After years and years (and years) of waiting, Kingdom Hearts 3 is finally looking like it is on the home stretch of its lengthy development time. While it's only the third numbered game in the series, the franchise has had over a dozen releases when including spin-offs, side games, and remakes.
Across all of those games, the KH series has taken players to over 20 different worlds inspired by various Disney properties, from classic (Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty) to modern (Pirates of the Caribbean, Lilo & Stitch) to plenty in between (Aladdin, The Little Mermaid). Developer Square-Enix knows that half the fun of a new KH game is finding out what Disney worlds are going to be part of it, and the company very gradually leaks out the new worlds leading up to a KH game's release to whet fans' appetites. Kingdom Hearts 3 is no different, and as of this writing only new worlds based on Tangled and Big Hero 6 and a returning world based on Hercules have been officially confirmed so far.
What other worlds should KH3 visit? The series has yet to venture into any Pixar films, and those seem like an obvious choice. There is also a certain massive hit Disney film about building snowmen and letting it go that a lot of people are going to be clamoring for. But every Disney movie isn't necessarily a good fit, no matter how popular or beloved it is.
Here are 8 Worlds Kingdom Hearts III Needs To Visit (And 7 To Avoid).
15 Visit: The Land of the Dead (Coco)
The next Pixar film, Coco, will most certainly be out by the time KH3 hits-- it may even be on Netflix by that point-- so there is nothing wrong with keeping its Land of the Dead setting in mind as a potential world for Sora and co. to visit. As the cult classic game Grim Fandango proved-- and a similarly-themed level in Psychonauts solidified-- the Land of the Dead is just a great setting for a video game, with its vibrant colors and eclectic, bony residents. KH already did Halloween Town from The Nightmare Before Christmas, which was a favorite world among KH fans, so using Coco's take on a similar type of world would be a great spiritual successor--no pun intended.
KH has a lot of catching up to do in terms of the Pixar library, but there's no reason why Square can't just cut right to the chase and include the latest Pixar film in addition to the classics. Not that any other Pixar movies are going to be on this list or anything...
14 Avoid: Arendelle (Frozen)
No, that header is not a typo-- we really are suggesting that Frozen, one of Disney's biggest non-Pixar movies since, well, ever, isn't a great potential setting for a KH world. Think about it: What is the actual world of Frozen? Largely just a frozen forest. KH isn't just about Sora, Donald, and Goofy going through the plots of Disney movies-- it's about them exploring the worlds of those movies. For all that Frozen does right as a film, its setting just isn't all that interesting in and of itself; just another bland video game "snow level."
That said, Frozen shouldn't just be completely overlooked in KH3. The KH series often has support characters that will show up and assist the player in battle; characters from movies that aren't represented by an entire world in a KH game. There's no denying that having Elsa show up and unleash a fury of snow and ice on a group of enemies would be an awesome thing to witness. Elsa absolutely deserves to make an appearance in KH3, but we don't need to wander around a desolate, snowy forest for hours just to be able to have her in the game.
13 Visit: The Bayou (The Princess and the Frog)
KH games rarely have the opportunity to go to real-life places, and taking inspiration from The Princess and the Frog would provide a great excuse to do so. The swamps and bayous of Jazz-era New Orleans would be a fun world to explore and it would be a different type of world than has been seen in KH up to this point. All of the voodoo magic-- and excellent antagonist-- that the movie brought to that locale would also be a great fit for KH.
Beyond all that, The Princess and the Frog deserves inclusion in KH3 for other reasons. Princess Tiana would inject some much-needed diversity into the KH world, and hopefully she'd get to stay in her human form longer than she got to in the movie.
The film is also considered a major turning point for Disney, helping to kick off a great new era of Disney animated films following its early-2000s slump. For almost that reason alone it deserves a tribute in a game that's all about being a tribute to Disney-- but as it stands, it's just one great reason of many.
12 Avoid: The Inca Empire (The Emperor's New Groove)
There is a period known as the "Disney Renaissance"; a time when the company followed up years of creative and commercial struggle with a string of beloved films that reignited the world's love of Disney animated movies. It began with 1989's The Little Mermaid, and is generally considered to have ended with 1999's Tarzan.
What was the next movie, the one that kicked off another slump for the company that lasted until Princess and the Frog turned things around again? That film was the fun but ultimately forgettable The Emperor's New Groove.
The Inca Empire is a decent setting for a video game adventure-- but not this particular take on it. Especially since a world based around The Emperor's New Groove would involve the main KH trio being accompanied by a talking llama-- that sounds like David Spade, no less-- for much of their time there. Ultimately, few people still have nostalgia for this movie-- and it isn't good enough to be rediscovered by a new generation-- so it's best just left out of Sora's path.
11 Visit: Game Central Station (Wreck-It Ralph)
KH isn't strictly Disney-- characters from Square-Enix's Final Fantasy franchise also play major parts in the various games, and there are appearances by other Square characters as well. While the Square side has always taken a backseat to all the Disney fan service, KH could visit Wreck-It Ralph's Game Central Station and have an excuse to explore a bit more of the underutilized Square-Enix part of the KH equation.
