Way back in 2000, when Kingdom Hearts was announced, the internet gaming fanboys collectively scratched their heads. Kingdom Hearts was billed as a RPG crossover between popular Square Enix (Final Fantasy) characters and Disney. The notion was completely left field. Fans had no idea how the final product would turn out, or how it came into fruition, but were certainly intrigued.
Sora (Haley Joel Osment) lives on an island along with his friends Riku and Kairi. Their home is attacked by creatures called the Heartless. During the attack his friends disappear and the island is destroyed. Adrift, Sora finds a Keyblade (exactly what it sounds like) before finding himself in the nexus world of Traverse Town. Meanwhile, King Mickey senses a disturbance in the force (or whatever) and leaves to face it, sending his knights, Donald and Goofy, to the find the key. They team up with Sora to fight the Heartless in different Disney worlds and repair them. Pretty straight forward, but the ending becomes pretty Japanese wacky, so, good luck sorting through that.
Donald and Goofy were computer controlled characters that followed Sora throughout the game. The main draw of the game was visiting different Disney Lands (pun), playing in them, and in some cases, along with popular characters. Aladdin in Agrabah, Jack Skellington in Halloween Town, and Peter Pan in Neverland are just a few that join your party, but sadly, only in their own worlds. It was a nice mechanic but a little limiting because you couldn’t take them with you like in typical RPG fashion. Just as many worlds where no one joined your party were also present. Players saved Pinocchio and Geppetto in Monstro (the whale), and played mini-games with Pooh in 100 Acre Wood. Extending the Disney fun was the inclusion of summons (a staple of any Final Fantasy game). During battle players can summon Simba, Genie, Bambi, or Dumbo to assist in battle.
While this is mostly a Disney showcase, a few Final Fantasy characters make appearances, though few are slightly altered. Younger versions of Tidus, Wakka, and Selphie are on Sora’s home island (FFX for the boys and FFVII for Selphie), while Yuffie, Aerith and Cid (all FFVII) are residents of Traverse Town. The two biggest inclusions would be Cloud and Sephiroth (FFVII) in all their emo glory (seriously, like wow) as bonus fights in the Olympus Coliseum. Other than a sprinkling of Moogles and some basic RPG mechanics, little else of Final Fantasy is present.
One of my favorite parts of the game is the opening scene/song. The game started with a cutscene and a remixed English track (performed beautifully by Utada Hikaru) greeting players. While the opening for KHII is far superior, the song here, Simple and Clean, introduced me to Utada, which is a good thing. Note: Due to copyrights I’m not sure how long the youtube video links will remain active. Sorry.
Kingdom Hearts was a great start to a series that I think has ultimately lost it’s way due to them copying, repackaging, and reselling the same experience multiple times. There have been 11 releases in the series so far (including 2014’s HD 2.5 Remix). Of those, at least 4 games cover the exact same story and events from the first game. I say at least because I stopped paying attention. The HD 1.5 Remix collection (he types rolling his eyes) is the first game, the GBA semi-sequel (which just covers the first game again), and 2.5 hours of cutscenes from the Nintendo DS 358/2 (Japan!) is them simply cashing in again. And the fact that I knew everything in that last sentence off the top of my head has made me question some life choices.
Like video games? Like Disney? Cool. Play Kingdom Hearts. Try the HD thingy (won’t retype that). At least they’ve fixed the wonky camera. I know I’ve bashed the series a bit, but that’s mostly my curmudgeonly retrospect because of what the idea ultimately became. At the time, I loved it, and a part of me still does. If you can stomach a few Japan-isms in the story I can easily recommend the first game. But then again, that’s not what you’re really here for anyways.
Oh, the game was created because Square and Disney shared the same office building in Japan and two executives bumped into each other in the elevator.
Which version of the first game have you played? Who was your favorite teammate? Comment below!
Stupid Gummi Ship.