Kingdom Hearts III: Was It Worth the Hype?

It’s been months since the January 25 release of Kingdom Hearts III, the most recent video game in the Kingdom Hearts series. The third instalment serves as an ending to the “Dark Seeker” saga, but also builds up to what could be waiting for fans in the near future. Published under Square Enix, Kingdom Hearts is an action role-playing game that allows the player to follow Sora, Donald Duck, and Goofy through various Disney and Pixar themed worlds in order to save Kingdom Hearts and the seven guardians of light. (All while trying to mess up evil Xehanort’s plan to start the second Keyblade War.) Sounds fun, right? Wrong.

Kingdom Hearts III
Photo: Square Enix

Sora, Donald, and Goofy encounter little black monsters otherwise known as “heartless”.

Sora, Donald, and Goofy encounter little black monsters otherwise known as heartless. It’s their job to defeat them, all while trying to save themselves, their friends, and Kingdom Hearts as they know it from impending darkness. The series has twelve games, all released out of order – which is fun trying to explain to people just getting involved in the series. With the original game, Kingdom Hearts, having been released in 2002, and the sequel in 2005, many were left to wonder what exactly was taking so long.

Square Enix had presented the first official trailer for the video game at E3 in 2013, where they announced that the game would launch in 2014 and it was made available for preorder. Almost fifteen years after Kingdom Hearts II, the game was released to the world. Fans were skeptical from the start of production up until the game launched, and by then many weren’t sure what to expect. 

The game features worlds, old and new alike, that Sora travels to alongside Donald and Goofy. The gang visits Hercules in Olympus, where Sora starts his mission to regain his strength. From Olympus, he travels to worlds such as Monstropolis, Kingdom of Corona, Toy Box, Arendelle, San Fransokyo, and old favorites like 100 Acre Wood, Twilight Town, and The Caribbean. Fans also got to get a look at new destinations, such as the Keyblade Graveyard and Scala Ad Caelum. Though, there was one world that had more than a few inconsistencies.

Conspiracy Theories

Arendelle definitely raised a few eyebrows with the amount of cutscenes, songs, the overall vibe of the world, and unlikely chain of events/new found powers of organization members that weren’t ever clarified or touched upon in the series. Conspiracy theorists did what they do best and concocted a theory that fans seemed to run with: Elsa was meant to be the final boss/villain of Arendelle’s world. It’s not far fetched given the ice castle that is deemed unplayable when you reach it after watching Elsa’s rendition of “Let It Go”, having earlier been thrown into an ice labyrinth by Larxene.

Kingdom Hearts III
Photo: Square Enix

Another inconsistency that left gamers slapping themselves on the forehead was the fact that the game featured no Final Fantasy characters. Hello, Square Enix? Did they get lost in development? Fan favorites like Cloud, Leon, and Yuffie had become a crucial part of the Kingdom Hearts universe – where did they go?

Gamers also weren’t happy with the boss fights, where in games prior to the third, there would typically be a battle against Disney villains. Square decided to swap those villains out for some… really big heartless monsters, which were entirely too easy to beat given the new mechanics (“attraction flow”) where Sora regains MP during battle and can use Disney Park rides as a method of combat – Sora went from being able to wield two keyblades in his Final form, to spinning around in a teacup to defeat bosses. Come on.

Where Fans Agree:

One thing fans could agree on, however, was that they were blown out of the water with how stunning the graphics were, and how lifelike the characters had been rendered. The game felt heavily reliant on cutscenes to explain what in the world was going on; so I think it’s safe to say that it reigns winner of the most confusing game of the franchise. Ratings from fans seemed to vary, each having their own problems with the game, even with the new addition of Critical Mode.

There were some additions to the game that fans liked more than others. With Sora‘s new Gummiphone he’s able to take selfies with the characters he interacts with, and he can store up to 200 photos on his phone. There’s also an added mission where Sora photographs all of the Lucky Emblems throughout each world. The Gummiphone also holds a mini-game feature with Classic Mickey (the 1920-esque version of the mouse).

Kingdom Hearts III
Photo: Square Enix

Kingdom Hearts III Re:Mind

It’s hard to tell if Square Enix will be able to win back fans with their new announcement of DLC. Kingdom Hearts III Re:Mind is set to have new boss fights, extra episodes, and will more or less serve as a final mix version of the game. The DLC previews shown at E3 2019 gave viewers a sneak peek at the gameplay – in which Roxas is a playable character for at least one battle, along with Aqua and Riku. Sora also gets a new keyblade transformation, Oathkeeper (a keyblade that Roxas also wields). The DLC will be available to users in what is thought to be late November/ December 2019. Though, an official launch date has not been announced, and pricing has not been determined. The Oathkeeper keyblade and a new form for Sora will be available to users for free.

