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Was Kingdom Hearts III Worth The Wait?

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Kingdom Hearts III

Many games over the years have suffered long development times, making players question if the title would ever be released. Kingdom Hearts III, the first main entry in the series since 2005’s Kingdom Hearts II, has finally been released, but does it justify that 13-year wait?

In terms of plot, Kingdom Hearts III continues directly from where both Dream Drop Distance and A Fragmentary Passage left off. King Mickey and Riku are attempting to search the Realm of Darkness for the lost Keyblade Master, Aqua, while Sora, Donald, and Goofy attempt to recover the power that Sora lost during the events of Dream Drop Distance.

Several plot threads are twined together through Kingdom Hearts III, as the story tries to follow the progression of at least three different groups. While the main focus is clearly Sora’s journey, the game features regular side-trips to examine what Mickey and Riku are up to, as well as Kairi and Lea/Axel’s attempts to learn how to wield keyblades. These additional segments of plot are doled out slowly, giving the player just enough to spark intrigue as to what is going to happen next as they wait for the subsequent appearance of these secondary characters.

In common with regular criticisms of Kingdom Hearts, the plot does remain fairly convoluted. However, the game has made attempts to get players up to speed with the Memory Archive available on the main title screen. In contrast to previous games, the antagonists also seem to be forthcoming about motives and are refreshingly straightforward about their plans.

The game has narrative problems, however. Frozen and Tangled both get stripped-down adaptations of their source movies instead of receiving their own original plotline, which is disappointing as the characters could have much more to offer the Kingdom Hearts series, particularly Elsa and Anna.

Unlike previous titles in the series, all the cutscenes are voiced, instead of being a mixture of voiced and text-only. This change gives a better sense of flow, though some of the voice actors sound significantly older and rougher than in previous titles, which is particularly noticeable in the Olympus world. Haley Joel Osment as Sora has managed to find a good medium where he sounds older and more confident, but still convincingly young-sounding without coming off as whiny: an improvement over his performance in Dream Drop Distance.

As in Kingdom Hearts II, the cutscenes are all rendered using the in-game engine. The engine switch to Unreal Engine 4 undoubtedly contributed to the long development time, but the results are worth it. Graphically, everything looks amazing. One may find themselves getting distracted admiring the spectacular scenery, amazing texture work and gorgeous, fluid animation.

The engine switch and other technology improvements have also served to eliminate some of the more baffling elements from previous titles, like the empty seats in Olympus Colosseum despite the chorus of rousing cheering. Players will also find NPCs wandering around the towns, making the locations look like real places that people live in, instead of eerie, empty ghost towns. In general, the worlds themselves have much more depth than in previous games, with much more landmass to explore and collectibles to discover.

Kingdom Hearts IIIIn terms of gameplay, Kingdom Hearts III acts like a ‘greatest hits’ of the series. The Shotlocks and keyblade transformations from Birth By Sleep make a return, with the latter playing a significant role in how combat evolves throughout the game. The Flowmotion system from Dream Drop Distance also makes a return, though in the less powerful form of Athletic Flow, which allows a dynamic exploration of the worlds as well as being useful in combat.

Combat in Dream Drop Distance and Birth By Sleep had been criticised for its reliance on puzzle-like bosses who needed to be hit at very specific times or with specific attacks to be taken out of action, while also locking players into combos and making the attacks impossible to block in mid-air. Those problems have been addressed in Kingdom Hearts III. Players can have up to three keyblades equipped at once, and can switch them out on the fly, even in mid-combo. This makes for a far more dynamic and strategic form of combat, where choosing the right blade, transformation, and combo for the right situation can prove critical.

The Situational Reaction Commands are also back, but unlike in Kingdom Hearts II, they can not just be spammed endlessly until victory is obtained. Instead, during combat players can get access to multiple combo finishers, reaction commands, party combination attacks, and the Attraction Flow theme-park ride attacks, all of which can be activated with the same button. Timing an attack right can make all the difference in a tricky boss battle.

In terms of combat and graphics, Kingdom Hearts III is a big improvement over previous games. In terms of storyline, however, the game tends to be something of a mixed bag. Only those truly invested in the sprawling meta-plot will be likely to get closure and satisfaction from the story, despite efforts to make it easier for new players.

Kingdom Hearts III PiratesKingdom Hearts III is a long way from perfect, but the improvements on the formula make it a compelling experience to play, and those who have sunk time into discovering the nuances of the plot line will get a lot out of it.

Was Kingdom Hearts III worth the wait? For those truly invested in Sora and his friends, yes. For everyone else… probably not.

To keep up with the best in news, reviews, and editorial pieces from the spectrum of single-player gaming, be sure to follow OnlySP on FacebookTwitter, and YouTube.

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Editorial

Three Single-Player Games to Watch Out for in July 2019

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Three Single Player Games (July 2019) - Sea of Solitude, Fire Emblem Three Houses, Wolfenstein Youngblood

July, the middle of winter down here in Australia. Even in the bizarre New South Wales climate, the biting cold makes for a great excuse to stay inside and play games. 

