birth By Sleep last night and...it's actually a decent action RPG?  Mechanically, it's kind of like someone looked at the card system from Chain of Memories, and had played FF6, and decided to try to meld the two together.  Every command you have (spells and special attacks, as well as things like your dodge and jump) levels on its own.  Once you level up a command, you can combine two of them together to make a new command (e.g. Fire + Fire = Fira), and adding a crystal gives you an extra effect (e.g. faster recharge, more HP etc).  Once you level a command to max with an ability attached, that becomes permanent (like the FF6 espers).  This means that the game is a little grindier than some of the others, but in a way where you're gaining levels on your abilities pretty constantly.  It's also horrendously complicated, and figuring out what all the combinations are would take forever.  Fortunately, we have the internet, so I unashamedly played through this with a spreadsheet open that listed all of the recipes and mods along with probabilities for each.  No way was I going to go through all that trial and error...  Anyway, the nice thing about this system is that it actually means that using all of these abilities is a viable strategy, since they all operate on a cooldown.  No more MP hoarding, and once you have the ability recharge speeds maxed, you can basically use only specials. 

 

The big change with this game is that you're playing as one of three characters, so you're basically playing the same worlds three times to get the whole story.  Fortunately, each character is doing different things on each world, so it's not as if you're playing the same game three times, but three different perspectives on concurrent events.  It does mean that you're starting from scratch three times, but that also means that progression is pretty quick.  By the third pass through the game, I finished the whole thing in 7 hours (first was closer to 11), and had most of the top tier commands I wanted maxed out.  As for the story...it's actually a little more coherent than the others?  It's a prequel to the whole series that sort of fits?  In the original game, the "keyblade" was this singular object of power, and when Riku and Mickey had them it was a big deal.  Now, not only do your three main characters have them, but your master (Mark Hamill as not-luke-skywalker), and the other master with the terminally bad back (Leonard fucking Nimoy with a mouthfull of gravel) have them, and eventually there's an area with thousands of discarded keyblades?  Did someone watch the Star Wars prequels and decide that keyblade wielders were Jedi?  There's some real bullshit with one of the characters' dark halves walking around on its own, and the big bad wanting to forge some master x-blade (x as in the Greek "chi"...someone probably got a bonus for coming up with that one), but the interweaving story of the 3 protagonists is actually kind of well done. 

 

Being a prequel, you end up with a bunch of wink/nod cameos that set things up for future games.  You meet most of the zipper-robe squadron at one point before they became evil, and it sort of sets up why Chain of Memories happens, but not why Ventus looks like Roxas (other than it's a JRPG, and at a certain point there are only so many hair spike and wallet chain designs out there).  I don't know how/whether this all pays off later on, but we'll see how it goes.  I still do kind of appreciate the audacity of "all this shit matters" in this series, where they try to connect all of these disparate pieces. 

 

That actually completes all of the "games" on this collection.  There are a couple of cutscene compilations, and then some more games on the second prequel collection.  I'll have to look up which of those are actually worth playing. 

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  • 2 months later...

So...Kh3...

 

I'd played a bunch of the earlier games, but fell off of the one that had you collecting knockoff pokemon and switching characters.  Played some other stuff, and then was looking for the next thing and saw that I had 3 installed.  Thought about going back and trying to finish the others I missed, then decided to say fuck it and just try the new one.  After all, it's not like the story makes a whole lot of sense anyway, so missing a few pieces can't hurt, right? 

 

There's actually kind of a nasty bug on the Xbox version of this that seems to randomly mess up saving.  I started the game, watched all the intro cutscenes, got to the first save point, and couldn't save the game.  The game clock showed about 45 minutes of playtime.  Quit out of the game, and restarted, but skipped all the cutscenes, and my first save was at 7 minutes of playtime instead.  It appears that the bug is related to suspend/resume, so I've taken to creating a test save on every resume just to make sure it works.  It is telling that this definitely seems to be a game you'll spend more time watching than playing. 

 

The story has gone full on incomprehensible at this point, and it's the kind of thing I can completely understand someone getting way too wrapped up in.  It's X-Men level insanity.  I'm still curious to see how it all wraps up, but it'd be nice if they could get there without quite so many words...  Already I'm getting the sense that the game didn't have a story editor...

 

Once you get to the part where you're playing the game, it's a perfectly fine action RPG that has ALL THE SYSTEMS!  Not to be outdone in the crazy department by the story, the gameplay seems to take everything that might have been in a KH game before and give it all to you, so you have attacks, reversals, flowmotion, combo attacks, weapon transformations, magic, summons, and special attacks where you pull out a pirate ship ride, or the teacups, or the buzz lightyear blaster ride.  You also move very quickly, and can run up the goddamned walls, which makes me wonder if they also decided to make this into a 3d sonic game somehow?  The game does look fantastic though, and seems to hit a really stable framerate on the X. 

 

The music is also a little better than some of the lower budget games, in that they realize that you need a longer loop for the music to stay interesting.  Some of the earlier games took a recognizable bit of music from one of the movies, and repeated the same 120 seconds or so over and over again, and it got really, really obnoxious. 

 

So far the game hasn't been too difficult, so I'll probably stick with it for a while to see how it actually wraps up.  I just made it to the Tangled level this morning, and have mostly been ignoring the extra systems like the in-game phone, the cooking/ingredient gathering, and the gummi ship upgrades. 

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And done.  The parts where you're actually interacting with the game are a lot of fun.  The game looks absolutely fantastic in motion, and the insanity of the combat makes it kind of like a simplified, PG Bayonetta in some ways.  It's not difficult by any means, but there's enough there to make it flashy and interesting.  Some of the combo attacks get a little repetitive by the end, but the different formchanges on the keyblades and summons that you can get can change things up if you want.  It's also nice that they didn't necessarily retread the same worlds they'd already used in other games.  I think Hercules and Pirates were the only major repeats?  There's also some real thoughtfulness to the designs, with certain worlds changing your characters looks (to blend in), the UI changing to fit the world, and the world-specific weapons.  The game also doesn't wear out its welcome.  I beat the whole thing in I think 25 hours, which is still meaty, but not a 50 or 60 hour slog.  I'm sure you could go back and find all the upgrades, hidden mickeys, and recipes, but I'm good having just seen the main story through.

 

And that story...  I think it's telling that at a couple of points in the game, characters will actually comment on things not making any sense, or being batshit crazy.  Clearly they were going for a comic book crossover "it's all been leading to this" vibe, and to the extent that they wrapped up 95% of the hanging threads (I think) while still leaving the door open to the next thing, I think they succeeded.  It was messy getting there, but it did manage to pull all of those characters into one game.  I wonder if this is what you would have gotten if all the Final Fantasy games had been in the same universe instead of being a reset every time?  Speaking of which, no FF characters to be seen at all in KH3.  There's also something to be said for this game having the "most story", since of that 25 hours, I'd swear that half of that was watching all the cutscenes.  There were multiple points where I had to keep the Xbox from going to the screen saver (dim the screen) mode while something played out.  I should look up what a speedrun time on this game is.  Also, whether Kingdom Hearts or MGS has more total cutscene time.

 

Anyway, for the grand investment of $0 (thanks Game Pass), it was worth checking out, but I think it's telling that I uninstalled all of the KH stuff immediately after finishing 3.

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