I played Kingdom Hearts

Posted by GrantHeaslip (1606 posts) -

(See I'm playing Kingdom Hearts.)

I'm somewhat uncomfortable writing about Kingdom Hearts, so much so that I almost didn't bother writing this. It's an eleven-year-old game -- a game released when N64 and PS1 games were still on store shelves -- which makes coming at it without any associated nostalgia a weird prospect. There's problems with this game, and I can't help but think they were problems at the time as well, but I also can't help but think that I'm not being fair judging the problems by modern standards. And on the other side of the coin, there's stuff this game does really well -- especially in the presentation department -- but it was probably a lot more astounding (and more capable of making up for the issues) in 2002 than it is now. In the absence of a time machine, judging Kingdom Hearts by modern standards is all I can do.

The presentation

Kingdom Hearts has a ton of charm, and some pretty amazing production values even by modern standards. The sheer volume of different well-realized Disney worlds is pretty amazing, and there's a lot of little touches that make the worlds feel like more than window dressing. Stuff like the shrinking mechanic in Wonderland, the vaguely disturbing alternate character models in Atlantica, the sliding and vine-swinging in Deep Jungle, and the flying mechanic introduced in Neverland really made going to new worlds and seeing what Square Enix did with them a treat. The Hundred Acre Wood level in particular really captured the feel of the source material. Even stuff as simple as unique battle themes for each area -- something very few JRPGs seem to bother with -- went a long way.

I'm not knowledgeable enough about Disney to know what percentage of the voice actors were the official voice actors, but with maybe a couple of exceptions, they rang true to me. Given the era in which Kingdom Hearts was released and the weirdness that must have been involved in its production and licensing, I can totally picture a scenario in which most of the non-primary characters were text-only, and it's to Square Enix and Disney's credit that they didn't half-ass that vital aspect of the game. It took me some time to come to terms with the Square-sourced voice acting, and it really isn't great, but it was good enough that it was never distracting. My impression is that most localized voice acting of the time was somewhere between mediocre and bad, so Kingdom Hearts must have been a pretty big deal at the time.

I'd often watch a cutscene and assume it had been touched up far more than was actually the case. Here's a good example of one that holds up remarkably well eleven years down the road. It's obvious that some work was done -- particularly adding fully-animated faces and depth of field effects in some cutscenes -- but fairly little relative to how good the game looks.

The gameplay

The gameplay was the source of most of my problems with Kingdom Hearts. At its best, and in appropriate moderation, it's surprisingly satisfying and deep, and cuts a nice balance between breeziness and skill. When things are going well and you're taking out enemies left and right, it's downright fun. But a lot of the time, it's a grind, and far too often just feels broken or cheap. I really struggled with the flying spell-casters early on, and their unpredictable homing attacks forced me into a super-conservative, unfun, never-stop-rolling style of play that carried me through most of the game. By the end of the game, I was powerful enough that I didn't really need to dodge, so I was just pointing the stick in the direction of enemies and pounding out 4-hit combos. It wasn't fun. They thankfully let you set the camera to fully manual control -- the automatic camera was all over the place.

Some of the boss battles just felt broken. I would try to follow their patterns while Donald and Goofy ran around doing nothing, then react slightly incorrectly to an attack pattern and get smoked. In some cases, this was a result of being under-levelled -- something the game never really does good job of communicating -- but in other cases it was just a result of trying too hard. I eventually realized that the most effective way of fighting most of the bosses was to just load up on Potions (later on Ethers), get up in their face, and mash X until they died. This strategy, combined with an hour of grinding in the Traverse Town hotel before the final sequence, was all I needed to tear through each of the final bosses.

I also constantly lost track of where the game wanted me to go. The worlds, when you really boil them down to pure gameplay logic, consist of a series of triggers you need to hit sequentially. This would be fine if the location of the next trigger was always fairly logical and obvious, but in many cases it seemed totally arbitrary. I remember this being an especially noticeable problem in Deep Jungle, which was confusing enough to navigate without also having no clue where the game wanted me to go. When faced with the prospect of bumbling around a world hoping to run into a trigger, I'd often just pull up a FAQ, something I really don't like to do.

The turn

Throughout the first two thirds of Kingdom Hearts, the snappy pacing, variety of environments, and density of Disney material made the boringness of the gameplay endurable. There was nothing hugely wrong with the formula -- I like Zelda games, and it's certainly not because of their engaging combat systems -- except that at a certain point the Disney stuff cut off, and what was left was monotonous combat through generic environments. The Hollow Bastion was a grind, so much so that I assumed it was the end of the game, only to discover that there was an entire other world of equally boring environments, complete with a plethora of eye-rollingly dull wave-based combat rooms.

I suppose the problem isn't so much that the Disney material stopped, but rather that the over-arching story wasn't engaging enough to pick up where it left off. The story's competent in the sense that it establishes a coherent motivation for Sora to do what he does -- to save Kairi -- but I had a hard time engaging with it on anything resembling an emotional level. It ends on a pretty unsatisfying note -- not quite a cliffhanger, but pretty close to it.

