I'm playing Kingdom Hearts

Posted by GrantHeaslip (1655 posts) -

Here's a quick list of everything I thought I knew about Kingdom Hearts before starting it:

  • It has Disney characters in it, including Donald Duck and Goofy. (I haven't watched a non-Pixar Disney movie since I was a child.)
  • It has Final Fantasy characters in it, including Cloud Strife and probably Cid. (The only Final Fantasy games I've played are Final Fantasy XIII and XIII-2.)
  • The main character is Sora, who has a Mickey Mouse-inspired outfit and fights with a giant key. There's also that girl with the red hair, and that other guy.
  • It's got a Tarzan stage, and probably a level based on the Fantasia cartoon with all of the brooms carrying pails of water.
  • The gameplay is pretty standard action-RPG fare.

Based on that, you're probably wondering "why the hell are you playing it?". The thing is, I also knew people loved that game a lot, and the wave of excitement generated by the Kingdom Hearts III trailer at Sony's E3 conference was a strong reminder of that. I can't recall such a breathless reaction to a game unveiling since the first The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess trailer at E3 2004. The recent HD re-release finally gave me a reasonable way to check it out (I never owned a PS2), and I figured "hey, why not?".

I played the first couple of hours of Kingdom Hearts Final Mix a couple of nights ago, and just arrived at Traverse Town. Here's some raw first impressions/nitpicks:

  • The beginning of the game is... weird. You're led through a series of dry tutorial rooms, fight an apropos-of-nothing boss battle, and are given bunch of choices without any context. I chose the sword, and discarded the staff. I have no idea what that means, and I also have no idea why the game gave me a multiple-choice quiz about my hopes and fears. Not the end of the world, and maybe more understandable in the gaming world of 2002, but it felt like such a missed opportunity. You're making Final Fantasy × Disney, and the first half-hour of your game is a tutorial featuring neither? Huh?
  • Even once you're dropped on Destiny Islands, the game is really slow to kick into gear. The first half-hour there consists of not one, but two scavenger hunts. Your first interaction with Kairi, who I gather to be a very important character in the series, consists of her asking you to find 2 logs, some cloth, and a rope. I hate to harp on this stuff so much, but it's kind of hard to swallow that the game producers thought this would be a first good impression.
  • Some of the non-Disney voice acting is pretty bland. The Disney stuff seems really good so far, and that makes the weaker stuff all the more noticeable. I'm told Kingdom Hearts had the weakest voice acting in the series, and I can only complain about the localization of a game made in 2002 so much. It doesn't seem terrible, just jarring relative to the high bars set by more recent games like Final Fantasy XIII and Persona 4.
  • The general feel of the game -- camera, character movement, and combat -- strikes me as about as dated as I'd have expected. I have to assume there's more to the combat system than has been let on, but so far, it feels pretty loose and overly simple. It all works, but no amount of graphical overhaul could fool me into thinking the gameplay design was contemporary.

Gripes aside, I can see where the charm is, and I suspect this game's just slow to pick up. Regardless of my lack of reverence for either of the worlds the game is combining, I've absorbed enough culture about both to find the premise interesting. The idea of travelling around different Disney universes tied together by an overarching JRPG story -- with top-tier Square Enix production values -- is enticing to me. The sheer existence of Kingdom Hearts, when I really think about it, is such a culturally oddity that I just have to know what it's all about.

I don't know who any of these people are.

P.S. I've spent a bit of time looking a lists of Kingdom Hearts games recently, and man, the titles are something else. I'm playing a game entitled Kingdom Hearts HD I.5 ReMIX (look closely: not "1.5", but "I.5"), and it contains games entitled Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories and Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days. Don't get me wrong, I think it's great, but I would have assumed that somewhere in the mountains of contracts surely necessary for this thing to exist, Disney would have a veto clause to prevent Tetsuya Nomura from using nonsense numbers in titles.

#1 Posted by Video_Game_King (36272 posts) -

Surprisingly, this is not the first time today that I've told somebody that they have to play more Final Fantasy.

#2 Posted by believer258 (12019 posts) -

A few notes of my own:

Make no mistake, Kingdom Hearts is its own thing. There's plenty of Final Fantasy and Disney fanservice, but that isn't the only thing to it.

The combat system gets some depth to it and it gets pretty fucking hard (there's a fight in front of a sort of portal near the end that is fucking brutal, or at least my 12 year old self thought it was). It's not a particularly mindblowing battle system but there's more to it than appears.

Like many Square games, it takes quite some time to get started. It takes a few levels for it to start really getting exciting. You'll have to power through the Tarzan level. Its writers also seemed to think that there's more to the game than there actually is, hence the nonsensical intro. However, the first game doesn't have anywhere near as much of that as the later games.

