Hey, Editor Emma here. So, we both beat Kingdom Hearts 3. We know, we can’t believe it either. I actually dove back in when Critical Mode came out. Nomura recently announced his DLC plans too. It’s been a hot minute since we beat the game, but we can’t stop thinking about it.
Kingdom Hearts is a personally important series to us, as you might know if you’ve listened to our podcast or just glanced at the blog. We eagerly awaited the release of this installment. We bided our time by replaying the HD collections. I seriously considered buying the Deluxe Edition with the figures. Honestly, we’re way too close to it to give any sort of objective score, and I wouldn’t want to boil it down to some “what number out of ten” scale anyway. First off, it would definitely have to be out of seven or thirteen if you were going to do that, but scores are dumb anyway.
So, instead, we came up with thirteen questions, each with three answers, that get down to the nitty-gritty of everything we loved, everything we didn’t love, and more. Needless to say, there will be SPOILERS.
Without further ado, shall we dive in?
1. What form did you pick?
E: I picked Guardian, but, thinking on it, I probably should have gone with something else. As soon as you get Once More and Second Chance, your defense doesn’t really matter. Magic seemed pretty OP in this installment, so definitely going to stick with Mystic when I inevitably play through again on the upcoming critical mode. And then again whenever they add a Final Mix-like expansion. (Update: I’m doing it, and I think it will pay off in the long run but dear god, I am dying)
M: In an attempt to prove that I am an Adult Gamer, I went with Mystic all the way this time. I feel like it’s the only choice that preserves one’s self-respect. No offense to Emma, but choosing Guardian is for wusses, and picking Warrior is for the truly basic (AKA Clickbait Boyfriend). I’ve had to listen to CBB talk about how his only strategy is to mash the X button too many times and I wanted to prove him wrong (he is wrong).
2. Best Kingdom Hearts trio?
a. Wayfinder trio?
b. Destiny trio?
c. Sea-salt trio?
E: It’s not physically possible for me not to cry during the scene with Lea, Roxas, and Xion, so there you go. Madelyn can attest to this, because I started crying when I watched her play this section. I’m feeling a little teary right now, even writing about it, which is embarrassing because I’m in public right now. When Xion starts crying, I have to start fighting it, and then when Lea starts crying that’s like a critical hit to the heart. The Kingdom Hearts team could always do great facial animation, but Unreal Engine is just…well, unreal.
I just have such irrational fondness for Days (I think the game is the best written overall in the whole Kingdom Hearts saga, and I’ll fight you on it) and the saga of the totally unqualified Axel/Lea trying to Dad two kids who are simultaneously in their Terrible Twos and their Teenage Angst Phase. They’re so good, and I’m just so happy that they’re happy, ugh.
M: The obvious choice is to create a Panera Bread Style U Pick 3 and mix and match. I’d create a super trio of Riku, Axel, and Goofy. If I have to stick to the menu, I think I’d go with the Destiny Trio, but don’t make me defend Kairi.
3. Most shocking ending moment?
a. Xehanort…a good dude?
b. Xigbar…the true old coot?
c. Yozora…is flipping real?
E: I know this technically doesn’t fit on any of the answers, but I really just meant to segment the ending from the epilogue from the secret movie with the answers, and the point is that I SCREECHED when I saw 104.
If you follow the podcast, you probably know how much I love the original The World Ends With You, and I’m both incredibly excited and incredibly full of dread about the fact that Sora’s possibly been dropped into TWEWY’s Shibuya (while Riku’s over in Shinjuku with Yozora, just a side note). Especially considering the added scenario of Final Remix, I honestly think we’re getting a Reaper’s Game of some sort for Sora in the next Kingdom Hearts and that the next Kingdom Hearts could serve as the sequel to TWEWY. I MEAN. WHAT.
Anyway, what I’m saying is: Nomura is too powerful.
M: Objectively, the most shocking of these should be Xehanort revealing himself to be merely deeply misguided rather than the ultimate personification of evil. We’ve been building his antagonist cred for over a decade, and Nomura tears it down in about a two minute scene. But I’ve got to go with B, although Emma, how dare you include “old coot” in the choice. Does that make Xigbar/Braig/Luxu an ancient coot??? Anyway, my mouth dropped open when he revealed his identity and then didn’t close until the game was over.
4. Coolest part of the final boss?
a. The vessels in the killer heels?
b. Xehanort the GOAT?
c. Regular old Master Xehanort?
E: I really enjoyed the multi-stage Xehanort in his goat armor (I’m pretty sure it’s more the devil imagery of the goat rather than a lore thing, to respond to Madelyn’s question down there). I loved how the world warped around you and the fact that the camera managed to mostly survive and even thrive throughout this whole segment. That’s what I call progress.
But honestly, the way that the peaceful, idyllic Scalla ad Caelum became more and more nightmarish as the battle continued was just an awesome use of the environment. The fight would be worth it just for the fashionable goat armor alone though.
