How Do You Prepare for the End of What Held You Together?

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Posted by WillHeroX (11 posts) -
Look at all the anime people. I love them.
Look at all the anime people. I love them.

Kingdom Hearts is...important to me. The games are fun to play, the story is fantastic, and I love almost every character a great deal (except like, Vexen. ew). If one thing has formed me into the person I am today, Kingdom Hearts is it; once it came into my life, it infiltrated my being and...well, maybe I should start at the beginning.

My first introduction to the series came when I found a volume of one of the manga on a friend's shelf. I can't recall which one it was or from which game, but that's where it all started. They didn't have all of them either, so I read disjointed bits from the first three games in the series (and became very confused in the process), thinking that parts of II happened during the original. Weeks (months?) later, while on vacation with my family, I stumbled across something at one of the many generic airport stores that have snacks, books, and weird curiosities; the May 2009 issue of Nintendo Power, the one that had Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days on the cover. Suddenly I had something to look forward to, and as a young teen with only Nintendo systems, a game I could actually play.

358/2 Days released in September 2009 in North America, during the middle of the swine flu pandemic. I came down with something during that (doctors said it was just a normal flu, but the swine flu stands out in my mind as being a current event at the time so I always frame it that way), and ended up being at home for about two weeks. Just before that illness hit me, my family had taken a trip to Blockbuster (R.I.P.) and I found something that had haunted my conscious since summer; a copy of 358/2 Days. Yes, Blockbuster let you rent DS games. That was a weird thing.

So, those two weeks were my first real time playing a Kingdom Hearts game, and my world became warped. I cried for a long time after beating 358/2. Within a few months, I had saved up money and gotten a PlayStation 2 along with a copy of 1 and re: Chain of Memories. II would happen with a year or so, but my memory is a bit hazy of when this all goes down. The point is that Kingdom Hearts quickly became everything I cared about.

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A year before 358/2 Days came out, my family and I moved countries. It was a really hard change for me, as someone who has just turned 13 and had to adjust to a new middle school where everyone already knew everyone. Looking back I don't think I ever truly fit in. Sure, there were lots of people I considered my friends, but it feels foreign in hindsight, even though I spent six school years with all of them. The introduction of Kingdom Hearts gave me a safe place, something to rely on. I certainly played and experienced numerous other properties during high school, but Kingdom Hearts was a constant. A neverending thing I could return to when I needed it. This was especially true once I realized how much more time I could invest in just reading fanfiction. In my lifetime, I would not be surprised if I have devoted as much time to reading Kingdom Hearts fanfiction as playing Kingdom Hearts games. That's what I came home and did after school sometimes; they gave me comfort in a world where friends didn't respond to my messages and I had a hard time being social in any capacity.

The years that followed saw me continually chasing an understanding of what the series was. I spent copious amounts of time reading wikis, finding weird old quotes from Nomura, and reading more fanfiction. Sure that last thing wasn't about the actual canonical timeline, but it helped me just...continue to take it all in. Have somewhere for my thoughts to go. To get who Sora and Roxas were. Maybe it was all to try and comprehend what a heart was, because my naive little brain had a tough time understanding life and relationships, and reasoned that this series that had "Heart" in its name could give me answers.

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New trailers for Kingdom Hearts titles were like a drug for me. Seeing low-res uploads of stuff like the first bits of footage for Birth by Sleep were mesmerizing, and in time I put them on to function more like music than something to inform me about the product or story. Lines like "You can't save Aqua or Ventus!" tore at me, and were enough to stand out years before I got the chance to even play the games they were from. It was as if I lived in this weird dreamscape where I couldn't properly experience the series yet, but absorbed it in every little way I could.

When people speak about the first Kingdom Hearts game, it seems like they talk about the series being this special collaboration between Disney and Final Fantasy. That that's the main thrust of the series, and they'll sometimes express disappointment in how little those factor into the actual story. For me, though, the series is it's own thing. It borrows from both of those a lot, but it's so unique. It's cliche in its themes of light and darkness, but the way it explores them has always fascinated me, and it was never about Disney. Those are just ways to explore the light and darkness of the series; Beast fighting his own darkness inside him, how falling to darkness could corrupt a person, make them lose their memories, or tear apart families. The Disney stuff was really cool, but it was never the first thing I thought of when I thought of "Kingdom Hearts:" I thought of Sora, of Master Xehanort, of people fighting to get back the peace that had been disrupted, and save their loved ones. Or to discover themselves.

