Kingdom Hearts III -- Here is Everything You Need to Know Before Release
Buckle your seatbelts, this game is gonna be a doozy!
It’s been a over a decade since the Kingdom Hearts series has seen a numbered entry. After being announced all the way back in 2013, Kingdom Hearts III has been a hotly-anticipated game from Square Enix. With seven spin-offs, three remastered collections, and one all-inclusive bundle, there has been a lot going on in the series in that time. Jumping in to Kingdom Hearts III can be daunting for newcomers and long-time fans alike, but don’t worry: here’s a breakdown of everything you need to know before playing Kingdom Hearts III on January 29, 2019.
The Story So Far
The Kingdom Hearts saga is first and foremost riddled with a complicated narrative and daunting lore. It’s both a mess and a delight. Much like Charlie in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, fans may come off as crazy when explaining the differences between Heartless, Unversed, Nobodies, and Dreameaters. Don’t even get us started on Organization XIII and Xion.
There is a TON to digest before the release of Kingdom Hearts III. Thanks to a buttload of spinoffs, the story has been made unnecessarily (but oh so necessarily) complex. Instead of trying to summarize this saga in written form, I’ve got two video recommendations that can sum up the series for you.
For a thorough recap of the entire narrative, the YouTube channel Suggestive Gaming whipped up a 36-minute explainer video. This video is dense: you’ll want to give it your undivided attention. While the video does tell the story clearly, concisely, and in chronological order, it helps if you’ve played all or most of the games, but just haven’t played them all recently…in order…while taking notes…and taking the Kingdom Hearts History and Lore class at your local college. The most important thing to remember about the story is that everyone is tied to Sora somehow, and Xehanort is bad.
For a pretty accurate, but much more comedic approach (and shorter), check out Video Game Dunkey’s “Kingdom Hearts Explained” video below. He’s pretty spot-on. Damn Pumba.
Which Games Should You Play?
If you are determined to play some Kingdom Hearts games instead of watching a recap, here is a list of the entries you’ll have to play. The past few Kingdom Hearts games have had summaries of the previous games included in the game’s menu, so it is safe to assume that Kingdom Hearts III will include a similar feature. Banking on this, the games listed below will give you the best context for Kingdom Hearts III’s story, based on how deep you want to get into things.
The Barebones Approach
Kingdom Hearts & Kingdom Hearts II
If you only can make time for two games, it’s best to replay the two numbered entries. Odds are that these are games you have already played in the past. This means it’ll combine nostalgia, context, and 40~ hours to create a cram-study-sesh for the upcoming release. It’s also likely that lots of people only played these games and are their only frame of reference for the series. You can’t go wrong with Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II: they are still both tremendous games.
How can you play these now, you ask? You can dust off your PS2 and boot up your original copies if you still have them. If that’s not possible and you own a PS4, you can pick up Kingdom Hearts: The Story So Far. It includes not only Kingdom Hearts I & II, but every game of consequence in the series (sorry Kingdom Hearts V CAST).
The Beginning & The End
If you want to make a gaming binge out of the series, but just want the essentials, your next two targets should be Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep and Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance. Birth by Sleep serves as a prequel to the entire series up to its release, providing context for the Keyblade War and Xehanort as a villain. It also introduces key characters such as Aqua, Terra, and Ventus as you play through three intertwined campaigns.
Dream Drop Distance is the most recent game in the narrative, and its events lead right into Kingdom Hearts III. The game has had the largest impact on the overall story to date and frames things nicely. Outside of the narrative, it offers a fair glimpse at some of the mechanics that Kingdom Hearts III will have.
To play these games on their original hardware, you’d need a PSP and a 3DS, respectively. However, this is nowhere near as convenient as playing them through Kingdom Hearts: The Story So Far, which has both games remastered in HD on the PS4.
The Icing on the Cake
If you miraculously have time, you should play (deep breath) Kingdom Hearts 0.2: Birth By Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage. That doozy of a name acts as a sort of Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes for Kingdom Hearts III. It provides a backstory to Aqua after the events of Birth by Sleep, while giving a look at what a modern Kingdom Hearts game looks like on PS4. This is the closest to playing Kingdom Hearts III as fans have gotten since its inclusion in Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue in 2017.
The best way to play this short game is on the PS4 in Kingdom Hearts: The Story So Far. The original physical release of Kingdom HD 2.8 appears to no longer be made, making The Story So Far bundle the best and cheapest way to play it.
All of the Confirmed Worlds
One of Kingdom Hearts’ biggest selling points is the opportunity to explore Disney-themed worlds and team up with the popular characters from those worlds. Here is a list of every confirmed world set to appear in Kingdom Hearts III:
- Frozen – Arendelle
- Tangled – Corona
- Big Hero 6 – San Fransokyo
- Toy Story – Toy Box
- Hercules – Mount Olympus
- Winnie the Pooh – 100 Acre Woods
- Pirates of Caribbean – The Caribbean
- Monsters, Inc. – Monstropolis
- Twilight Town/Old Mansion
- Yen Sid’s Tower
Every Edition of Kingdom Hearts III
When it comes to playing Kingdom Hearts III itself, there are a few different editions of the game that you can pre-order. All of them come with the exact same game, just different goodies you may or may not enjoy having.
- Kingdom Hearts III Standard Edition – First up is the plain old, regular version. For $59.99, you can get Kingdom Hearts III for PS4 or Xbox One. Woo! You may pre-order it on Amazon here.
- Kingdom Hearts III Deluxe Edition – This $79.99 edition of the game comes with a simple and clean SteelBook case. There is also a small artbook and an official Disney Collector’s Pin, which has been a staple of the past few deluxe/collector’s editions for Kingdom Hearts games. You may pre-order it on Amazon here.
- Kingdom Hearts III Deluxe Edition + Bring Arts Figures – Sold exclusively on the Square Enix Store, this bundle combines the regular Deluxe Edition with Bring Arts statues of Sora, Donald, and Goofy in their Toy Story form. The statues do not seem to be available for individual release at the time of this writing. It goes for a whopping $229.99 and currently has a waiting list here.
There are also exclusive pre-order bonuses for Kingdom Hearts III on Amazon, Walmart, Best Buy, GameStop, and the Square Enix Store. Check out the short list below detailing those.
- Amazon – The exclusive Dawn Til Dusk Keyblade and a $10 credit (if you are a Prime member)
- Walmart – A set of art cards and a variant box art cover
- Best Buy – A Kingdom Hearts keychain and a $10 credit (if you are a Best Buy Rewards member)
- GameStop – A fabric poster
- Square Enix Store – A set of stickers with the name of various worlds in the game
And that’s pretty much everything you need to know before diving into Kingdom Hearts III on January 29. For the spoiler-sensitive folks (like myself), we here at DualShockers whipped up a spoiler-free guide to avoiding spoilers for Kingdom Hearts III. You ought to check that out to make the internet as safe a place as possible. We also showed off the Kingdom Hearts pop-up shop at Disney Springs in Orlando, FL.