Weirdly for single players, quite a few prestige games this month include additional co-op modes. With acclaimed designers behind them, such games will hopefully avoid the pitfalls of accommodating multiple players, as too many games have done in the past.

Sea of Solitude

Release Date: July 5, 2019
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One

At first blush, Sea of Solitude looks like yet another story of a young adult struggling with questions of identity and mental health while exploring a beautiful but harsh fantasy world.

Actually, that’s what it is. ‘Quirky, life affirming indie adventure’ is a whole cottage industry these days, but the fact that such games are now more prevalent should never dismay.

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice was a masterpiece of refined design and storytelling, and Sea of Solitude appears be something similar—this time dealing with a fantastical vision of depression that turns ordinary people into literal monsters.

Players take charge of Kay, who has sought out the eponymous Sea—or rather, a flooded city based on Berlin—in the hope that there is a cure for monstrosity. However, despite its name, she is not the only person in the Sea. Avoiding the other monsters of the Sea seems to be a major part of the gameplay. These tense encounters are likely to provide rhythm and variety to the adventure and keep it from being a just walking simulator. (Not that being a walking simulator is inherently a problem.)

Although published by EA Originals, one would do well to remember that EA the company does not actually profit off the Originals that they publish. With a focused story and themes that still are not often explored in bigger games, Sea of Solitude should be of great interest to single player fans in a month otherwise dominated by multiplayer titles.

 

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Release Date: July 26, 2019
Platform: Nintendo Switch

Almost certainly the biggest single player release of the month, and tied with Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 as another massive Switch exclusive, Fire Emblem: Three Houses might be exactly what single players need right now.

Lately the Fire Emblem franchise has exploded in both its popular profile and sales success, buoyed by a hunger for both deep anime RPGs and polished tactics games. Three Houses seems to have doubled down on exciting trends and features in both genres: particularly a Persona/Harry Potter inspired magic school setting and an even deeper tactical battle system that ditches the rock-paper-scissors for more nuanced character progression options. As with many Japanese RPGs, the story is also a major focus and hinges upon a time-jump.

The early part casts the player as a teacher at the Officer’s Academy, situated in the center of the game world and attended by students from the three most powerful nations. Five years later, the second and likely larger part concerns the drama between the player’s teacher and their former students, whose nations are now locked in a massive three-way conflict.

As is to be expected for a series finally coming back to consoles after a long time on the 3DS, Three Houses is a massive technical leap over its predecessors. The game boasts better realised battlefields, more detailed armies, and a slick animated style that appears much more consistent compared with the three or four different art styles on the 3DS.

With such improvements, as well as the overall pedigree of the Fire Emblem brand, Three Houses should have no trouble satisfying single player fans looking for a meaty middle-of-the-year RPG.

Wolfenstein: Youngblood

Release Date: July 26, 2019
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One

The recent Wolfenstein revival series is such a remarkable achievement in traditional shooter design and great, if goofy, sci-fi worldbuilding that the co-op focus of this latest instalment is somewhat disappointing.

Yes, as with F.E.A.R. 3 and Dead Space 3, following a well-received second chapter the Wolfenstein series now pivots to a co-operative focused chapter. Though the game is not a mandatory multiplayer experience, combat encounters and puzzles have been redesigned to accommodate the two player mode, giving single players an AI-controlled partner and bullet sponge enemies.

However, all hope is not lost for Wolfenstein: why else would it be the third game on the list? The narrative has been pushed forward in time, as B.J.’s twin daughters are now in their adolescence, now giving players a glimpse at the 1980s of Wolfenstein‘s skewed universe. Additionally, the level design itself is more freeform thanks to development assistance from Arkane, the developers of the Dishonored series.

Will Wolfenstein: Youngblood successfully deliver more of the series’s goofy charm and crazy alternate reality? Almost certainly. On the other hand, will the game be as fun to play alone as in multiplayer? That remains to be seen. Last month’s E3 demo that raised such concerns was naturally only a snapshot of a game in development, so MachineGames and Arkane have had plenty of time to resolve these potential downsides to a co-op focused game.

Those are our three big single player games to look out for this month. Other interesting titles coming soon include Stranger Things 3 on July 4 and Attack on Titan 2 on July 5, both games hitting Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

On July 12 we will see the sequel to an almost-fantastic Minecraft-like RPG spinoff, Dragon Quest Builders 2 on Switch and PlayStation 4, as well as the Switch port of “anime Monster Hunter”, God Eater 3

The week after, July 19 brings us Switch-exclusive Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order, and at an undetermined time during the month Klei Entertainment’s anticipated survival-sim Oxygen Not Included will finally leave early access on PC.

Have we missed anything that you’re looking forward to? Let us know in the comments below and be sure bookmark OnlySP and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. You can also join the discussion in our community Discord server.

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