A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
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's diverse but 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 parents should also understand that this game essentially acts as 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. If your kids weren't obsessed with Disney before this, they probably will be after.
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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 set down their controllers to 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. That said, these scenes are often also the game's greatest failing, running on too long and laying bare weaknesses in both the inefficient script and bland voice acting. The length of most of these scenes could have easily been halved to speed up the game's pace without losing any significant information or meaning. Thankfully, they can be individually skipped should players grow bored while watching.
Outside of the narrative sequences, the game is an absolute blast, featuring a huge diversity of action, activities, and graphical styles. Combat's quick and propulsive, with players given a wide variety of attack options -- keyblade slashes, shotlock aiming, attraction flow attacks, and more -- that convey a sense of power and are visually satisfying to boot. And exploring the world is a treat, thanks to Sora's ability to do things like run up the sides of walls, slide around on Goofy's shield, and jump into giant robots while searching for hidden paths and collectibles. There's an impressive array of stuff to do when you're not beating back minions or discovering treasures, whether it's using the in-game camera to snap pictures of specific objects to upgrade gear, designing and putting together a new Gummi ship block-by-block before sailing it into the void, or chopping and stirring your way through recipes to create yummy, ability-enhancing dishes. While the storytelling might be a bit hard to bare (and remember, you can skip scenes if you grow bored!) it's likely worth it in order to experience all the other fun and compelling activities Kingdom Hearts III has to offer.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about marketing to kids. Can you think of a time you spent money on a toy or game because of a commercial and were disappointed with what you bought? How can you avoid making the same mistake in the future?
Everyone is different and each of us is important in our own ways, so which qualities define you and make you who you are?
- Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One
- Price: $59.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Square Enix
- Release date: January 29, 2019
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Princesses, Fairies, Mermaids, and More, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires, Pirates, Robots, Space and Aliens
- ESRB rating: E10+ for Alcohol Reference, Violence
- Last updated: December 17, 2019
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.