"I can forgive Kingdom Hearts for a lot, but I can't forgive charging so much for DLC so light on new content."
Editor's Note: This review will contain spoilers for Kingdom Hearts III's main scenario.
Even at its best, Kingdom Hearts has always required fans to forgive some of its flaws. Some games in the series have clunky combat; others don't move the story forward meaningfully; some can be too easy; and as the series has progressed, the story has become overly convoluted. And yet, it still has the one thing that keeps me coming back: fun. Even if previous Kingdom Hearts games don't fully cohere, with new worlds to explore, over the top combat, and more earnest conversations about "hearts" than I can count, most are still a joy to play. Kingdom Hearts III is no exception
. So, of course, when the ReMind DLC was announced, I came to it expecting more of the nonsense I love, flaws and all. Unfortunately, this package leaves almost all the fun at the door, replaces it with repetitive tedium, and answers almost none of the questions left over from the base game, thus doing nearly nothing to justify its high price.
Before we get into the meat of the DLC package, there are a few bonus features included with ReMind. There are several different photo modes to play around with, including the ability to create slideshows. The DLC also includes a mode where you can also go to any world, place many of the major characters there, and take selfies with them. Posing all the villains in ridiculous selfies with Sora was a bit of dumb fun that matches the tone of the game. Additionally, if you've cleared the game, you get access to the "Premium Menu" where you can adjust the difficulty of the game in specific ways, like causing Sora to auto-guard when he's attacked, or turning off things like Cure and Shotlocks. Unfortunately, this is only available on New Game Plus, and you can only choose the "harder" or "easier" options, not both, which is a puzzling choice by the developers. Nonetheless, the Premium Menu options will provide a particularly unique challenge for advanced players.
The ReMind DLC proper takes place concurrently with the events at the Keyblade Graveyard and move forward into the end of the game. Utilizing some of the time travel nonsense we know and love from previous entries, Sora returns to these events in an effort to restore Kairi to his world. To say much more would spoil what little story there is to tell here. The problem, endemic in the DLC's design, is that it repeats events from the base game to a detrimental degree. Almost 70% of the run time is spent on events we've already seen. Sure, they're occasionally remixed, and there's some additional context which helps a few things make more sense, but it's just not enough. We get some vague answers about why a few events in the base game happened, but nothing substantive.
As you move through these sequences you've already played, you're often given the option to use different characters in battle, though usually you can choose to play as Sora again as well. Sure, it's fun to play as Riku, Aqua, and particularly Kairi (finally!), but we've already had this opportunity before in most cases, and it's limited to a single fight. To make matters worse, their stats are much lower than Sora's, and you can't adjust their equipment or shortcuts, so you see a pretty notable difficulty spike while controlling the other characters. I'll admit that there are a few cool setpieces, notably one that sees you controlling a number of keyblade wielders in a floating battle, but it's just not enough. Even the opportunity to explore the beautiful Scala Ad Caelum is disappointing: the area we explore is far less vast than I'd hoped, and it lacks variety in both looks and gameplay mechanics. On its own, the ReMind DLC feels like it should have been a free patch or a reward for completing a challenge, certainly not a $30 addition.
If there's anything that justifies the cost of this package, it will be the Limitcut episode that unlocks after clearing ReMind. Here, not only do we get a brief appearance from some of our favorite Final Fantasy characters, but a sequence of incredibly difficult boss battles unlock as well. Similar to the "Data" fights in the Final Mix version of Kingdom Hearts II, you can face off against supercharged members of Organization XIII. These are every bit as challenging and varied as the previous iteration: each boss sports a huge damage pool and quick, deadly attacks. One wrong move will mean your doom. Luckily, if (like me) your Sora simply isn't up to snuff, you can go back to the base game and upgrade your equipment and raise your levels. Unless you're an incredibly skilled player, you're going to need it.
If you manage to clear all 13 battles, you're rewarded with an even more challenging secret boss and even a secret ending. This slightly frustrating secret ending is the only thing that moves the story forward even a little, but it asks more questions than it answers. I also think it's a bad idea to lock it behind a sequence of extremely difficult boss battles, leaving most to go check it out on YouTube. Nonetheless, if you were frustrated with the lack of challenge in the base game, the Limitcut episode undoubtedly brings it.
I can forgive Kingdom Hearts for a lot, but I can't forgive charging so much for DLC so light on new content. ReMind adds some context and a little bit of emotional heft to the ending, but it feels like something that should have been patched in, à la Final Fantasy XV. Everything else, including the superboss battles, the ability to adjust the difficulty a ton of new ways, and all the photo modes — the most fun I had with this package, honestly — are nice features, but ultimately don't justify the cost, even for the most forgiving Kingdom Hearts fan.
This review is based on a free review copy provided to RPGFan by the developer. This relationship in no way influenced the reviewer's opinion of the game or its final score.