• Kingdom Hearts - an opinionated retrospective


    Kingdom Hearts is a game that needs no introduction. It seems even the most jaded of fans still hold very much respect for this little gem that has, against all odds, remained as one of the PS2ís most beloved classics. This was a time when SE was still doing tons of risky, experimental stuff rather than trying to capitalize on the thing that was big at the time. I think it should come as no surprise that I really miss those times.

    Though Kingdom Hearts may be the last of its kind - that being a quirky, experimental title - itís still a shining example of a simple joy of creating new and exciting things that used to be SEís M.O. Iíd argue itís also one of the last bastions of such creative joy within the company, but I guess Iíll be elaborating more on this in later pieces.


    But what is it that makes KH so risky and experimental? Why, itís the unique combination of Disney and Final Fantasy, of course. As if that needs to be stated. Much like the mythical encounter Sakaguchi had with a Disney exec, itís just one of those things that we treat as a given nowadays, but were just a wild concept back in the day. The result? A game that exceeded all expectations and exploded into the gargantuan franchise it is today.

    Though the game was originally meant to star Mickey Mouse, Disney was a bit reluctant to let SE use their characters just right of the bat. And so we got Sora, aided by Donald and Goofy, among various other classic Disney characters, on a very straightforward quest to save his friends and prevent the worlds from falling into Darkness. You know, the regular stuff.


    The one thing that really makes this game stand out, if you ask me, is the fact that the Disney worlds, for the most part, have stories that are actually tied to the main plot. The Disney villains, not just Maleficent, are actually very active agents until they get hijacked by Xehanort (as you do; more on that later). I love how Monstro and Captain Hookís Castle just straight up float between the worlds and move the plot forward. It also helps, that the further they are along the gameís storyline, the more involved they are, culminating in the sublime segment of the game that is Hollow Bastion which, though it may not be a Disney world on its own, has enough of Beast and Belleís presence in the main plot to count.

    Speaking of the events of Hollow Bastion, though Kingdom Hearts Iís story may be a very simple start, with a fairy tale quality to it (compared to later titles, which are far more shounen manga-y in their execution), the characters are quite deftly handled from the very beginning. Sora may remain pure-hearted throughout, but I love how he gradually shifts from just wanting to save his friends to basically considering everyone his friend and selflessly striving to protect the worlds from devastation. Rikuís journey is far more complex and though I feel he really grows into the most fascinating character in the series in later installments, you can definitely appreciate the dark personality traits planted in him in this game just for the sheer, teen drama that it causes between him and Sora. Both of their character arcs culminate in the Hollow Bastion segment, again solidifying it as the best portion of the game, no contest.


    Finally, the last large bit I want to touch on in this part of the retrospective is the atmosphere. Sadly, this is the one element the series has lost after the first game. Kingdom Hearts may be pure Disney joy and one of the lightest storylines in the series, but the atmosphere can be downright dreary at times. From the spooky Halloween Town with all its nooks and crannies, to the harrowing Night of Fate at the beginning segment at Destiny Islands, the quiet loneliness of Traverse Town and, of course, the oppressive Hollow Bastion and eerie End of the World, the various worlds of Kingdom Hearts keep you hooked in not just through their involvement in the main plot, but sheer aesthetic value and amazing ambiance. This, of course, is achieved in part thanks to the mesmerizing soundtrack by Yoko Shimomura who has since scored every single game, providing consistently outstanding music. Even if youíve become disillusioned with the series, you can never deny that the music has never stopped being excellent.



    Kingdom Hearts is a game that I hold in very high regard, even if there are many more entries in the series that I enjoyed more. Iíve spent a lot of time with it, beating all of the optional bosses - and let me tell you, when youíre 13, itís hard. The game may not really be that challenging by todayís standards, but itís definitely a slower ARPG that can be downright brutal if you donít swing your Keyblade methodically. As button mashy as these games get, over here you really needed to take things slow if you wanted to make it out alive.

    What else can I add? Iím glad that at least this game still gets the credit it deserves after all these years and has provided the people who played it with enough nostalgia to last them until today, so that theyíre hyped for KHIII even if they hadnít played every game in the series up to this point. Big mistake, if you ask me

    Alright, so letís recap this baby!

    Important story bits
    • A hooded figure shows up at Destiny Islands, talking about how ďthis world has been connected, tied to the DarknessĒ
    • Riku gives in to the Darkness, losing his right to use the Kingdom Key, resulting in it choosing Sora instead
    • Sora finds Kairi in a near-unconscious state. She disappears as he gets closer
    • Destiny Islands, along with other worlds, gets sucked into the Realm of Darkness
    • Riku is found by Maleficent as Goofy and Donald join the Keybearer (Sora) on his quest; she fuels his envy of Sora and turns him into her little henchman. He gets the Souleater blade for some reason? Itís a sword that has a blue eye in it. This is actually way more important than it sounds.
    • Sora locks many Keyholes, protecting the worlds from the abundance of Heartless
    • Riku finds Kairiís body in a catatonic state
    • Hollow Bastion happens! Hoo boy.. Riku manages to get the Keyblade back from Sora because heís its rightful owner, but then Soraís strength of heart actually gets it back to him, leading Riku to become possessed by Xehanortís Heartless (AKA Ansem)
    • Sora learns Kairi is a Princess of Heart, therefore has no Darkness in her Heart, so once their world was lost to Darkness, her Heart landed inside Sora. He uses the Keyblade of Hearts to release it. He loses his Heart and becomes a Heartless but itís okay because Kairi hugs him and he get better. For now.
    • Sora goes to the End of the World, defeats Ansem, and restores the worlds to light. However, Riku and Mickey are still trapped in the Realm of Darkness, so he sets out to find them instead of going back to his island with Kairi. Sora, Donald, and Goofy travel the Realms Between.


    Favorite story segment
    Itíd be a cop-out to say ďall of Hollow BastionĒ, though thatís what it would be for me, if Iím being honest. If I had to pick one moment, though, Iíd have to pick Soraís fight with a Xehanort-possessed Riku. Everything leading up to that fight is epic, their showdown is incredibly important to both of their arcs, and the fight itself is intense and gave me quite a bit of trouble when I was a kid. 10/10 would get my ass kicked by this dude again.


