Kingdom Hearts

Classic Kingdom Hearts Games Coming to Xbox One Next Year

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During the annual Inside Xbox event in London, Square Enix announced that the older Kingdom Hearts games will be coming to Xbox One in 2020.

All of the Kingdom Hearts games save the most recent release of Kingdom Hearts 3, including Kingdom Hearts 1 and 2 and the many spin-offs, will be available in two compilation packs.

Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 + 2.5 Remix includes the following:

  • Kingdom Hearts Final Mix
  • Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories
  • Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days (HD remastered cinematics)
  • Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix
  • Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep Final Mix
  • Kingdom Hearts Re:coded (HD remastered cinematics)

Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue includes the following:

  • Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance HD
  • Kingdom Hearts 0.2: Birth by Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage
  • Kingdom Hearts X Black Cover (movie)

Kingdom Hearts 3 launched earlier this year on both PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, the first in the series to appear on an Xbox console. A free demo of Kingdom Hearts 3 is available on the Xbox and PlayStation digital stores, featuring the Hercules and Toy Story worlds. Save demo will carry over to the full game should you choose to purchase it with the same account. The demo also includes the Memory Archive feature, which includes cutscenes to catch players up to the current story.

Kingdom Hearts 3 is available on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 + 2.5 Remix and 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue are available on PlayStation 4, and coming to Xbox in 2020.

Disney Tsum Tsum Festival Review

Posted by | Reviews, Switch | No Comments

Available On: Switch

The Nintendo Switch has a slew of Mario Party-like mini-game collections, including Mario Party itself. But none bring the inexplicable gush of joy from kids (and some adults) like Tsum Tsum.

Disney Tsum Tsum Festival transforms the mobile puzzle game into a multiplayer party game for up to four players locally or online, starring the adorably chubby and popular Tsum Tsum toys.

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the lion king

Disney Classic Games: Aladdin and The Lion King Now Available

Posted by | News, PC, PlayStation 4, Switch, Xbox One | No Comments

Two 90s 16-bit classics, Aladdin and The Lion King, have been bundled together and re-released with additional modern features and behind-the-scenes goodies. Disney Classic Games: Aladdin and The Lion King is available now in digital and retail stores for PC (Steam), PlayStation 4, and Xbox One, for $29.99.

Both games have been given upscaled graphics to support modern HD displays. Aladdin includes both the Sega version and a special tradeshow demo version that has not been available since 1993, but not the significantly different SNES version.

The modern ports have been developed by Digital Eclipse and published by Nighthawk Interactive. “Aladdin and The Lion King are iconic titles that redefined what a licensed game could be, so we took great care to deliver the kind of modern experience we, as fans, would want,” says Stephen Frost, senior producer, Digital Eclipse. “We wanted to highlight the rich history of both games and stay true to the originals, while also refreshing the experience for new players and all the fans of the 90s versions.”

Additionally the retro bundle includes several modern enhancements and improvements, such as the ability to save your game (yeah kids, that wasn’t very common in the early 90s!). Disney Classic Games also features a rewind ability, an Interactive Game Viewer to view playthroughs, and just straight up cheat codes to gain invulnerability, which will come in handy for the infamously difficult The Lion King.

The bundle also includes lots of development and behind-the-scenes interviews, an art gallery, and a music player.

Disney Classic Games: Aladdin and The Lion King are available now on PC, PlayStation 4, Switch, and Xbox One. It’s rated E10+.

Disney Villainous: Evil Comes Prepared Review

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Publisher: Ravensburger
Age: 10+
Players: 2-3 (the full game supports up to 6)
Game Length: 40-60 minutes
MSRP: $24.99

The second stand-alone expansion to excellent asymmetrical card game Disney Villainous, Evil Comes Prepared, finally adds Scar as a playable villain, along with dark-horse picks Yzma from The Emperor’s New Groove and Professor Ratigan from The Great Mouse Detective. Scar is mildly disappointing but the others make up for it with unique and interesting play styles, proving that Villainous continues to host an impressive pantheon of Disney favorites.

Circle of Life

By now you should already be familiar with how Disney Villainous plays. Each player selects a Disney villain, which comes with their own deck of villain cards, a fate deck of meddling heroes, a player board with four locations, and a stylized 3D token. Each turn players move their token to a location, performing the limited actions at that location, such as playing cards, gaining power, and vanquishing heroes. Villains can also draw from their opponents’ fate decks to place heroes on their board, partially covering up their actions and thwarting their plans.

