Role playing games have been steeped in fantasy since the days of Dungeons and Dragons. They have grown and evolved over the years and taken gamers to magical places and introduced a variety of characters. In the world of video games, Square Enix lead the charge in RPG with its Final Fantasy series of games. The company soon collaborated with another company known for exploring imagination—Disney. From this fateful union, Square Enix (originally Square Soft) and Disney created a game that brought fantasy and imagination together. I, Devildriver1313, am here to take you back with a Time Warp Review of Kingdom Hearts.
Kingdom Hearts was released for the Playstation 2 on March 28, 2002. The crossover title centered on a young boy named Sora who was in search of his friends after their world is swallowed by a mysterious darkness. Kingdom Hearts featured characters from other game series including Square Enix’s beloved Final Fantasy series and a host of well-known Disney characters. The idea for the game came about when Shinji Hashimoto and Hironobu Sakaguchi were planning to make a game that had the same freedom of movement in 3D like Super Mario 64 but lamented that the only characters that compete with Mario are Disney characters. Tetsuya Nomura, who was the lead character designer on Final Fantasy VII, overheard their conversation and offered to lead the project. Since Disney and Square had worked in the same building in Japan, it was easy for Hashimoto to pitch the idea directly. With Hashimoto as producer and Nomura directing, development of Kingdom Hearts began in February 2000. Nomura came up with the name thinking about Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park and the “heart” of the game’s story. So the two were combined and, well, there you go.
As mentioned before, several familiar Disney characters along with those from Final Fantasy appear in Kingdom Hearts. Goofy and Donald join Sora on his quest under the orders of King Mickey to find his friends as well as save the Disney realms from the Heartless that threaten them. These worlds are based of familiar and popular Disney films including Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, Hercules and 101 Dalmatians. Sora, Goofy and Donald soon encounter a group Disney villains led by Maleficent, who are controlling the Heartless to capture seven maidens called the “Princesses of Heart” and use their power to open the door to “Kingdom Hearts” and rule over all the worlds. Legend of Zelda fans will find this story line closely running parallel to “A Link to the Past”. It is no surprise that the seven maidens consist of Disney Princesses. Donald and Goofy comprise the party in most areas but nearly every level features a character who may replace them. For instance, Jack Skellington can join the player’s party in Halloween Town, but cannot accompany the player elsewhere. In some worlds, the party changes its appearance, has abilities unique to that world, or both; the party can fly in Neverland, acquire aquatic forms in Atlantica, which enable them to survive underwater, and gain Halloween costumes in Halloween Town to blend in with the locals.
Kingdom Hearts is influenced by its parent franchise, Final Fantasy, and carries gameplay elements over into its own action-based, hack and slash system. Among the Final Fantasy characters to appear in Kingdom Hearts are Squall Leonhart and Selphie (Final Fantasy VIII), Tidus and Wakka (Final Fantasy X) and Aerith, Yuffie, Sid, Cloud Stife and Sephiroth (Final Fantasy VII). The Moogles are also present and serve to mediate item synthesis.
During the first two months of its release, Kingdom Hearts became one of the three top selling games of 2002 and one of the best-selling titles of Christmas of that same year. It has received numerous year-end “Best” video game awards including “Best Story”, “Best Art Style/Direction” and has been hailed by Gamespot as the “Best Crossover since Capcom vs. SNK.” With over 20 million copies sold to date, Kingdom Hearts is the tenth best-selling PS2 game of all time.
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