Kingdom Hearts 3 extended preview: How could you be so Heartless?

Square Enix
Square Enix /

We got to take a longer look at Kingdom Hearts 3’s Toy Box stage at a special preview event and boy, is it ever a Kingdom Hearts game.

It was a game that helped bring excitement to the PS4 and Xbox One back at E3 2013, but finally getting the chance to play it has made it feel real. Kingdom Hearts 3 finally has a release date (coming January 29, 2019), and we at App Trigger have finally gotten the chance to play the game at a preview event in Toronto, ON, Canada during Fan Expo 2018.

We got to try out two areas of the game; the Olympus stage fight versus Hercules’ Lythos and a long look at the Toy Box stage inspired by Toy Story. Though there are a few new features and loveable characters, it’s hard to shake the feeling that you’re not going to escape the intensely silly dialogue and confusing meta-narrative that remains a series constant.

Climbing the mountain

The Olympus stage offered up the basics; taking on a huge boss battle with a Disney favorite with some Heartless battles sprinkled in between. With Lythos raining down boulders from up top, Sora, Donald, and Goofy needed to climb the mountain in order to hack away at the giant beast.

But first; some trash mobs. Your party retains most of the basic ground and aerial combos, as well as some additional bonus powers based on repeated hits. You can enter the second form and continue to knock down enemies with planet-specific powers, as well as open up the action to include some Disneyland-inspired attraction attacks.

Kingdom Hearts 3 Olympus
Square Enix /

These attacks often help clear groups of basic Heartless monsters, providing a visual vibrancy and varied combat loop beyond spamming X on a PS4 controller. Plus, they play into the Disney lore with attractions such as spinning teacups and a roaming turret, looking like they’re ripped out of a Disney park.

Furthermore, climbing your way up included running up walls; something you can apparently do now in Kingdom Hearts 3. Every surface you can run up sparkles with a sheen that’s hard to miss, but is certainly visually busy, as well. Dodging boulders, our heroes strive to take down the big bad the way most take out a gigantic boss; by slashing the feet and climbing it for better strikes at the head.

The climbing the monster part was a bit confusing, as the prompt tells you to push forward on sparkling prompts to run up his body to jump to his head, prime and waiting for hits. However, these movements are finicky, and I even found myself falling off the edge of the mountain to a lower plateau, forcing me to climb up and start the process over again.

Related Story. Best Video Game Villains Of All Time. light

You’ve got a friend in me

What really opened up my eyes (and my heart) was the Toy Box stage focusing on the world of Toy Story. It opens up with Woody, Buzz, Hamm and the gang preparing to take on the Heartless on their on before Sora’s gang swoops in, offering to help them find their lost friends.

Though Jim subbed in for Tom Hanks as the voice behind Woody’s veneer, the wholesome dialogue between characters is warm and inviting, even if cutscenes tend to drag on a bit. There’s a bit of trust that needs to be built over time, especially with the ever-cautious Buzz Lightyear wary that these strangers arrived at the same time as these dark menaces.

Kingdom Hearts 3 Toy Box
Square Enix /

What caught me off guard was that Sora et al. were known commodities within the Toy Box world as characters from a video game. The self-awareness was a bit jarring at first but definitely played well with the tone of the long demo, especially as we fought through waves of enemies en route to learning more about the lost friends.

Of course, you can’t have Heartless without some hooded member of the Organization show up and mumble some nonsense about the Darkness and Light. The contrast between Sora, Donald and Goofy chasing each other around like Three Stooges one moment and coming into another moment alluding to the great keyblade war continues to be a strong tonal dissonance, and baffling to someone who hasn’t played a dozen Kingdom Hearts video games.

Toy Box did introduce even further mechanics, including jumping into bigger toys and operating them like they were Titanfall titans. That was a neat trick that helped upped the pace amid a sea of familiar trash mob fights. The alternate form of Sora piling on toys to make a huge sledgehammer or drill bit to slice your way through enemies was also quite enjoyable.

It’s always great to see Kingdom Hearts 3 gameplay, let alone try it in person if only to confirm it actually exists and is on track. My takeaway as someone who’s completed the first game and got through most of the second; it’s a lot of the same style of story and action-RPG gameplay, but elevated for more variance in combat.

The 50 Best RPGs Of All Time. light. Related Story

You’re getting exactly what you bargained for with Kingdom Hearts 3; a bunch of familiar characters yucking it up, exploring worlds, making new friends and discussing eons-arching mythical lore that boils down to a fight between the darkness and light.