I dunno, I can still die in Proud mode in KH II if I'm not careful. I... kept messing around in KH III Proud and never even came close to dying. For me there's no doubt that KH III is galaxies easier than even KH II.
The closest I can think to danger in my KH III run were the Gigas, and I could just warp to the other side of the universe to avoid damage whenever I wanted.
Doing that on the Solar Sailer, or Hades' escape? Yeah, turns out I can't.
And of course, having a ton of big AoE nukes, sometimes free and without any cost, helps a whole lot.
So I want you to tell me what Sora's goal is in KH2. What is the purpose of his adventure (from only information provided at the start of KH2 when the adventure begins)? Compare that to KH3 and it's clear which one at least has a clearer purpose for the adventure and hence a clearer story. I've played KH2 over 10 times each (the original and FM) and I still am not quite sure what the purpose of Sora's adventure (at least at the start) was. It seemed to be looking for Riku/Mickey and fighting heartless in random Disney worlds (and not bothering to close the keyholes to, you know, stop the heartless).
The way I see it, KH2's story was structured with the beginning as "look for Riku/Mickey while helping kill heartless in Disney worlds (but not close keyholes to stop heartless from coming back) and look out for the Organization because...*shrug*", then there's tons of Disney filler (and empty corridors) that had nothing to do with the main plot, then the middle of the story where the plot reactivates when we find Mickey and he tells us about Xemnas then we fight a giant war in Hollow Bastion and finally the Organization's plot is revealed halfway through the game (notifying Sora that they want him to use the keyblade to kill more heartless), after that there's more killing of heartless with no concern whatsoever in more filler Disney worlds, until finally we clear them all out and get access to Twilight Town where the rest of the main plot is explained (or basically explaining what your whole adventure was about after the fact).
Clearest purpose doesn't always entail better execution or more logical way to go about it.
In KH II, Sora learns of some new enemies that, to Yen Sid's own admission, have an obscure goal no one is aware of. What they do know, is that they were not friendly, which is something Sora himself learns firsthand when they try to break down the castle gates at Hollow Bastion, leaving the town defenseless. And there was proof that Pete was going to many worlds releasing Heartless.
So yes, it was a mystery and that was kinda the whole point, but there was reason to go to other worlds to both protect people and look for clues. That was something Mickey himself was doing, so there was chance to meet him too. And he definitely knew where Riku was.
I admit I also wanted the keyholes to return, but Sora not closing them feels more like a nitpick than an actual flaw to me. Because no one this time around was trying to mess with the worlds hearts or the Princesses, so there was no reason to. Like Yen Sid says, Heartless would've still been around anyway, so it would've actually just been a huge waste: no one was looking for the keyholes, so Sora himself should've done that on his own, wasting time, and in the end Heartless would've still appeared due to darkness in people's heart. It would've actually been counter-producing.
And in the second half, the Organization revealed they also command Heartless so they're just replacing Maleficent and Pete in making the trio go to the worlds to protect them.
Do I also think they wasted a huge opportunity to deepen the inner conflict of defeating Heartless even if it helps the bad guys? Yes, but even if it's a desplicably short moment, Goofy's "nah dawg (Goofy can say the word, it's okay), you need to keep fighting them or innocents will suffer" makes sense and it's enough for me.
All of this is not perfect nor perfectly written, but it's clearly established in the beginning by many dedicated cutscenes. KH III solves all of this with "hurr durr go take powr of woking back".
KH3's story is structured from the get-go with the main goal of defeating Master Xehanort to prevent him from summoning Kingdom Hearts. Sora, Riku and Kairi have their own responsibilities to handle. Sora has to regain the power of waking during his travels, Riku has to save Aqua, and Kairi has to train to fight in the final battle. The middle of the story reveals that certain members of the Organization and Ansem The Wise are seeking atonement and want to save Roxas/Xion/Namine, while also confirming that the Organization is now ready with their 13 darknesses due to research done in various Disney worlds. The end of the game is the climactic final battle at the Keyblade Graveyard that was being built up since KH3D.
The power of waking had nothing to do with going to Disney Worlds. I know what Nomura and the Ultimania said, but it actually goes against logic and previously established rules and I have no problem calling them out for trying to justify the injustifiable, because they maybe realized just how nonsensical and weak the whole premise was.
The power of waking is a power gained from closing the seven sleeping Keyholes in the realm of dreams. That's the power, and that's how it was obtained in the first place. Sora needs to focus on getting the power of waking and his own powers back, and he goes to Olympus for the latters. Yen Sid says that PERHAPS Hercules can offer some clues, but they all acknowledge it was essentially a big waste of time. Every Disney world offers the same sunday mornng cartoon lesson at the end: listen to your heart, value your friends, be a good person. If this all was enough to get the power of waking, then Sora should have it since KH1.
That's why during the in-between cutscenes, when Donald or Goofy or someone else asks if Sora has gotten the power of waking back, he can only answer "no" and then no one has any reply to that. Because what they're doing is useless and serves no purpose at all. No one could go "Well, you should've piloted that Gigas better" or "Maybe if we slide in Arendelle some more you'll get it" and not even "If only we fought more Heartless or that Organization dude" because it's all irrelevant to the power of waking. So it's all a big "Hey you got it?" "No" "K then nevermind".
