• 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. Scotty_ffgamer's Avatar
      Scotty_ffgamer -
      These are the questions that keep me up at night.
    1. maybee's Avatar
      maybee -
      Quote Originally Posted by Fynn View Post
      You know what I wonder? Why does Xigbar sound like a surfer dude? Is this important? At this point every little detail might just be important
      IMO he sounds like one of those 90's chicks. "As If !"

    1. Wolf Kanno's Avatar
      Wolf Kanno -
      Quote Originally Posted by Scotty_ffgamer View Post
      These are the questions that keep me up at night.
      Attachment 75932
    1. Lord Golbez's Avatar
      Lord Golbez -
    1. Scotty_ffgamer's Avatar
      Scotty_ffgamer -
      Ever since getting KH3, my ps4 pro has been acting funny. Yesterday when I shut it off, it just kept blinking the white light and wouldnít shut off fully. Today it froze while playing the game and crashed, giving me some sort of error message. Iím going to be mad if I donít get to beat this game.
    1. maybee's Avatar
      maybee -
    1. Fynn's Avatar
      Fynn -
      Quote Originally Posted by Wolf Kanno View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by Scotty_ffgamer View Post
      These are the questions that keep me up at night.
      Attachment 75932
      This is false. In one short Goofy vores Mickey and Minnie and they have sex inside his stomach. This is canon.

    1. Shawn R's Avatar
      Shawn R -
      Surprised there isn't a separate thread about this, but anyway, how's KH III?
    1. Wolf Kanno's Avatar
      Wolf Kanno -
      There are two minor, if lingering questions I just thought about in the last few days.

      1) If Namine is a Nobody with such an extraordinary gift, why wasn't she asked to be a member of Organization XIII? Was it because she was too pure for Xehanort's ultimate plan or the more likely fact that the dev team hadn't quite figured out the particulars for Nobodies and Org. XIII?

      2) Can Xemnas use a Keyblade? I mean he's technically like Roxas when you think about it and that guy can use two of them. Or does Roxas' ability also have to deal with the fact that Sora had Kairi's heart as well? I bring this question up because it was allegedly asked in a Ultimania and Nomura did his best Tibetan Monk impression and answered the question with another question before the subject was dropped entirely.
    1. Fynn's Avatar
      Fynn -
      1) I think itís established Naminť is pretty incorruptible due to the very unique circumstances of her birth, plus the fact that sheís the Nobody of Kairi who has no Darkness in her heart. I imagine that, since the true purpose of the Organization is to make Xehanort vessels, she was most likely not considered because it just wouldnít be possible.

      2) I think he can use a Keyblade, but then I understand Nomura being tight-lipped about it would be because of spoilers. As for why he doesnít use the Masterís Metblade - ???? I mean, theoretically, he couldíve lost that ability when he forced Terra out of his body and lost his memory, but then at the start of 3D we see him calling that Keyblade. I think it might be important to consider that one specific Keyblade can only really exist as a single entity - Roxas and Xion have to share Soraís Keyblade as he sleeps up until the point Roxas grows his own heart (and then when Xion disappears, he can use two). Now considering the fact that during what weíve currently experienced to KH, the Masterís No Name Keyblade is tied to Master Xehanort. When he became Terra Xehanort, it was Terraís body and a weird mix of Xehanort and Terraís heart (as far as we know), so maybe in the end Xemnas - being technically a Nobody to neither Terra or Xehanort - didnít have access to it after all? Or maybe all the time travel resulted in someone else having the No Name all this time during the events leading up to three?

      It is a mystery.
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