Kingdom Hearts III

Overwrought, unsatisfying storytelling takes the shine off a gorgeous and ambitious finale.


Key events

Kingdom Hearts 3 is series' best UK launch

Kingdom Hearts 3 has earned the long-running Square Enix Disney mash-up series its best ever launch in the UK.

Boxed copy sales were just shy of last week's number one, Resident Evil 2, which drops to second place this week.

As ever, UK numbers company Chart-Track does not count digital sales, although this is unlikely to make any difference - it has been 13 years since Kingdom Hearts 2 launched here for the PlayStation 2 back in 2006. Perhaps just as incredibly, there have been 11 Kingdom Hearts remakes, spin-offs and re-releases launched in the interim.

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Kingdom Hearts 3 plays best at 60fps - but which console gets closest?

We've been waiting for this one for quite some time. It's been just over 13 years since Kingdom Hearts 2 debuted on PlayStation 2, before continuing its journey via a range of handheld releases. But a full-blooded home console sequel? That only arrived yesterday, with Square-Enix deploying the strengths of Unreal Engine 4 to deliver a new series entry with a far wider scale and scope compared to the originals. Not only that, but the new title aims high with a peak 60fps frame-rate. The question is, which console is most successful at locking to it? The answer is surprising.

The truth is that alongside recent releases like Resident Evil 2 Remake, Just Cause 4 and Ace Combat 7, there's another firm divide in the quality of the experience depending on the console you play. If you're gaming on an enhanced machine, you're in for a good time, while the base machines can't really compete - a situation that's exaggerated owing to a key limitation in the game: its inability to deliver a capped 30 frames per second with consistent frame-pacing.

The main dividing factor though is, of course, resolution. Perhaps inevitably, sitting at the top of the pile is Xbox One X, delivering a native, locked 2560x1440. PlayStation 4 Pro follows up, with a 2304x1296 pixel-count, around 81 per cent of the X's output. There's a big gap that follows, with the vanilla PS4 dropping down to 1600x900, while Xbox One S languishes at a disappointing 720p. Image clarity drops according as we descend the console power ladder, with the drop in resolution also impacting the quality of both texture filtering and anti-aliasing. The standard PS4 just about holds up, but it's not a great turnout, while Xbox One definitely suffers. Beyond that, the only difference in terms of cross-platform comparisons comes down to ambient occlusion - the base consoles look rather dithered here, while the enhanced machines deliver this aspect in a more attractive manner.

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Kingdom Hearts 3 review - a grand finale that's both torturous and sublime

By my reckoning, there are 238 cutscenes in Kingdom Hearts 3. If that sounds like a lot for a game of around 30-40 hours, that's because it is. But then Kingdom Hearts 3 is, in the modern vernacular, a lot: from the dazzling pyrotechnics that accompany many of its special moves to its extravagant, indulgent final act, restraint is not in its vocabulary. To a point, its aggressive investment in its story is understandable. After all, it has two mainline entries and roughly half a dozen spin-offs' worth of narrative threads to pull together and tie up. But heavens, it shows. This is a game that should really have a spring in its step - this is Disney, for goodness' sake - but it's constantly burdened by its own knotty history.

Kingdom Hearts 3 review

Developer: Square Enix

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Kingdom Hearts 3 epilogue and secret ending are free launch week DLC

Kingdom Hearts 3's epilogue and secret ending are free launch week DLC, Square Enix has confirmed.

It was expected both videos, which Kingdom Hearts chief Tetsuya Nomura has said are the biggest spoilers in the game, would release after the game itself following a statement issued by the director after Kingdom Hearts 3 leaked onto the internet last month.

Outlining the schedule for updates, Square Enix said on Tuesday, 29th January, patch 1.01 makes several data fixes as well as adds the Memory Archive videos. (This is a digest of the Kingdom Hearts story in the series up to this point, but if you can't wait for it, be sure to check out the video below, from Eurogamer's former video producer Bendix.) The Memory Archive option will be added to the game's title menu and can be viewed at any time.

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Kingdom Hearts 3 community braces itself for spoilers after big gameplay leak

Kingdom Hearts 3 community braces itself for spoilers after big gameplay leak

UPDATE: Tetsuya Nomura says biggest spoilers will be released "at a later date".

UPDATE 17th Dec 2018: Kingdom Hearts 3 director Tetsuya Nomura has responded to the recent leak, saying the biggest spoilers are not yet in the game.

Specifically, the game's epilogue and secret movie will be released "at a later date", Nomura said, which suggests they'll be downloadable content of some kind. Perhaps day one DLC?

Nomura also called on people not to share leaked videos of the game that emerged over the weekend after copies of the game popped up for sale on the Facebook Marketplace over a month before launch.