I'll give them this: the story felt Disney-like. It's simple (perhaps overly so); plays on themes of friendship and positive thinking; and has caricatured evil villains, a pure princess character (Kairi), and a morally corrupted character (Riku) who ultimately wanted to do the right thing. There's a certain thematic consistency between the Square and Disney material, and even if the Square side of it didn't move me much, I can sort of see what they were getting at.

I don't regret playing Kingdom Hearts. I'm glad I know what it's all about now, and it's a unique experience if nothing else. I may even check out Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories and Kingdom Hearts II at some point, if just to find out where the series went.

The music

Kingdom Hearts' soundtrack didn't blow me away, but it's really good. To the extent that I'm starting to recognize Yoko Shimomura's style, I really like it. Kingdom Hearts HD I.5 ReMIX includes some great redone (and sometimes orchestrated) versions of many of the pieces, but there's no official soundtrack out, and I wanted to go through and see how different the originals were and how well they hold up. (They hold up.)

Here's way more picks than I should be picking:

  • Dearly Beloved. Some great title screen music -- even better with the faint sound of waves the game overlays over it. I knew this was the series theme the second I heard it.
  • 光 Hikari -KINGDOM Orchestra Instrumental Version-. The original Hikaru Utada pop version is fine, and I think it was pretty effective during the ending, but I like this orchestrated version more. It's pretty neat that a pop song could be arranged in a completely different way and still work this well.
  • Destiny Islands. I mostly just like that this sounds like Mario Kart beach track theme.
  • Night of Fate. This is a great battle theme. This was the piece that clued me in to the fact that Yoko Shimomura was the game's composer (see the Xenoblade battle theme).
  • Deep Jungle. This world was kind of a pain in the ass, but at least it had a super catchy theme.
  • Winnie the Pooh. This barely counts as being part of the Kingdom Hearts soundtrack -- I'm not even sure it's an original arrangement -- but it really made the Winnie the Pooh world.
  • A very Small Wish & Monstrous Monstro [battle theme]. An example of what a great job Shimomura did integrating the world themes and world battle themes.
  • An Adventure in Atlantica. Another great battle theme. I feel like this kind of upbeat, catchy video game music is somewhat of a relic of the past, and I wish it wasn't.
  • The Deep End. The Ursula battle theme. This one also reminded me of Xenoblade a lot.
  • Spook of Halloween Town. Did I mention I like the battle themes?
  • Neverland Sky. This one was stuck in my head for a day, and it's only used during the short Big Ben sequence at the end of Neverland.
  • Hollow Bastion & Scherzo Di Notte [battle theme]. For all of my dislike for the turn Kingdom Hearts took at the Hollow Bastion, it had some great music. This pairing hits a great "okay, playtime's over now" vibe.
  • Forze Del Male. This was the boss theme for the Hollow Bastion Riku fight, which represented a huge, frustrating difficulty spike for me. I died a lot while listening to this.
  • Fragments of Sorrow. Different arrangements of this composition appear at the beginning and end of the game, which really effectively sews together the narrative.
Online
#1 Posted by Video_Game_King (36272 posts) -

Oh, you don't have to tell me about Hollow Bastion Riku. That's the kind of boss fight where you memorize the lines in the unskippable cutscene immediately preceding it.

#2 Edited by Aegon (5643 posts) -

It's funny, I realized Yoko as the composer of Xenoblade's battle theme when I recognized the style being similar to KH (played it when I was around 11-12 years old).

Those hollow bastion themes are so good. I remember what a big deal it was to beat Riku. I had to convince my mom to let me reach a savepoint after sora "kills himself" and becomes a shadow.

#3 Posted by Hailinel (24849 posts) -

As someone who came into the series with Kingdom Hearts II, I'm looking forward to trying the 1.5 version of the original. I haven't played it in full; only a little bit of it on the PS2, but even that little bit was enough to tell me that the series has been more consistent in its narrative and tone than a lot of people that scream about how KHII ruined the series would have you believe. Because for all of its Disney cheeriness, the original Kingdom Hearts is a really fucking dark game, right from the opening minutes when Sora is in that creepy dreamscape.

If you go further in with the franchise, be prepared for the original storylines and characters to start taking precedence over the Disney hijinks. Kingdom Hearts II brings in a whole host of original villains and side characters in addition to those from the first game (not to mention Chain of Memories). There's still plenty of Disney worlds to explore and characters to meet, and its all very charming, but in the end, it's once again all about Sora and company. (Also, Agrabah is fucking useless in KH2. You will likely come to despise that particular world.)

#4 Edited by Hailinel (24849 posts) -

@aegon said:

It's funny, I realized Yoko as the composer of Xenoblade's battle theme when I recognized the style being similar to KH (played it when I was around 11-12 years old).

