I really want to make some remarks, but I don't even know where to start. lol But your post is amazing!Welp, here goes.
Kairi: Nuff said, KH III Kairi WAS the biggest joke of 2019 and potentially one of the biggest ones in gaming in general. Hyped them up only to repeat the same thing they've already been doing with her and that has sparked criticism since 2006. The fact that the journal states that she and Lea were "unprepared and unexperienced" and that's why they got the shaft completely clashes with the very same reason why they were training in a different dimension underlines just how no one in the writing team has any interest in seeing Kairi as more than a romantic interest and a damsel in distress.
Lea: Basically the complaints Kairi gets, it's baffling how the cold and calculating killer who was the true diabolical mastermind in CoM in KH III is a comic relief character who during what was supposed to be his big fight concerning Saix Roxas and Xion literally stands on the sidelines making sad faces.
Keyblade: That Keyblade lore proves to be retconned and inconsistent is nothing new, but inconsistent within THE SAME GAME, that's a whole new level. Riku lost the Keyblade that (and I quote) Ansem the Wise describes as the very memento of his redemption arc, a testament of the newfound strenght he got in hope, because a swirling tornado of shadows was too stronk, and he literally laughs it off, getting a replacement not from his heart or some important event, but by taking ANOTHER Keyblade Yen Sid had somewhere off-screen. Keyblade also looks ugly as sin.
Lea has his Keyblade broken (also got called a fake but no further contextual clue was given) and a couple scenes later he has it again.
Mickey's is so nonsensical and doesn't ultimately add anything that I don't even want to describe it. He could've just stuck with Kingdom Key D and it wouldn't have made any difference.
The X-Blade is formed by 20 warriors fighting one another... no wait: now you just need the hearts, even if plucked from the person... no wait: now it's a clash again, except even just crossing the blades once is enough to constitute as a clash, but it works only once... no wait: now all the clash does is generating a No Name Keyblade, when 13 No Names are together they turn into the X-Blade.
The X-Blade somehow has less powers and attacks than the BbS version.
Main characters: At least Kairi and Lea are far from alone in the sad corner. Terra, Ventus, Roxas, Xion, got so little screentime I start wondering if I didn't immensely misunderstood what BbS and Days were about and if I was INTENDED to gain that these guys were a one and done time only.
Terra has no interaction with anyone, including Riku and Xehanort. LW in KH II Final Mix had more lines of dialogue.
...LW in KH III has more lines of dialogue, almost.
Ventus' journey was all about meeting friends and promising to come back to them and nothing about that gets done (though admitedly Hercules was probably all that remained for him in KH III). Also he's as generic as BbS did NOT make him out to be.
Xion is a Nort and it's not explained in the game whatsoever and we had to wait a month to read what that was about.
Riku himself wasn't in the most flattering of roles, but I guess he can't really complain after looking at what others got.
Roxas has this one big scene, doesn't fight Xemnas which I deem almost criminal (I never bought this "Xemnas is Sora's archnemesis" talk) and proceeds to have an auto-battle that wins itself. People have defended it by claiming it's a scripted fight commonly found in jrpgs, but still. One thing is having Cloud in KH II destroying generic Heartless before you can get to them, another is having an AI-controlled Roxas who just robs you of an Org member fight.
Aqua: She deserves her own topic. "Aquanort" is such a bait. An "Anti" that doesn't look like all the other "Antis", dressed up as a possessed/Nort I can only assume on purpose to stir hype. Her own corruption story doesn't lead anywhere, goes against what 0.2 brought to the table and was spoiled to no end. Not counting leaks but only promotional material, we see Aqua attacking Guardian and Ansem without a Keyblade, getting grabbed and thrown, appearing as Anti-Aqua, getting the Keyblade, attacking Riku, we saw gameplay footage of Sora fighting her, and his hand reaching to hers.
Nomura even went on record saying that's all they could show, which I totally believe.
They couldn't show anything else because there really wasn't anything more to it.
