9 Star Games, Game Reviews, Games, Reviews

Kingdom Hearts III Review

It’s time to look at a game that fans has kept fans waiting over 10 years. There have been a lot of spinoffs and such after KH2 which were all pretty solid but everyone was ready for 3. After all, this one was going to end the arc and wrap up the organization plot. It’s definitely a fantastic game and an excellent end to the trilogy.

Following the events of KH2 Sora and Riku took the mark of mastery exam so that they would be strong enough to stop the mastermind Xehanort now that he has returned from the grave. Unfortunately Sora failed and lost all of his powers. To reclaim them he must go to a bunch of Disney worlds and reaffirm his reason for fighting. Riku and King Mickey head to the world of shadows to save Aqua and to begin gathering the 7 Keyblade masters. Will that be enough to stop the newly resurrected Organization XIII?

As always the gameplay here is a blast. I always enjoy a good 3D action game and the combat is very well done here. There are a bunch of different mechanics to learn and utilize as well so you always feel like you have a lot of options. It’s all very fast paced and one big change is instead of forms like Master, Final, you have temporary super attacks or weapon changes. It’s effectively pretty similar although I liked the outfit changes that the forms had. The super moves range from things like boats to cars, tanks, etc. They’re all pretty handy although their damage output never seems to get any better so towards the end of the game I’d like to have turned them off as the would take up space in my combat zone. (I’m sure there’s a way to select a different super attack when you have more than one option but I was not able to find that out.

To make the worlds a little more special in this game, each of them have their own unique gameplay element. In Toy Story you can control a robot, in pirates a ship, etc. It’s pretty cool that they developed so many game modes for this title. It does help to make the whole experience feel even more polished. While playing through the game everything is really sharp. I don’t think you’ll have any gameplay complaints. It’s pretty much perfect and all that you could expect here.

Naturally the graphics are quite good as well. The opening is extremely sharp (Although 0.2’s intro is probably still the best animated one) and the graphics in game are also still very impressive. Square is always at the forefront when it comes to graphics and this game does not disappoint. It’s all very detailed and bright throughout. Then we’ve got the soundtrack which is also very solid. The new intro may not be quite as good as the older ones but it’s almost impossible to top those. We still get quite a few solid battle themes here and the final boss theme is pretty intense.

The story mode lasted a little over 20 hours, but typically is seems like it usually lasts around 30. III does feel shorter than the first two games and was one of our least played KH titles, but I have to factor in the fact that I was dashing through the game for the most part. I haven’t gone back and done all of the bonus content. Once you do that the game will definitely get very long. The Platinum trophy could take as long as 60-90 hours which is crazy. There’s no shortage of content here, that’s for sure. You’ll also want to make sure that you unlock the secret ending or at least watch it on Youtube since there’s more to the story than meets the eye.

While III is a near perfect game, it still does have some issues which keep it from beating KH 2. I’d also say that in terms of the plot it’s the third strongest behind Chain of Memories as well although as a complete package I would put it as the second best KH title. As I mentioned, the game does feel a bit short. This isn’t really a complaint because once a game is 20+ hours it is certainly long enough. I just feel that given how long this game took to come out it could have been longer. If anything it feels like they probably just had this game on hold for most of that time because development wise it doesn’t feel like it should have taken much longer than the usual 3 years for a new game. It took so long that I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the code got outdated for the older gen and they had to restart development at times.

The story also doesn’t always go in the direction I’d have wanted it to go. I think adding the dolls was maybe not a good move although this technically started a few games back. By creating a life like doll, a soul can go into it and the character is effectively reborn. As such, you’ll see a bunch of old characters in this game. For the villains it can feel a little redundant because we already dealt with these guys a while back. Do we really need to deal with all of them again? Even more than that though, the villains all seem way too strong. The heroes never seem to even stand a chance against them.

You know that things are getting dicey when one enemy is able to take out all 7 Keyblade masters. How can they beat 13 Organization members then? The power levels definitely seem more than a bit wonky here. Going back to the plot, I also thought Aqua’s plot was a little off. It seems to me like she could and should have left the dark realm a long time ago. There wasn’t much of a reason for her to stay and doing so almost backfired. Finally, I didn’t care for the ending. Granted, the after credits scene certainly saves it, but otherwise the normal ending will definitely be very unfulfilling when you see it. It makes the whole journey less satisfying because try as he might, one character couldn’t outrun his destiny which sort of proves the villains right from the start.

