(Note: I hope to make several entries of my playthrough of this game in the near future)
I always wanted to play through Kingdom Hearts. No, not the copy that I play at my friend's house where he leveled up fully and I hack 'n' slash in Olympus Coliseum, but one copy that I could call my own, that I could play through on my own times. I got my wish. Through the fantastic internet, I could buy a refurbished 60 GB PS3 (a model that IS backwards compatible with PS2 games) as well as brand-new copies of Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II.
It's not that I'm not familiar with how Kingdom Hearts, and its story, works. I have played Chain of Memories, 358/2 Days, and Dream Drop Distance, and with some Wikis to help me along, I'm relatively well versed in KH lore, despite not playing the two main games nor Birth by Sleep, which are definitely the most important games of the series, story-wise. So, I knew what I was gonna see, but I wanted to experience this game for myself.
So far, I feel like I've gotten slapped in the face. Not that I dislike it, I suppose.
After being forced to watch an opening movie where the odd Dive to the Heart scene is made all the more bizarre by the completely inappropriate-to-Kingdom Hearts "Simple and Clean" is playing, I realized I could not skip cutscenes. I never want to skip cutscenes on the first run-through, but with the latter two games, I took that freedom for granted. Admittedly, this is Square-Enix before it became that... progressive, let's say, so I'm not surprised.
Neither am I surprised by the tutorial segment. I know how to play Kingdom Hearts, and I re-learned it. It's just as well, since 358 and 3D are different in the sense that the X button (where the B is on the (3)DS) and the O button (where the A is on the (3)DS) are inverted, making jumps and attacks performed with different buttons. It's very hard for me to break a force of habit, but I make do. More jarring for me is the right analog stick, which I usually have used for camera use. My hundreds of hours with such games, especially Xenoblade Chronicles, where such controls helped stay aware of what was going on in battle. Finding that I move my cursor up the command menu is a bit jarring, to say the least, although that's a minor quip.
In my two hours that I spent today with the game, I was mostly immersed in fetch quests to build a raft or watching cutscenes. Once again, guess I'm spoiled in getting the ability to jump straight into the action. But I made do.
The most jarring realization that I made was that Kingdom Hearts is no walk in the park. I wouldn't go comparing this to Critical mode, but this is tough, albeit in a different way. For example, you lack the simple ability of Guarding at the outset of the game, which I found incredibly bizarre, having that skill at the outset of the latter two I've played. I seriously took that for granted. (Admittedly, I made it harder than myself by choosing the Dream Sword and sacrificing the Shield, boosting attack, lowering defense, and postponing my learning of Guard until I'm level 36. I'm level 4. And I'm not going to watch those cutscenes or do those fetch quests this soon a second time). I hope I get Dodge Roll soon.
Despite my complaints, I do have high hopes for Kingdom Hearts. I want to play this game, and I made it tough on myself. Cool. I like tough. I kinda stalled with exploration and looking for those damned mushrooms, but I really just wanted to explore Disney Worlds. And there're Final Fantasy elements. That's really cool enough for me, no matter how many times I have to repeat cutscenes because I lost to a boss because I didn't choose the Shield or the Staff and didn't get Guard. Knowing me, that's bound to happen in the near future.