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Kingdom Hearts 3 has been in development for what feels like an eternity, and though there have been various teases, trailers and hints dropped over the years, we've somehow yet to see anything substantial about the game. Until now, as yesterday in Santa Monica Square Enix invited us to go hands on with the latest mainline instalment of its bafflingly complex Final Fantasy/Disney mash-up series. There were two playable sections on offer; one short section in the Olympus Coliseum world battling a huge Titan boss, and a much longer, expanded section in Toy Box, the Toy Story themed world. The demo in Olympus Coliseum heavily featured the new wall-scaling autorun mechanic, with Sora, Goofy and Donald scaling sheer cliff faces as the Titan pelted rocks at them from above, and culminated in a boss battle with the Titan on the summit, with Sora summoning the Big Magic Mountain attraction to finish it off, which looked pretty incredible. There were some camera issues as the framing struggled to keep up with Sora in confined stretches of the cliff face and when it was vying for space with the Titan at the top of the mountain, but it was a fun showcase of the new features in KH3's combat, including key blade transformations and the bombastic attractions.

Face-Off: Kingdom Hearts 3 vs Toy Story

Digital FoundryFace-Off: Kingdom Hearts 3 vs Toy Story

Have real-time console graphics finally surpassed Pixar's CG classic?

Toy Story: the first full-length computer-generated feature, and a revolution in animated film. In 1995 it was a landmark moment for cinema, but it also caused big waves in the videogame industry. Around the time of PlayStation 2's launch in 2000, the visual quality of the original Toy Story became a kind of benchmark, a lofty goal developers strived to hit in their games, even if it quickly transpired to be a vain pursuit. Sadly, there was nowhere near the graphical horsepower in PS2 to achieve such pristine image quality in real time. But two console generations on, do we now finally have the power to match - or exceed - the visual quality of Pixar's iconic movie?

Premiering at Disney's D23 expo, a new six-minute trailer for Square-Enix's Kingdom Hearts 3 may finally provide the answer. The setup is simple enough: Sora and friends are thrown into a new Toy Story-themed level, where really, it's hard not to draw contrasts with the original film - and indeed its more visually advanced sequels. It starts with the characters: Woody is a great example, and it's clear Square-Enix has gone to great pains to mimic the textures and geometric detail of the original model. It's uncannily close.

It's fair to say Toy Story is a more viable target to hit than more modern CG films. For example, it helps massively that the focus of the movie was on toys after all, meaning a PS4 in this case mainly has to render simple, undemanding plastic materials. The colour tone is basic, and even that reflective glossy layer on Woody shows up under light. It's a simplicity that made toys a perfect subject for a full-length feature project, back when CG animation was in its infancy. By extension though, it makes it all the easier for Square Enix to replicate these models on today's hardware - but crucially, now in real time.

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It's been oppressively hot in the UK this week, with temperatures reaching the highest point in June for 40 years. Anyone who knows me will recall that I don't much enjoy being in direct sunlight, much less an oven, so much of the week was spent scrambling to cool off in any way I can. With that in mind, this seemed like the perfect time to make Sea Salt Ice Cream from Kingdom Hearts, as requested by so many viewers of our weekly cooking show, Chiodini's Kitchen.

New Kingdom Hearts 3 gameplay trailer shows off Sora, Donald Duck and Goofy

Square Enix's long in development crossover action RPG Kingdom Hearts 3 is finally back in the spotlight, this time with a new trailer.

The new trailer, below, was revealed during Square Enix's Kingdom Hearts Orchestra World Tour in Los Angeles. It shows Sora in a new form, Donald Duck and Goofy, who all help Hercules battle various forms of Heartless on Mount Olympus.

Disney villains Hades, Maleficent and Pete also pop up to discuss the location of a mysterious black box.

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Here's some hardcore Kingdom Hearts 3 gameplay

Kingdom Hearts 3 stole the show during Square Enix's E3 2015 press conference, with a trailer that mixed cut-scenes with fast-paced combat.

The video, below, gives us a good look at how the Square Enix-developed Disney crossover action role-playing game is coming along. It's due out for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, but doesn't yet have a release date.

Kingdom Hearts 3 is set after the events of Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, and sees the return of protagonist Sora, who is joined by Donald Duck, Goofy, King Mickey and Riku. A new world based on Tangled is set to feature.

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Kingdom Hearts 3 PS4, Xbox One gameplay video

Kingdom Hearts 3 PS4, Xbox One gameplay video

I Sora flashy ability or two.

Here's a first real look at PS4 and Xbox One game Kingdom Hearts 3 in action.

The gameplay video shows returning spiky-haired hero Sora swiping at foes with his familiar Keyblade (oversized key) weapon. Apparently he can change the shape of his sword.

Sora also summons some impressive help in the shape of a Peter Pan-style pirate ship, lit with lots of coloured bulbs, and a rollercoaster straight out of a Disney theme park. He uses the latter to fight a giant rock monster.

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Kingdom Hearts 3 announced for PlayStation 4

Kingdom Hearts 3 announced for PlayStation 4

"Now in development", Square Enix says.

Square Enix has just announced Kingdom Hearts 3 for PlayStation 4 during Sony's E3 press conference.

The game is "now in development", Square Enix stated, although how far along is unclear.

There was also no word of the game being a Sony exclusive, so an Xbox One version is possible.

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