    Gameplay highlights
    • Thereís a nice weight to every Keyblade swing
    • The world design is really cool, with tons of nooks and crannies to explore. I donít think any other game in the series has this much platforming.


    What are your thoughts on Kingdom Hearts? Favorite moments, worlds? What do you like about this game? Feel free to take part in the discussion!


    ~Play order~
    KINGDOM HEARTS=>????=>????=>????=>????=>????=>????=>????=>????=>????


    This article was originally published in forum thread: Kingdom Hearts - an opinionated retrospective started by Fynn View original post
    Comments 90 Comments
    1. Fynn's Avatar
      Fynn -

      Kingdom Hearts is a game that needs no introduction. It seems even the most jaded of fans still hold very much respect for this little gem that has, against all odds, remained as one of the PS2’s most beloved classics. This was a time when SE was still doing tons of risky, experimental stuff rather than trying to capitalize on the thing that was big at the time. I think it should come as no surprise that I really miss those times.

      Though Kingdom Hearts may be the last of its kind - that being a quirky, experimental title - it’s still a shining example of a simple joy of creating new and exciting things that used to be SE’s M.O. I’d argue it’s also one of the last bastions of such creative joy within the company, but I guess I’ll be elaborating more on this in later pieces.


      But what is it that makes KH so risky and experimental? Why, it’s the unique combination of Disney and Final Fantasy, of course. As if that needs to be stated. Much like the mythical encounter Sakaguchi had with a Disney exec, it’s just one of those things that we treat as a given nowadays, but were just a wild concept back in the day. The result? A game that exceeded all expectations and exploded into the gargantuan franchise it is today.

      Though the game was originally meant to star Mickey Mouse, Disney was a bit reluctant to let SE use their characters just right of the bat. And so we got Sora, aided by Donald and Goofy, among various other classic Disney characters, on a very straightforward quest to save his friends and prevent the worlds from falling into Darkness. You know, the regular stuff.


      The one thing that really makes this game stand out, if you ask me, is the fact that the Disney worlds, for the most part, have stories that are actually tied to the main plot. The Disney villains, not just Maleficent, are actually very active agents until they get hijacked by Xehanort (as you do; more on that later). I love how Monstro and Captain Hook’s Castle just straight up float between the worlds and move the plot forward. It also helps, that the further they are along the game’s storyline, the more involved they are, culminating in the sublime segment of the game that is Hollow Bastion which, though it may not be a Disney world on its own, has enough of Beast and Belle’s presence in the main plot to count.

      Speaking of the events of Hollow Bastion, though Kingdom Hearts I’s story may be a very simple start, with a fairy tale quality to it (compared to later titles, which are far more shounen manga-y in their execution), the characters are quite deftly handled from the very beginning. Sora may remain pure-hearted throughout, but I love how he gradually shifts from just wanting to save his friends to basically considering everyone his friend and selflessly striving to protect the worlds from devastation. Riku’s journey is far more complex and though I feel he really grows into the most fascinating character in the series in later installments, you can definitely appreciate the dark personality traits planted in him in this game just for the sheer, teen drama that it causes between him and Sora. Both of their character arcs culminate in the Hollow Bastion segment, again solidifying it as the best portion of the game, no contest.


      Finally, the last large bit I want to touch on in this part of the retrospective is the atmosphere. Sadly, this is the one element the series has lost after the first game. Kingdom Hearts may be pure Disney joy and one of the lightest storylines in the series, but the atmosphere can be downright dreary at times. From the spooky Halloween Town with all its nooks and crannies, to the harrowing Night of Fate at the beginning segment at Destiny Islands, the quiet loneliness of Traverse Town and, of course, the oppressive Hollow Bastion and eerie End of the World, the various worlds of Kingdom Hearts keep you hooked in not just through their involvement in the main plot, but sheer aesthetic value and amazing ambiance. This, of course, is achieved in part thanks to the mesmerizing soundtrack by Yoko Shimomura who has since scored every single game, providing consistently outstanding music. Even if you’ve become disillusioned with the series, you can never deny that the music has never stopped being excellent.



      Kingdom Hearts is a game that I hold in very high regard, even if there are many more entries in the series that I enjoyed more. I’ve spent a lot of time with it, beating all of the optional bosses - and let me tell you, when you’re 13, it’s hard. The game may not really be that challenging by today’s standards, but it’s definitely a slower ARPG that can be downright brutal if you don’t swing your Keyblade methodically. As button mashy as these games get, over here you really needed to take things slow if you wanted to make it out alive.

      What else can I add? I’m glad that at least this game still gets the credit it deserves after all these years and has provided the people who played it with enough nostalgia to last them until today, so that they’re hyped for KHIII even if they hadn’t played every game in the series up to this point. Big mistake, if you ask me

      Alright, so let’s recap this baby!

      Important story bits
      • A hooded figure shows up at Destiny Islands, talking about how “this world has been connected, tied to the Darkness”
      • Riku gives in to the Darkness, losing his right to use the Kingdom Key, resulting in it choosing Sora instead
      • Sora finds Kairi in a near-unconscious state. She disappears as he gets closer
      • Destiny Islands, along with other worlds, gets sucked into the Realm of Darkness
      • Riku is found by Maleficent as Goofy and Donald join the Keybearer (Sora) on his quest; she fuels his envy of Sora and turns him into her little henchman. He gets the Souleater blade for some reason? It’s a sword that has a blue eye in it. This is actually way more important than it sounds.
      • Sora locks many Keyholes, protecting the worlds from the abundance of Heartless
      • Riku finds Kairi’s body in a catatonic state
      • Hollow Bastion happens! Hoo boy.. Riku manages to get the Keyblade back from Sora because he’s its rightful owner, but then Sora’s strength of heart actually gets it back to him, leading Riku to become possessed by Xehanort’s Heartless (AKA Ansem)
      • Sora learns Kairi is a Princess of Heart, therefore has no Darkness in her Heart, so once their world was lost to Darkness, her Heart landed inside Sora. He uses the Keyblade of Hearts to release it. He loses his Heart and becomes a Heartless but it’s okay because Kairi hugs him and he get better. For now.
      • Sora goes to the End of the World, defeats Ansem, and restores the worlds to light. However, Riku and Mickey are still trapped in the Realm of Darkness, so he sets out to find them instead of going back to his island with Kairi. Sora, Donald, and Goofy travel the Realms Between.