That’s enough of that though. This is still the climax of the arc so we’ve got a bunch of hype moments throughout. If anything you’ll be blasting through the Disney worlds extra fast here because you just want to get to the plot stuff. Typically something plot related happens whenever you leave a world. Naturally the climax is pretty intense as it’s fight after fight. We finally get to see Roxas again which is one of the best scenes in the game. Dark Aqua was also cool and Riku gets his moments even if he does get wrecked quite a bit here. You’ll quickly see why the Heartless tornado is probably the strongest character in the franchise. You’ll be engaged from start to finish during this game. The Frozen section was also impressive as we got the full Let It Go song. I wasn’t expecting that.

Lets talk about some of the characters. Sora’s come a long way from the old days and is mostly past his shaken confidence. Still, he has lost most of his powers and has to train up once again. He does begin to lose his way towards the end of the game, but stays strong when it counts. I do think he was right to suggest trying to save Aqua sooner. Without him the others were definitely doomed. Goofy gets a lot of hype in this game as he’s constantly making the most sense. I think the writers were going for some irony here as Goofy appears to be the smartest of the heroes despite the character not usually having that rep. Then we have Donald who is a good ally as always. He gets slightly less to do but his flare spell near the end was definitely hype.

King Mickey is solid as usual but he has been heavily nerfed. Roxas is a scene stealer and whenever he shows up you can feel the hype. The guy can dual wield Keyblades so you know that he is serious. If anything it’s too bad that he couldn’t appear more, but I do like the possibilities of him being more of a main character in future games. Axel gets quite a bit of screen time here, but at the same time he doesn’t really do anything. He sort of gets hit by the hero curse where now that he is a hero it seems like he can’t really fight all that well. I think he should go back to using his twin discs instead of a Keyblade.

Kairi fans will probably be pretty disappointed with her role. She doesn’t do much of anything and is mainly just a liability. Meanwhile it is nice to see Aqua and the gang also showing up. Aqua definitely looks solid here and Terra has his key moment. Ventus doesn’t do quite as much but he’s always eager to help out, even if everyone tries to stop him. For the villains, most of them don’t get to do a whole lot. They basically just follow orders or pay the price. Two of them start talking about possibly betraying Xemnas, but they never get around to it. Ansem from game 1 doesn’t do much but he’s always a cool villain regardless. Just showing up is neat. Xemnas’ voice feels even deeper than usual and he always makes for an epic boss. Then we have Xehanort who may not be as cool as the first two Ansem versions but he makes for a good final boss as well. I do think there is some plot hax with Sora being able to take him on, but maybe Xehanort underestimated the kid’s potential.

Either way, with the organization gone now that means that new villains will be showing up. The game’s ending does give us a glimpse at who these guys will be. I think the heroes can probably school them if it’s a fair fight, but this is Kingdom Hearts so that is unlikely. There will probably be a bunch of mental battles as well as emotional ones. I also get the feeling that we won’t see the 7 Keyblade masters teaming up for quite a while. The villains will probably separate the team and without Sora they’ll all be lost. Sora, Roxas, and Aqua are probably the 3 strongest Keyblade masters at the moment so the rest could all be in danger.

Overall, Sora takes the line “My heart’s a battleground” to the next level. Things are constantly happening to him and his friends and their battles aren’t always limited to traditional planets. One of the big bosses is literally fought inside of a heart. It’s definitely refreshing to play a Kingdom Hearts game again and hopefully the wait for 4 isn’t nearly as long this time. I’m ready to continue the saga and hopefully this time we’ll get some actual Final Fantasy representation like Cloud or Lightning to show up and help out.

Overall 9/10

Animated Short Reviews, Animated Shorts, Reviews

Frozen Fever Review

Frozen was definitely a fun film to watch. It really got extremely popular for a while there and I thought that it lived up to the hype. While a complete sequel would be nice to have someday, a 5-10 minute adventure is a nice sequel to have until then. There’s not a whole lot that you can do in that time, but the short does at least have a plot and while the animation isn’t quite as sharp as the film, you could picture this being a bonus scene in the special features or something like that.

It is Anna’s Birthday so Elsa wants to make the day go perfectly. She sets up a large party area with cake, ice statues, and a lot of festivities. Then she also hides presents all around town so Anna can find them as they sing a song. It’s all going well at first, but then Elsa gets a fever and begins creating tiny snowmen that want to wreck the party. Can these little guys be stopped or is the party doomed to fail?

