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Is Kingdom Hearts Milking Fans or Building a Larger Story?

/ Nov 21st, 2012 7 Comments

Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream Drop Distance]

Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream Drop Distance]

Sora and Neku discuss somethings.

Since the release of the original Kingdom Hearts (KH) game in 2002, fans have had the privilege of joining Sora on his quest to find the source of hearts and defeat any Heartless that stood in his way. The ingenious and unlikely mixture of two worlds, Final Fantasy and Disney, gave Kingdom Hearts the original edge that any new series needs to bolster adoration into the hearts of game enthusiasts. Fans were not aware at the time that the series would take on a deeper tone as more iterations were released. The simple, but surprisingly deep, plot that drove the original continued to grow by adding more characters and motivations for change.

[adsense250itp]The most recent release in the series, Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream Drop Distance] for the Nintendo 3DS, left critics mildly impressed and not because of the gameplay, but because of the blockade that it lifted in revealing the final piece of the KH puzzle. Despite having fresh and innovative gameplay, it was just another indication that Kingdom Hearts 3 was still in the vault. With several side story games released and no mention of the story’s finale in sight, the question in gamers and critics minds inevitably arose: are all of these games necessary? Will we ever see a Kingdom Hearts 3? What the gaming world has failed to realize is that quality stories need time to grow and develop. What makes KH so unique is the mystery behind each game’s plot and how it connects the entire series. Side story games do not exist in this universe, but are rather integral pieces to a much larger picture.

Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep

A discussion of nefarious things.

Kingdom Hearts 3D [Dream Drop Distance]

Riku won’t harsh your zen thing, man.

After the amazing success of the first KH, fans waited eagerly for the second installment to hit the shelves. Instead, Square Enix delivered Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories (CoM). It was obvious that CoM was not the anticipated Kingdom Hearts 2 by the fact that it was released to the handheld Nintendo GameBoy Advance and not to the PlayStation 2 like the original game causing many to skip over it. Once KH 2 released for the PlayStation 2, gamers were met with a perplexing plot that jumped them one year past the events of the original title game. Although there were references to the events from CoM in KH 2 that gave players a more solid understanding by the end, a general hole was left. It seemed that Sora and the gang were starting to cause quite the stir in the real world with evidence of plot jumping. At present, there are only two titles in the KH series with an official number attached to them and five “side story” games. The releases of Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days and Kingdom Hearts Coded brought even more to the universe’s story.

[lijit160itp]More main characters had been introduced and these two games gave them more of a voice and heart rather than keeping them as minor players in a larger story. The most controversial of these side story games has been Birth by Sleep (BBS) due to it being the prequel story for the entire series. Prequels to stories tend to be met with criticism because they can open up an assortment of problems that can ruin the entire series.

The benefit of BBS was that it created a solid foundation to the already successful series. Players were introduced to three entirely new characters that were revealed to be important and arguably more significant to the story than Sora himself. Every detail fit into the future of the story like a neat puzzle and made a repeat run through of the original titles a completely new experience for fans.

This is exactly why the side story games, specifically BBS, were a necessary departure from a standard linear plot that gamers are used to seeing. Imagine the entire KH universe never happened and all that gamers were given were the main three games to play. Would the series have still been successful? Absolutely. Would it have created the community and universe that it has with the addition of the side stories? Probably not.

The first Kingdom Hearts introduced a simple and heart wrenching story to gamers with the motifs of friendship and light versus darkness running throughout the foundation. Kingdom Hearts 2 and even Kingdom Hearts 3 could have followed each year and stayed with that simple plot, but the universe that was created to this day would not have been possible. These side story games are like a different view into a larger event in time. Short, summarized versions cannot create heart and passion like a story with dynamic points of view. With that said, critiques that show the wasted amount of narrative within these smaller side stories are right on the money. Some of these side steps could have been combined into one complete story. However, it’s plainly seen that without titles like Birth by Sleep, Kingdom Hearts would’ve been doomed to be just another interesting trilogy from the PlayStation 2 era.

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