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Kingdom Hearts 3 on Xbox One X – Hands-On Impressions

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Kingdom Hearts 3's Toy Story Level is a near-perfect recreation of the films.

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Kingdom Hearts 3 is easily one of the most highly anticipated games of E3 2018. The game, which is arriving over a decade after its predecessor, has both Final Fantasy and Disney fans excited with its amazing crossover potential. Thankfully, at the Xbox One Media Showcase held during E3 2018, I got to go hands-on with the game, running for the first time on an Xbox console.

Kingdom Hearts 3 is still looking like it will deliver all that Final Fantasy and Disney magic

Kingdom Hearts 3 looked just as stunning as you would expect on Xbox One X. The world’s most powerful console handled the game exceptionally well, with gorgeous visuals that complemented the story, characters, and gameplay. That story is still almost totally incomprehensible, especially in this demo state, where we were able to choose between playing the Olympus level or Toy Box. Frankly, having not dove into the murky depths of the Kingdom Hearts mythology, barely anything made sense aside from the fact that there were Heartless running amok, and it was up to our heroes to stop them.

In this quest, and the additional quest of maintaining order between the various worlds they visit, Sora, Goofy, and Donald Duck face off against the Heartless and their leaders with tons of Disney characters by their side. For the Toy Box level, these cameos were obviously Toy Story characters, with Woody, Buzz, Ham, and Rex being most prominently featured. The character models looked simply fantastic, possibly surpassing the work of Pixar in all but the latest films.

Voice acting was not quite as exceptional, though to the untrained ear most will pass without a second thought. There were times where it became more obvious that you weren’t listening to Tim Allen, Tom Hanks, or the rest of the gang though. But these moments only stifled my excitement by the bare minimum, as the fun of Kingdom Hearts 3 easily overpowers this small audio quibble.

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Combat felt fast and fluid, but not quite as controllable as a true action title. This isn’t Arkham Asylum, and the vestiges of the series’ PlayStation 2 roots are still on display, though real refinement has gone into updating things for the modern age. Fighting the Heartless was quick and easy, and firing off abilities, along with my many sword swipes, worked well. More powerful abilities, such as a colorful and magical boat or train were wondrous to see on screen, with sharp, rich colors popping off the screen. If HDR wasn’t turned on for this demo, then it will truly be something when it is.

The real fun came when Kingdom Hearts 3 mixed up the action a bit. At the end of the Toy Story level Sora and the gang encounter what looks like the real enemy, who quickly takes control of a large mech suit…which is actually just a small, plastic toy. You do combat with this machine by taking control of one of your own, with different types of mechs holding their own special weapons and abilities. Eliminate one of the enemy’s and you can hop out of your current rig and into a new one, helping restore health while also mixing up the gameplay.

Kingdom Hearts 3 is still looking like it will deliver all that Final Fantasy and Disney magic that fans have come to expect from the series. Playing on an Xbox One X was both surreal and eye-opening as the game truly shined on Microsoft’s system. I can’t compare to PS4 Pro, of course, so I’m not saying one is better than the other, but it does look like fans will be happy, no matter what platform they play Square Enix’s latest mashup on.