Then this will blow your mind. Tetris Type A theme, as redone by Shimomura in Smash Bros. Brawl:

#5 Edited by Slag (4409 posts) -

Well you played the one game in the series I like, you're right it was pretty impressive at the time. It felt clen and vibrant. Early enough I the PS2 to get wowed by playing it.

Then the story just started getting more and more bizarre and oddly derivative after KH1. Chain of Memories in particular I couldn't stand , but I hate card battle games. So that could be a me problem.

My suspicion is that Square creatively really didn't have a good idea for the series past one game. In my opinion that's how they should have left it and focused on other series like Chrono.

I always found it odd too, that Squaresoft characters were the ones that were poorly used and rang false while the Disney ones were pretty great given that Square actually developed the game. One would think Final Fantasy's creators would understand how to use their own characters, but they sure didn't very well there.

#6 Edited by Hailinel (24849 posts) -

@slag said:

Well you played the one game in the series I like, you're right it was pretty impressive at the time. It felt clen and vibrant. Early enough I the PS2 to get wowed by playing it.

Then the story just started getting more and more bizarre and oddly derivative after KH1. Chain of Memories in particular I couldn't stand , but I hate card battle games. So that could be a me problem.

My suspicion is that Square creatively really didn't have a good idea for the series past one game. In my opinion that's how they should have left it and focused on other series like Chrono.

I always found it odd too, that Squaresoft characters were the ones that were poorly used and rang false while the Disney ones were pretty great given that Square actually developed the game. One would think Final Fantasy's creators would understand how to use their own characters, but they sure didn't very well there.

The Final Fantasy characters were just a side-aspect. The Disney angle was always the side given more importance. Also, I wouldn't realy call the story derivative after the first. I mean, yes, the series does keep finding ways to make the same villain appear again and again (sort of), and there have definitely been some extraneous entries in the series (Coded, in particular), but there's a definite story arc at play; one that will hopefully be resolved with Kingdom Hearts III.

#7 Posted by GrantHeaslip (1606 posts) -

@video_game_king said:

Oh, you don't have to tell me about Hollow Bastion Riku. That's the kind of boss fight where you memorize the lines in the unskippable cutscene immediately preceding it.

Kingdom Hearts I.5 has skippable cutscenes! So you're telling me that in the original, you had to watch the entire scene every time you continued!?

And yes, the part in that fight in which Riku powers up and one-shots you if you don't know what he's going to do ahead of time was a real "you've got to be fucking kidding me" moment. I grinded a bit, and learned to cheese the fight by constantly hovering around during his special attacks.

@aegon said:

It's funny, I realized Yoko as the composer of Xenoblade's battle theme when I recognized the style being similar to KH (played it when I was around 11-12 years old).

Those hollow bastion themes are so good. I remember what a big deal it was to beat Riku. I had to convince my mom to let me reach a savepoint after sora "kills himself" and becomes a shadow.

Yeah, that style really seems like her own! I listen to YouTube playlists of game music when I'm working sometimes, and on a few occasions I've recognized a Shimomura tune from a game I've never played. I can't think of any other game music composer I've had that experience with, though I also don't know many of them by name.

I remember those "no, you don't understand, I need to save!" parent battles :).

@hailinel said:

As someone who came into the series with Kingdom Hearts II, I'm looking forward to trying the 1.5 version of the original. I haven't played it in full; only a little bit of it on the PS2, but even that little bit was enough to tell me that the series has been more consistent in its narrative and tone than a lot of people that scream about how KHII ruined the series would have you believe. Because for all of its Disney cheeriness, the original Kingdom Hearts is a really fucking dark game, right from the opening minutes when Sora is in that creepy dreamscape.

If you go further in with the franchise, be prepared for the original storylines and characters to start taking precedence over the Disney hijinks. Kingdom Hearts II brings in a whole host of original villains and side characters in addition to those from the first game (not to mention Chain of Memories). There's still plenty of Disney worlds to explore and characters to meet, and its all very charming, but in the end, it's once again all about Sora and company. (Also, Agrabah is fucking useless in KH2. You will likely come to despise that particular world.)

You're right, parts of Kingdom Hearts are dark, but I wouldn't call it a dark game as a whole. The parts you're talking about are almost exclusively at the beginning and end -- the middle 2/3 of the game is generally pretty cheery.

I'm somewhat looking forward to Kingdom Hearts fleshing out its lore in later games. I wasn't against any diversion from Disney stuff on principle -- the problem was that the diversions it took were pretty boring, and they did a poor job of making me care about the main plot.

Online
#8 Posted by Slag (4409 posts) -

@hailinel said:

@slag said:

Well you played the one game in the series I like, you're right it was pretty impressive at the time. It felt clen and vibrant. Early enough I the PS2 to get wowed by playing it.

Then the story just started getting more and more bizarre and oddly derivative after KH1. Chain of Memories in particular I couldn't stand , but I hate card battle games. So that could be a me problem.