Naturally, Anna cares more about Elsa’s health than celebrating too much. You can see where the special is going with this from the get go of course, but it’s not meant to be a deep plot anyway. It’s a fun little adventure and the only thing that will make you wince is that Olaf wrecked the Birthday cake by basically putting dirt on it. Not a cool move if you ask me, but at least the main characters had soup instead. Elsa did a good job of setting up the party and she’s still the best Frozen character. She’s also the only one to have powers though so I suppose that makes it a little easy for her. Her powers are so useful and great for just about any scenario. I do think that she should be immune to colds and fevers with those ice abilities of hers, but maybe she just hasn’t learned how to fully harness her abilities yet. That will come with time.

As mentioned earlier, the animation is good, but it’s not quite as sharp as the film. The main character that stands out is Elsa herself. She is sick in the film so she shouldn’t look like she’s at 100%, but even so, she just looked super tired right from the start. The dark rings under her eyes are really large as if she hasn’t slept in ages. It was mildly distracting and I don’t feel as if it was completely intentional, but maybe it was. The main song is fairly good. It’s no Let It Go of course, but few songs are. It works well within the context of the special.

Overall, there’s not a whole lot more to say about this one. If you liked the Frozen movie then I definitely recommend seeing this short since it is one of the only ways to see your favorite characters again. Even if you haven’t seen Frozen, you will probably still enjoy the short. There’s nothing to really dislike and it is not as if you will lose a lot of time watching it. A few minutes will hardly make a big difference in the grand scheme of things and in the end you will be glad that you got to watch it. For a little short, Disney put a good amount of budget behind this.

Overall 6/10

Animated Movie Reviews, Animated Movies, Reviews

Frozen Review

Frozen is one of the highest grossing films of all time and it appears to be highly likely that it will join the top 5. That’s pretty impressive and the film is still out in theaters in case you want to go and check it out. I’ve finally had the pleasure of viewing the film on DVD and it is definitely one of Disney’s better projects. It has a Barbie feeling to it, but with a little more danger and intrigue. Why did Frozen succeed? Well, in the words of a respectable business man turned villain…”Isn’t that the question of the day?”

Looking at the posters and promotions for Frozen; the film always looked interesting but I had no idea on what the plot would be about. Even after I read a review for the film on another site…I still didn’t remember the plot by the end. Plot is a crucial part of a film, but it can be overshadowed by visuals and character development, which is what happens in this film. It does help that the plot does involve some…plot hax. (Or plot holes if you wish. Not in continuity, but more of a suspense for disbelief issue)

The story begins with two sisters, Elsa and Anna. They were great friends until Elsa managed to knock Anna out with a single ice blast. Their parents quickly save Anna, but at the cost of her memories. Anna remembers Elsa, but she believes that her sister is a mere mortal. (Which is a fair assumption) Elsa’s parents tell her to stay in her room for the next 10+ years until she masters her abilities and no one can ever know that she has powers! Unfortunately, Elsa cannot control her powers so she never gets to see another human being until her coronation ceremony. Anna has always wanted to rekindle their friendship and she attempts to do so, but things do not work out. Anna must now track down Elsa and get her to reverse the curse that she has placed on the town. It will be a dangerous trek!

Elsa is arguably the main character although one could make a very strong case for Anna being the true main character. Elsa is a lot more charismatic than Anna and one can sympathize with her plight. I had some issues with it, but I shall address those in due time. Her ice abilities are a lot more powerful than I had imagined and she can definitely hold her own against fellow Disney protagonists. (She could possibly hold her own against the Avengers depending on how thick she can make the ice that she creates.) She also has more common sense than Anna as she realizes that any man who would claim to be in love with someone after an hour or two and then propose cannot be trusted. He’s either greedy, evil, confused or all of the above!

Anna plays a large role in this film. She is a lot more outgoing than Elsa, but she’s also a little more naive. She takes her dangerous situations in stride because she doesn’t really seem to know how much danger she is in. She was involved in the scene that made me cringe a little inside and it definitely hurt the film a bit. I will go into that scene in a short while, but it wasn’t a great moment for the film. Anna’s a good character for the most part, but it’s too bad that she succumbed to the romance part of the film. The romance itself wasn’t a huge issue, but one day is way too quick to make any decisions.