      Favorite story segment
      It’d be a cop-out to say “all of Hollow Bastion”, though that’s what it would be for me, if I’m being honest. If I had to pick one moment, though, I’d have to pick Sora’s fight with a Xehanort-possessed Riku. Everything leading up to that fight is epic, their showdown is incredibly important to both of their arcs, and the fight itself is intense and gave me quite a bit of trouble when I was a kid. 10/10 would get my ass kicked by this dude again.


      Gameplay highlights
      • There’s a nice weight to every Keyblade swing
      • The world design is really cool, with tons of nooks and crannies to explore. I don’t think any other game in the series has this much platforming.


      What are your thoughts on Kingdom Hearts? Favorite moments, worlds? What do you like about this game? Feel free to take part in the discussion!


      ~Play order~
      KINGDOM HEARTS=>????=>????=>????=>????=>????=>????=>????=>????=>????


    1. WarZidane's Avatar
      WarZidane -
      While I appreciate that KH1 started the whole thing, it's actually pretty far down my list of favorite entries. Of all the non-mobile games, the only ones I consider worse are Days (actual game, not the cutscene compilation) and Recoded.

      You can tell it was still trying to find its footing, especially in the gameplay, which is far less refined than later entries and often very clunky. The world design was okay at times, but then you had Deep Jungle being terrible and things like Hollow Bastion's elevator maze and flying enemies that would hover in place where you can't hit them without falling down to earlier areas.

      Boss fights were a bit of a mixed bag for me in this one. Cerberus is annoying, Jafar is a nice idea on paper but terrible in its execution and the optional phantom boss is an exercise in tedium (made worse by the fact it's a giant MP drain)

      As for the story, being the first entry of course it was still pretty simple and clean. I'm not sure I agree with you that it stands out as the game where the Disney worlds have the most story relevance. Wonderland, Deep Jungle, Olympus Coliseum, Agrabah, Halloween Town and Atlantica are no more relevant than KH2 or BBS worlds if you ask me.

      I feel like all of this makes it sound like I hate the game, which I don't, so I'm trying to think of something nice to say, but I honestly can't think of anything in KH1 that made me go "I *really* like that aspect of it" besides the music.

      Overall, looking at the game now, I think it's decent. But I think that's fine, the game's 17 years old and a lot of things in gaming just don't age that well, IMO.
    1. Scotty_ffgamer's Avatar
      Scotty_ffgamer -
      I pretty much agree with everything youíve said so far. The first game is probably my favorite in the series. I liked the simple story. I liked that the Disney worlds were better integrated into the overall story. I felt the difficulty was just right, and everything felt a little less button mashy and more tactical than most of the future games.

      Iím glad the rest of the series exists since it is one of my favorite series of games, but if no more came after Kingdom Hearts 1, I still would have been pretty satisfied with it.
    1. Wolf Kanno's Avatar
      Wolf Kanno -
      I feel the first game is still charming, but definitely showing it's age. The story is nice, but at this point in the series life, it's difficult to even comprehend that it started off so simple and fanciful. KH1 almost doesn't feel like a part of the rest of the series narratively speaking.

      Gameplay hasn't aged as well but that's largely because KH1 has that awful camera which made platforming and some of the boss battles a complete chore. This might be the most difficult entry in the franchise but largely for the wrong reasons. Still I appreciate the amount of content it delivers and I ffeel the Disney Worlds have a bit more presence than the rest of the series but it helps that Sora largely deals with the main plots of the Worlds whereas the sequels had to scrounge around for ideas to justify going back to certain worlds other than "because they're popular".

      One area I will certainly give KH1 props over the sequels is that it easily has the best selection of Keyblade designs in the series. Sure not every single one is a winner, but I happen to like more of the designs in this entry than any of the sequel titles.
    1. Vermachtnis's Avatar
      Vermachtnis -
      Sora is probably the most broken in this game. Leaf Bracer+Second Wind+Second Chance+MP Rage+Tinkerbell=Immortality. That little fairy is the best. The two super bosses have attacks to counter that too. On top of not even being able to summon Tinkerbell in the Sephiroth fight. Sephiroth as that one attack that destroys your MP if you don't DPS him enough and the Hooded Man as that cheaty roulette attack.

      And you nailed the one thing I couldn't place on why I liked this game as much as I do. The Disney Worlds aren't filler. And I'm looking forward to reading the rest. Can't wait til the post on Days.
    1. Scotty_ffgamer's Avatar
      Scotty_ffgamer -
      Iíve never understood the camera complaint. Iíd guess it is because I am just used to it after the playing the game so much, but Iíve never had any issues with the camera in this game.

      The only part of this game that I remember getting overly frustrated with was probably Halloween town when you have to destroy all the black/purplish orbs.
    1. Wolf Kanno's Avatar
      Wolf Kanno -
      Quote Originally Posted by Scotty_ffgamer View Post
      Iíve never understood the camera complaint. Iíd guess it is because I am just used to it after the playing the game so much, but Iíve never had any issues with the camera in this game.
      Most likely. Honestly the lock on feature in this game is terrible, especially compared to other action games like Zelda. Mainly because the camera doesn't follow the lock on, so you can lock onto opponents that are still off screen. Not a big deal against cannon fodder opponents who die in one or two hits, a much bigger deal when fighting bosses, especially ones like Sephiroth whose teleporting shenanigans are designed to take full advantage of this design flaw. Not to mention doing the White Mushroom mini-game is a hassle with it. For platforming, it's largely the fact that despite letting you control the camera directly, there are a few places, mainly Tarzan's world, where you can shift the camera to make it easier to do a jump, only for you to make the jump and watch as the camera "fixes" itself back to the default setting and reversing your controls in the process. Compared to the sequels barring 358/2, which has similar issues but thankfully far less platforming, the camera is pretty unintuitive for the genre. The fact that the platforming was phased out in the sequels allowed the developers to focus on making improvement to the camera as a battle piece instead of trying to pull double duty.
    1. Fynn's Avatar
      Fynn -

      Alrighty, here we go. This is where it really begins. And by it I mean the Kingdom Hearts ConundrumTM. So despite Kingdom Hearts II being confirmed and people being very hyped for it due to a Secret Ending or two, SE decided to put this little title on the Gameboy Advance. Who cares, right?