My suspicion is that Square creatively really didn't have a good idea for the series past one game. In my opinion that's how they should have left it and focused on other series like Chrono.

I always found it odd too, that Squaresoft characters were the ones that were poorly used and rang false while the Disney ones were pretty great given that Square actually developed the game. One would think Final Fantasy's creators would understand how to use their own characters, but they sure didn't very well there.

The Final Fantasy characters were just a side-aspect. The Disney angle was always the side given more importance. Also, I wouldn't realy call the story derivative after the first. I mean, yes, the series does keep finding ways to make the same villain appear again and again (sort of), and there have definitely been some extraneous entries in the series (Coded, in particular), but there's a definite story arc at play; one that will hopefully be resolved with Kingdom Hearts III.

Oh I know that now, although I distinctly remember the marketing at the time hyping up their presence. So at the time it felt like a minor letdown. Evenso I didn't think their cameos were handles that well.

I'll agree there is an arc, I just personally don't find it particularly engaging probably because the KH original characters I don't find compelling at all.

#9 Posted by Aegon (5643 posts) -
#10 Posted by GrantHeaslip (1606 posts) -

@slag said:

Well you played the one game in the series I like, you're right it was pretty impressive at the time. It felt clen and vibrant. Early enough I the PS2 to get wowed by playing it.

Then the story just started getting more and more bizarre and oddly derivative after KH1. Chain of Memories in particular I couldn't stand , but I hate card battle games. So that could be a me problem.

My suspicion is that Square creatively really didn't have a good idea for the series past one game. In my opinion that's how they should have left it and focused on other series like Chrono.

I always found it odd too, that Squaresoft characters were the ones that were poorly used and rang false while the Disney ones were pretty great given that Square actually developed the game. One would think Final Fantasy's creators would understand how to use their own characters, but they sure didn't very well there.

All of this talk about where the series goes has me wanting to play CoM and II just to understand what you guys are talking about! People seem to have strong views on both ends of the spectrum.

Online
#11 Posted by Video_Game_King (36272 posts) -

Kingdom Hearts I.5 has skippable cutscenes! So you're telling me that in the original, you had to watch the entire scene every time you continued!?

Those unskippable cutscenes,
Just to die to blows unseen,
All the while, high on caffeine,
Those were the days.

And you knew the story then,
And Ansem was still Ansem,
not some random burn victim.
Oh, to play those games again.

Swinging 'round that old Keyblade.
Now that it's been a decade,
Oh the memories, they fade.
Those were the days.

#12 Posted by Video_Game_King (36272 posts) -

Oh, that reminds me: that's the exact same strategy I used for Sephiroth in Kingdom Hearts 2. Just hover about when he's spazzing around with his sword, and then come down to whoop his overrated villain ass. (Overrated at the time. Remember, this was back when either FF7 fanboyism or FF7 anti-fanboyism was at its peak. I can't remember which.)

It's also worth mentioning that learning that strategy was how I was introduced to YouTube. So yea, this series holds some pretty big importance with me.

#13 Posted by crithon (3269 posts) -

I loved how there's a tutorial in the whole stainglass window void, and then the same tutorial again on the island.... You know people can say this feels dated, but man Ratchet and Clank and Jack and Daxter were out a year earlier and even the next year was Wind Waker.

I don't know why I keep coming back to these series, even when I just feel horribly frustrated and angry on each game. I actually come back for some Disney Fan Service and even when I am a Disney super fan they don't handle it as well as a Disny Land ride. It's a good idea, just the whole "I want to play in the backyard with my disney friends" but it's not handle right and it becomes alien.... like Scrooge McDucks cold eyes as he eats ice salt candy

AND WHY THE FUCK IS SCROOGE MCDUCK NEVER A SELECTABLE CHARACTER IN THESE GAMES??? Seriously, ugh, they get everything all wrong in these games.

#14 Posted by DonChipotle (2762 posts) -

You should stop playing Kingdom Hearts now. Kingdom Hearts 2 is when the series goes off the rails in the worst possible way.

#15 Posted by golguin (3932 posts) -

@slag said:

Well you played the one game in the series I like, you're right it was pretty impressive at the time. It felt clen and vibrant. Early enough I the PS2 to get wowed by playing it.

Then the story just started getting more and more bizarre and oddly derivative after KH1. Chain of Memories in particular I couldn't stand , but I hate card battle games. So that could be a me problem.

My suspicion is that Square creatively really didn't have a good idea for the series past one game. In my opinion that's how they should have left it and focused on other series like Chrono.

I always found it odd too, that Squaresoft characters were the ones that were poorly used and rang false while the Disney ones were pretty great given that Square actually developed the game. One would think Final Fantasy's creators would understand how to use their own characters, but they sure didn't very well there.

All of this talk about where the series goes has me wanting to play CoM and II just to understand what you guys are talking about! People seem to have strong views on both ends of the spectrum.

