Kingdom Hearts III’s release is less than three weeks away! The game is getting tons of buzz along with Capcom’s Resident Evil 2 Remake. With that comes people that have not invested time in the series and want to know what all the hype is about. Kingdom Hearts is an action jrpg series that saw its debut on the PS2. Since Kingdom Hearts I came out in 2002, the series has had only one numbered sequel but also many complementary titles on portable gaming devices and on browser. Fans have had a lot of Kingdom Hearts to chew on, but none of them have been a big budget title since Kingdom Hearts II which came out more than 13 years ago. That means those who got into Kingdom Hearts back in the PS2 days are at least in their 20s which is wild to think about.
So, is it okay to jump right into Kingdom Hearts III? The short answer is yes, but in my opinion, you would be robbing yourself of a lot of the payoff to arguably the most emotionally rewarding video game franchise ever. I will share my experience with the series, exactly what you will and will not be missing by jumping right into the fray, and my personal suggestion to get a lot out of KH III without having to play every single game.
I began my journey into Kingdom Hearts a couple of years ago when I received KH 1.5 HD Remix for my birthday. I found out a friend of mine was super into it, so I decided I wanted to give it a shot. The first game had amazing vibes and one of the best soundtracks I had ever heard in a video game. However, maneuvering Sora was a pain more than I would’ve liked, the gummi ship mechanics were confusing (I still don’t understand them to this day) and going through worlds began to be a repetitive cycle of battling through enemies until you reached the next cutscene. What solidified my investment in the sequel was the ending. No spoilers here, but that ending became one of my favorite endings in all video games. That was until KH II came along…
KH II is better than KH I in every way. The combat is snappier, you are encouraged to utilize your party members in more diverse ways, and maneuvering Sora was no longer a pain. While a lot of the worlds repeat in KH II from KH I, the new scenarios in each kept them from feeling like complete rehashes. It also felt like KH II was better paced. I would find myself playing the game in five-hour chunks sometimes, something I never did in KH I. The final act of KH II is something else. There’s a particular boss fight that happens which pushed KH II into my top 10 favorite video games of all time, easy.
I tried to play KH Birth By Sleep, but Kingdom Hearts II is the pinnacle of the series gameplay-wise so far. It’s very hard to experience the great fluidity of KH II’s combat and go to a more rigid system for the sake of the story. Thus, I watched cutscenes and recaps to fill in the plot that I was missing.
WHAT WON’T I MISS IF I JUMP RIGHT INTO KH III?
GAMEPLAY: Kingdom Hearts II completely triumphed KH I in terms of gameplay, and judging from everything released about KH III, it looks like the trend will continue. KH offers top-tier 3rd person action combat, so you will not be missing anything in this department.
THE KH CHARM: There is an irrefutable charm to the Kingdom Hearts series. Each game has it; it is potent, and it is practically the same in each entry. You will snicker at the situations the trio (Sora, Donald, and Goofy) get into, the jokes that are made, and the expressions given. Your heart will swell when enemies confront Sora and when the main characters try to make sense of the things happening around them. All of this is sure to be prevalent in KH III.
WHAT WILL I MISS IF I JUMP RIGHT INTO KH III?
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STORY: The game will most likely go over the important plot points of the past games. However, one of the biggest things that sticks with you from the past games is the payoff you feel after leading Sora and friends through unfavorable odds. Simply being told what happens removes arguably the most important thing Kingdom Hearts has going for it and that is out of control levels of emotion.
CHARACTER EVOLUTION: This ties in with my previous point. A handful of characters in Kingdom Hearts go through significant character development. Playing previous games allows you to appreciate why characters are the way they are, their past, and everything you hope comes their way in KH III. Again, the emotional connection is a primary pillar of Kingdom Hearts.
HOW SHOULD I PREPARE TO ENSURE I TRULY ENJOY III?
I am by no means a Kingdom Hearts expert. Still, I have done quite a bit of research and have asked my friend who is a die-hard fan many questions as I trucked through the series. So I like to believe I know a little somethin’ somethin’. The ideal scenario is that you end up loving all the games that have been put out and play them chronologically at your own pace. That’s likely a very VERY small fraction of people and it sure as heck wasn’t me. So here goes my suggestion if want to get to KH III as fast as possible while maximizing the value you’ll get from it. People have their own preferences, but I sincerely believe you will thoroughly enjoy KH III if you do the following:
- Watch KH I cutscenes
- Watch Chain of Memories recap
- Play KH II
- Watch 358/2 Days cutscenes
- Watch Birth By Sleep cutscenes
- Watch Dream Drop Distance recap
You’ll inevitably have some questions that the content above won’t fully answer, so feel free to research them on your own (just be sure to avoid anything that looks spoilery).
I really wish I could tell you that it’s just fine to jump into KH III because it looks astounding. However, I cannot in good conscience suggest that you do. The gaming experience Kingdom Hearts provides from building the lore one installment at a time is too valuable. I have not come across many (if any) game series that does emotion as well as Kingdom Hearts. Potentially robbing yourself of a one-of-a-kind gaming experience by jumping straight into KH III would be borderline criminal. There is some merit I may be overlooking by playing KH III and retroactively consuming previous Kingdom Hearts content, but I truly believe it wouldn’t be the same. Are you planning on getting Kingdom Hearts III? Have you been interested in Kingdom Hearts but haven’t played the games for one reason or another? Let’s talk about it in the comments!
Images retrieved from Square Enix Press Center