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 publicâ€™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 didnâ€™t receive review code until launch, suggesting Square-Enix believed European gaming sites wouldnâ€™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. â€œAs 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,â€ 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 youâ€™ve kept up with events prior, itâ€™s a something of no brainer. Itâ€™s a game thirteen years in the making, after all.
Thereâ€™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 itâ€™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 arenâ€™t live just yet, but itâ€™s looking like an exceedingly safe purchase. Thereâ€™s also a Switch HD re-release of THQâ€™s Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy, the voxel-based RTS 8-Bit Hordes, and Drowning â€“ a slow first-person â€˜walking simulatorâ€™ that deals with depression. We found that it doesnâ€™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 â€˜fly through the hoopsâ€™ racer. Solve my maze, dragons!
New release showcase:
Kingdom Hearts III – PS4/XO
10/10 â€“ PlayStation Lifestyle: â€œThe 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. Itâ€™s, quite frankly, the best Kingdom Hearts game Square Enix has ever createdâ€
9.5 â€“ GameInformer: â€œWhile not perfect, Kingdom Hearts III is the game Iâ€™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 futureâ€
8.7 â€“ IGN: â€œKingdom Hearts 3 is a fulfilling evolution and resolution of the franchise that shows itâ€™s still full of heartâ€
8/10 â€“ Destructoid: â€œKingdom 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 oftenâ€
4/5 â€“ GamesRadar: â€œWhatever 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 waitâ€
Genesis Alpha One – PS4/XO
9/10 â€“ PSU: â€œGenesis 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 2019â€
8/10 â€“ PlayStation Country: â€œGenesis 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 experienceâ€
6/10 â€“ The Metro: â€œThe mix of tactical spaceship building and roguelike action is intriguing, but Genesis Alpha One suffers from a split personality and a limited development budgetâ€
8-Bit Hordes – PS4/XO
7/10 â€“ PlayStation Country: â€œ8-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 bitâ€
5/10 â€“ TheSixthAxis: â€œ8-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 elseâ€™sâ€
4/10 â€“ PSU: â€œA 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 genreâ€
Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy – Switch
8/10 â€“ Nintendo Insider: â€œNot 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 beâ€
7/10 â€“ Nintendo Life: â€œWeaving melee combat, environmental puzzles and plenty of platforms with a fun and interesting take on Egyptian mythology, itâ€™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 limelightâ€
6/10 â€“ GameSpew: â€œI wouldnâ€™t say Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy is an essential buy on Nintendo Switch. If you happen to have fond memories of the original, Iâ€™ve no doubt itâ€™ll be fun to go back to. And if youâ€™re a diehard 3D platformer fan (do those exist?) then youâ€™ll probably find something to enjoy hereâ€
New digital multi-format releases:
DreamWorks Dragons Dawn of New Riders
New on PSN:
Song Of Memories
New on Xbox One store:
DayD: Through Time
Animal Super Squad
New Nintendo retail releases:
Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy
Dragons Dawn of New Riders
Child Of Light & Valiant Hearts
Next week: God Eater 3, Monster Energy Supercross – The Official Video Game 2, Riot: Civil Unrest, The Book of Unwritten Tales 2, 39 Days to Mars, Please, Don’t Touch Anything, Away: Journey To The Unexpected, Pipe Push Paradise, and Spike Volleyball.