Square Enix: The Factory of Familiarity

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?

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5 thoughts on “Square Enix: The Factory of Familiarity

  1. Not sure what you’re talking about when it comes to graphics. Those fireball effects are definitely not PS2. I’ll admit it’s kind of a bummer that there doesn’t appear to be any lighting effects attached to the fireball spell (meaning it won’t light up a dark cave, etc.) Also the animation looks a lot smoother and the art style has already been overhauled.
    I will admit however that the game looks mostly the same and I don’t really feel excited by the recent gameplay video. My reaction was different for the announcement trailer. I think you’re being a bit too critical considering how early this game is in development. Square Enix has quite a reputation for showing segments in the trailers, only to cut them out of the main game. The battle of 1000 heartless in KH2 for example initially had larger boss-type enemies.
    There hasn’t been a console Kingdom Hearts game since KH2, and that was before the current gen was even out. People were expecting this game on the PS3. 8 years is an eternity to wait for a sequel. I’m a huge Kingdom Hearts fan, but I’m not that excited for this game (I expect that to change).
    It’s not enough gameplay for me to judge whether or not it’ll be different. I’m currently in the wait-and-see-mode.

    • There’s absolutely some graphical nuances that the PS2 can’t handle, but both times I watched the trailer I couldn’t help be feel like so little had changed.

      And while I realize this is early footage and there is still a lot of developing and polishing left, there was nothing about it that struck me as “Wow. Next-gen KH has arrived.” You could’ve told me these were bonus stages in the upcoming KH2.5 re-release and I’d have believed you.

  2. I agree. I’ve never been a big fan of Kingdoms Hearts. Sora is a terrible main character and it bothers me that he’s back for the third one. I’ve never owned a Kingdoms Hearts game but I’ve played them all on emulators and it’s really a forgettable experience for me. Maybe it’s because I grew up and Donald Duck and Goofy don’t entertain me like they used to when I was younger. I’m passing on this title because i’ve never really been into the series enough to justify owning a kingdom hearts game.

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