Those guys in black? Forget about those for the first game. The HD version might have added some stuff in that refers to them, but I don't ever remember them appearing in it on the PS2.

Online
#3 Posted by Ravenlight (8040 posts) -

Surprisingly, this is not the first time today that I've told somebody that they have to play more Final Fantasy.

It is, however, the first time you've done so without musical accompaniment.

#4 Posted by Video_Game_King (36272 posts) -

@video_game_king said:

Surprisingly, this is not the first time today that I've told somebody that they have to play more Final Fantasy.

It is, however, the first time you've done so without musical accompaniment.

Surprisingly, the other person didn't get music, either.

#5 Posted by GrantHeaslip (1655 posts) -

Surprisingly, this is not the first time today that I've told somebody that they have to play more Final Fantasy.

Believe me, I know. I never owned a PS1, PS2 or SNES (went straight from NES to N64), so I've got an excuse.

I've got grand plans to play VI through X, though realistically, X is probably the next one I'll play.

A few notes of my own:

Make no mistake, Kingdom Hearts is its own thing. There's plenty of Final Fantasy and Disney fanservice, but that isn't the only thing to it.

The combat system gets some depth to it and it gets pretty fucking hard (there's a fight in front of a sort of portal near the end that is fucking brutal, or at least my 12 year old self thought it was). It's not a particularly mindblowing battle system but there's more to it than appears.

Like many Square games, it takes quite some time to get started. It takes a few levels for it to start really getting exciting. You'll have to power through the Tarzan level. Its writers also seemed to think that there's more to the game than there actually is, hence the nonsensical intro. However, the first game doesn't have anywhere near as much of that as the later games.

Those guys in black? Forget about those for the first game. The HD version might have added some stuff in that refers to them, but I don't ever remember them appearing in it on the PS2.

Right, I did know that about the Kingdom Hearts universe, so I suppose "Final Fantasy x Disney" wasn't quite fair.

Regarding the guys in black, that's what I get for grabbing stuff from Google Image Search. I always hate doing image searches for games I haven't finished, so I really half-assed this one to avoid asking for spoiler trouble.

#6 Edited by Aegon (5712 posts) -

When I think back on it I'm surprised KH slipped through to an E for everyone rating even though Sora commits suicide.

#7 Posted by ZombiePie (5711 posts) -

@ravenlight said:

@video_game_king said:

Surprisingly, this is not the first time today that I've told somebody that they have to play more Final Fantasy.

It is, however, the first time you've done so without musical accompaniment.

Surprisingly, the other person didn't get music, either.

FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFAH!

Moderator
#8 Posted by Video_Game_King (36272 posts) -
#9 Posted by Chaser324 (6662 posts) -

I actually have some fond memories of the first KH game as a pretty fun action RPG romp. Although, at least some of that enjoyment is definitely just from the novelty of the FF x Disney setting.

It isn't until the second game that the plot just gets so ridiculous I could barely handle it. I haven't touched anything in the franchise since KH2.

Moderator
#10 Posted by Video_Game_King (36272 posts) -

(there's a fight in front of a sort of portal near the end that is fucking brutal, or at least my 12 year old self thought it was)

Oh, I know what you're talking about. It's one of those fights that's so hard that you end up memorizing the cutscene immediately preceding it.

#11 Edited by Hailinel (25179 posts) -

As others have noted, the Final Fantasy/Disney elements are really just trappings for the original characters to run around and interact with. The game is also a lot darker than people may have perhaps expected. Everything that happens at the start of the game, with the tutorials and that actually really damn creepy dream, should really set you up for the sort of game you're actually playing draped underneath all of that Disney whimsey.

This is probably not what some people signed up for.

#12 Posted by ArbitraryWater (11934 posts) -

I can't tell you a thing about the first Kingdom Hearts, and I'm pretty sure I beat that game. Or was it Kingdom Hearts II? Probably the second one, actually. In any case, enjoy the Disney X Final Fantasy while you can, because from the next game onward Kingdom Hearts becomes a lot more obsessed with its own really dumb lore. And Geoffery Rush is there at some point.

#13 Posted by Paarthurnax (22 posts) -

The sword, shield, and staff thing is just a way to choose your stats to begin with. I'm so glad to see someone outside of the argument of it sucks/it's awesome. Hope you enjoy it more than you dislike it( there is plenty to not like).

#14 Posted by Petiew (1353 posts) -

The weapons at the start determine your stats but more importantly what levels you learn skills at. Picking the sword teaches you offensive moves, combo extenders, etc earlier on.The other questions determine what speed Sora will level up at.

I've been down on KH's own original story for a while, but playing through some of the first game again it's actually the most interesting thing about it. The Disney worlds are pretty weak and the story can be tedious to go through.

Combat does pick up as you learn more skills and magic, but overall it's still fairly simple. Dodging and guarding are extremely important in this game.

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