      And that's the thing. It turned out that the only actual difference between numbered games and "spin-offs" in this series, apart from the various platform switches, are gameplay. You'll notice KH I and II have similar gameplay styles, and III seems to follow suit, while all the non-numbered games experiment more. But that's it. Everything else about these non-numbered games is critical information for the overarching plot. KH is by no means unique in this, as I heard MGS does something similar, for example), but it is by far the most notorious case, if only due to the relative obscurity of these titles. Meanwhile, here I am, not bothered by that thing honestly because I always had the system necessary (UNTIL NOW ), and honestly, the "spin-offs" easily make up my favorite games in the franchise due to how fun and fresh the gameplay often is, and how bold the story can get, compared to the relative safeness of the main titles.

      Coincidentally, Chain of Memories happens to be my favorite of the series.


      I'll get the bad out of the way first, just so I can bite into what I really love here. The Disney worlds this time around are really an afterthought to an even greater extent than any other game in the series. You get no new Disney worlds, and you don't even get to explore them properly, instead generating random rooms with different set-dressing. From a purely gameplay perspective, it's fun to experiment with the doors to get the result you want, but the charm of exploring unique locales as you do in most of the other games just isn't there anymore. That's not to mention the fact that the Disney stuff is this time 100% irrelevant to the plot.

      Everything else about the game is, however, sublime. The card game battle system is off-putting to many, and I know this is one of the least popular games in the series, but I genuinely loved every element of this system. When playing as Sora, you get to customize your deck freely and with new cards constantly found in the fields, after battle, or in booster packs sold by Moogles, there's just so many stuff you can do with these decks that it's easy to just get yourself lost in this. It's definitely one of the more varied KH games in terms of the battle systems, as you'll never have the same decks since getting the exact same stack of cards is statistically impossible. This doesn't apply to Riku's story, however, as he gets a fixed deck for every floor of Castle Oblivion. Oh yeah, did I mention Riku is playable in this game? And he plays completely differently to Sora and it's amazing.


      The story is what really makes this game stand out, thought. Yes, many lament the loss of simplicity in the series after I, but honestly, it's the intrigue that CoM promised that really got me hooked on the series. It's a mystery story, with lots of intrigue and backstabbing, mysterious allegiances, and a very interesting character study on the nature of single-minded obsession. So far, this is the only entry in the series in which Sora is allowed to show any kind of darkness or flaws of character to him, to the point that he can lose many a player in the later portions of the game - and that's exactly the intention. Other than that, this game is just excellently paced, with something interesting happening after completing every floor, and more of that intriguing original KH content that many criticize the series for while faithful puns keep crying about to this day.

      Riku's story is just as good, if not better, than Sora's and has definitely cemented him as my absolute favorite character in the series. It's a study on how you can reconcile having done bad things in the past, as well as accepting that the various darker parts of your personality are still you - and that's okay. His friendship with Mickey Mouse gets full focus here and it is one of the more adorable elements of the entire series, if you ask me. Whenever the lore gets too crazy for you or you just can't keep up with all the developments anymore, Kingdom Hearts reminds you that it's the characters that keep us hooked. And Chain of Memories keeps the characters the focus and develops them incredibly well while still moving the plot forward substantially.


      Speaking of moving the plot forward, what exactly happened here?

      Important story bits
      • Organiization XIII is introduced. Well, half of it - Vexen, Lexaeus, Zexion, Axel, Marluxia and Larxene. They manage this place called Castle Oblivion where cards rule all.
      • Both Sora and Riku find their way to Castle Oblivion, though through different means and are unaware of each other, as they're exploring different parts of the castle - Sora starting on the ground floor, Riku at the bottom level of the basement.
      • Sora visits the Disney worlds recreated from his memory, and slowly starts losing some memories of his own. Losing them makes him remember Namine. However, these memories are false.
      • Namine is actually a witch who is able to influence the memories of Sora and those connected to him. She is being used by the Organization - they want her to rewrite Sora's memories in a way that will make him subservient to the Organization.
      • Apart from the Organization members, Sora encounters a Replica of Riku made by Vexen on a number of occasions. Riku Replica doesn't know he's fake at first, but later has to face this reality.
      • Vexen introduces Sora to Twilight Town, telling him that's where his "Other Half" is. However, Axel straight up murders Vexen before he can elaborate further on this.
      • It turns out Marluxia and Larxene were planning to use Namine to overthrow the rest of the Organization and Vexen was haing none of it and wanted to sabotage their plans. Axel killed him in order to prove his loyalties to Marluxia, but in truth he needed that trust to keep an eye on him.
      • In the end, Sora defeats Marluxia, but since his memories have been modified by Namine, he must now go to sleep (for a friggin' year) in order to regain his memories of Kairi, whom Namine had replaced with herself in those memories.
      • Meanwhile, Riku is being tormented by the remnants of Xehanort in his heart. The Disney worlds he visits are barren, with only the villains present, as Riku has cast away all his friends by choosing Darkness in the first game.
      • Mickey does his best to give Riku the strength he needs in order to face the Darkness within himself, but he can't help him directly at the very beginning, making Riku's journey completely solitary for the majority of it.
      • Lexaeus and Zexion (who are not in on Marluxia and Larxene's coup, by the way) see Riku as a threat, and don't really know how he got into the castle. They try to dispose of him but fail, of course.
      • Vexen was able to create the Riku Replica by fighting the real Riku and later pits the two against each other for research.
      • In one of the saddest scenes of the game, the Replica is killed by Riku. This happens after the events in Sora's story, so this is the actual end of the Riku Replica (for now). He fades away, asking Riku where his heart will go after this.
      • Riku gets reunited with Mickey and cries tears of joy. Mickey starts wondering if maybe Darkness isn't all bad, since Riku has power over Darkness yet is a sweet muffin underneath that broody exterior.
      • It turns out the voice from the beginning wasn't Xehanort after all, but a mysterious man named DiZ who was kinda testing Riku? Also, Namine works for him now, since he's overseeing the restoration of Sora's memories. This is where Riku talks to Namine and she convinces him that there's nothing wrong with using both light and dark.
      • Riku needs to handle things before Sora wakes up, but before that, he must lock up the remaining part of Xehanort in his heart, so that he can use his dark powers without Xehanort corrupting him again. DiZ gives him the card to the final level of Castle Oblivion, and Riku is victorious.
      • Riku and Mickey leave the Castle and join up with DiZ. As he claims, Riku chooses to "travel the Road to Dawn."