At one point in the film, Elsa creates an Ice Creature to protect her Kingdom. This Ice Monster is pretty skilled in the art of fighting as he quickly takes down a few fighters. His durability is also shown to be at a high level and he’s pretty merciless. At one point, he attempts to destroy one of the main characters and you may find yourself at the edge of your seat as you wonder if the heroes will survive. (So long as you haven’t seen a film in a while) This creature never gets a name, but fans of the film aren’t likely to forget him anytime soon!

Hans is one of the first characters to appear, but he may come across as a little cheesy. As one point, Anna bursts into song and he quickly interrupts her to say that he was thinking the same thing…and then he continues the song. I can’t buy that! Anna should have immediately dashed out of there because coincidences like that don’t work. Hans just seemed really fake and he definitely is not someone that you would want to hang out with. He is one of the fighters who goes up against the ice creature and only one of them gets to walk away. Hans isn’t a likable character and he’s definitely one of the worst ones. Why? You’ll need to watch the film to find out!

Olaf is not someone that you want to cross. Once he realized that Kristoff had gone crazy, he quickly decided to hold him off so that Anna could escape. That’s what I call bravery and he should definitely be considered as a hero. He’s easily one of the best characters in the film and he is always ready for a hug. His body is a little frail, which gets in the way of his heroics, but Olaf never gives up. He’s always ready to risk life and limb to help his friends and hopefully he gets a nice role when he returns for the inevitable sequel.

Kristoff is another one of the main characters and I can’t say that I was a big fan of him. His friends are known as the “love experts” and I really didn’t like them either. Kristoff has his “hero” moment at the end, but it was a little hard to watch. Kristoff was really mean to one of the shop owners, going as far as to call him a thief. (I believe that is the term that he used…or maybe he called the owner a crook) Kristoff has a reindeer by his side named Sven. Sven is decently cool and he’s never afraid to speak his mind. He makes sure to keep Kristoff in line and he also knows when it’s time for Kristoff to take a swim. Once again, I do have to say that Kristoff’s friends weren’t that cool. They didn’t do a great job of helping out in the opening and they had the worst song in the entire film. Their scenes tended to drag on and I believe that they could have been written out.

The one scene that hurt the film more than anything else was the Wolf scene. In it, Anna and Kristoff are forced to throw away their heroic nature as they injure a group of wolves. That was pretty terrible and I lost a lot of respect for both of them. Anna’s still a decently good character overall, but that really threw away her character development. Kristoff never recovered from the incident as well and the film’s score took a bit of a hit. The film also had a lot of romance, but that’s to be expected. I think the film should have cut it out though since it wasn’t needed in this film. If Kristoff and Anna decided to just be pen pals and if Anna and Hans had decided to stay as rivals…then that would have worked out perfectly.

Finally, Elsa’s predicament is pretty hard to believe. How she hid from her sister for about a decade by staying in her room all day is beyond me. The parents made a pretty bad decision in that regard as they left the sisters in that state as they headed off for a cruise or something. Elsa shouldn’t have gone along with this plan and she could have stayed friends with Anna through mail. (Or phone calls if those were around back then) Their first meeting at the ball room could have gone better as well if Elsa had just explained things. She can definitely trust Anna with her secret so that shouldn’t be a concern. Ah well…the plot had to get rolling somehow right?

The animation for the film is decent. The ice abilities that Elsa possessed were pretty impressive visually. Character wise, this isn’t my favorite art style. It’s the way that most American animated films look, but give me the Super Friends or the original Gundam show’s animation any day. There’s something about these visuals that just don’t strike me in the same way.

The soundtrack for the film was pretty forgettable. That is not counting the lyrical songs of course. Elsa’s main song was pretty good when she first goes to the castle in her new hairdo. Beyond that, I can’t say that I really cared for the other songs. I’m not into lyrical songs (for the most part) so that was to be expected. At least it’s not a bad soundtrack!

Overall, this was a pretty solid Disney film. I really got a Barbie feeling from it, which was nostalgic since I used to watch a lot of those films. Elsa is a solid protagonist and her ice abilities are fun to watch. The film had more action than your typical animated film and we really only had one scene that would make you cringe a little inside. I can definitely see why everyone loves the film so much and I won’t mind seeing it in the top 5. It’s a fun film and you’ll walk away remembering how much fun the songs were and hoping that Elsa will be in Kingdom Hearts III. I definitely recommend this film to all audiences. I just don’t see how you can dislike this film unless the Wolf scene is the first scene of the film that you witness.

Overall 6/10