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Kingdom Hearts III: The Novel Vol. #02 Review

4 min read
"Kingdom Hearts III" as a novel really doesn't work as well as it should. 
© Disney/Square-Enix/Yen Press

Creative Staff
Author: Tomoco Kanemaki
Original Concept: Tetsuya Nomura, Masaru Oka
Illustrations: Shiro Amano
Translation/Adaptation: Luke Baker

What They Say
As Sora’s quest for the power of waking continues, his heart leads him and his pals to all kinds of worlds: the magical Kingdom of Corona, the frightening factory of Monstropolis, the familiar faces of the Hundred Acre Wood, and the frozen mountains of Arendelle. What kinds of new friends await him there?

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
No, the “Frozen” section still doesn’t make any sense.

I know that’s a pretty abrupt way to start a review, but really, this is the key question on everyone’s mind who is reading this review. The “Frozen” level from “Kingdom Hearts III” is widely considered the worst part of the entire game, lacking coherency, logic, and just a general reason for being there outside of the fact it was based on the most successful Disney film since “The Lion King.” The game developers were very open about the fact that Disney had many strings attached to what was surely their latest cash cow, but one couldn’t help but wonder if the Disney employees who were tasked with the micromanagement of the “Frozen” section of the game would even be bothered by the novelization, and if maybe – just maybe – the text would provide a better setting for “Frozen” to exist in the ‘Kingdom Hearts’ lore.

Turns out, this wasn’t to be the case.

Now on a whole, the product can be fun. This is the middle book of a three-volume novel adaptation of Square-Enix’s wildly successful “Kingdom Hearts III,” so I will humbly suggest that newcomers read the first volume (and maybe a couple of the other previous novels in the series) before jumping into this one, because the writers themselves assume you already have.  The story begins with Chapter 6 and goes all the way to Chapter 9, opening up with Riku and Mickey Mouse continuing their search for answers about Replicas while Sora, Donald, and Goofy are busy helping Rapunzel and Flynn Rider out in the King of Corona (a name that makes one a little bit more uncomfortable considered the current pandemic we still find ourselves in).  Like the game it is adapting, the story primarily focuses on our trio of Sora, Goofy, and Donald, while cutting to minor characters to flesh out the overall story more here and there.

It was an issue in the game itself that Sora’s quest seems largely detached from the main storyline until the third act, and that doesn’t change much here, leading to a narrative that sort of just jumps around throughout the book.  Aside from the aforementioned “Frozen” the book also covers the journeys from the films “Tangled,” “Monsters Inc,” and there’s even a side story involving Winnie the Pooh and his friends from the Hundred Acre Wood!  Of all the lands that are visited, the Monstropolis section is the only part where Disney characters actually get involved in the main conflict, where as the other sections they do nothing at all (if they even notice the presence of enemies from Organization XIII are there to begin with).  The book begins abruptly and ends just the same, with no recap for the previous volume nor an epilogue (or so much an ad) for the next one.  The story itself is…well, rather confusing.

This won’t be news if you have played any of the ‘Kingdom Hearts’ games, but the series is known more for the Disney crossovers and addictive battle system than it’s weird philosophical dialog.  Strip it of those elements and go straight to the text, and “Kingdom Hearts III” doesn’t exactly make for a compelling read, with much of the reading involving banter between the characters and vague descriptions of the lands they occupy.  Helping fill in missing details are occasional artwork images from Shiro Amano, who adapted the series into a (much better) manga adaptation, and those images go a long way in helping the reader with the visualizations of the world (particularly that of Monstropolis).  Honestly, though, it just makes me want a manga adaptation of the game more.

In Summary:
“Kingdom Hearts III” as a novel really doesn’t work as well as it should.  Had all three volumes been included as one book as opposed to chopping it up into a trilogy, this may have worked better since ‘Vol. 1’ was a far more engaging read.  This is the middle section before the climax hits and as such the read really drags with nothing of major consequence happening.  Combine the cost of the three books, and one could buy the game for roughly the same amount of money (or download it for free on Xbox Game Pass).  For me, the true value of this is for people who don’t play games and parents who simply want to encourage their kids to read more.  The writing lacks enough details that reading the manga adaptation would be a much more fulfilling experience (you’ll at least get some nice visuals to go along with the dialog), but if comics are a bridge too far and you want to see what ‘Kingdom Hearts’ is all about, these books are for you!

Content Grade: C
Packaging Grade: B+
Text/Translation Grade: C+

Age Rating: Ages 10+
Released By: Yen On
Release Date: July 28, 2020
MSRP: $14