It has been roughly three years since Kingdom Hearts III’s initial release and two since the Re Mind DLC. To say it feels like time has passed in the blink of an eye is an understatement, yet it simultaneously feels like so long ago. When KH3 first came out, I believe it’s more than safe to say that reception was mixed amongst fans. Aside from subjective storytelling qualms, the combat was not as qualitative as many were hoping for, and the lack of post-game content was also somewhat disappointing. On the other hand, some were still immensely satisfied with KH3 despite its shortcomings, claiming it to be worthy of the many years of hype.
I fell into a mix of those two general camps. I enjoyed KH3 during my first playthrough, but it wasn’t on the same level of hype as I was necessarily hoping for. The Luxu reveal and ending sequences truly gripped me, yet much of the earlier parts of the game didn’t stick with me. This was before I truly realized that much of the appreciative elements of Kingdom Hearts truly lie in hindsight and retrospect after reflective analysis. This was the first new fully-fledged mainline title since Dream Drop Distance, after all, which was several years ago—expecting to possess the same level of nuanced respect for KH3 right when it came out as every other past title was foolish.
However, I also can’t deny that internet discourse made my enjoyment feel erroneous. It was quite challenging to express your enjoyment of KH3 right when it came out, as it would usually result in you being hounded by groups of people, both those who were comically overt with their disappointments and those who were more insidious in trying to justify their antagonistic outrage. Moreover, expressing your misgivings with KH3 in certain circles would result in them labeling you as a false fan, somehow claiming it as disrespecting the development team. It was rare to find fans who were respectful in their critiques or praises. Both sides of the spectrum were destructive to alienating extents.
However, like with every Kingdom Hearts game, time proved to be kind for KH3. Many came to appreciate its Disney world tie-ins to the overarching narrative, and the combat design was receiving much-needed reevaluation by those who preemptively dismissed it. Still, the lack of content compared to the Final Mix releases of KH1 and KH2 was saddening, not to mention the sheer lack of any challenge. KH3 was assuredly the easiest game in the franchise, requiring practically no skill to prevail in just about every one of its fights, even on Proud Mode. The secret boss, Dark Inferno, was a joke more deserving to be part of the main story with how simple his design was. Granted, he was designed well, but it almost seemed like there was a purposeful lack of incorporated difficulty from the development team to make the battle as welcoming to new fans as possible.
As a final notable critique, Sora’s combos in the base game were…lacking, to put it mildly. He felt immensely inferior in capability to his KH1 and KH2 Final Mix counterparts. It’s vital to note that KH3 went with its own game feel rather than trying to mimic KH2, which I respect, but its execution floundered. Sora felt unnecessarily slow with his swings, which was jarring when melded with the new Airstep mechanic. These issues and more permeated the fandom for a while, and it was a mess, to put it mildly.
However, the announcement of Kingdom Hearts III Re Mind, released the following year, reinvigorated excitement. Data battles, an expanded Scala ad Caelum, more playable characters, and a new story episode? Square Enix promised a lot, and for the most part, they delivered. The new Re Mind story segment granted some of the franchise’s latest peak moments, such as the fantastic scenes between Young Xehanort and the Master of Masters, as well as between Xigbar and Luxord. The new team-up attacks and rather genius implementation of post-KH3 Sora interfering with the timeline during the Keyblade War was also particularly noteworthy.
The most impactful moments of the Re Mind episode, though, were the Guardians of Light battling the Replica vessels and Kairi and Sora facing Armored Master Xehanort. The former provided interactions I could only dream of, and it was legitimately one of the most hype moments I’ve ever experienced in all of gaming. The battle was notably difficult on Critical Mode too, so it wielded a semblance of substance. The Kairi battle against Master Xehanort is also one of the most challenging main story battles in the series, coupled with a gorgeous arena. Every part of the Re Mind episode was banger after banger, and I felt like I was on a continually accelerating rollercoaster.
Scala ad Caelum, which I wish was expanded upon even more, instilled serious Kingdom Hearts I nostalgia. The incorporation of required puzzles and area design that approached the quality of the first game was a sight for sore eyes. The atmosphere of this world, enhanced by Sora being by his lonesome, was memorable in ways that made me feel like a kid first playing the series. I always attribute Kingdom Hearts’ atmospheric mastery with ominous fear yet enticing imagery, which Scala nails on all fronts.
Then came Limit Cut and the Secret Episode, the most joy I’ve derived from combat in any video game. Thanks to a significant prior update made by Square, Sora’s combative toolkit was greatly amplified, fundamentally altering the way action felt. Speedier combos, mid-combo canceling, and brand-new abilities arrived, and they were all indescribably cathartic to utilize. It is no exaggeration to say that that combat update forever altered KH3’s gameplay identity. And thankfully, the new data battles and Yozora fight were around to experiment with. Each of these battles possesses its own specific music track, some of which have joined my favorites in all of gaming, and they were all reasonably designed. Not only that, but their difficulty greatly exceeded Dark Inferno, so needless to say, I and many other fans were in a state of bliss.
I already wrote an extensive piece detailing my love for the Yozora battle, my favorite boss fight in gaming, but it bears repeating that this fight is still clearly ingrained within my memory. The hypnotic music eerily similar to Somnus, stellar arena, absurdly qualitative combat design, and multiple endings were jaw-dropping. I could go on and on about this, and every one of the data fights to laughably lengthy extents.
Looking back on Kingdom Hearts III Re Mind, it was undeniably bold, catering to hardcore fans in fantastic ways that still make me smile to this day. My faith in Kingdom Hearts’ future is at an all-time high following this release, and I’m hoping that whatever new game arrives next uses this DLC as a template. But, of course, with the upcoming anniversary event in April, anything can happen, and it’s safe to say I’m on the Kingdom Hearts train till it stops.
Developer Square Enix has announced that Kingdom Hearts Integrum Masterpiece for Cloud will be releasing for Nintendo Switch on February 10, 2022. This collection is a massive compilation, including Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 + 2.5 ReMIX, Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue, and Kingdom Hearts III + Re Mind. Unfortunately, all of these titles are only playable via Cloud.
Additionally, purchasers of either Kingdom Hearts III + Re Mind or Kingdom Hearts Integrum Masterpiece for Cloud will receive a brand new Keyblade for Kingdom Hearts III called Advent Red.
If you missed them, check out my appreciative pieces on the following data fights:
Check out the unironic simplicity of the Kingdom Hearts timeline.
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