      Favorite story segment
      There are so many good moments in this game that it is legitimately hard to choose from. If I had to pick one, however, I'd say it would have to be Riku and Mickey reuniting. Because God damn, this was a good kid who was maybe a bit too ambitious for his own good and he definitely didn't deserve all the bad stuff that's happened to him.


      Gameplay highlights
      • The card battle system is incredibly underrated. There's so much variety to combat and deck building is incredibly addicting.
      • Riku's playstyle is completely different from Sora's and has you having to work around set decks instead, while making Riku a stronger, easier character to handle at the same time.


      What are your thoughts on Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memorie? Did you play it the first time around? What do you like about it? Feel free to take part in the discussion!


      ~Play order~
      KINGDOM HEARTS=>CHAIN OF MEMORIES=>????=>????=>????=>????=>????=>????=>????=>????


    1. WarZidane's Avatar
      WarZidane -
      So remember when I said KH1 is actually pretty far down the list of my KH rankings? There are a couple of games below it, and CoM is..not one of them, actually. I prefer it over KH1 despite the issues I have with it. Or rather, them, because I played both the original and the remake.

      First of all, wasn't a fan of the Disney worlds being KH1 rehashes. I did, however, like the new story elements. Castle Oblivion, Twilight Town, Org XIII, all that stuff. Plus, once you beat it you get to play as Riku in a different story, which when I played the GBA version was quite the pleasant surprise. After that first playthrough it was still pleasant but obviously not a surprise.

      The card system may not be my favorite, but I still like it. My biggest issue with it is simply that I don't like building decks. Good thing Riku's side of the game didn't have any of that! I also liked that you decide what's in the rooms through the cards you use to unlock them.

      The combat itself, I really liked. Probably actually more so in the original version, because you don't have to control the camera in that one. I feel like the added camera control and 3D environment doesn't do the card system justice because you have to pay attention to more other stuff. Also, some bosses get a little spammy with their cards, which is annoying when they have a fair amount of 0s available.
    1. Wolf Kanno's Avatar
      Wolf Kanno -
      Chain of Memories is easily my favorite entry in the franchise and the only entry to crack my Top 100. I love the story and the fact this is probably the last entry where Sora and Riku ever received any meaningful character development before Sora started being turned into the KH Messiah and Riku became a brooding angst machine who pops up every few games because he's stupidly popular. Course I'll say the same for Axel, who never quite regained his trickster edge like he had in this game, though 358/2 did him some justice, but we'll get to that later. Namine is also a pretty intriguing character who never really got the chance to shine beyond this game sadly. Speaking of, this is probably the best game to feature Orgy XII, as it really laid down the idea of a group of powerful individuals who had their own secret motives and desires before the whole thing turned into the Xemnas show with KHII. Of anything, I think the biggest issue I have with the plot of the game is that it raised my expectations for the rest of the series too high. KH just never delivered for me what I felt the Deep Dive trailer and CoM promised.

      The gameplay is also one of my favorites as I really enjoyed building decks in Sora's game while working around Riku's decks in his portion of the game. The real treat here for me is that the game is just better balanced. Magic and Summon finally have weight after feeling like an afterthought in KH1 and 2. Boss battles are actually really challenging and will push your prep skills far, the interface was better for techniques, and I really enjoyed the party summon mechanic and the different ways you can combine cards for special effects. The combat just has more variety and enough challenge to warrant it. The worlds could have been handled better, but considering the nature of the plot, it's understandable why we only got two new settings in the game and no new Disney worlds, though losing Tarzan's world was a bit odd.

      The funny thing for me is that I've yet to play the 3D Remake, I just can't imagine it would improve anything from the GBA version which is why I've never made it a point to pick it up. I do own it now since I did get one of the Collections on PS3 as a gift, so maybe I'll strike it up the next time I feel like playing the game.
    1. Fynn's Avatar
      Fynn -
      One notable change in the 3D remake is that Riku gets this draw/war mini game whenever he and the enemy use the same value card. Also, you actually get to battle Zexion this time.
    1. Scotty_ffgamer's Avatar
      Scotty_ffgamer -
      I enjoyed when I played the remake, but I think I prefer the original of this game. I just think it was perfect for GBA, and it is probably my favorite game on GBA. As a kid, I was amazed with how good this fame looked too, especially when you got the actual cg cutscenes. Heck, even hearing simple and clean at the end was super impressive to me back then since Iíd never experienced something like that on the GBA.

      So this game came out back when I was starting to be obsessed with deck building type stuff, so I loved the gameplay quite a bit. I did get bored with some of the rehashing of the Disney worlds, but the gameplay kept me going even when those stories werenít interesting. Despite that, the game was paced well where we kept getting more of the main story of the game to keep me pushing through.

      The first game is still my favorite, but this game comes close. Iíll agree with Wolf Kanno that KHII never quite lived up to my expectations after the Deep Dive trailer and this game
    1. Shauna's Avatar
      Shauna -
      There's been far too much love of the CoM combat system in this thread. I am here to rectify this.