Kingdom Hearts III
Photo: Square Enix

Only time will tell, but it’s looking good for Square in terms of keeping their fans happy. Let’s just ignore the tear-jerking ending and focus on the secret movie “Yozora”, which gives us hope for what Kingdom Hearts IV might have in store for Sora, Riku, and characters within the Final Fantasy universe.

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Words: Shae Arabella | Photo: Square Enix

Wizards Unite to Save the (Mobile) World

Wizards Unite

Before Wizards Unite there was…

Let’s take a moment to remember the summer of 2016; Niantic, Inc. released a mobile game that made people all over the globe, young and old, ignore reality and became completely consumed in a world full of color, fun, and, of course, Pokémon. Pokémon GO created a craze that no one saw coming. Mobs formed in New York City to catch an Aerodactyl and kids were trespassing on private government property to catch a Pikachu. It was complete and utter chaos, but man was it a blast running around completing the life long dream of being a Pokémontrainer.

But now, in summer ‘19, Niantic, Inc. has made another life long dream come true with the release of Harry Potter: Wizards Unite. Finally! The day we’ve been waiting for since we were 11 years old, out Hogwarts letter has arrived and we’re now part of the wizarding world. June 25th, 2019 was the set release date but the owls were ahead of schedule and the app was available to download a day early. Everyone is officially welcome to partake in spellcasting, selecting a magical profession, and choosing your Hogwarts house. And if you are an over-dedicated Harry Potter fan like us, this comes as a huge relief since you’ve probably have been sorted into a Hogwarts house about 100 times.

Wizards Unite

I solemnly swear that I’m just playing Wizards Unite.

Just like Pokémon GO, this game takes your actual surroundings and turns them into a wizard-themed mobile map. The main objective of this game is to save the wizarding world by finding ‘Foundables’, which will appear randomly on the map along with ingredients you’ll need to brew potions, and cast a spell to send them back to where they rightfully belong.

The map reflects the real streets you are walking on. Greenhouses and Inns show up in place of buildings or notable objects of the real world that you can interact with on your phone. By clicking on them you receive a chance to get random potion ingredients or more ‘spell energy’ which you need to cast any sort of spell. Towers are also part of the map, where you and your friends team up and cast spells on rare ‘Foundables’ that aren’t easy to come across during your daily wizarding adventures.

The gameplay is rather simple, but involves the player a lot more than most mobile games. Harry Potter: Wizards Unite gives you the chance to level up, advance in a magical profession, brew potions, unlock portkeys by walking, and endlessly casting spells on ‘Foundables’. With so much going on in the game, it appears less friendly to people who aren’t fans of the franchise, more so than Pokémon GO does. But don’t let that stop you from playing if you aren’t a Harry Potter fan, a whole new story exists for this game that is easy to follow if you are unfamiliar with the original story. Fans will recognize familiar faces while playing the game, but you won’t be lost even for a second if you haven’t spent your days reading the books and watching movie marathons.

You’re just a flick and swish away from starting your wizarding adventure!

One of the major differences and upsets is the lack of interacting with your friends in Harry Potter: Wizards Unite. Although you can add friends in the game, you are currently unable to send them gifts or interact in with them in any way. It is also upsetting that they didn’t start out with a feature like ‘adventure sync,’ which allows you to get benefits in Pokémon GO without having the app open constantly. It helps keep the game in the back of your mind even when you are running around. However, if you’re like me, you won’t need gifts from a friend to start playing the newest game from Niantic, Inc. obsessively and let’s face it, anywhere we walk we’re going to have the Harry Potter: Wizards Unite open.

We haven’t been part of any mobs to return a ‘Foundable’ and we’ve only been involved in light trespassing to fill up our spell energy (just kidding) but it’s only a matter of time before we find myself going out of the way to make sure all Hippogriffs are safe and sound. The game has only been out for a few days and so far our only complaints are that there isn’t an inn close to our house – We get it, we can’t save the Wizarding World from the comfort of our couch. Other than that, we think the game is immersive, a lot of fun, and the closest we’re going to get to living in the magical world J.K. Rowling created all those years ago.

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Words: Anna Grillo | Photos: Niantic, Inc.