M: Why the eff did Xehanort turn into a goat? I know it’s got to be a Back Cover thing but I didn’t understand it except as a reference to the acronym. Regular Master Xehanort was definitely the best. Stick to the classics. Overall though, the final boss sequence wasn’t nearly hard enough, so I’m mostly choosing FinalNort because I completely fell for Sora’s fakeout death and sat watching the screen for a solid two minutes before I realized I had to press the X button. You got me, Square. Psych!
5. Best Keystagram Hearttag?
Honestly, listen. From the moment I saw this hearttag, Ienzo immediately endeared himself to me. It’s a brilliant writing move. Ienzo’s a relatively unfamiliar face, with his Nobody only appearing in Riku’s side of Chain of Memories and that particularly trippy scene in the 352/8 movie. His Somebody, meanwhile, was only seen in mute child form in Birth By Sleep. I was skeptical about bringing him into supporting cast status. Why should I care after all?
#testpost. That’s why I should care.
Point to you, Nomura.
M: Truly, it is impossible to choose here. There are so many tacky hearttags (AKA Keystagram hashtags, message us if you have a better name for them) that it’s impossible to narrow it down to a single winner. Cheat code time: I pick all of them, also adding #beaches, #awkwardwaytofindout, and #oneandahalfpints to the mix.
*Nomura’s voice from the clouds*
“You cheated not only the game, but yourself.
You didn’t grow.
You didn’t improve.
You took a shortcut and gained nothing.
You experienced a hollow victory.
Nothing was risked and nothing was gained.
It’s sad that you don’t know the difference.”
Whatever dude. #allforone am I right?
6. Best voice actor who plays multiple characters?
b. David Gallagher?
c. Jesse McCartney?
d. Allison Stoner?
E: Okay, I know these are just supposed to have three answers each as the theme, but I forgot that Allison Stoner did Kairi and Xion in this one. Bye bye Hayden Panettierre I guess. Anyway, moving on.
JESSE MCCARTNEY HAS SUCH TALENT. Like, his Roxas and his Ventus are both so good and somehow so distinct from each other. I feel like if you played me lines from them both without showing me the picture, I’d be able to tell which was which. Mad props to David Gallagher for talking to himself for an intense amount of time though.
M: Yeah, it’s Jesse McCartney for the win here. I was disappointed that he didn’t have more to do in Kingdom Hearts 3. I also feel like HJO’s Vanitas kind of regressed. Was his voice acting less ~~~evil~~~ in Birth By Sleep, or was that just me? (Editor Emma: It’s not just you, I feel like he was trying to distinguish it from Sora a bit more and went a few steps too raspy)
7. Best Riku?
a. Normal Riku?
E: Ahem. I think the Riku in San Fransokyo is actually another Riku (probably Data Riku), distinct from the one in the Keyblade Graveyard and the one hanging out with OG Riku. He acted so different. Anyway, I just wanted to share this. We’re creeping closer and closer to the 1000 Riku fight I so desperately want.
M: This reminds me of the fact that Re:coded does not seem to have been especially relevant to this game. Where was data Riku? This revelation concerns me greatly, in that it portends data as a key (haha) component of future games in a shocking twist.
8. Biggest disappointment?
a. Everything with Kairi?
b. …something else?
c. But it’s Kairi though?
E: BIG SIGH.
Okay, the whole Sleeping Worlds theory (which I tentatively believe some of, but I am certainly amazed by the work of the passionate fans who crafted it) makes me hopeful for Kairi, but god, I just wanted her to do something. I was glad that at least Lea also got totally smoked when using his Keyblade (since they’re about the same level of experience with it), but he got enough snarky moments to balance out his badass level. Kairi just got smoked. I’m glad she got to be a party member for at least a moment, and I was really happy with the culmination of Aqua and Xion’s arcs (so at least it’s not just a “all women get shafted” thing). But I wanted Kairi to put up a fight. Even if she lost in the end, if she’d put up a fight I would have been happy.
Kairi is honestly probably my only significant disappointment. I could gripe about some other stuff, but nothing bothered me even close to this extent.
M: The whole Sleeping World’s megatheory has been convinced that Kairi is going to become incredibly important in the next saga, but I’m willing to consider the concept that I’m grasping at straws here. That said, I’m more disappointed in the final boss sequence, beginning with the labyrinth. There are some really lovely reunions, but I’m walking all over villains that destroyed me over and over again in previous games. I know, Emma, that you’ve mentioned that the difficulty for KH3 is more on par with vanilla KH1 and KH2, but those games still had hard bosses. Maleficent Dragon? That one unskippable Riku cutscene in front of the Hollow Bastion Keyhole? Gummi Ship Xemnas? To quote every single review of this game, we’ve been waiting over a decade for this game (*eye roll*), I deserve a five hour boss sequence where everyone turns giant roughly three times.
I mentioned Hollow Bastion which reminds me of another disappointment: how are my Final Fantasy bros doing?
— Emz @ KH3 Critical Mode (@explodingpompom) April 24, 2019
EDITOR EMMA: Part of her prayers were answered, but at what cost?
9. Most quality moment?
b. “Aqua….she’s kind of like Sora”?
c. “I bet no one’s ever loved you before”?