But at the same time, Kingdom Hearts is the only lenses I can properly view most Disney properties now. Seeing Donald Duck and Goofy in their KH attire is normal: Those incarnations of them stand out much more than the others to the point where they're defined by KH to me, despite existing for decades prior to the series. Even Tron, a series I love deeply (and consider Legacy to be my possibly favorite Western film) is marked by a really weird and fun inclusion in II and DDD, with 3DS-level polygon Jeff Bridges, which is...rad? Really rad.

There are still several old[er] Disney films I've never seen: Hercules, Hunchback of Notre Dame, Pinnochio...those worlds exist for me in Kingdom Hearts. The idea of finally seeing them is one that's been on my mind forever, but at the same time I don't feel as if I need to. They have their place in my heart already.

Yes Sora, you WILL cry.
Yes Sora, you WILL cry.

So, to get to an actual point: what am I supposed to do now? Kingdom Hearts III is a week away. Less than a week away! How do I reconcile with that fact, when my life feels like it's been building to this for a decade now? When the thing that captured my heart and held it together while I struggled to stay afloat is about to have a definitive end to the arc that they've been building towards the whole time? Yes, it isn't the actual end to the series, but at this point we have no idea what a theoretical IV would hold. Will it still have Heartless? Nobodies? Will it still have Sora? None of that is known at this point, and neither of those scenarios would (likely) change that this is the end of Kingdom Hearts as we all know it. What do I do once I beat it? How much will I be able to revisit older entries, knowing this is the end?

I have so many questions that are forming around this experience, and the idea of this ending still hasn't set in. I'm this worried already but I feel like I could be so much more. There's no telling what this conclusion will bring, both in terms of the actual story (...OK no there're lots of hints to that, but I feel like there'll be surprises too) and the closure to me as a fan who will almost definitely be left feeling some sort of emptiness at the end. That emptiness would still be there it III had come out years ago, or in a decade; it's just how much the series means to me. Any ending will cause sort of gap. I absorbed all of Yakuza in about a year and a half, and all of Mass Effect in a month: the endings of those series both greatly affected me, but I took them in in a relatively short time frame. Kingdom Hearts has dominated by thought processes for a decade...and now it's about to come to an end.

God, I'm gonna need to read more fanfiction this weekend to hold me over.

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#1 Edited by Efesell (4541 posts) -

Find a like minded group of folks to talk shop with when it's all over. Reddit, Discords, what have you. Get in with some folks to enjoy the conclusion of this thing or commiserate about it if it all goes sideways. Acceptance that something is finally "finished" comes quicker than you would expect typically.

it also sounds like one Patrick Klepek would enjoy hearing from you

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#3 Posted by Rorie (5818 posts) -

Nice blog! I don't know much about the series but I enjoyed reading this nonetheless!

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#4 Posted by Eribuster (955 posts) -

Seeing how much the series means to its fans is so good and pure. I hope Kingdom Hearts III will be good for you and everyone.

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#5 Posted by taccyp (318 posts) -

This blog reminds me of how I felt when Toy Story 3 came out. Obviously, Toy Story 4 has been in the works for a while, but at the time, it really felt like Toy Story 3 was going to be the end of the series. Childhood was officially over (I'd be turning 20 later that year) and all that would be left were the memories.

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#6 Posted by Ravelle (3311 posts) -

Very heart warming blog, man! I've only played a little bit of Kingdom Hearts at a friends place all those years ago, then I remember everyone asking why it took so long for KH2 to come out and I never remember it actually releasing, I always wanted to go back and start from scartch years later but that was when they were split between platforms and it seemed impossible and backed off.

Now with KH3 on the horizon, I finally decided to jump in, Having watched a stream of KH1 and having seen all the COM cutscenes on YouTube I started playing KH2. I'm totally in for this wild ride.

