Fans have waited so long for Kingdom Hearts III. The last main entry in the series, Kingdom Hearts II, released 13 years ago so there was a ton of hype being built around the newest game. For over a decade, Square Enix focused on meaningless side games and rereleases as we patiently waited for the true sequel to one of the greatest games of our childhood.
But there are some glaring issues with what I just said, right? There have actually been six major Kingdom Hearts titles since 2006, all of which include major story details that are relevant to the overall story of Kingdom Hearts III and future games in the series. The most recent addition to the main story only released two years ago.
Despite Square’s best effort, a lot of the “spinoff” Kingdom Hearts games did end up getting ignored by a large portion of Kingdom Hearts III players. Because of this, there are a ton of people that are blasting the game for not staying true to the franchise or for simply coming up short of expectations.
Okay, so a minority of players that haven’t kept up over the years are feeling left behind. Surely the people that followed along love the game, right? Unfortunately, the reception has been mixed. A good portion of diehard Kingdom Hearts fans have all brought up a similar feeling of disappointment after the game released.
So is the game just bad? I don’t think so. Kingdom Hearts III released to critical acclaim like almost every other entry in the series. As a fan of the series, I had a fantastic time.
So what is it about this one that didn’t sit so well with other people? Well, even those that have been with the series for every game have waited seven years for a full-sized Kingdom Hearts experience. With that kind of a wait time, some people are bound to set high expectations.
I think everyone had their own idea of what Kingdom Hearts III would be. Because of this and the long development cycle, a lot of hype was built up around everyone’s hopes rather than what we were being shown and told. I think that’s a horrible mistake to make as a community.
If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve undoubtedly seen that I’m upset with the Kingdom Hearts community, especially when it comes to people complaining about elements of the series that have basically become staples by this point. Things like awkward dialogue and the unimportance of Disney stories are valid complaints to have about Kingdom Hearts, but it’s insane to imply the other games handled it any better.
At that point, one thing became clear: Kingdom Hearts II is beloved by many gamers who have spent the last decade turning it inside out. For many, it’s their favorite game ever and I think these people were hoping to find a similar feeling with Kingdom Hearts III. It’s great to want that, but I don’t think we should expect that as fans.
Kingdom Hearts has been evolving as a series since 2006. Many new gameplay systems and story elements have been introduced since then, so I think it’s a little unrealistic to want Kingdom Hearts III to return to something that feels like you’re stepping right back into the last decade.
Let’s think of an alternate scenario for a moment. What if Kingdom Hearts III was nearly identical to Kingdom Hearts II? The game would have opened with 0.2, make you spend about one hour in each Disney world, send you to an original world where Final Fantasy characters interacted with you as five hours of exposition get dumped on you, spend another half hour in Disney world with some filler to get you to the proper level for the final fight, and then the game would have dumped the last five hours of plot on you.
Let’s say this game has snappier combat, dual wielding keyblades, and you can fight Sephiroth as an extra boss. What would people say about it? Would you enjoy it more? This game works pretty much exactly like Kingdom Hearts II but with all the worlds and story of III. Honestly, I think it would have been hated just as much.
You might think that’s crazy because that’s what everyone wanted, right? I don’t think that would go over well. Do you all remember what everyone said about The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess when it came out? People loved it. The game is very similar to Ocarina of Time but pumps everything up to 11.
But how is Twilight Princess remembered now? It’s not a bad game, but it’s often referred to as a clone of Ocarina of Time. It’s criticized for playing it safe and sticking to an old formula. Which game is remembered more fondly? I would argue Ocarina of Time is favored over Twilight Princess despite the latter doing most of the same things but arguably better.
So just like Twilight Princess shouldn’t have tried to chase after Ocarina of Time‘s nostalgia, I’m glad Kingdom Hearts III didn’t just rehash the same elements of Kingdom Hearts II. Does that mean it will be remembered more? That’s yet to be seen and it’s honestly hard to tell.
But if we keep using the Zelda analogy, I think I may have a theory. After the release of Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask, fans were waiting patiently for an amazing, realistic Zelda game for the Nintendo GameCube. We all know what came next.
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker was released to positive critical reception, but the fans were not having any of it. The visual style was too different, and the game was just way too different than Ocarina. Now let’s think about how Wind Waker holds up to Twilight Princess in 2019. I would argue more fans like Wind Waker now.
Again, I’m not sure how Kingdom Hearts III will be viewed in ten years. But I hope my explanations and analogies helped you see that overhyping a game can be dangerous. If you expect too much of one thing and get a surprise like Wind Waker, you’ll just end up having a bad time. If you ask too much for the same, you’ll get an underwhelming experience that feels like more of the same, much like Twilight Princess.
So when the next Kingdom Hearts is inevitably announced, don’t expect it to be like any of the other games before it. That way you can look at it as its own thing. It’s much better to be excited or disappointed about a game for what it is rather than what it is not.