Sure, Square probably isn't going to be able to get the likes of Mario, Pac-Man, Q-Bert, or Sonic the Hedgehog to show up in KH. But a KH Game Central Station world could provide an opportunity to dig into Square's deep gaming history, especially given the acquisition of other game companies over the years.
Rather than just going into games like Sugar Rush and Hero's Duty, Sora can accompany Ralph to sub-worlds based on Dragon Quest and Chrono Trigger, and have cameos from Lara Croft and the dinosaurs from Bubble Bobble. Square could have a lot of fun playing with their legacy, all within the confines of a Disney property-- which is what KH is all about.
10 Avoid: The Great Barrier Reef (Finding Nemo)
To put it bluntly, water levels in most video games suck. It tends to be an excuse for developers to artificially increase difficulty by forcing you to move in slow motion and have less attack power. While the Atlantica areas in previous KH games-- inspired by The Little Mermaid-- weren't the worst offenders in the history of awkward-playing water levels, they certainly aren't the best. But The Little Mermaid is one of Disney's most beloved movies, and it had to have a presence in the world of KH.
After waiting so long for the true follow-up to KH2, we should have to look forward to nothing but completely new experiences. Having Sora and his buddies turn into forms of sea creatures and swim around a big blue ocean wouldn't be a completely new experience, even if it was based around Finding Nemo. There is just very little "new" that can be brought to underwater RPG exploration to justify wasting another world on that conceit.
Maybe whatever form of Gummi Ship exists in KH3 can make one of its trips underwater, and we can say hi to Nemo, Dory, and Marlin. Beyond that, KH3 should stay landlocked.
9 Visit: New York City (Gargoyles)
Okay, so New York City is one of the most overused locales in video game history. It certainly doesn't seem to lend itself to the magical, fantastical world of KH. The difference here is that this would be the version of NYC featured in the criminally underrated/forgotten Disney animated series Gargoyles, and that makes it worth KH going to such an otherwise unimaginative locale.
It's dangerous going down the rabbit hole of including TV shows as potential KH worlds, as there is a risk that KH3 will turn into The Disney Afternoon: The Game and be full of worlds based on DuckTales, TaleSpin, Darkwing Duck, Goof Trip, etc. But Gargoyles has been unfairly brushed off by Disney and deserves to not only be remembered, but revived. The dark show and its stellar cast of characters would be right at home in the world of KH-- and gothic Gargoyle forms for Sora, Donald, and Goofy would be just plain awesome.
Still not convinced of the NYC part of the equation? The game could always opt to go to medieval Scotland instead, where the gargoyles were originally from.
8 Avoid: Zootopia
Not unlike Frozen, Zootopia is a great movie that just doesn't have an especially unique or interesting setting on its own. Sure, in the context of the film, Zootopia is a fascinating place where animals that previously hadn't gotten along and were unable to co-habitate can live side by side in a sprawling urban metropolis. Beyond that, it's kind of just another generic sprawling urban metropolis that happens to be home to anthropomorphic animals rather than people. In other words; the setting for about 500 other video games.
Also as with Frozen, Zootopia should still be represented in some way in KH3. Judy Hopps and Nick the fox aren't exactly convincing as powerful summon partners in battle, though. Instead, perhaps Zootopia can be represented on a smaller scale, not unlike how Hercules is traditionally represented in KH as just a battle arena and not a fully fleshed-out world. Either that, or the resourceful Nick Wilde can team with his hilarious DMV buddy "Flash" the sloth and be your Gummi Ship crew instead of Chip and Dale.
There are a lot of ways to go with it, but having a full-on Zootopia world doesn't seem like the best way.
7 Visit: Sky High
While KH2 opened the door to live-action movies being among the potential sources for worlds, having areas inspired by Pirates of the Caribbean and Tron, it's still a source that should be used sparingly. Nobody wants to see a KH world based on The Shaggy Dog, but one live-action movie that would make for a cool KH world is the 2005 Kurt Russell-starring movie Sky High.
As the movie is about a high school for superheroes, a KH world based on Sky High could make for a neat introductory/tutorial world, where it would actually make sense why characters were telling you how to fight, cast magic, and so on. And since Disney announced last fall that a sequel is in development, the Sky High brand is soon to be revived anyway; making this both a nostalgic and strategic world choice.
Kurt Russell seems like he's up for anything interesting, and he has a long history with Disney, so who knows-- maybe he'd be open to give over his likeness rights and even voice his character in the game.
6 Avoid: Riley's Mind (Inside Out)
As dark as KH often tries to be, the fact of the matter is it's a rather silly and often nonsensical universe overall. After all, a game can only be so serious when you have Goofy and Donald Duck fighting at your side. Inside Out seems just a bit too complex to have KH give it the proper treatment. For proof, just look at all the completely whacked out places the KH story has gone in dealing with the turmoil in Sora's head.
