Kingdom Hearts 3 put me inside the Toy Story toy box - and it feels like home

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There’s a special place in our hearts for Disney. Whether it’s because Disney films remind us of family trips to the cinema and Happy Meal toys or provide a comforting blanket on days off sick, there’s something about the brand that has seeped into our subconscious as something heartwarming.

That’s perhaps why the Kingdom Hearts franchise has appealed to so many - providing an opportunity to interact with these characters we feel we know so well in the worlds we’ve seen a thousand times. It’s also why fans, such as myself, were so excited to see the upcoming Kingdom Hearts 3 will explore worlds the franchise hasn’t visited before including those of Toy Story, Big Hero 6 and Monsters Inc.

We got some hands on time with Kingdom Hearts 3’s Toy Box world at EGX 2018, here’s what we thought.

Playtime's over

Toy Story’s Toy Box world opens with Woody, Buzz and the gang fretting over the disappearance of Andy, his mom and their fellow toys by creatures we know to be the Heartless. Queue protagonist Sora and his sidekicks Donald Duck and Goofy to save the day, who have been transformed into toys and have been hunting down the evil Organization and the heartless minions across various worlds.

What’s immediately striking is the world and character’s resemblance to their film counterparts - it would be difficult to tell them apart. Similarly Andy’s room is an exact replica, right down to the watch clock and cowboy drawings on the wall and the rocket ship bed covers - it instantly feels as though you are somewhere familiar.

It probably helps that most of the voices are recognizable rather than clear knock offs (like when Kermit the Frog’s voice went rogue after the death of Jim Henson). While Tim Allen and Tom Hanks did not return to voice Buzz and Woody in Kingdom Hearts 3, John Ratzenberger continues to voice Hamm and Wallace Shawn is back as Rex. 

After a fairly long cutscene which sees the Toy Story crew meeting Sora and friends, we set off as Sora on a mission to find out where everyone went. 

Mecano(ics)

Mechanically the combat hasn’t changed hugely from the previous core games in the series, with Sora mixing strong or fast melee keyblade combat with magic abilities such as Blizzard.  There's also various keyblades to unlock which each possess their own benefits and/or drawbacks.

However, there is now the opportunity to use special moves which often integrate characters from that world or well-known Disneyland rides. For example, there’s a special rocket move which sees Sora, Buzz and Woody riding a rocket (like in the final exciting scene of the first Toy Story film) through Heartless. 

After jumping out of Andy’s window and trolling the neighborhood for signs of him and the toys, while battling through the various Heartless blocking your path, it’s decided that perhaps the Galaxy toy store is the best place to check. As per Kingdom Hearts, nothing is quite as simple as that.

After arriving at the toy store, the group of adventurers are greeted by a member of the Organization who unleashes a merry band of robots to stop you in your tracks. Luckily, there’s a spare robot mech lying around for Sora to jump into in order to fend off the unfriendly foes. 

After the battle, you continue to work your way through the three-story toy store in pursuit of the Organization - only to be met with a fairly dark and un-Pixar ending.

Practically perfect

As a diehard Kingdom Hearts fan, there were always going to be fears over whether the latest addition to the franchise would capture that same spark that made the others so special. 

The sheer excitement we experienced throughout the demo built as we played the Toy Box, and it only grew with each swipe of the keyblade and fantastical cutscene. Kingdom Hearts 3 is like coming home and it's a happy return.

Kingdom Hearts 3 will be released on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on January 29 2019.