Remembering Kingdom Hearts
Well folks, it’s officially here. It’s hard to believe that 10 years ago, the very first installment of what I thought would be a bizarre fusion with no promise was released. All I can say is that, in spite of my original skepticism, I’m glad I gave Kingdom Hearts a chance.
Though technically, this is a celebration for the Japanese release of the game (since we here in North America didn’t get our hands on it until September of 2002), I thought it would be nice to look back on my fond memories of Kingdom Hearts, both as the first game in the series and as a franchise.
I’ll admit, when I first heard that Disney and Square-Enix (Squaresoft at the time) were teaming up, I remember saying to myself that this would never work. The two genres were too different – too separated from each other. I remember picturing Sephiroth hanging around with Mickey Mouse and I was saying to myself: “this has got to be the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard of.” 10 years later, I am proud to say that I was dead wrong.
I still, to this day, don’t quite know what it was about Kingdom Hearts that got me hooked. I remember I got my copy of the first game for my 12th birthday in March of 2003. The first time I played the game, I remember I made it as far as Deep Jungle and got horribly lost. After about an hour or so of frustratingly trudging through the jungle (which I consider to be my least favorite world in the entire series, but that’s another side, another story), I gave up. I put the game away, and I didn’t touch it for several months after that.
In the late summer of 2003, I had come to the realization that I had beaten all of the video games I owned at the time, but I had never completed this one game: Kingdom Hearts. I decided to pick it up again, but since I hadn’t touched it in several months, I decided to start fresh and begin a new save file. Again, I got to Deep Jungle, which for some reason was a lot less confusing this time around. I managed to get through it and finally made it to the second visit to Traverse Town, which is, in my opinion, where the game’s story truly starts to pick up. Once I set out for Agrabah, I was hooked.
There was something about revisiting all of the classic Disney movies that I had grown up with, but reliving them in a completely new way, that I just couldn’t put down. I remember when I first arrived in Halloween Town (which happens to feature my favorite movie of all time, The Nightmare Before Christmas), I was beside myself, getting to battle Oogie Boogie with Jack Skellington by my side. It was very satisfying and very surreal.
I remember Thanksgiving Day, 2003, I had completely ignored all of my visiting relatives and went downstairs to fire up my Playstation 2. I had reached a point where I simply could not put this game down. Each new world brought its own delights and its own sense of nostalgia, conjuring memories from when I was 5 years old, watching Disney movies left and right.
But it was so much more than reliving my favorite Disney moments. I had recently gotten into the Final Fantasy franchise, starting with Final Fantasy X (courtesy of our very own Ace). So to see various Final Fantasy character make brief cameos made traveling through the Disney classics that much more magical.
My opinion of the game soon changed when I got to Hollow Bastion for the first time. I remember being so anxious and nervous to take those first steps away from the first Save Point in the Rising Falls. I had to psych myself up to take on the castle and all of the its challenges. I managed to brave my way up to the first battle with Riku, and I remember getting my butt kicked over and over and over again. I remember I spent so many hours on the phone with Ace as he talked me through the difficult boss battles that Hollow Bastion had in store. I probably annoyed him a lot, but I want to thank him. If it wasn’t for him putting up with me and guiding me through, I probably never would have finished the game.
I remember getting to the end of the game and thinking to myself: “There HAS to be more!” I remember being so excited when I opened up the franchise’s first sequel, Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, for Christmas in 2005. I was glued to it all day and by the time Christmas was over, I had already made it to the 10th Floor of Castle Oblivion, getting ready to take on Vexen.
I remember dying at the hands of the final Riku Replica on the 12th Floor, just as he had mopped the floor with me in the first Kingdom Hearts.
I remember faking the flu so I could stay home for two days after Kingdom Hearts II was released. The game came out on a Wednesday. I was “sick” Thursday and Friday, and by Saturday night, I had beaten the game.
I remember being so excited when I heard that three new Kingdom Hearts titles were being announced at the same time (358/2 Days, Birth by Sleep, and Coded). I remember being mildly annoyed that I was going to have to buy a PSP just so I could play Birth by Sleep. I remember being absolutely furious when I heard that only Japan was going to get their hands on Coded.
I remember devoting hours and hours to beating 358/2 Days and actually crying at the end.
I remember falling in love with Terra, Aqua, and Ventus and watching as all of the questions I once had were explained and everything fell into place.
I remember having to put ice on my hands after mashing buttons frantically to defeat the Mysterious Figure … three times.
I remember being ecstatic when I heard that Square-Enix was remaking Chain of Memories (which is definitely my favorite installment in the series) for the Playstation 2. I remember being just as excited when they decided to remake Coded for the Nintendo DS.
And now here we are, 10 years later, eagerly awaiting the next title in the franchise. With Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance being released in Japan, it’s only a matter of time before international gamers get their hands on what is sure to be another classic installment in the series. I know that I personally can’t wait!
I don’t know where the future of Kingdom Hearts will take us. I don’t know what each new game has in store. I don’t know what kind of twists and turns the story may take. But I do know that with each new title, the name of Kingdom Hearts gets more and more amazing; more and more magical.
And I know that I will always be looking forward to what’s to come.