The Kingdom Hearts series is one of the most complicated series in video games that spanned several different consoles. The partnership with Square Enix and Disney created an instant hit when the first game was released on Playstation 2. The final installment is here, in the form of Kingdom Hearts III, so let’s see how it panned out.
This review was written by AVS Forum “ghost reviewer” Datsm. While he wishes to remain anonymous, credit is given where it’s due—it’s his review. Datsm put the time into playing Kingdom Hearts III (it’s a tough job but someone’s gotta do it) using a reference system that includes an Xbox One X, a PS4 Pro as well as a 75″ Samsung Q8 QLED TV (2018), plus a Dolby Atmos sound system with KEF R-series speakers, Emotiva amplification and a Marantz AV7704 pre/pro.
Please note, these are not reviews of gameplay, they are reviews of the graphics and audio quality of the game, on the specified platform.
Platform: Playstation 4, Playstation 4 Pro, XBox One, X Box One S, Xbox One X
Developers: Square Enix Business Division 3
Publisher: Square Enix
Genre: Action Role Playing
ESRB Rating: E (Everyone 10+ )
Resolution: 4k HDR on Xbox One X; 1080P on PS4 Pro (I played the game on the PS4 Pro).
Audio Format: Surround Sound
Release Date: January 25th, 2019
Synopsis (Taken from Kingdom Hearts’ website):
“Kingdom Hearts III tells the story of the power of friendship as Sora and his friends embark on a perilous adventure. Set in a vast array of Disney and Pixar worlds, KINGDOM HEARTS follows the journey of Sora, a young boy and unknowing heir to a spectacular power. Sora is joined by Donald Duck and Goofy to stop an evil force known as the Heartless from invading and overtaking the universe. Through the power of friendship, Sora, Donald and Goofy unite with iconic Disney-Pixar characters old and new to overcome tremendous challenges and persevere against the darkness threatening their worlds.”
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**Ratings are judged against the state of the art in contemporary games. As technology rapidly improves, standards will raise appropriately.**
Low Frequency Extension: 85
Positional/Environmental Cues: 93
The soundscape of Kingdom Hearts 3 contains many different elements. You have the score, the environmental ambience and effects, the sound of the enemies and your allies, the sound of NPCs, and the effects associated with actions (weapons attacks, magic, shield..etc). While all the elements were in place, it was hard to pick out distinct, individual sounds… making it hard to tell some of the positional and environmental cues. The low end was also disappointing—attacks where I expected the effects to have deep bass “weight” behind them seemed muted. The only time it felt like the deep bass was really present in the game was during cutscenes.
Black Levels: 83
Color Reproduction: 95
Kingdom Hearts III graphics are at best inconsistent. Curiously, this was one of the first times I thought the game looked far better during gameplay than the cutscenes. I thought the cutscenes were very compressed-looking and uneven in terms of fidelity, but when the game play started, everything became vibrant.
The real issue is that the PS4 version of this game is 1080p and lacks HDR, unlike the Xbox One version. When using the “gummy ship” to travel between worlds, the limitations of 1080p and the lack of HDR were very present. The deep blacks revealed compression artifacts and looked oddly pixelated at times. On the other hand, the worlds you visit looked great in 1080p. At its best, it really looked like you are in a Disney or Pixar movie.
I pre-ordered the game before I knew there was a difference in resolution between the PS4 and Xbox One version, which I think is a pretty bad thing to do to consumers. I think the game would have benefited greatly from HDR, especially with the vibrant colors of the different worlds. Overall, the game looks and sounds pretty good in 1080p SDR, but even then there are issues—the inconsistency in cutscene quality takes you out of the experience.
Reference Review System:
KEF R700, R600, R800ds, R50, R400b
Emotiva XPA 2
Playstation 4 Pro
Samsung 75″ Q8 (2018)
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