Perhaps more importantly, Inside Out isn't really a world-- it's supposed to be a look inside how our emotions work within our minds. It seems like it would be a bit of a stretch to have the KH3 storyline take players inside the brain of one of the characters, and then have it magically play out exactly the way things played out inside young Riley's head. Sora, for instance, shouldn't have the same emotions by the time of KH3 as an 11-year old girl.
If we aren't going to go into Riley's mind exactly as we know it from the movie, with the same emotions playing the same parts, then what would be the point anyway?
5 Visit: Fantasia
The KH series has definitely touched upon Fantasia before, with the menacing Chernabog boss that appears near the end of the first game. But there are just too many striking and imaginative setpieces and characters across the two beautiful Fantasia films to limit them to just "popping up" here and there. KH3 needs to have a full-on Fantasia-based world.
If Square really wanted to get ambitious, they could even make the Fantasia world change based on musical cues. As the movies are all about animation accompanying iconic classical music compositions, Sora, Donald, and Goofy could be dropped into the world and have one setpiece last for as long as a certain musical piece lasts, then suddenly change as a new one starts.
Disney has long made a name for itself on its musicals, so it seems fitting to have a KH world that is also built somewhat like a musical. Rather than have Genie arbitrarily sing "Friend Like Me" while you're fighting bad guys, the type of musical accompaniment and related gameplay manifestations that Fantasia's template could provide would make for a much more logical use of music that directly affects the game.
4 Avoid: Wonderland - live-action version
As Disney continues to do live-action remakes of all of its animated movies, it's easy to see there being the temptation to have the new versions provide the inspiration for KH worlds. It would definitely give Square an excuse to revisit worlds it has already done to death under the guise of, "Well, but this time it's the live-action remake it's based on, so it's not the same thing!" Except it is, and it's a lame excuse to revive already-used worlds when so many Disney franchises still haven't had any appearance in KH.
Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland is being singled out for a couple of reasons. First, Disney still seems oddly supportive of Johnny Depp, so it's easy to assume they might want to give another movie of his a push in video game form. Well, there was already a Pirates of the Carribbean level in KH, so we can considered that box checked and done with. Second, all due respect to Tim Burton, but with Nightmare Before Christmas already having had a KH presence, it would just be nice to see truly different types of worlds in KH3-- and a Tim Burton encore is counter-intuitive to that aim.
3 Visit: Montressor (Treasure Planet)
While Treasure Planet was a rare animated flop for Disney, that doesn't make it a bad movie, or one the company should forget about. Taking the tired ships-and-pirates conceit and moving it airborne has been done before, even in video games-- Sega's Skies of Arcadia says hi-- but it's still a fairly novel concept that is very cool for both a movie and a video game.
It would be a great way to have KH go that route again without having to return to the Carribbean, especially given the state of that film franchise now versus when KH2 came out in 2005.
Prior to the disappointing box office returns, Disney had high hopes for Treasure Planet, foreseeing a sequel and possible TV series. Sadly, neither happened-- there were a few ho-hum video game adaptations and that's about it. It's a property that didn't deserve to be abandoned so quickly just because audiences didn't flock to it at the time. KH3 could be the perfect opportunity to bring more people's attention to it.
2 Avoid: Radiator Springs (Cars)
Cars has always occupied an interesting space in the Pixar legacy-- many people have said that they are some of Pixar's worst movies, and yet, the series has its fans and has been popular enough to be made into a theatrical trilogy. In addition, Cars merchandise continues to be insanely profitable for the company- although that probably has a lot to do with the fact that kids just love to play with toy cars more than they do toy cowboys or toy rat chefs.
No matter where you fall on the spectrum of Cars affection (or lack thereof), there is one indisputable reason why KH shouldn't use it as a full-fledged world: Sora, Donald, and Goofy would look pretty dumb being turned into car form. If they didn't turn into cars, there'd be no point in going to Radiator Springs to begin with... but they'd look ridiculous if they did. So it's a catch-22 that only has one solution: just don't have them go there at all.
Lightning McQueen and/or Mater can just be battle allies or something if Disney absolutely insists on their merchandising cash cow having a presence in KH3.
1 Visit: Andy's Room, Pizza Planet, Sunnyside Day Care, etc (Toy Story)
This one is a given: the Toy Story franchise is one of the most successful and beloved film series of all time-- Disney, Pixar, and just in general. And in the game that (hopefully) is going to see KH taking its first foray into the world of Pixar, it's a foregone conclusion that the studio's first and soon to be most sequel-ed franchise be included in that.
From a gameplay perspective, having Sora and his animal allies shrink down to toy size and have to navigate giant-sized worlds would be very interesting. Square can also play with how the native KH bad guys present themselves in the world as well, having them be both toy-sized and also "regular-sized"-- meaning gigantic to Sora and friends. Or, maybe Sora can enter the world the same size as the humans of Toy Story's universe, and have the toys from the films be properly proportioned and work as Sora's Pikmin-esque helpers or some other such unique gameplay mechanic that plays with the size difference.
There are countless ways Square can make a Toy Story-inspired world work in KH3-- the only wrong move would be to leave it out.
Which worlds do you most want to see in Kingdom Hearts 3? Let us know in the comments!
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