Handling the cast: The Guardians should've been allies to bring around and interact with even before being playable, that's what the Gummiphone should've been about. Instead, Aqua doesn't even pose (not a true JoJo fan).
I could go on and describe what each character could've added to the experience but I've been told I make people sad and depressed when I do it.
Villains or presumed as such: Vanitas became the one-dimensional arsehole his haters always claimed he was. So much potential wasted for no apparent reason.
Xemnas doesn't talk anymore about Ventus and the Chamber which was supposed to be the thing that drove him for years.
Vexen has a redemption arc that doesn't fit him at all and isn't explained in the slightest. Someone should tell Nomura that having evil characters you love to hate isn't a crime. Also his character arc is the same exact one Saix has.
Ienzo fueled at least 20 YT channels with theories about all that he possibly knew and do to counter Xemnas and Xehanort, and ended up being the Grand Central Station of Expositionary Dialogue, in the most boring way possible.
Demyx straight up disappears without a sound.
Xemnas suddenly discovers he loves his pals and that comes out of complete nowhere.
Isa/Saix: Also deserves his own thing because screw him, seriously. Remember Severus Snape and how people who worshipped him as a saint who did nothing wrong after the last book got rightfully mocked because Snape, while a hero, was also a bad person who loved sadistically abusing and tormenting 11 year old kids without a reason? Yeah, that's how Isa/Saix be.
Isa took part in the 10 year-long Heartless invasion and world corruption started by the Organization and Ansem, kept messing with the world order, humiliated and emotionally tormented Sora and Roxas, kidnapped Kairi and did to Xion... well, what Snape did to Neville Longbottom: emotional and psychological abuse of the highest grade.
All of this because he was jealous. After helping out (read as: sending other equally repentant members to do the actual work) the good guys he still shows up at the final battle and doesn't hold back at all. When it's all said and done, he doesn't acknowledge or apologizes for anything he's done, says he's jealous and claims he won't even say it again and disappears.
His absolution comes at the hands of Lea, who while tied to him was, also because of this, the least qualified person to do so (what about Roxas and Xion?), and after that I have to put up with him frolicking happily with a bunch of children he either doesn't know at all or tried to hurt.
I know the fanfic scene is huge about him and his possible futures, and as long as that stays there I'm totally cool with it, but as far as I'm concerned he just worked as a boss I wanted to fight against.
Not a very Organized Organization: Master Xehanort doesn't foresee and accounts for anything this time around. The vessels only interact for twirling moustache-evil discourses or for admitedly good banter and that's it. Also they're still pretty much relegated in pre-established groups so we were denied the beauty of a Xemnas-Terranort, Luxord-Young or Vanitas-Larxene interaction.
The game utterly fails in giving you a sense of menace and threat from these guys and a reason to go and fight them, also due to the fact of still not really understanding what they can/can't, should/shouldn't and will/won't do. Everytime one vessel speaks about it, it only makes it even more confusing such as when Terranort mentions they could just use their hearts and that only opens up a bunch of new questions.
The final fight segment is so empty. The scenery is great, but Master Xehanort has like 3 moves total and the fight is a huge block and punish when you can (so rarely).
Context, please: Even admitedly good ideas and concepts such as the Final World would really benefit from a more consistent and satisfying explanation instead of just abruptly happening. A lot of stuff just gets imposed onto the player with no real context or agency to it (nor consequences for the most part). Especially towards the end, instead of a fluid narration it just seems a bunch of different what if scenarios.
Kingdom Hearts gets fully unleashed and nothing happens. If something does happen, it happens off-screen and far from us.
Whatever Ansem did in KH1 was much more telling in what it was and several times more disastrous and effective.
What even is Scala, why and how are we there and why should it matter to me.
Union, but not quite: The X Girl gets mentioned but acts more as a hole-filler than an actual answer to many questions, also because it's a new mystery in itself.
Xigbar is Luxu, proving anyone can literally be anyone and no clues will ever be given to the player.
Maleficent and Pete got sent on a goose chase that explained nothing more about the box and only served to take them both away from the main adventure.