I played CoM on the GBA and I felt the gameplay was super tight. I think that a lot of people didn't really "get" the deck building aspect of the game. Your combat ability and skills were directly linked with your ability to build a deck for a given boss. You had to build combos into your deck and account for the card loss to lead to new combos. You needed to know the starting points of combos and spells and their location within your deck to quickly use them when they were needed. 0 cards and item cards were super essential for boss combat.

The game design is probably the inspiration for The World Ends With You were you have wrap your head around two systems that need your constant attention at the same time.

On a side note the darkest game in the KH series would be Birth by Sleep. Some pretty crazy stuff goes down for a game involving Disney characters.

#16 Posted by BisonHero (6536 posts) -

@video_game_king said:

@grantheaslip said:

Kingdom Hearts I.5 has skippable cutscenes! So you're telling me that in the original, you had to watch the entire scene every time you continued!?

Those unskippable cutscenes,
Just to die to blows unseen,
All the while, high on caffeine,
Those were the days.

And you knew the story then,
And Ansem was still Ansem,
not some random burn victim.
Oh, to play those games again.

Swinging 'round that old Keyblade.
Now that it's been a decade,
Oh the memories, they fade.
Those were the days.

I can't totally tell which song this is set to, but I'm hoping it's this one:

#17 Posted by GrantHeaslip (1606 posts) -

@crithon said:

I loved how there's a tutorial in the whole stainglass window void, and then the same tutorial again on the island.... You know people can say this feels dated, but man Ratchet and Clank and Jack and Daxter were out a year earlier and even the next year was Wind Waker.

I don't think they really repeated anything at the beginning. The island is lame for its own reason: it's a series of vague scavenger hunts. And man, now that you have me thinking about the beginning, I forgot to mention how dumb it was that they had you make decisions that affected your character progression and EXP weighting (early/mid/late-game) with zero context. I'm pretty sure I had to grind at the end of the game because I picked whatever dumb answer caused my EXP gains to slow down later on.

And yeah, you've got a point about the relative datedness -- games were better then than I'm giving them credit for being. What I was really getting at is that acceptable standards were lower at that time. I don't think Kingdom Hearts' combat would fly now, and while I don't get the sense it was loved at the time, it was at least good enough in a way it wouldn't be now.

You should stop playing Kingdom Hearts now. Kingdom Hearts 2 is when the series goes off the rails in the worst possible way.

If playing on is indeed a mistake, it's a mistake I have to make on my own :).

Online
#18 Posted by DonChipotle (2762 posts) -

@donchipotle said:

You should stop playing Kingdom Hearts now. Kingdom Hearts 2 is when the series goes off the rails in the worst possible way.

If playing on is indeed a mistake, it's a mistake I have to make on my own :).

Godspeed.

#19 Posted by Slag (4409 posts) -

@golguin said:

@grantheaslip said:

@slag said:

Well you played the one game in the series I like, you're right it was pretty impressive at the time. It felt clen and vibrant. Early enough I the PS2 to get wowed by playing it.

Then the story just started getting more and more bizarre and oddly derivative after KH1. Chain of Memories in particular I couldn't stand , but I hate card battle games. So that could be a me problem.

My suspicion is that Square creatively really didn't have a good idea for the series past one game. In my opinion that's how they should have left it and focused on other series like Chrono.

I always found it odd too, that Squaresoft characters were the ones that were poorly used and rang false while the Disney ones were pretty great given that Square actually developed the game. One would think Final Fantasy's creators would understand how to use their own characters, but they sure didn't very well there.

All of this talk about where the series goes has me wanting to play CoM and II just to understand what you guys are talking about! People seem to have strong views on both ends of the spectrum.

I played CoM on the GBA and I felt the gameplay was super tight. I think that a lot of people didn't really "get" the deck building aspect of the game. Your combat ability and skills were directly linked with your ability to build a deck for a given boss. You had to build combos into your deck and account for the card loss to lead to new combos. You needed to know the starting points of combos and spells and their location within your deck to quickly use them when they were needed. 0 cards and item cards were super essential for boss combat.

The game design is probably the inspiration for The World Ends With You were you have wrap your head around two systems that need your constant attention at the same time.

On a side note the darkest game in the KH series would be Birth by Sleep. Some pretty crazy stuff goes down for a game involving Disney characters.

I played COM on the GBA as well and I won't argue that gameplay was tight. I totally got that you needed to build a deck and you are right those Zero cards were essential in surviving boss fights.

It's just a style of gameplay I didn't care for. I don't mind building decks, I didn't like how little clue the game gave you how to build the deck for the boss fights ahead of time. Which lead to a lot of dull grinding going back out into the levels to rebuild it correctly once I encountered one if I guessed wrong. I don't mind grinding when it feels like it's going somewhere, but in many cases the grinding in COM felt like a shot in the dark in hopes you stumble across the right cards. The level design though I thought was terribly dull and repetitive, which made the grinding feel extra tedious even though CoM is a short game.

