GameStop "Kingdom Hearts III" release

Gamers begin to fill up GameStop at the Victoria Corners location for the release of "Kingdom Hearts III."

I’ve always enjoyed big game releases, but perhaps the most anticipated – for me – was “Kingdom Hearts III,” which was released in January.

About 50 people crammed into the GameStop at the Victoria Corners shopping area waiting for the official release, myself included.

I even purposely worked in advance on the paper so my partner and I could head out for the big release. Now I know big-named releases elsewhere probably see a lot more fanfare, but to see even 50 people eagerly waiting for a video game we all love got my heart all aflutter. I just love when we can all have a common interest.

At 9 p.m., a bell was rung, basically signaling that it was finally time. There was a small eruption of “woos” and some claps, and then one by one we picked up our game.

Now, I had to go back to work to finish my shift, but finally, about three hours later, I got to sit down and start my latest adventure with Sora, Donald and Goofy. If you’re not a huge fan of the series, then maybe this column won’t tug at your heartstrings, and that’s OK. We each have a game series that makes us happy and nostalgic.

For me, the “Kingdom Hearts” franchise is that series. As the game loaded, it was hard to believe that almost 17 years had passed since the first “Kingdom Hearts” was released – nearly 14 since “Kingdom Hearts II.” Granted, we didn’t go all those years without other installments. Plenty of other games were released related to the series’ story, but none of those were direct sequels.

Those of you who know me, know I’m an emotional person. I definitely wear my heart on my sleeve. Well, as soon as the start-up screen appeared, my eyes started welling up with tears. My partner even said, “Really?”

In all the main installments, “Dearly Beloved” has beautifully brought the player into the game.

This intro did not disappoint, I feel like the creators knew exactly how to make the fans feel emotional. It’s more than just a game for many of us. Square Enix created an entire “Kingdom Hearts” universe with intricate storytelling and well-rounded characters. When half your life is spent knowing these characters, it’s hard to know the end of our journey is about to begin. But I digress.

The game, itself, is absolutely stunning. Developers wasted no time throwing us into the deep end. You instantly start with many abilities, so battles from the get-go are pretty intense. You start off in the Olympus Coliseum area, and it truly introduces you into the gameplay in a seamless way. I didn’t have a hard time latching onto the mechanics, but that might be because I just completed the previous games for a second time this past year in preparation for “Kingdom Hearts III.”

The game is stunning, with explosions of color during every battle. I even nerded out a couple of times and made strange, incoherent noises out of sheer excitement.

I was a bit worried I’d play the game and it wouldn’t feel the same, but it’s exactly what we needed. This runs like a true “Kingdom Hearts” game, and it gives me all the old feelings I felt when I played the first two games for the first time.

I think anyone who has fallen in love with the franchise has already picked it up or already knows they’ll be picking it up soon, but if you haven’t visited this series, I really suggest you do. It’s never too late to join the adventure – truly it isn’t.

Unfortunately for me, I’ve only played about two hours since getting it.

I truly can’t wait to dive in further, and I hope you will, too.

May your heart be your guiding key.

J.R. Ortega is the copy desk chief for the Victoria Advocate. He also writes about gaming news for his Gamer’s Thumb column. Follow him on Twitter.

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Copy Desk Chief

J.R. Ortega is the copy desk chief for the Victoria Advocate. He also writes about gaming news. Follow him on Twitter, @gmrs_thmb.

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