Demyx, Larxene, Marluxia and Luxord get a tease about their past, then the scene abruptly ends when the writers realized had they kept going it wouldn't have been a mysterious mystery anymore. Luxord deserved better for his Ux tie reveal.
"May your heart be your guiding key" has been retconned as something Yen Sid kept saying all along just very quietly and I'm left wondering if there's even some tiny speck of the first games Nomura likes the way it is and doesn't feel like changing.
KH was always about getting the next chapter started, I can't honestly say that giving Ux space in KH III is that much different than KH II FM talking (and showing) the BbS stuff. The only problem is that KH II still told its own story plus some. A bunch of stuff in KH III gets "non-solved" by dropping elements that don't actually answer anything and are just there to say "Yo, download Union X if you haven't already."
New lore pillars: Game really wants us to care about the Power of Waking and new Princesses of Heart who don't even do anything yet.
The Power of Waking muddles the whole narrative and it's more annoying and cumbersome than anything, Sora gets sent on a journey that clearly has nothing to do with it, so the first 20-30 hours are just a huge and easily foreseeable fail in getting it back.
Sora then gets the Power back in a way that only underlines how it could've been done from the very beginning easily.
Disney: Zeus' grand entrance in the series is as shallow as they come, doesn't interact with SDG and only plays the two scenes he has in the movie. Hades gets robbed of a great fight for the saga he's been a part of since forever.
There is an entire thread still ongoing about the flaws in Corona and Arendelle.
Monsters Inc. surprises us all in just how little any of us cares in visiting the factory portion of the movie rather than the town or the lively parts of the corporation.
Caribbeans really outdid itself with one of the worst movie retellings to date.
San Fransokyo is so rushed and empty.
Pooh is the one and only time I felt I was literally getting spit in the face as a fan.
Remember when Beast got his spell undone in the credits so you could keep using him? They spent so much time on Rapunzel's hair, and it's one of the least utilized assets.
Other Worlds: Destiny Island and Radiant Garden aren't explorable when they 10000% should've been. Twilight Town is nothing except one really beautiful area and then the same old front gate with nothing new to it.
Surprising a considerable amount of people this time, the Graveyard was better in BbS. At least there you could kinda move around at the beginning of the Keyblades part. It was cool, if nothing else. KH III was that nothing else.
Castle Oblivion gets undone in a very shallow and undeserving way, Land of Departure is empty and despite being a fully explorable model it disappears forever from the map, giving a pretty descriptive tell of just how much the people in charge cared about the important stuff.
The whole Keyblade Graveyard sequence from the beginning to the Org fights is the embodiment of chaos. I still don't know what to make of anything, every single instance it's its own thing completely detached of all else.
You never understand what Master Xehanort thinks or hopes it'll happen during many of these moments.
Hayner!Pence!Olette!: I can understand if fans like these three even more than other, more relevant characters. I personally don't, because average kids who talk about ice-cream and homeworks and going to the beach (friggin' normies) are the last thing I care about in my fantasy game full of magic and Darkness.
What I don't like is that the writing team also liked them way more than other characters.
How do you do, fellow kids?: Game focuses more in 4th wall breaking and creating ground for memes and shitposting than it does telling a story and building tension.
"Yeetus Vanitas", "Hey loooser!", "Look Ven just referenced Dream Eaters", "Lea said Ven and Roxas look the same" definitely gave some people something, frankly I think it comes off as forced and only enhances the feeling of disconnect between the team and the fans.
Self-aware products exist and sometimes are a real treat, but in these instances it just seems like the team tried to do what they THOUGHT people would like rather than what they liked about their own product and characters. An hearty laugh can only come if you feel part of the joke.
We're a far cry off from the delicious candy Endgame treats its fans.
It's not an "anti-fun" stance, mine that is. I just think some jobs are for fans and some are for official developers, and the two shouldn't amalgamate. Kinda like when that one Ux conferece wasted so much time talking about that "God Pence" thing.
