Lately I’ve been staying at home a lot. Oh who am I kidding, I’ve always been staying at home a lot… And I figured this was a prime opportunity for some quality time with my consoles. We don’t get to see each other enough and I would hate for us to drift apart.
I was therefor looking for a game to play when it hit me, I have always been fascinated by the Kingdom Hearts franchise but have never played a single game beyond a few hours at a friend’s house half a century ago. When Amazon told me there was a fancy shmancy All In One package, the deal was sealed.
The All-In-One set I got is fairly jam packed and includes:
- KINGDOM HEARTS III
- KINGDOM HEARTS II FINAL MIX
- KINGDOM HEARTS FINAL MIX
- KINGDOM HEARTS Re:Chain of Memories
- KINGDOM HEARTS 358/2 Days
- KINGDOM HEARTS Re:coded
- KINGDOM HEARTS Birth by Sleep FINAL MIX
- KINGDOM HEARTS Dream Drop Distance HD
- KINGDOM HEARTS χ Back Cover
- KINGDOM HEARTS 0.2 Birth by Sleep – A fragmentary passage–
Of which I have now played… Kingdom Hearts Final Mix. This has been years coming so of course I need to share my thoughts with someone. Because although I was really taken by Kingdom Hearts and absolutely loved the idea, I now realize that I had a lot of misconceptions as well.
I’m not going to attempt an actual review and game play analysis. I will leave that to me fellow way more talented video game bloggers. I will however say that I found the first game…sorta hard. I’m not exactly a novice so I confidently started off the game at the hardest available setting (since it cannot be switched later on and I didn’t want to get bored). I actually ended up restarting the whole thing just so I can set it to normal and even then I died quite a few times. It gets a lot easier after a few bosses but still it requires some muscle memory.
So that aside, at it’s core Kingdom Hearts is an action rpg. Or a modern platformer as it is fairly light on RPG elements beyond changing some equipment around and a minimal levelling mechanic. It’s pretty fun. But jumping around and bonking enemies on the head with a giant key was never what held my interest. It’s fine for that but there are other games that got me more invested in the action. I replayed Bloodborne recently for example and, well i love that game.
What I was there for was the story and that story is a little odd but also very charming. It’s not particularly developed in the first game. However, there’s more than enough there to make me want to play the rest. In a way, the story was not at all what I expected and yet, the only way I can properly describe it is: it’s as if Disney and Square Enix did a collab…
Brilliant description, right? But it’s true. It’s not only the characters and flagship intellectual properties of each company that rare represented in this first game, it’s also the sensitivities.
I’M ABOUT TO SUPERFICIALLY DESCRIBE THE PLOT OF THE GAME SO…BE WARNED…
In very brief, the story follows a boy Sora after his world gets seemingly invaded and possibly destroyed and he searches for his two friends. Along the way he meets Donald and Goofy who in this version live in a Kingdom ruled by Mickey and are looking for their king. As they travel from one Disney themed world to the next, they discover that each world has a lock and those have been damaged and are spewing out darkness that is slowly consuming them. This darkness takes the form of creatures known as heartless, inhabitants that have lost their hearts and now wander as aggressive shadows of their former selves.
There’s an epic quest, we have lock all the keyholes and rescue everyone and learn a lesson about friendship and hope…. I can perfectly see this as the plot of a Disney movie, completely with pithy banter and a great soundtrack. But there are some odd things as well. Final Fantasy characters are scattered across the landscape. Sora’s friend Riku is intensely brooding and dramatic and the entire dynamic of the keyblade is just sort of odd. Deeply symbolic, certainly but also a bit weird when illustrated so literally.
This first game seems to err on the side of caution when it comes to an international market as I feel the representation favours Disney much more that Square. All the worlds are representations of classic Disney movies and as such their individual internal conflicts and quests are based on those movies. The themes and lessons are classic Disney stuff and they don’t go in too deeply into some of the weirdness, constant plot twists, betrayals and comical levels of melodrama that the Final Fantasy franchises are known for. For the record I love FF. I say all this with love.
However, those elements are still there, most prevalent in Riku as mentioned, but Riku is a very important part of the plot. And although “the darkness” sounds like a very Disney sort of threat, the main antagonist Ansem (at least he was the main antagonist in this game, I have not read the plot of the others, please don’t tell me…) is fairly atypical. For one he’s sort of devoid of morality. As in he’s not really evil or good. He’s not misunderstood or twisted by faith. So far, he’s simply beyond understanding. He’s deeply and unmistakably other and he is really only an antagonist because our goals are inconsistent. However he never seems cruel, or tortured or really anything beyond efficient. The non Disney boss characters in the game are all either straight up unknowable monsters or well… this guy. By contrast the Disney villains are capital V, Villains! They cackle and taunt, their aggression is personal and very emotional. And you can really see that there is something fundamentally different in the character building approach.
However, what’s really impressive is that it works. There are a few odd fits here and there and a lot of the edge has to be dulled on Sora to keep him in tone with Donald and Goofy but generally, the two very different styles, sensibilities and cultures just sort of flow together to make something that looks familiar and yet isn’t. It’s rather impressive. For all the different fiction tropes and traditions represented in this one work, somehow it settles into a really easy harmony.
Like I said, this first game is fairly Americanized so it more West than East. What is that, Europe? I’m not sure if the Square Enix side starts to take on a bit more importance as the games progress. From screencaps I have seen I would say yes. Heck, just the fact that there are 10 games in this set I bought would lead me to believe that they get more Final Fantasy like as they go along. And I look forward to it.
I know you didn’t ask but my favourite world was Halloween Town cause I thought they all looked great in costume!