Part of the genius of Villainous is its asynchronous gameplay. Each villain has a unique victory condition, as well as their own unique card decks and player boards. No two villains play alike, though with the second expansion Evil Comes Prepared adding the 10th, 11th, and 12th villains to the game, we’re beginning to see some overlaps.

Surprisingly Scar is the weakest of the new additions in Evil Comes Prepared. Scar’s goal is to defeat 15 strength worth of heroes. Eliminating heroes is something most villains do anyway, though Scar has to defeat Mufasa before any defeated heroes count toward his goal. Defeating heroes doesn’t make for an interesting nor engaging goal, and most of Scar’s strength comes from playing a bunch of nameless hyena cards. I also question the theme, as Scar’s goal in The Lion King was to usurp Mufasa and take over the pride lands, not hunt down and kill all the heroes.

Professor Ratigan is much more interesting, featuring a two-in-one goal that changes if his initial plans are thwarted. As in the film, Ratigan’s goal is to replace the queen with a robotic version. The card costs a ton of power, however, which means Ratigan needs to play items and allies that reduce its cost. Once the card is played it needs to be carefully moved from one side of the board to the other. If Basil comes into play, the card is discarded, and Ratigan goes into a rage, physically flipping his goal over to defeating Basil. It’s a brilliant callback to the climax of the film, and often reflects the same playful frustration the Ratigan player is feeling.

Of the three new villains Yzma is the most radically different. Her setup involves separating the fate deck into four different stacks, with each stack at a single location. Yzma needs to spend her time locating Kuzco, then defeating him with Kronk. I’m less familiar with The Emperor’s New Groove than other Disney animated films, but Yzma has to make sure Kronk stays under her control, creating an interesting dynamic while trying to defeat Kuzco. Fating the Yzma player can be a bit of a pain, however, as you have to look through the full stack of cards at a location, and don’t want to give away Kuzco if you find him.

The Rating

Disney Villainous: Evil Comes Prepared has a recommended age of 10+. The gameplay is complex enough to make it more suitable for older kids, teens, and adult Disneyphiles.

The Takeaway

Scar, clearly the marquee new addition, is unfortunately one of the weaker villains of them all, though Ratigan and Yzma provide interesting new ideas and gameplay opportunities. Evil Comes Prepared can coast on how good Villainous plays and the still-excellent production quality of the cards, boards, and tokens (Evil Comes Prepared definitely has the best tokens), but at this point we probably have all the villains we need.

Find Disney Villainous: Evil Comes Prepared at Target.

Kingdom Hearts 3 Adds Challenging New Critical Mode

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Kingdom Hearts 3 received a free update today that adds a challenging new difficulty setting called Critical Mode.

Critical Mode makes two simple but, well, critical changes. Sora’s maximum HP and MP are halved, and the frequency with which situation commands and unity attacks pop up is much lower. On the plus side, enabling Critical Mode opens up exclusive new moves that Sora can unleash.

The Critical Mode update also now allows players to carry over their hard-earned late-game keyblades into a new game. When starting a new game, keyblades will revert back to their starting power level. But you’ll be able to wield many keyblades much earlier than normal.

One of our chief complaints about Kingdom Hearts 3 was how simplistic and easy the combat was. We’re not sure if halving Sora’s stats and reducing the powerful situational moves will improve the gameplay, but we’re always glad to see more options.

Kingdom Hearts 3 is available now on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. It’s rated E10+.

kingdom hearts 3

Opinion: Kingdom Hearts 3 Has a Nostalgia Problem

Posted by | Feature, Opinion, PlayStation 4, Xbox One | No Comments

A YA-friendly, easy-to-play action-adventure that explores and celebrates Disney animated movies should be a winning formula. It certainly was in 2002 when the original Kingdom Hearts launched on the PlayStation 2. The popularity of the series and decade plus drought of a main-line game created a huge amount of anticipation for Kingdom Hearts 3.

Unfortunately, Kingdom Hearts 3 feels like a PS2 game in all the worst ways.

Seventeen years feels like forever ago, but I played and enjoyed the original Kingdom Hearts. The hack and slash combat was fast and fun, and the use of Disney and Final Fantasy characters as NPCs and party members was something truly special. The story rested on whimsical light against darkness tropes, which is perfectly fine when you’re battling alongside Goofy and Donald. When the sequel came out in 2005 I jumped all over it, only to be left with a vastly more convoluted story involving virtual world copies, soul-merging heroes, and impostor villains.

