Welcome to Hot Takes, Curated, a new SYFY WIRE franchise that aims to let you know what people are saying about the big entertainment story of the day. Anybody can have a hot take — you don't need to be a professional journalist or reviewer, though we’ve certainly including some of those spicy opinions in this round-up.
Kingdom Hearts III is finally, finally here. The series began with the first Kingdom Hearts in 2002, back when you could describe the plot with a simple elevator pitch of "Disney meets Final Fantasy." Now, some 17 years later, the long-awaited conclusion to the trilogy has arrived, albeit with multiple spin-off games (more than one of which has a decimal point in the title) coming in-between to complicate the story.
That complicated story, much of which was told in games that weren't Kingdom Hearts or Kingdom Hearts II, is a focus of a lot of conversation, but by far the loudest take (if not necessarily the hottest) is that fans are really, really happy that Kingdom Hearts III is here. Honestly, it's a little unbelievable for a lot of them.
"I just want to say it's been a pleasure. None of us know each other but we have all shared the same journey for a long time," reads one of the top posts on the Kingdom Hearts subreddit for the past week. "A toast to you, to the wait being at an end and a toast to those we love who couldn't be here to see it with us."
Other top posts on /r/KingdomHearts and the much less popular /r/KingdomHearts3 echoed similar sentiments, with fans excitedly commiserating about the long-awaited release. Some reflected on how their childhoods were coming to an end (but in a good way), others mourned fellow fans who passed away before they got a chance to play. One Redditor pointed out that fans have "waited longer for Kingdom Hearts III than Sirius Black waited in Azkaban," because Harry Potter is the new universal reference point for all things.
The game only came out worldwide on the 29th, and it's a monster of a game, so normal fans haven't gotten a chance to dig into it as much as reviewers, who played through their advanced copies ahead of time. The consensus from reviewers has been largely positive, though most reviews acknowledge some unevenness.
IGN’s review is a good representative of a typical positive review. The graphics are gorgeous, the gameplay is slick, the emotional payoff largely lives up to the decade-long wait, but the storytelling is the weak link, especially because of a lack of urgency.
"While the storytelling could use some punching up, Square has done a fantastic job of capturing the spirit of these worlds while giving us a massive toolbox for battles and exploration," Jonathon Dornbush writes. "To see all of the events of the Kingdom Hearts games so far culminate is, frankly, weird. Having been given so much time to ruminate, its specific resolutions aren’t all that surprising, but only a marginal impact is lost as a result."
On the atypical side, we have Kotaku's review, a wonderful and weird piece of long-form writing that relishes in pointing out every annoying flaw or bad trope that threaten to drag the game down. Even so, a reader will walk away from the review filled with an enthusiastic sense of joy. It's an endorsement of the game because of, not despite, its warts.
"It is a museum exhibiting its own architecture. Its decadent spectacle is the closest games have come yet to giving me the catharsis of walking into a Louis Vuitton store and neither buying anything nor being asked to leave," Kotaku's Tim Rogers writes. "I challenge Metacritic to extract a number from that last paragraph."
(For what it's worth, Kingdom Hearts III has an 88 on Metacritic. Kotkau's review is listed as "in process and uncategorized," but the selected review is an article about first-day impressions, not Rogers' essay. So, I guess Metacritic balked at his challenge.)
There were some clear negative reviews, though, like Polygon’s, which called the game joyless, focusing on its oddly paced, convoluted, and underwhelmingly story that wasn’t saved by tepid gameplay.
"Kingdom Hearts isn't simple anymore; it isn't just joy and bright colors and Disney heroes," Polygon's Allegra Frank writes. "Instead, the conclusion of this story is tangled up in so many conflicting threads, each one a heavy burden on its hero, whose smile now feels unnerving. Kingdom Hearts III is an example of what can go wrong when a series that once stood in contrast to its peers as a lighthearted alternative loses its way."
Another hot topic is the game's super-secret "true" ending. In a successful gambit to avoid leaks, the ending was not included in reviewers' advance copies, and is instead a post-release bit of free DLC. Because of that tricky release structure — players need to both accomplish certain tasks in the game to unlock it and wait IRL for the ending to be even added to the game, the takes were kind of like an actually helpful version of the "does this movie have a post-credits scene" post that flood the web after every blockbuster release.
The patch with the secret ending came out on the 31st, and it's apparently [spoiler alert] teasing another crossover with The World Ends With You series and also an in-game expy for Final Fantasy Versus 13, a game that almost existed in the real world. Expect some future hot takes as more people get around to viewing and unpacking the secret ending, but I honestly am not fire-resistant enough to deal with 'em.
Generally, the biggest takes of Kingdom Hearts III's first week as an actual game rather than just vaporware were all reacting to how crazy it is that the game is finally here. Nevertheless, I found three offbeat takes that deserve special attention.
The first is a Reddit post that states that "Kingdom Hearts is a story all about a creepy old guy trying to get inside young boys." I do not have the time nor the space to begin to attempt why this is, indeed, technically an accurate description of Kingdom Hearts' extremely complex plot. (I looked for some contrarian take that attempted to argue that "Kingdom Hearts' plot is not that complicated,” but could not find any. The gamer internet, for once, agrees on something).
The second is just this popular post on the Kingdom Hearts subreddit that notes that this tree kinda looks like a dick. Spicy take, that.
Finally, we have the best Kingdom Hearts III take — an Onion article that hilariously states that characters from movies like Sister Act and the Earnest series will appear in Kingdom Hearts III because Disney owns Touchstone Pictures. There’s a bit of truth to this, as The Nightmare Before Christmas was released under the Touchstone imprint and Jack Skellington is indeed in the series. But, the Onion's joke (which ends with a promise that Stephen A. Smith from Disney-owned ESPN would also be a character), does a great job of pointing out how much stuff Disney owns.