      It is terrible and I could barely get through the game because of it. I played both the GBA and the PS2 versions and neither clicked with me. I'm not a big deck builder sort of gal, which doesn't help, obviously. However, Riku's story was only slightly more acceptable. So there's more at play than just "deck building be bad". It was always just too... clunky, I suppose?

      I wish CoM existed with a different combat system, because the plot really was fantastic and the fact that I begrudged actually playing the game is a terrible blemish against it. It makes it hard for me to recommend anyone actually play this entry, and I only ever will with the caveat of "Play it on easy mode to not hate yourself".

      I am glad everyone here enjoyed playing it though, it just makes me mildly jealous that I could never get along with it.


      In any case, I am enjoying this write up! 6 more days til the big day
    1. Scotty_ffgamer's Avatar
      Scotty_ffgamer -
      I played the ps2 version for the first time with the hd remix, and I liked it a lot less than when I played on the gba just because of the battle system. The gba game just came out at the perfect time in my life when I was all over that sort of thing, and I would always play it when I was getting really into playing other kinds of card games at other points in my life. Itís the kind of game I have to be in the right mood for anymore, and I can see why others donít like the gameplay. Sometime soon I may have to play the gba version again. Iím getting the itch for that kind of game.
    1. Fynn's Avatar
      Fynn -

      Okay, this one's a fan darling, so I feel completely justified in being a bit less nice to it

      Kingdom Hearts II has consistently been considered the best game in the series by many. This despite the fact many people started getting confused by the Kingdom Hearts ConundrumTM (hence abbreviated to KHC), having jumped into it straight after KHI, even though the game definitely relies on your knowledge of Chain of Memories in order to really make sense of all the various plots in this game.

      That's still not my problem with the game, to be honest, as I mentioned in the previous entry, since I have been able to play the games in order up until now (someone please just get me a PS4 already ). Heck, maybe mentioning my problems right off the bat isn't the best thing to do, since - make no mistake - I still love Kingdom Hearts II.


      So let's start with the good. As big of a fan as I am of CoM's card battle system, KHII definitely feels like a much more refined version of I's battle system, making everything much more quick, snappy, and flashy as all hell. The various ways in which you can modify your combos are very fun, drive forms are cool to play around with (I'm a huge fan of Anti-form, fyi), and everything in general just feels so much more vibrant and exhilerating, with a final battle that I keep getting dreams about to this day. In fact, the gameplay is something I can say I enjoy immensely and don't really find the tiny flaws in it annoying. Yes, it's much too easy - even on proud mode it's the easiest game in the series to beat - and battles often dissolve into button mashing, but with reaction commands you sometimes have to *gasp* mash another button! The flashiness of the battles mean there's less of those methodical Keyblade swings from the previous two games, but hey - I'm always up for a good spectacle, and II doesn't disappoint in that regard. Also, RIP platforming puzzles, but if the game is much easier to navigate thanks to that, I just can't complain.

      And now we get to the story, which I really consider a mixed bag. No, I don't think it's confusing or convoluted or the end of the world or anything. Perhaps that's because I actually had the intended experience with CoM and could follow every story beat without the problem, on top of just being completely immersed in the original plot of KH, which was driven much more strongly in CoM than it was in Kingdom Hearts I. The main issue I have with II's plot is that it's filler, ironically enough.


      Yeah, that might sound weird, but from hindsight, now that we know what we know, II's role is answering some questions from CoM, and then setting up the story that gets built up on in the upcoming entries. Like, it's funny how Scotty and Wolf mention II disappointing them as a follow up to Deep Dive, when we now know Deep Dive was actually a teaser for another game that came after II. This half of the Organization is also far less charismatic and interesting (aside from maybe Xigbar, though I can't honestly tell how much of that is me projecting what I already know from later games, where he gets a lot of spotlight, and how much is him actually stealing the show in this game), with Xemnas's motivations being particularly hazy and, what do you know, the following games actually make this whole thing make much more sense. It's almost as if Nomura had come up with the story of 358/2 Days (at least!) as part of what was supposed to make it to II, but then it all turned out to be too big and the actual fascinating character moments went into Days (explaining why someone like Riku is so badly mangled in the game while Days actually gives it enough context to make sense with his road to dawn philosophy), so that II could focus on the action.

      So the game, in my opinon, does a poor job exploring its characters (as CoM did masterfully) or giving proper weight to its plot - mostly by the plot being just so dense with various new concepts that aren't given time to sink in. While the fight with Xemnas is flashy, for example, he's a pale imitation of Ansem - we really only know his bad because of their connection. The Disney worlds sadly suffer a similar fate, being for the most part straight retellings of the movies and zero involvement in the main plot. I will admit, however, that the revisits were pretty great and unexpected (and I love that they're technically optional!)


      And yet, there is one shining diamond in the Kingdom Hearts II story that really makes me forgive all of the things I consider wrong about it. The Roxas prologue was one of the most fascinating, mysterious, and tense moments in the series. Add to that the heavy dramatic irony connected with the reveal at the end of it, plus the way it connects to what was already hinted at in Chain of Memories, and you have an excellent three-hour mystery story with a gut-wrenching ending. Somehow, 358/2 Days only makes it hit harder.

      But even if the plot is handled clumsily, there's plenty of lore advancement going on!