E: VAN-YEET-AS! Even thinking about this scene still makes me burst out in giggles. I think that scene summarizes the inherent charm of Kingdom Hearts. It’s utterly ridiculous, intensely emotional, stupidly silly, and satisfyingly triumphant all at the same time. And it totally makes it all work.
M: I think I have to go with “I bet no one’s ever loved you before!” Van-yeet-as is truly ridiculous, but Woody’s sick burn really underscores how far this series has come from the days of having permission to use Mickey Mouse exactly once in a game. Woody just DEVASTATED the younger, time-traveling version of a character who has like twenty million other vessels. Makes no freaking sense, but someone at Disney was like “yeah, this feels in-character.” The best roasts are the ones that come from beloved children’s characters.
9. Best Disney world?
a. Kingdom of Corona?
b. The Caribbean?
c. San Fransokyo?
E: Honestly, I was pretty delighted by all the worlds, particularly in contrast to every other game in the series in which the Disney worlds are super empty Heartless generators. I am sad we will never get a moment like Terra interrupting the ball ever again, but a good trade off overall.
I think my favorite was Big Hero 6. I wish they’d encouraged some exploration during the actual story of the world itself but running around the city searching for Lucky Emblems afterwards was thrilling, even if Hiro did keep calling me to say “hey, that part over there isn’t actually part of the map, please stop that.”
M: I’m very tempted to splice some worlds together. I really liked exploring the forests of Corona, but that gigantic, dark swamp was not a fun slog. I enjoyed the expanded worlds from a technical perspective, but if given the choice, I think I would have traded them for more smaller worlds. This goes back to my struggle to find a way to enjoy open-world games. While I found sailing around the Caribbean and running all over San Fransokyo to be fun, I do struggle when I don’t have a concrete goal (especially in a game where I am so desperate for more tiny nuggets of plot understanding) to feel quite as engaged. I’m also not very good at navigating either in games or in real life, so the expansive area maps definitely left me feeling lost sometimes.
So to actually answer the question, I’ll take Corona if I can replace the swamp with one of the islands from the Caribbean or the cliff ascent from Olympus or maybe even a mini cityscape. Just don’t put me in dark areas without distinguishable landmarks. Thank goodness they tweaked the platforming in this game or I would have added ten hours just falling off ledges. Instead, I just added two asking myself “did I just turn around backwards in this underground grotto/icy wasteland?”
11. Worst minigame?
a. Open-world gummi ship?
b. Fruit Candy Crush?
c. All of the Gummiphone Mickey games
E: Let’s just say that I am so glad that the Gummiphone Mickey games were not required in any way for completing the game or unlocking a secret movie or whatever.
M: Don’t tell Clickbait Boyfriend, but I actually enjoyed the open gummi world. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still ridiculous and pointless, but I had some fun times completing missions and getting to turn my ship into a hodgepodge of as many tacky patterns as possible. I also have no beef with Rabbit’s Garden of Candy Crush; Hundred Acre World has always been the land of minigames, and this one was objectively only a little dumber than pushing Pooh on a swing or climbing a tree to get honey or any other of the charming but stupid games that have lived here in the past.
12. Best attraction flow?
a. Blaster Blaze?
b. Splash Run?
c. Pirate Ship?
E: Nothing brought me more joy than bouncing big bad Organization 13 bosses on the Pirate Ship. I used it joyfully on Vanitas. I smashed that triangle button with glee on Marluxia and Larxene. Sure, you could stick with your traditional fighting mechanics to like “not break the mood” or something, but that’s not the Kingdom Hearts way. Use a Pirate Ship on a pirate ship even. Do it.
I did appreciate that the music didn’t change when I used them on boss fights though because those tracks were fire.
M: The actual best answer here is Big Magic Mountain, but because it’s only triggered in the battle of a bajillion Heartless (or whatever we’re calling it this time), I excluded it from contention. The obviously superior answer for power and ridiculousless is Splash Run. Water rides are my favorite kind of amusement park attraction, so I am biased. I am also biased because I am bad at first person shooters, and I resent the genre infringing upon my JRPG, even in a cartoonish, easy way. Splash Run lets me crash into enemies to my heart’s content, and it rewards me with a hilarious ride through my creation at the end. It’s Kingdom Hearts meets Rollercoaster Tycoon. What could be better than that?
13. Question we most want answered
a. What’s in the box?
b. What happened to Sora?
c. Where are you right now Nomura? We just want to talk-
E: I just have a few questions for you, Nomura, open up.
M: We just want to have a chat, Tetsuya. A nice, cozy five-hour long chat featuring lots of charts and timelines and ANSWERS.
It’s Editor Emma, back again. Thanks for reading!
Anyway, if Kingdom Hearts 3 answered one question for me, it’s whether or not I’d outgrown its uniquely sincere silliness. That answer is “no, definitely not.” There’s nothing out there quite like Kingdom Hearts, for better or for worse, and it’s become a really irreplaceably important part of my history as a gamer and as a person. I’m on the edge of my seat, waiting to see what comes next.