COM mechanically is not a bad game, it's just a style of game I happen to not like and executed in a way I don't like. The story I thought wasn't that great, but I do give them credit for inverting the way overused amnesia trope in a pretty clever way.

#20 Posted by ArbitraryWater (11749 posts) -

All I know about Kingdom Hearts is that I beat KH 2 at some point during my misspent youth and can't tell you a thing about it other than the part where Squeenix gets some very talented voice actors to say some very stupid things and the bad guys are called "nobodies" with zero irony. Christopher Lee and Geoffery Rush are in that game. What.

So you should play it.

Online
#21 Posted by crithon (3269 posts) -

@grantheaslip: well, maybe it's not so much a tutorial the island, there's a lot of small things to do on the island that are just dull and really poorly handle even if the developer's intentions were to build a relationship between two aliens and then cardboard cut out of Waku, Tidus and Selphie. But you do mention how bad Traverse Town is.... and that's AFTER the island..... which again is such a poor design. If the game were just the combat arenas, interacting with disney characters and then animation sequences with Disney films, then it wouldn't be that bad of a concept.

Well the thing is, I mentioned this earlier, that Kingdom Hearts success is everyone likes the idea of being a kid and playing with Disney characters in their backyard. The problem with the game is that it's this weird unpolished mess, it's like how we still have people defending Sonic Adventures as a high point for Sonic series.

I'm a HUGE Disney Fan and I like JRPGs, so like I will begrudgingly go into these games because every single trailer they announce something that appeals me "Lilo and Stitch stage" "Tron stage" "three musketeer stage" or "Nightmare Before Christmas Stage" and every time I go through like 20 hours before I find these stages and half the time I'm like "well that was soulless amusement park ride."

Here's another kicker, these games sell RIDICULOUS, they sell better then FF games or other JRPGs. If I'm not mistaken the last KH game for 3DS was in the top 3 the month on the NPD when it was released.

#22 Posted by Hailinel (24849 posts) -

@crithon said:

I'm a HUGE Disney Fan and I like JRPGs, so like I will begrudgingly go into these games because every single trailer they announce something that appeals me "Lilo and Stitch stage" "Tron stage" "three musketeer stage" or "Nightmare Before Christmas Stage" and every time I go through like 20 hours before I find these stages and half the time I'm like "well that was soulless amusement park ride."

I think your expectations are just misplaced. These stages are never "Tron: The Game" or anything like that. The different worlds serve as Disney-themed stages to explore and for the characters to interact in.

#23 Edited by crithon (3269 posts) -

@hailinel: I don't know, "amusement park ride" do feel exactly how they come off as. It's not like really these character can truly interact with these worlds, they just sit there. Lets just say the Genie befriends Gilgamesh and they go onto wacky adventures. No instead you get these little slices into the films, rendered very well in 3d, and then a bit of level, some slight combat, enemy redesign then the ride is over. I feel there's better ways to handle this fan service, like Scrooge McDuck could easily make sense of funding the adventure or even seeing in his past adventures a magical rune that bridges the worlds and then Magica DeSpell teams up with Edna Kramer from FF8 into an epic showdown..... I am pulling these ideas out of my ass, so I don't know if that's still my expectations are always off or not.

#24 Posted by Hailinel (24849 posts) -

@crithon said:

@hailinel: I don't know, "amusement park ride" do feel exactly how they come off as. It's not like really these character can truly interact with these worlds, they just sit there. Lets just say the Genie befriends Gilgamesh and they go onto wacky adventures. No instead you get these little slices into the films, rendered very well in 3d, and then a bit of level, some slight combat, enemy redesign then the ride is over. I feel there's better ways to handle this fan service, like Scrooge McDuck could easily make sense of funding the adventure or even seeing in his past adventures a magical rune that bridges the worlds and then Magica DeSpell teams up with Edna Kramer from FF8 into an epic showdown..... I am pulling these ideas out of my ass, so I don't know if that's still my expectations are always off or not.

What it sounds like you want is a different game entirely that doesn't feature a storyline heavily reliant on original, non-Final Fantasy/Disney characters. Sora's adventures aren't something that are just up for funding by Scrooge, for example. He has his own motivations and resources to move from world to world. And the various worlds serve their purposes for the stories told in the games, in that we're just briefly crossing paths with the Disney characters who were otherwise going about their business and, at times, engaging in sections of story adapted from their sources into the games.

Kingdom Hearts just doesn't sound like the game you really want. It sounds more like you'd prefer Final Fantasy X Disney Afternoon.

#25 Edited by crithon (3269 posts) -

@hailinel: maybe your right, I just never connected with their leads in all their games. I mean I played through, jesus 5 of of these things. Ugh, I don't know why I do this to myself. But I understand the concept of "being a kid playing in your backyard with your disney characters" and these games never do that well. Like the idea of "whimsy" is just so alien to them, almost like Lynch or Cronenberg distance humming sound. And I enjoy JRPG, and like their combat could always be better.

