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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.

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.

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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  • John Doe

    The plot of KH2 jumped ‘one’ year ahead KH1 and CoM…not seven?

  • John

    As a KH fan, I agree with everything you’ve written here, but I do have to point out a small error: the time-span between KH and KH2 is one year, not seven. Dunno where you got that number from. It’s confirmed to be one year in KH2 several times, and the game 358/2 Days also confirms this; in the end, Roxas is only “alive” for one full year, and that game ends where KH2 picks up.

  • Austin

    That’s not Maleficent speaking with Terra.

  • Evan Slead

    Hey guys, thank you for the heads up on my mistake. I for some reason looked over that part when editing it; I’ll see if I can change it. Thank you for reading the article and being great KH fans

  • Syaeph

    Interesting article…Com and Recom have the worst gameplay officially yet is probably the most important to the storyline (the card system was not well received by fans). The Hd remix is going to add some additional clues, or rather, more puzzles, to the existing series.
    Probably the most asked questions in the fan world revolve around the return of Roxas ad Xion. Is it possible to bring people back that never existed? And, which are the seven keys? How did Lea get a Keyblade? SquareEn is certainly keepin us hanging.

  • Ashton

    I think I have to agree with this article. Though I have yet to play the newest one, and some plot points set in the main two games have slipped my mind in the last 6-10 years…I think these side stories actually have given us a more well rounded story. Despite what people say, kingdom hearts is one of the only games, besides the metal gear franchise, that can spawn titles on multiple platforms and across multiple generations, and still remain relevant.

  • D the mf R

    First off, I’d like to establish that Evan Slead is spot on with every point he made. Every game in the Kingdom Hearts franchise (trilogy or not) has had a meaning towards developing the series, some are smaller than others (Re: Coded being the biggest waste while Birth by Sleep being the most meaningful). What I honestly believe that most fans could agree with however, is not how long the series has been putting off the third, but rather their choice of console for the filler Kingdom Hearts games. Its been 8 years since an official release on a main gaming console last being the ps2 release of Kingdom Hearts 2. The release in 2008 of Re: Chain of Memories was indeed a greatest hit, but it was beating around the bush as the story and gameplay were the same as the GBA’s version. Since than there have been four games on minor consoles, most of which lacked the umph fans find easily on the main console releases. 358/2 lacked the graphics, but had superb storyline with Sora’s nobody Roxas. Birth by Sleep introduced a new gameplay that could’t of strayed further from that of the original Kingdom Hearts, and was released for the wrong console. That game wasn’t milking the Kingdom Hearts franchise, that was milking the PSP. Next was Re: Coded, which couldn’t be further from a filler, as its part in Kingdom Hearts 3D was so minor that it should be stripped from the series. By this time, proud Sony Play Station 3 owners are wondering why the hell they bought the stupid thing, as the next title was released for the 3DS. Square Enix is literally killing its fans by now telling them to go out and buy another system to enjoy the next part of a flawless franchise with flawed execution. By November 2012, when the fans now own KH3D, they are now hearing that the games are all going to be re-released for the ps3. By February 2013, the fans should consider investing their interest elsewhere, as Sony has rumored the release of a PlayStation 4, making the entire 3rd generation of Sony’s main consoles useless for Square Enix RPG’s, as the only games released were Final Fantasy XIII and its sequel, which even those are fillers for the apparently 8 years of production for FFXIII Versus- rumored for only PS3, and now we’re waiting for the play station 4… Makes sense right? To make things better, the Kingdom Hearts 1.5 remix isn’t even going to have the full of 358/2 days, just “remastered” videos. If I wanted that I’d check YouTube, not buy the game. A step in the right direction would have been remastering the entire game, forgetting chain of memories and KHFMIX (as the differences between KH and KHFMIX were not nearly as significant as KH2 and KHFMIX+). We just saw chain of memories 5 years ago, pretty recent in Kingdom Hearts main console time. Kingdom Hearts was originally a fun game that kids teens and even adults could enjoy for a simple system. Square Enix needs to get their head out of their ass and realise that bouncing around systems isn’t helping its fans. I don’t care if they make a million more fillers before 3. If they have that fun gameplay, indepth storyline and those awesome characters, great. But they better all be for 1 system, because frankly I’m getting tired of putting 200 bucks on the line for a game.

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