      Important story bits
      • Roxas is leading a peaceful life at Twilight Town, until Axel shows up, acting all buddy-buddy with him, despite Roxas not having any memory of him.
      • Roxas learns he is Sora's Nobody - a being formed from a person's body and soul after they've lost their hear - and must cease existing in order to finish the process of restoring Sora's missing memories
      • Sora and pals wake up from a long dream, remembering nothing about Castle Oblivion, with only the note "Thank Namine" left in the journal (for now! Goddamnit, Kingdom Hearts!)
      • Mickey actually saves their butt from the Nobodies that attack them. Still, he disappears right after
      • Guided by Yen Sid, Sora &co. make their way to Hollow Bastion to meat up with Leon &co. so that they can stop the Nobody threat. Also, to find Riku and Kairi again, I guess.
      • Organization XIII show up, stir some trout, and tell Sora to keep defeating Heartless with his Keyblade.
      • At some point, Kairi gets kidnapped by Axel.
      • After visiting some Disney worlds and fighting some Organization members, Sora gets back to Hollow Bastion (the only place where any actual plot happens, tbh) and learns about Ansem and Xemnas' true identity - Xehanort. He was an apprentice to Ansem who wrote reports under the name of his master. He's the one who brought Heartless to the world, and willingly turned himself into a Heartless (the main antagonist of KHI). The real Ansem had been banished into the Dark Realm.
      • The 1000 Heartless battle happens and Sora just gets kinda fed up with the Organization. Goofy dies but then gets better.
      • Heading to the final showdown, Sora fights alongside Axel who later dies. He tells him Roxas made him feel like he had a heart.
      • At the Headquarters of the Organization, the World that Never Was, Sora reunites with Kairi, as well as Riku who is trapped in the form of Xehanort's Heartless. With the power of friendship, he gets better.
      • They also meet DiZ who turns out to be Ansem the Wise, and later blows himself up along with the false Kingdom Hearts created by Xemnas to atone for his sins.
      • Namine is also there. She's actually Kairi's Nobody. They merge back together, as does Roxas and Sora.
      • Xemnas is defeated and they all return to Destiny Islands. Sometime later, however, a mysterious letter sent by King Mickey finds its way to the trio.


      Favorite story segment
      Again, I want to say the entire intro with Roxas, but I'll say explornig the Mansion takes the cake. It's where all of Roxas' big reveals happen, it's dark, and the end is just horribly tragic. It gives me similar feels to the Hollow Bastion sequence in game 1.


      Gameplay highlights
      • Fast-paced battle system with tons of options
      • Reaction commands are very flashy and effective
      • Having the worlds be two shorter stories each instead of one makes them much more fun to explore


      What are your thoughts on Kingdom Hearts II? Did you play it right after 1, or did you at least know what happened in CoM? What do you like about it? Feel free to take part in the discussion!


      ~Play order~
      KINGDOM HEARTS=>CHAIN OF MEMORIES=>KINGDOM HEARTS II=>????=>????=>????=>????=>????=>????=>????


    1. WarZidane's Avatar
      WarZidane -
      Quote Originally Posted by Fynn View Post
      • At the Headquarters of the Organization, the World that Never Was, Sora reunites with Kairi, as well as Riku who is trapped in the form of Xehanort's Heartless. With the power of friendship, he gets better.
      • They also meet DiZ who turns out to be Ansem the Wise, and later blows himself up along with the false Kingdom Hearts created by Xemnas to atone for his sins.
      Not the power of friendship actually, he returns to his true form after Ansem blows a hole in Kingdom Hearts, and they handwave it away with Mickey saying "Ansem did say anything could happen"

      KH2 is my second favorite KH game. The gameplay, of course, is miles better than KH1. As for it being filler..we must just have a different definition of that word. The whole Roxas story happens here (sure, it's done more elaborately in another game, but that game didn't exist yet), we learn more about Axel and Namine, as well as their ultimate fate, the purpose of Org XIII, the rest of its members, Riku and Mickey's fates, Ansem the Wise's story and more.

      I never really got the complaint that the first visit to the worlds is mostly just events of the movies with heartless added in, as there is the second visit for actual original stuff and half of KH1's Disney worlds were also just a warped version of the movie's events anyway. The worlds being inconsequential to the main story is nothing new since in KH1 really only Neverland was (even Monstro is just a couple of minutes of Riku being Riku)

      But anyway, that aside. There is actually one downside to the combat, and that is its over-reliance on reaction commands. They're neat and all but there are bosses you can literally beat by only using reaction commands to attack them, except maybe the final strike because i don't remember if reaction commands can actually kill bosses (Xaldin, for example, learn/jump is all you need to obliterate his health bars)

      The Final Mix version also has new cutscenes, many of which hint at events in later games or have more exposition on Org XIII and Roxas (remember, Final Mix was released in 2007, years before Days and BBS)

      My favorite world is The World That Never Was, but if that's too broad to count, the battle with Roxas (the fight itself is Final Mix only). The fight itself is probably the best mandatory fight in the game (also the hardest one, IMO) and in the cutscenes surrounding it, Roxas' story truly comes to an end with him accepting Sora and having a last goodbye with Axel. The fact that his theme plays during the fight is also a nice touch.

      The music is, of course, still great. I prefer the ending version of Sanctuary over both Simple and Clean and Don't Think Twice. I also prefer the opening version over Simple and Clean (but not Face My Fears, don't punch me EDM haters )
    1. Fynn's Avatar
      Fynn -
      Oh yeah, that goes without saying. The game never falters for a bit in the series. Iím not a fan of the original KH2 midi quality as it sounds like a downgrade from KHI, but with the HD rerelease all the tracks have been recorded, pretty much all of them contains real instruments in some capacity, so thatís no longer an issue and the KH2 soundtrack can truly shine
    1. Scotty_ffgamer's Avatar
      Scotty_ffgamer -
      That Roxas fight was pretty tough. I think I got stuck there a bit when I played the HD remix.

      I love this game to death despite the negatives I have for it. Itís flashy and fun to play despite being a bit too easy most of the time. Iím just in the minority of preferring the gameplay of the first game. I also enjoyed the story despite it not fully living up to my expectations. I can definitely see where Fynn is coming from with it feeling like filler somewhat.

      My main issue was that the Disney worlds felt more like a chore this time around. I hated the moonlight mechanic in the Pirates world. I just didnít enjoy the music of the Little Mermaid world. I go back and forth on the 100 Acre Wood.
    1. Wolf Kanno's Avatar
      Wolf Kanno -
      While not a a true confession for those who ever paid attention to my posts in the past, KH2 is easily my least favorite KH game I've played. Even though the plot of 3D was the straw that finally broke the back and made me decide I didn't care enough anymore to see it end, my real ire with the direction of the series really begins with this game.