#26 Posted by Hailinel (24849 posts) -

@crithon said:

@hailinel: maybe your right, I just never connected with their leads in all their games. I mean I played through, jesus 5 of of these things. Ugh, I don't know why I do this to myself. But I understand the concept of "being a kid playing in your backyard with your disney characters" and these games never do that well. Like the idea of "whimsy" is just so alien to them, almost like Lynch or Cronenberg distance humming sound. And I enjoy JRPG, and like their combat could always be better.

Like I said in an earlier reply to this blog, Kingdom Hearts is a dark game, and the series as a whole is pretty dark. This isn't about playing in the back yard with Disney characters; it's about an adventure that just happens to be set in various Disney worlds. And while light-hearted at times, the series is really not a whimsical one, nor was it ever really intended to be.

#27 Posted by Petiew (1349 posts) -

KH's gameplay is focussed on dodging and blocking, it can be mashy at times but it's fairly slow paced and a bit more methodical. If you disliked its mashiness I wouldn't recommend KH2, it's really flashy but consists only of mashing X and some QTEs.

The whole original KH story vs Disney fun is a weird one. I started playing Dream Drop Distance and was much more interested in Riku's story and character than any of the Disney Worlds, despite criticising them before for focussing more on the original story. The abridged Disney stories often aren't very fun, and Sora's interactions with the characters are cringeworthy. (Maybe I just hate Sora) Thinking back on KH2 the most memorable scenes were actually from KH original worlds, whilst I ended up skipping so many scenes from Agrabah, Port Royal, Atlantica, etc. Playing through the HD remix I noticed I didn't enjoy the Disney Worlds as much as I remembered in KH1 either.

@hailinel: To be honest I see it as the exact opposite. It's a fairly lighthearted game with some darker themes stuck in from time to time. The majority of the game is in fact focussed on "Lets go to this Disney world for an adventure and make super best friends"

#28 Edited by crithon (3269 posts) -

@hailinel: maybe? I don't think it's handled well. I don't know why I continue with these series. It's not the characters, it's a fan service obviously, it's an amazing production quality even on a DS I was like "JESUS CHRIST LOOK AT THIS MODEL!" I just think it could be done better the darkness aspect of the story. Like recently was playing through Brothers and its walking this razor's edge of whimsy and darkness. Yes it's different, but I do think the whole power fantasy of characters who can run along walls and wield weapons the size of small cars can be done better. Again it's not done well, it's not like Sora killed a man, and is in denial about it so he lives in this imaginary world and all his real friends are in his subconscious.

#29 Posted by Hailinel (24849 posts) -

@crithon said:

@hailinel: maybe? I don't think it's handled well. I don't know why I continue with these series. It's not the characters, it's a fan service obviously, it's an amazing production quality even on a DS I was like "JESUS CHRIST LOOK AT THIS MODEL!" I just think it could be done better the darkness aspect of the story. Like recently was playing through Brothers and its walking this razor's edge of whimsy and darkness. Yes it's different, but I do think the whole power fantasy of characters who can run along walls and wield weapons the size of small cars can be done better. Again it's not done well, it's not like Sora killed a man, and is in denial about it so he lives in this imaginary world and all his real friends are in his subconscious.

No, it's actually a pretty bombastic battle of light and darkness not unlike something akin to Star Wars. It's entertaining, and I feel that the characters are portrayed well for who they are. I mean, Sora's a dork. Come hell or high water, no matter what dangers he faces and how brave he is, he's a dork. And I say that as someone that likes him. I like him because he is a dork. I'm not looking for Brothers when I play Kingdom Hearts. I'm looking for a wild, Disney-infused fantasy of fast-paced action and an entertaining story. So far, I've gotten what I've come for.

#30 Posted by BisonHero (6536 posts) -

@grantheaslip said:

@crithon said:

I loved how there's a tutorial in the whole stainglass window void, and then the same tutorial again on the island.... You know people can say this feels dated, but man Ratchet and Clank and Jack and Daxter were out a year earlier and even the next year was Wind Waker.

I don't think they really repeated anything at the beginning. The island is lame for its own reason: it's a series of vague scavenger hunts. And man, now that you have me thinking about the beginning, I forgot to mention how dumb it was that they had you make decisions that affected your character progression and EXP weighting (early/mid/late-game) with zero context. I'm pretty sure I had to grind at the end of the game because I picked whatever dumb answer caused my EXP gains to slow down later on.

Wow, that's a real thing that a video game does? I can't believe how many games used to have esoteric-ass shit in the first 10 minutes where they have you answer questions/choose to do or not do certain actions, and then it secretly biases how the game works or decides major things for how your character works.

OK, well, it's awesome the way they do it in Chrono Trigger because all it affects is the courtroom trial and the outcome is the same either way.

But seriously, it fucks with your EXP gain? That sounds so messed up.

