Parents need to know that “Kingdom Hearts III” is an action-based role-playing game for the PS4 and Xbox One. The game has a strong focus on storytelling and an exceptional amount of commercialism. The combat is cartoonish and relatively mild, with swords in the shape of keys, and fantastical enemies that simply disappear when defeated. It also features powerful magical attacks that involve Disney theme park-style attractions, including roller coasters and swinging pirate boats. Between battles, players watch lengthy, non-interactive cut scenes where the heroes discuss varied issues ranging from what to do next in their struggle against an evil organization to issues about identity and self-worth. The main companions are an undeniably good and altruistic bunch who risk everything to help their friends. But this game is also essentially a commercial for all things Disney, with dozens of familiar characters and themed worlds designed to appeal to kids who love movies like “Toy Story,” “Hercules,” “Frozen,” and “Ratatouille.”
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
“Kingdom Hearts III” continues the story of a teenager named Sora who lives in a fantasy realm with worlds and characters drawn from Disney’s most beloved films. This third numbered chapter in the long running series sees Sora and his friends — including Donald Duck, Goofy, and a group of his peers — continue to rally against the diabolical Xehanort (and his various forms) as they adventure through worlds based on popular Disney and Pixar movies ranging from “Hercules” and “Big Hero Six” to “Monsters, Inc.” and “Toy Story.” Sora begins the game weakened from his last encounter with his nemesis, and is instructed by the iconic Yen Sid to find and reclaim his “power of waking.” His quest leads him to grow in strength in other ways, too, from finding and powering up new “keyblades” — ornate weapons that resemble keys — to solidifying his friendships with key characters in his life. Play is split between a number of activities, including exploring new lands, fighting fantastical enemies, flying whimsical Gummi ships between worlds, engaging in mini-games such as cooking meals as Little Chef from the film “Ratatouille,” and solving occasional puzzles. Between these activities, players can watch lengthy non-interactive narrative sequences that gradually move the story forward.
IS IT ANY GOOD?
Existing fans of this popular fantasy role-playing game franchise craving answers to many of the series’ long-standing questions will find them here. With nearly a dozen hours’ worth of narrative scenes, “Kingdom Hearts III” is loaded with exposition to both refresh players’ memories on the story-to-date — a complicated stew of weird mythology and multifaceted characters, many of whom have multiple versions of themselves — and provide some resolution to long-standing issues.
Outside of the narrative sequences, the game is an absolute blast, featuring a huge diversity of action, activities, and graphical styles. Combat is quick and propulsive, with players given a wide variety of attack options that convey a sense of power and are visually satisfying to boot. Exploring the world is a treat, with an impressive array of stuff to do when you’re not beating back minions or discovering treasures.
RATING AND CONTENT
Recommended for ages 10 and older
Quality: 4 out of 5
Positive messages: 3 out of 5
Positive role models: 3 out of 5
Ease of play: 3 out of 5
Violence: 2 out of 5
Sex: 0 out of 5
Language: 0 out of 5
Drinking, drugs, and smoking: 0 out of 5
Consumerism: 4 out of 5
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Developer: Square Enix
Release date: January 29, 2019
ESRB rating: E10+ for alcohol reference, violence