Also Riku does nothing for the majority of the game. He gets the new Keyblade, he goes to Radiant Garden, learns a few things, then it's all blank. And this time they can't even make it like "oh he had some off-screen adventures/the investigation on his part took more time and happens in an unspecified moment" because due to the semi-constant back and forth between him and Sora we know excatly when he does some things. Sora goes through many worlds in the time it took Riku and Mickey to go from the plaza to the main laboratory.
Then he also fails his main assignment, btw. Which, disappointment aside, also means his whole build-up for the whole game was essentially a waste of time. Whatever discovery he made regarding Terra or Vexen could've easily be conveyed to Sora and the player through one of those Ienzo exposition dialogues KH III seems to like so much.
- The princesses of heart in Kingdom of Corona and Arendelle WERE relevant. We are told that Master Xehanort was preparing for every eventuality. If the 7 lights were not able to be assembled, Xehanort would need the princesses of heart to fill the void. So if Sora and company didn't go to the Keyblade Graveyard and fight, the 7 princesses of heart would be targeted.
That's right. IF they didn't go to the GRAVEYARD, the Princesses would've been targeted. Problem is, that was never going to be an option and we knew this since the ending of DDD. Again, going to the Disney worlds accomplished nothing in this regard.
That's where I feel Nomura backed himself in a corner... he made it so that the villains had nothing to gain by hurting either Sora or the Princesses. Hurt Sora, you risk having fewer Guardians than desired. Hurt the Princesses, you can kiss your plan B goodbye. And that's why the Norts basically do nothing and you don't fight them, which makes them pretty useless and not threatening at all. It'll take more than just Marluxia being physically in Corona and talking about Rapunzel for me to feel like he's actually integrated in the story and being an element of disturbance.
Even the Heartless they conjure, they seem to go after Sora rather than the Princesses, which makes sense but doesn't ultimately fix the issue of there being no danger whatsoever for the Princesses, hence them not being relevant at all.
Of course, if Xehanort had decided to kidnap the Princesses from the get-go, it would be another story, but he seems to be so bent on having the Guardians, so we're back to square one.
And yes, there's the whole thing where Ansem says "If Sora stray from the path we destroy him", but that's just as bad as KH II's "we need the hero of the Keyblade but you can also kill him if you feel like it". Come on Ansem, you KNOW you're not going to touch Sora before the final battle.
That's Nomura realizing his secret villain plans erase all stakes and trying to make up for it.
- Sora gained the Power of Waking because of what he witnessed in the Disney worlds (IE "true love"). It stemmed all the way back to his question to Hercules about saving Meg, then he said that this was something he had to figure out on his own.
No. The power of Waking was never lost and was in Sora all along, as Ventus said. That seals it, we can think of how many accessory experiences helped him in realizing it, but as soon as Ven says that then the Disney worlds visits become pointless. Sora doesn't even think of any world visit when he wakes Ventus up. Does someone here really believes Sora would've not been able to perform the power of Waking with Aqua in danger even without going to the Disney worlds? Because I don't.
The execution of KH3's story was not the best, and at times really messy. But to say that KH2's story is better, I just cannot get behind that at all. One of the things that KH3 had going for it that KH2 did not is that you didn't feel disconnected from the main plot for huge chunks of time, then thrown back in. You were always reminded of the Organization in each world you visited in KH3 and the Disney characters actually interact with them, making it feel like an organic overarching story and less like there was some weird invisible "story barrier" between the Disney movie plot and the main plot outside of the Disney worlds.
KH II is far from perfect, and the way it handles the filler sides of the story never sat well with me. But there's no doubt in my mind KH III does a much worse job, especially since unlike KH II it had much higher stakes and a much higher bar or "plot relevance" to clear in the first place, since we indeed did already know the endgame goal and how it all came to be.
As I said, just showing the customary Nort in each world is hardly going to impress me, it's the same shtick BbS and DDD did with the "links" that should've given you the impression everything was connected.
"Oh man, they just finished talking about how Quasimodo's heart was his prison and now Young appeared to Sora saying the exact same thing! Everything's connected, duuuuude!"
There's little doubt KH III talks a lot about the main plot more than KH II does. The question is, does it really benefict the game? Is it a mark of "being better at story"?
You certainly seem to think so, and that's fine.
I don't. I feel like if you don't have anything REALLY important or life-changing to add to the main story, then I'm much better off with you not talking about it until you do. KH III is a constant repetition of the same three main objectives, which not only is in stark contrast with the fact that you're doing actually nothing to achieve them, it becomes kinda frustrating. At that point I'd rather take a world disjointed from the main plot and indulge in the immersion that not everything needs to be connected in the first place.
You made the point that Sora is led to KH III worlds by his heart, and I can't argue there. It's true.
Doesn't mean I think it was better or a good decision. I blame Nomura for screaming "RECONNECT!" in our faces for almost a decade, making many of us believe that as soon as [main name] is dropped in a dialogue then we're getting somewhere when we're not.
Again, I guess I sort of understand if one feels like KH II was still worse by not doing any of it in the first place.
It's like an honor student showing up for an exam and then ending up taking either the bare minimum to pass or a failing grade. You guys are saying "well at least they tried" and I'm thinking that maybe it would've been better if they never showed up at all given the end result.
And it's an honor student and not a rando in my example because again, KH III had a lot on its plate that should've handled better. It was definitely the time to overperform and not doing the essential (sometimes not even that).
I wouldn't be so harsh on another KH game because they weren't this big saga finale.