#31 Posted by Hailinel (24849 posts) -

@grantheaslip said:

@crithon said:

I loved how there's a tutorial in the whole stainglass window void, and then the same tutorial again on the island.... You know people can say this feels dated, but man Ratchet and Clank and Jack and Daxter were out a year earlier and even the next year was Wind Waker.

I don't think they really repeated anything at the beginning. The island is lame for its own reason: it's a series of vague scavenger hunts. And man, now that you have me thinking about the beginning, I forgot to mention how dumb it was that they had you make decisions that affected your character progression and EXP weighting (early/mid/late-game) with zero context. I'm pretty sure I had to grind at the end of the game because I picked whatever dumb answer caused my EXP gains to slow down later on.

Wow, that's a real thing that a video game does? I can't believe how many games used to have esoteric-ass shit in the first 10 minutes where they have you answer questions/choose to do or not do certain actions, and then it secretly biases how the game works or decides major things for how your character works.

OK, well, it's awesome the way they do it in Chrono Trigger because all it affects is the courtroom trial and the outcome is the same either way.

But seriously, it fucks with your EXP gain? That sounds so messed up.

It only adjusts the gain in that it's, as I recall, either front loaded, back loaded, or balanced.

#32 Posted by crithon (3269 posts) -

@hailinel: hmmmmm, interesting you mention star wars, you know, I always felt like Mark Hamill's luke skywalker is such a earnest character. Like everyone mocks him for that Toshi station line but then he's just a kid who eventually grows up into Return of the Jedi martyr character. It's a character without any cynicism, which is why everyone loves Han Solo. But my point is I think Mark Hamill does an amazing job as Luke in fact I think he does a better then most people who are trying to play as just wide eyed optimistic characters.

But yeah I can see your comparison with Star Wars, I still think Kingdom Hearts dandles things a bit too alien, or David Lynch's Twin Peaks "The ceiling fan electricity is the gateway for bob." Like batman is all dark and brooding and yet he can have adventures with bright sun god superman

#33 Posted by BisonHero (6536 posts) -

@crithon said:

@hailinel: hmmmmm, interesting you mention star wars, you know, I always felt like Mark Hamill's luke skywalker is such a earnest character. Like everyone mocks him for that Toshi station line but then he's just a kid who eventually grows up into Return of the Jedi martyr character. It's a character without any cynicism, which is why everyone loves Han Solo. But my point is I think Mark Hamill does an amazing job as Luke in fact I think he does a better then most people who are trying to play as just wide eyed optimistic characters.

I agree about how well Mark Hamill handled that character. My only disappointment is that they kinda jump Luke forward too fast; he's still a rash kid at the end of Empire when he chooses to ignore Yoda's advice and thinks he's ready to go and save everyone from Vader, but then it feels like a zillion important things happened between Empire and Jedi because suddenly Luke is pimp supreme, has his shit totally together, and exudes this calm, Alec-Guinness-like demeanor in a lot of scenes.

I guess maybe I should really read Shadows of the Empire, since that is seemingly where a lot of this important Luke soul-searching and growing up occurred?

#34 Posted by Dixego (385 posts) -

You should stop playing Kingdom Hearts now. Kingdom Hearts 2 is when the series goes off the rails in the worst possible way.

In terms of story, perhaps. In terms of gameplay, the series has gotten progressively better with each new installment.

#35 Posted by Video_Game_King (36272 posts) -
#36 Posted by DonChipotle (2762 posts) -

@dixego said:

@donchipotle said:

You should stop playing Kingdom Hearts now. Kingdom Hearts 2 is when the series goes off the rails in the worst possible way.

In terms of story, perhaps. In terms of gameplay, the series has gotten progressively better with each new installment.

I thought Kingdom Hearts 2's combat was not very fun. It was flashy but boy was it not fun to actually play.

I can't comment on BBS or 358 Days or 3DD because I got off the Kingdom Hearts train by then and then left the station after reading a summary of BBS.

#37 Posted by crithon (3269 posts) -

@bisonhero: hehe, yeah yeah yeah, and then in Jedi he's all super dark cooler then Obi Wan Kenobi all in black jedi. But yeah, like I was saying there's something really earnest about Luke in that first film, like the whole cockpit scene he has with Han Solo about actually for fighting something larger then himself. It's sugary melodrama but it works.

#38 Posted by automatontribe (198 posts) -

I have huge nostalgia for Kingdom Hearts, it was the first rpg I ever finished as a kid. For some reason I never went on to play II or any of the spin-off games and from what I've seen of them I feel justified in having never done so.

This edit will also create new pages on Giant Bomb for:

Beware, you are proposing to add brand new pages to the wiki along with your edits. Make sure this is what you intended. This will likely increase the time it takes for your changes to go live.

Comment and Save

Until you earn 1000 points all your submissions need to be vetted by other Giant Bomb users. This process takes no more than a few hours and we'll send you an email once approved.