Familiarity breeds contempt, as the old saying goes. While the cliche is better suited for rocky marriages than videogames, there’s some merit to the line, especially when it comes to Square Enix. Whether you love or hate what they’ve done since the merger in 2003, it’s hard to excuse the lack of fresh production from their neck of the gaming woods.
This week hit us with the first gameplay video of Kingdom Hearts III, which struck me as fun-looking but underwhelming. One particular part of the video looks riveting: a boss battle where Sora rides a flying train into a Hercules titan that’s oversized enough to have stumbled out of Shadow of the Colossus. But aside from that, everything about the clip left me with feelings of deja vu–AKA the “bad” nostalgia.
Strike one: the visuals. Normally I’m not one to complain about graphics, but KH3 looks like a PS2 game. Don’t get me wrong–I’m not saying it should look super-realistic or anything like that–but at least lay some detail or overhaul the art style. Have a little self-respect. KH3 is slated to be a PS4/XBONE game and Square Enix should be embarrassed.
Strike two: the hack-n-whack gameplay. At one point we see Sora wielding dual-pistols that squirt fireballs all over the screen. If they work this in as a powerful limit-break technique, I’m excited. If it’s just another move in his arsenal, I couldn’t care less. My biggest gripe with the Kingdom Hearts series (other than Sora being a dreadful lead character) has been the button-mashy combat. Casting magic spells always ruined the flow of battle in my opinion, and unless Square can manage to smoothly incorporate magic and skills, I expect to tap X 83,256 times in a row.
Strike three: the settings and enemies. The Magic Kingdom-inspired level looks promising, but the first location appears to be a retread through the opening area of KH2. I’m fine with revisiting old haunts, but when they look the same as they did back in 2005, it’s inexcusable. And then you have the same old enemies populating the area–the rodent-like Heartless, the fatass, big-bellied Heartless, the same enemies that we’ve hit with a giant key since ’02.
I understand this is early development footage. I understand KH3 is most likely two or three years away from its release date. But what I can’t understand is the excitement expressed by fans all over the internet. They waited eight years and two console generations for a case of deja vu? And somehow they’re stoked?