Several spin-off games, prequels, and side stories were released in the years between Kingdom Hearts 2 and 3, which I ignored. I fully expected to be completely lost in Kingdom Hearts 3’s story. But I did not expect the series’ defiant refusal to evolve beyond its PS2-era interface, combat, and level design.

kingdom hearts 3

Kingdom Hearts 3 is a grim reminder of how far gaming has come in the last decade and a half. I was frustrated from the very opening level in the Disney Hercules world of Thebes and Mt. Olympus. Every area is mostly a series of walled, linear hallways, with a few larger rooms for bigger combat sequences. A minimap in the upper right corner is mostly useless, and the game lacks a proper world map. Countless times I got completely turned around, doubling back for awhile before I realized I was going the wrong way.

Exploration in most worlds is extremely limited and not very rewarding. The exception early on is the Toy Story world, which primarily takes place inside a three story toy store, granting a bit of freedom to explore different areas. Even then I got completely lost when I was told to go to one location, only to finally look it up online where exactly I needed to go. Never have I ached for a proper quest marker or just any kind of journal. At the very least a standard map would’ve saved so much of my frustration, even with the mostly boring level designs.

Don’t even get me started on the Gummi ship sequences. They managed to make the weakest part of the original games and make it even worse in Kingdom Hearts 3.

To travel to each new world you have to pilot an ugly, blocky, customizable ship in a pseudo free-roaming space sequence. Controlling the Gummi ship is abysmally frustrating. Worse still the game forces you into retro shoot ’em up boss battles between worlds. These boss fights weren’t difficult but took forever to complete, all while doing nothing but mildly moving the ship around and holding down the attack button.

kingdom hearts 3

On-foot combat isn’t much better. Fighting the heartless and the nobodies mostly boils down to mashing the attack button as quickly as possible while Sora vaults through the air with colorful keyblade attacks. Occasionally a special attack is available, such as uniting with your allies or summoning a neon-colored Disney attraction, like the teacups or carousel.

The attraction attacks are a neat idea but given their resource-less cost you never pass them up, and it turns the already dull combat into an even duller shooting gallery or rhythm game. The first time you unleash the teacups or the splash run is a blast. Not so much the 20th time.

Gaining a new keyblade after completing a world is the one piece of fun loot you’ll ever get. Each keyblade has slightly different stats and different special attacks they can unleash, including transforming into entirely different weapons like a warhammer, dual pistols, or a magical staff. Visually it’s fun transforming the Frozen keyblade into a pair of lighting fast dual blades, but the actual combat doesn’t change. I’m still mostly mashing the attack button.

kingdom hearts 3

Elemental spells can be thrown around, but feel sluggish and weak compared to the much quicker basic attack combos, and selecting a spell using the d-pad is a nasty UI holdover from the PS2 era. Equipping abilities is also needlessly fiddly. Sora and friends level up and gain new abilities, which must be actively equipped. Each ability takes up a certain AP cost, and a character can only equip so many. If you equip an accessory which grants additional AP, you’ll need to first de-equip a number of abilities in order to shuffle your items around. It’s exactly as annoying as it sounds.

I’m not going to comment too much on the story itself, given that I fell out of the Kingdom Hearts loop long ago. But I was disappointed in how the story approaches the Disney worlds. The worlds of Frozen and Tangled simply recreate the movies, beat for beat, including drawing cutscenes directly from the films (yes, they do the entire “Let it Go” number).

In the Frozen world I was hoping to actually adventure with Queen Elsa. She has superhero-style ice powers – how do you not include her as a party member! But no, we have to tell the entire Frozen story again and follow everyone around, at one point getting thrown into an annoying, bland ice labyrinth for no reason other than to pad out the adventure.

kingdom hearts 3

The Pixar worlds fare much better. Both Toy Story and Monsters Inc take place AFTER their respective films (first films anyway). The stories and level designs are much better served when they’re not beholden to retelling stories that were clearly not built for video game adventuring. Tangled’s world consists of running through a forest to the castle, then running back through the exact same forest. Whereas in Toy Story Sora and company are shrunk down and explore a toy store with giant robots. The Pixar worlds are far more interesting (to a point) and make the actual Disney animated worlds that much more disappointing.

I had fond memories of the original Kingdom Hearts. And I still think a high-concept RPG using Disney’s deep roster of worlds and characters is a wonderful thing to explore in a video game. But Kingdom Hearts 3’s shocking refusal to evolve beyond its aging level designs and simplistic combat create an experience that only the most nostalgia-blinded fans can enjoy.