“Kingdom Hearts 3”: I didn’t hate it

Latest installment of beloved game offers more new questions than it answers (Spoiler warning)

HOLLACE VILLARREAL

Villa068@rangers.uwp.edu

The game

“Kingdom Hearts 3” is the ninth game in the Kingdom Hearts series, though it is the first real made-for-console game released since “Kingdom Hearts 2”. The game follows Sora, the protagonist of the series, as he looks for the Power of Waking throughout different Disney themed worlds.

In this game, Sora and his friends are trying to find the seven guardians of light. Ultimately, Sora’s goal is to defeat his enemy, Xehanort, and Xehanort’s “Organization XIII”.

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Sora, Donald, and Goofy face off against Organization XIII     COURTESY OF CREATIVE COMMONS

The overall plotline

The Kingdom Hearts series has a notoriously complex plotline, so complex that “Kingdom Hearts 3” comes with over a half hour of recap videos available on the title screen before the game even starts. The backstory that stretched out over the last nine games is repeated many times over the course of the game’s cutscenes. I found this annoyingly repetitive. As someone familiar with the franchise, nothing in the first half of the game was new information.

The worlds

As Kingdom Hearts is a blend of Final Fantasy and Disney, there was a fair amount of Disney worlds. Personally, I was a fan. I felt like each of the worlds were fleshed out, had interesting storylines, and had fun new game mechanics to work with. While the musical cutscenes in Arendelle (the world based on the movie “Frozen”) were frankly awkward, and the plot and length of San Fransokyo (based on the movie “Big Hero 6”) left much to be desired, the worlds were overall pretty good.

I was disappointed that no Final Fantasy characters made an appearance in the entire game. Though they have not made big appearances since “Kingdom Hearts 2” and “Birth by Sleep”, the characters added a lot to the games. By removing them, the game seemed to be missing something.

Kairi: Princess of heart, guardian of light

In the original “Kingdom Hearts” game Kairi was a main character. She went missing early in the game and Sora and Riku were both separately trying to find her. In the game, she was shown to be a “Princess of Heart”, a vague term that referred to characters with exceptional “light”. Because of her status as a “Princess of Heart”, Kairi was able to return Sora’s heart to him, when he gave up his life to save her.

In “Kingdom Hearts 2” Kairi also played a key role, showing how the outside world had forgotten the events of the original game. Though she did not have a whole lot of personality in this sequel, she still had self-sufficient qualities and even fought off a kidnapper and escaped a cell.

In “Kingdom Hearts 3”, Kairi has been training to become a keyblade wielder. Her aptitude for the keyblade was hinted at in “Birth by Sleep” where Aqua bequeathed her a keyblade. The game also mentions how there are new “Princesses of Heart”, but that Kairi is still one of them, along with a guardian of light.

It’s unforgivable that, in her first fight–after all this training–she is immediately defeated. She’s kidnapped by the villain and he shatters her in front of Sora.

Before this fight, Kairi only talked to Sora twice, and both times were stilted and awkward. The writing was strange, and her previously lively character was flat and uninteresting. She offered Sora a paopu fruit–a symbol of intertwining their destinies–without any lead up, creating an awkward atmosphere. This romance subplot fell flat.

After she was shattered, Sora vowed to get her back, even if it destroyed him. The game ends with everyone back and safe on Destiny Islands, except Sora–who seemingly gave up his life for her.

The game wasn’t awful

Overall the game was a fun time, I enjoyed playing it. After so long, I expected a better plotline that actually made all of the aspects of the overly complex storyline fall together. I was disappointed with how the game handled previously strong female characters. They appeared watered down and less powerful than they were in their original games. Again, it was fun–but it could have been so much better.

“Horizon Zero Dawn” exceeds expectations

horizonsTRAVIS NORTHERN |north004@rangers.uwp.edu

VIA NEXTLEVEL GAMING

“Horizon Zero Dawn” falls into a wide range of genre categories. It is a 3rd-person action game. It is an adventure game. It is a story game. It is a pseudo-RPG. It is an open-world explorer. All of these labels have some merit, but first and foremost, this is a hunter-gatherer game. After my many hours with “Horizon Zero Dawn”, I feel like I still need to keep coming back and exploring its amazing experience.

A world of wonder

The story always engaged me with its personal appeals and its grand scale. Battling the machines never got old thanks to the sheer creativity behind the enemy types. The environments are absolutely beautiful, and they provide an aura of mystery just waiting to be unraveled. I would consider this game a complete experience, something so dense with enjoyable moments that it is worth playing over and over as years go by. It is a technological marvel that capitalizes on the potential of what the PlayStation 4 can accomplish.

Story is refined, focused and sharp

A concern that I do possess is that this game will not appeal to players who hate linear story sections. The first hour or so consists of a streamlined plot that does not offer you the freedom of the open world until later in the game, and several points near the third act return to this tactic. While it works wonders with the game’s pacing, setup and general story value, it may deter players that detest story-driven titles. If you are disinclined to play story games, then this might not be the game for you.

A major step forward for everyone involved

It might seem familiar at times, but the hunter-gatherer twist on the formula and a brilliant plotline sets it apart from the rest. It is in the top tier of the 3rd-person action genre, and developer Guerilla Games’ finest work to date. The title marks yet another victory for Sony as they have continued to add iconic IP’s to their repertoire over the past decade. This could definitely be a platform-seller for the PlayStation 4 and the newly released PlayStation 4 Pro, since that system can display Horizon’s enchanting aesthetics at an even higher resolution. With these accomplishments in mind, the title is easily an early contender for Game of the Year.

A title for the ages

Simply put, “Horizon Zero Dawn” is why I love video games. It is a complex, thought-provoking, emotional tale told through a series of unique, immersive, epic encounters. It is a demonstration of why videogames are an art medium. Anyone hooked by its premise is certain to come back for a replay, or ten. If you do pick it up, happy machine-hunting!

Score: 95/100

For the full review and more from NextLevel gaming, visit their website at http://nlgo.net/2017/03/horizon-zero-dawn-review/.