      I'm of the minority who hates the combat, it's not just easy, it's practically mindless for the most part, and the Drive Forms are hardly balanced. I appreciate having a proper camera this time around and the Drive forms do add some variety but it's all flash and little substance which just gets boring to me after awhile. Maybe this is because I cut my teeth on Devil May Cry and it's ilk, but if you're going to go action game, then bring the challenge or at least add something to make the combat more interesting like the way Drive forms were handled in BbS. So yeah, I'm not a huge fan of the combat because it's mostly canned cutscenes and mashing one button. Even the final battle against Xemnas to me feels more like a farce compared the battle with Ansem in KH1 which was at least challenging. Hell, KH1's combat at least required a little skill on the players part. KH2's combat just feels like it wants to let you think your special and badass but I personally find it insulting to do so.

      The one area where I'll concede that KH2 has better gameplay is the Gummi Ship sequences. I can't tell you how much I hate the Gummi Ship parts in KH1, absolutely hate them, but KH2 actually made them into fun rail shooters and here the spectacle aspect of the game works because the sequences are fairly challenging and shmups are traditionally particle effects show.

      The plot follows suit, it's just one silly shocking twist after another with nothing to anchor it all in. Riku's whole plot is pretty dumb and is resolved so anti-climatically that it just feels cheap and forced, the fake out death of Goofy is similar, Namine and Kairi have so little in the way of purpose in the title that you almost wonder why they bothered letting them show up, and Axel should have died in the prologue like it was originally planned because it's not like he did anything meaningful after it. The Xehanort twist felt really dumb at the time as well and even now, I still feel like there was no real reason to have Ansem be a separate character because it's not like he's really important to the plot, he's a cryptic figure in CoM and it amounts to diddly squat in payoff in KH2. He was better portrayed in KH1 as the guy we know as Xehanort and him taking over his identity just never even made sense to be honest. I mean you overthrow the guy and then become a Heartless, why take his name?

      Like Fynn points out, most of the few meaningful plot elements of the game exist simply to hint to all the future games like who this Xehanort fellow? This game is like Amazing Spider Man 2, just setting up all the future sequels instead of actually being a good story. I mean Sora has to wander the worlds to build Light roads or something and not only does this never get much clarification, but it's also never really been brought up again after he does so in both the game itself and every game after it which just makes it painfully clear that's it's just an excuse to justify why Sora has to travel the worlds again, like trying to find Riku and Mickey wasn't enough of an incentive. Also what happened to Org XIII? I mean they're presented as the multifaceted organization with colorful members but KHII pretty much drop kicks that notion our of the story right off the bat. I mean they were one of the best parts of CoM and a great source of drama, the ones in KH2 are basically Mega Man bosses with Xemnas being the only important one.

      This is also the game that basically tells you that every rule you know about the KH world from the first game no longer matter, Nomura and Nojima decided between CoM and this game that old rules and the princess idea was stupid so we're just going to make up new rules about how Kingdom Hearts works and the whole cosmology of the series, and we're likely going to change the rules again after this game anyway so please don't be butthurt by our inconsistency. KH2 is basically when the plot decided to run on pure Rule of Cool. It doesn't have to make any logical sense, it just has to sound and look cool when we do it. They did the same nonsense in the Compilation of FFVII and both franchises as a whole have been running on it since about 2006. Now with that said, I agree with Fynn that Roxas Prologue sequence is easily the best part of the game from a story standpoint, where I don't agree is that it magically redeems the rest of the game's "seat of there pants" writing style. Roxas, in those few hours showed more depth and intrigue as a protagonist than Sora has in the course of the whole series. I am always disappointed when the game finally switches back to Sora. So yeah, I hate the plot.

      One thing I will give KH2, and this might be another reason why I'm a still a bit salty about my dislike of the game side of things, is the fact it has my favorite set of worlds in the whole franchise. Barring the Pirates world which was terrible and simply felt like SE banking on the popularity of the film franchise at the time; I actually love every location in this game because it largely hits all of my right nostalgia buttons. I even love the Little Mermaid World, but I also love Rhythm Games and you haven't lived until you've heard Japanese Donald Duck sing. My only real complaint with how the worlds were handled is not the "let's just insert our new characters into Reader's Digest version of the plot" cause as WarZidane points out, KH1 pretty much started that trend, it's actually the lazy bulltrout that is making us go through all the worlds twice. It's like they knew they only really had enough content and story to last ten hours but needed to push it to twenty so the fans wouldn't whine but I generally hate backtracking in games, especially when the plot forces me to do so. We could have easily just condensed both story sequences into one setting and got more bang for our buck in each world instead of just playing one little part, getting booted out and then having to go back ten hours later to actually resolve all the conflict. If you weren't being constantly bombarded with plots twists and shock value sequences, I feel most people would be aware of how off the pacing of this game is.

      I honestly remember finishing this game and was wondering if a new team made it or something because it seriously lacked the restraint and finesse of the prequels. So yeah rant over until we get to Dream Drop Distance...
    1. Fynn's Avatar
      Fynn -
      I somehow still have a shred of hope my hot take on DDD will tide you over

      Still, while agree with most of the grievance you and many people around the Internet has expressed, I mostly donít care because for me itís obvious that the story is being made up as it goes along (though not completely, which Iíll elsborate on later) but that doesnít hamper my enjoyment because KH to me never fails to deliver in the feels, and this series is the epitome of feels over reals.

      Also, side note here and a mini rant, but thereís this huge movement (or at least a very vocal minority) within the KH community that claims IIís combat system is perfect and the Osaka team have removed all strategy by adding the command deck (????) and making the game ďfloatyĒ (*sigh*). So now theyíre looking at leaked footage of III and reasons to decide whether III is a masterpiece or worthless trash. May I remind you the game isnít even out yet. And whenever people claim to like various systems in the series theyíll be like ďoh thatís because youíre playing the game casually.Ē Like holy trout, I never realized there was a competitive KH scene
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