Thirteen years have passed since the last main entry in the Kingdom Hearts series. In that time, Square-Enix has kept the franchise alive and in the public’s eye with handheld spin-offs, prequels, and mobile titles, all of which expand the backstory by filling in the gaps.
Kingdom Hearts has seen so many spin-offs, in fact, that the storyline has become convoluted to the point where some gamers have been put off jumping straight into Kingdom Hearts III. This has been a hot topic of late, with both Jim Sterling and the AVGN recently attempting to make sense of the timeline. We dare say Square-Enix has done themselves no favours here.
The same can be said for the fact that many European outlets didn’t receive review code until launch, suggesting Square-Enix believed European gaming sites wouldn’t be quite as positive about it as those across the pond. Backing this theory up, Eurogamer was far from smitten by the 40-hour action RPG. “As Emily Blunt sings in The Poppins Awakens, “Some stuff and nonsense could be fun.” There’s plenty of both in Kingdom Hearts 3, but not enough of the kind I’m looking for,” their reviewer claimed.
While this may all sound rather damning, US critics were englamoured by Kingdom Hearts III, with some review scores being perfect 10/10s. If you’ve kept up with events prior, it’s a something of no brainer. It’s a game thirteen years in the making, after all.
There’s a decent amount of other notable new releases. Team17 are back once again with Genesis Alpha One, an ambitious mixture of genres being a first-person sci-fi survival game with construction and strategy elements. PlayStation Universe claims it’s the first must-have indie release of the year.
1st Feb sees the launch of Wargroove, the anticipated Advance Wars-style strategy sim. Reviews aren’t live just yet, but it’s looking like an exceedingly safe purchase. There’s also a Switch HD re-release of THQ’s Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy, the voxel-based RTS 8-Bit Hordes, and Drowning – a slow first-person ‘walking simulator’ that deals with depression. We found that it doesn’t quite hit its mark due to basic storytelling. Other reviewers were kinder to it though, with SquareXO dishing out a 7/10.
Quasi-movie tie-in Dragons Dawn of New Ridersis also out this week. It looks immeasurably better than the last How to Train Your Dragon game, which was a horrible ‘fly through the hoops’ racer. Solve my maze, dragons!
New release showcase:
Kingdom Hearts III – PS4/XO
10/10 – PlayStation Lifestyle: “The developer has refined and perfected the combat. It kept its silliness in tact. It kept in the darker themes and deep moments of self-reflection that we all need every once in awhile. It’s, quite frankly, the best Kingdom Hearts game Square Enix has ever created”
9.5 – GameInformer: “While not perfect, Kingdom Hearts III is the game I’ve been waiting for. After finishing it, I was delighted by how satisfied I was with the journey. I traversed worlds with some of my favorite Disney characters, persevered through challenging boss battles, and saw a triumphant finale that only makes me more excited for the future”
8.7 – IGN: “Kingdom Hearts 3 is a fulfilling evolution and resolution of the franchise that shows it’s still full of heart”
8/10 – Destructoid: “Kingdom Hearts III might not be the best final entry possible (and knowing this series, a “Final” mix of the “final game” is easily an option), but I’ll dearly miss Sora and his friends. Despite all of the absurd twists and turns, the character missteps and the complete lack of some series-defining cast members, there are very few creations out there that make me smile this often”
4/5 – GamesRadar: “Whatever the flaws, there is nothing quite like Kingdom Hearts 3, and it’s a wild, wonderful ride as a result. Name one other game where you can watch Elsa belt out Let It Go before hammering some monsters to death with a giant key. I’ll wait”
Genesis Alpha One – PS4/XO
9/10 – PSU: “Genesis Alpha One is an extremely rare beast. A confident marriage of FPS, space sim, roguelike and strategy elements, it is quite simply the first essential indie title of 2019”
8/10 – PlayStation Country: “Genesis Alpha One is one of the few survival titles that blends a real sense of high-stakes urgency while also juggling several gameplay styles in the process. Even though this may seem unwieldy on paper and fraught with challenges in gameplay structure and technical aspects, Radiation Blue have managed to marry together FPS, management sim, RTS and roguelikes into a unique and compelling experience”
6/10 – The Metro: “The mix of tactical spaceship building and roguelike action is intriguing, but Genesis Alpha One suffers from a split personality and a limited development budget”
8-Bit Hordes – PS4/XO
7/10 – PlayStation Country: “8-Bit Armies is an enjoyable RTS that will appeal to genre newbies and fans of the old Command and Conquer games but it could do with a bit more variation and the lack of a story takes away from the game’s personality a bit”
5/10 – TheSixthAxis: “8-Bit Hordes has attention grabbing visuals but little else on offer. This is Real Time Strategy by the numbers and entirely forgettable, though other developers would do well to remember and adopt the 8-Bit series control scheme. In that regard at least, Hordes might have some of its own ideas pilfered, rather than liberally borrowing everyone else’s”
4/10 – PSU: “A voxel based console RTS that tries to simplify things for the platform but comes up short. There is a whole lotta game here but the simplistic controls and poor AI end up making the whole experience hard to enjoy unless you really love the RTS genre”
Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy – Switch
8/10 – Nintendo Insider: “Not only does it manage to nail the essence of a good adventure title, but it provides us with entertaining abilities and puzzles that are truly a fun experience. Perhaps THQ Nordic will give this game the chance at a sequel, where it could potentially become the series it was always meant to be”
7/10 – Nintendo Life: “Weaving melee combat, environmental puzzles and plenty of platforms with a fun and interesting take on Egyptian mythology, it’s an action-platformer that really holds up well, despite the years on its clock. Its camera might still be a bit rubbish, but with a new lick of HD paint, this is a hidden gem that deserves a little time in the limelight”
6/10 – GameSpew: “I wouldn’t say Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy is an essential buy on Nintendo Switch. If you happen to have fond memories of the original, I’ve no doubt it’ll be fun to go back to. And if you’re a diehard 3D platformer fan (do those exist?) then you’ll probably find something to enjoy here”