It’s impossible not to get nostalgic when I think about Kingdom Hearts. Although I dove into the first game when Kingdom Hearts II was about to release, I feel like I’ve been with the series since the beginning. There’s something incredible about this franchise that I can’t get over, and with Kingdom Hearts III on the horizon, I thought I’d go over some of what makes these games so special.
It’s been more than 10 years since Kingdom Hearts II released, and although there have been several releases in the series since then, the third true entry kept evading us, mainly because it didn’t exist. Kingdom Hearts III started as a beautiful dream, but as the years passed, became a nightmare that clawed at my heart more harshly with every passing year (so dramatic).
Now that Kingdom Hearts III has an official release date of January 29, 2019, I can finally put those nightmares to rest. This game is real and it’s only several months until we get to play it ourselves. Let me tell you why I love the Kingdom Hearts series.
An impulse purchase at Best Buy led to one of the most transformative video game experiences I’ve come across in my 20 plus years of gaming. People constantly talked about how Kingdom Hearts, at its core, didn’t make sense. It still doesn’t more than 15 years later. I mean, how is it supposed to when two radically opposed cultures and storytelling styles are combined? Despite that, it does work. It’s kind of a miracle.
My brothers and I quickly booted up the mysterious game on our PlayStation 2 and were swept away in the dynamic opening that oozed with unique pop charm. Three characters created for Kingdom Hearts (Sora, Riku, and Kairi) were thrown at us out of nowhere and after two minutes of CG animation, singing, drama, lots of water, and artistic bliss, the game finally began.
I won’t spend too much time telling you what Kingdom Hearts is since there are plenty of resources for that out there. The briefest way I can explain is that Kingdom Hearts is a video game where the worlds of Disney films and Final Fantasy games blend into one giant, immersive, musically brilliant, visually breathtaking, narrative experience that comes together neatly despite all the contradiction.
I grew up with everything Disney but that wasn’t what drew me to the games. It wasn’t Final Fantasy either since I don’t think I’d played any of them at this point. It was actually Kingdom Hearts that got me into Final Fantasy, with FFX being my first entry in the series. I just felt drawn to Kingdom Hearts after reading up a bit on them online. Maybe it was destiny or maybe I just got lucky.
“Dive Into the Heart”
No matter what I write, the words I pick will feel inadequate at describing what this series signifies in my life. It could be that I was still developing as a person as I played through some of the games. It could be that I was a Disney fan from early childhood or that I experienced the series with my family. It could be that it was one of the first story-heavy games I played or maybe it was the transcendent music. Maybe it was a sum of dozens of parts that has got me lovesick for this series.
There’s just something magical and pure about Kingdom Hearts. Sure, there are some crazy complicated plot threads to follow and some nonsensical ideas, but the core feeling of the game really reaches the heart. The stories of searching for lost youth and longing for broken friendships; tales of reconciliation and heartbreak; anything having to do with death and rebirth; you’ll find all of this and more in this series. You can criticize the franchise for several underdeveloped characters or reused narratives but none of that does much to hold back this series.
“Vector to the Heavens”
I just want to talk about some of the music in the KH series for a moment. For me, the score for these games is like no other. I hate to describe it as magical, I really do yet, here I am. It’s really the best word to describe the soundtrack. There’s so much variety in the music and so much feeling that I keep coming back to it to listen year after year.
Composer Yoko Shimomura holds nothing back in her exploration of dark and light, as well as everything in between. I don’t think she gets as much credit as she deserves; her scores rival that of the all-time greats like Zelda’s Koji Kondo and Final Fantasy’s Nobuo Uematsu. No other music makes me feel like hers. Here are some of my favorites from the soundtracks:
“Fate of the Unknown”
People complain about Kingdom Hearts III being delayed for years but it’s only been delayed once after it was officially announced a few years ago. I’m confident that the game will maintain its current release date and there won’t be another delay.
I recently picked up some of the older games to play through parts on my PlayStation 4 in preparation. If I had the time, I would replay the whole series, but I have a massive backlog that keeps me from doing that. I’m sure most of us do.
If you haven’t played more than the first two numbered entries in the series, Kingdom Hearts III is not meant for you. It really is not. There are about half a dozen other entries you missed out on that play a critical role in the story. It’s a complicated series, so if you’re looking to brush up on the story before the release of the third entry, you’d be smart to get ahold of Kingdom Hearts 1.5 + 2.5 ReMIX for PS4 and play through them.
Kingdom Hearts III is real and it’s coming for us. Prepare your keyblades, warriors of light, it’s almost time.
Word player, note manipulator, and logic breaker. My favorite game is The Last of Us. I’ll argue with you about it all day. Try me. “To the edge of the universe and back, endure and survive…”