The Devil refuses to wear Prada: Lea refuses to change into his clothes that were there for him to wear because he argues that wearing a coat will help him stand out when fighting 13 possibly coated individuals.
If either the fact that clothes for him were made OR him showing up with new clothes during the credits was omitted it would've been better, but with both scenes it just seems... why? Why is Lea not changing clothes even a thing?
Maybe it really was border?: Isa is on the beach playing (ugh) and so are Hayner, Pence and Olette, despite "protecting the world order" was a thing since KH1 and still is a thing in KH III.
It's just unnecessary and yet another blow struck to the dying horse of logic and internal coherency.
More Lore going offshore: I was BIG in the KH lore, but now I just ain't. It's hard for me to care about Ux stuff due to how it's being handled, Heartless and Darkness just aren't what they used to be, the Keyblade is dead as a concept, Guardian was ultimately disappointing. Yes, it makes sense for it to be Terra: but it's a bland conclusion anyone could've written and robbed an iconic figure present since the first game of being something more.
No Heart, carried on for YEARS by official sources constantly referring to him as "No one truly knows who's behind it, No Name doesn't prove anything anymore, it could be anyone" ended up being "Xehanort has two sets of armors. He just does."
The gameplay, I guess?: Classic Kingdom is 20+ minigames from decades ago thrown into my ps4 game just because Nomura really likes them. Still haven't heard a single soul claiming they're good or fun for more than 30 seconds.
Transformations and Links tried to be Forms and Summons but were too much like Styles and, well, Links for their own good.
Enemy design plummeted, new enemies almost always suck to fight and some older ones also got worsened considerably (Nobodies).
With the exception of Aero magic felt really underwhelming and current games showed you can do so much more with elements and particles effects nowadays.
Attractions have no business being that useful or existing at all, they're not well implemented and always feel random and out of place.
The Corona one is the only minigame I honestly liked for a ps4 game.
The Devil bosses are now basically just reutilized assets to avoid coming up with more bosses. And since they're not great bosses themselves, it isn't a great solution.
Game is choked full of giant bosses which aren't great most of the time.
The way the game feels. It has some merits to it, it just isn't to my liking, hence why it's a dissatisfacion I have. I just don't feel the sense of weight and space in any fight.
Welcome to Squareland! We accept only Hypedollars: One of the things that makes me the most livid is the absolute disgrace that was the marketing campaign for the game, which revealed/spoiled the majority of it. Literally, it gets to a point where you're hard-pressed to think of what WASN'T in trailers and screenshots and events and the like.
It was a greedy move, fueled by intellectual dishonesty (final bosses) and the general idea that there was going to be so much more, a la "We're not SAYING there's more, but since we're showing you THIS... *pause and silence*".
The amount of stuff we've seen about Scala, the Graveyard, the Final World is just in bad taste and it only achieved in finally opening my eyes and making me stop listening to anything Square says or shows.
I'll judge their content when it's out and only then, as it should be.
Can we just think at how much different many of ours first playthroughs would've been having we not been spoiled on so much stuff. Disregarding the leaked copies, of course.
I think that's everything or close to it.
Writing these essays in another language is though stuff. I jumped from present to past so many times.
KH III was a lot of dissatisfactions for me.
I could always excuse this or that game for their shortcomings up until now, but KH III is so bigger, was so hyped up, had so much on its plate and doesn't accomplish so much... it's hard for me to keep going.
Ultimately, if I have to be direct and to the point: the game feels soulless. I watched the credits roll after the first playthrough and felt absolutely nothing, and that's a first for a KH game in my life.
Maybe it's because I'm older, maybe we'll discover some hidden gems (I doubt that, times are different and we're so much more thorough in these things), maybe DLC will fix it all, almost surely the next game will be better, or at the very least freed of so many expetactions and costraints.
But regarding my own experience, this was the wrong misstep at the wrong time.
Imma go and write what I liked about the game in the other thread as soon as my arms will stop hurting. Been on this post for more than an hour.
EDIT: fixed most typos and errors of this mammoth of a post -.-'
Go take a rest. You deserve it after making this.