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#7 Posted by Teddie (2157 posts) -

When I finished Yakuza Kiwami 2 earlier this year, I closed off my last gap in the series and out of nowhere felt incredibly empty and surreal about the whole thing. I wasn't really expecting it since I'd finished Yakuza 6 and already got the "big finale" experience from there . I went back and did a few side quests and general cleanup in Yakuza 6 while in that state and it was practically like mourning the end of the franchise (obviously they're making more, but Kiryu's story is done now, giving me an endpoint).

Unlike Yakuza which I started midway through in my late teens, I started Kingdom Hearts at the start, back in my formative years, and that first game was the most magical gaming experience I'd ever had. Followed the series into adulthood, through all the ups and downs, and I'm definitely worried about how empty finishing this series off is gonna make me feel. I think we're in the same boat here.

One little correction though, we probably do at least know Sora will continue to be in the franchise core in some way. Nomura's said he'll always be the protagonist, assuming he doesn't change his mind on a whim (as he is known to do). I'm sort of interested to see where they go with it after this (and I still want to see a Treasure Planet world someday), but I doubt any other game in the series will have the same impending feeling of finality as this one does, entirely for personal reasons.

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#8 Edited by soulcake (2811 posts) -

Shout outs to Tim Rogers non review, it's a masterpiece. And a perfect reflection of what "normal" people think about kingdom hearts.

I wonder with KINGdom Hearts fans if they still would be interested in set game if it didn't have all the Disney stuff in it. I met a few Disney fans over the years and there fandom is almost cult like. With whole shrines devoted to there favorite "funny animal".

Also should i just say "fuck it" and jump in cold i feel like the story is to convoluted to even make a point in it at this stage. Note to self bad anime dude where's a black long trench coat.

ps. Is every Kingdom HEART fan just a furrie MINDBLOWN.

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#9 Posted by FlashFlood_29 (4446 posts) -

@soulcake: I can't tell if my enjoyment of the first games is just my nostalgia or if I genuinely still enjoy them but... they're still fun to me. The story (if you accept that it's convoluted and silly) is a fun adventure to follow (honestly). It comes with just as much melodrama as a lot of anime. There's still a lot of things KH1 does that I think is really good, even to this day. If you enjoy lore and convoluted plot, you'd enjoy Kingdom Hearts. Honestly, I compare it to Metal Gear, plot wise (not in how good either may or may not be, but in the enjoyment of the convoluted twists and turns and how hard it can be to keep up).

Hard to speak to jumping in cold into KH3 since it's not out yet.

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#10 Posted by FacelessVixen (2638 posts) -

Though I wouldn't say that I'm as emotionally attached to KH as I used to be during the days of MySpace and pop punk, I am interested in finally getting the game after pretty much a decade of side stories released on different consoles that ended up being essential and some instances of development hell. So, with not only that and the whole Final Fantasy XIII, at best, trial and error experiment, at worst, clusterfuck, the diehard KH fan me has kind of been put through the Square Enix ringer during the previous console generation. I would say that KHIII finally coming out would be a resurgence for my previous excitement for the series, but 13 years later since the height of my fandom, I'm of two minds. One one hand, yes, I'm still very much glad to finally have the game that I dreamed of having all those years ago. But since my adult life hasn't allowed for a teenager's amount of free time and optimism, I still have some catching up to do: I never found the time to finish Birth By Sleep. I didn't have a way to play Dream Drop Distance until October last year. And there's the other 2.8 stuff that I have to look at before I can get into III. So I'm torn between either holding off on the final adventure of Sora, Donald and Goofy until I catch up, or just say "fuck it,"play the game next week, and try to pick up the missing pieces like I did with playing II without Chain of Memories, because it was on the GBA and how the fuck was I supposed to know that it was essential at the time?

But with all that said, I bought the damn $400 triple stacked parallelogram so I can play it and the games in the series that I've been missing out on, so my actions kinda speak louder than my ambivalence, like, the type of ambivalence that you have for a former lover where you say that she (or he) is an asshole, but you'll still jaw anyone that agrees with you because she (or he) is still your special asshole...

Kingdom Hearts III: Let's Just Do This Already.