Monthly Archives: October 2010

It’s OK to hate Kingdom Hearts

Kingdom Hearts is the franchise that made it cool to go Disneyworld hopping alongside Donald Duck and Goofy while running into noteworthy Squaresoft (now Square-Enix with all its negative connotations) characters. 2002 brought about the titular Kingdom Hearts, the first game of the series, and there are currently KH games out in the world. Below is a list of them. The games with asterisks have never been released in North American soil because the western world is unworthy based on what the overlords at Square-Enix say.

Kingdom Hearts
Kingdom Hearts: Final Mix*
Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories
Kingdom Hearts: Re-Chain of Memories
Kingdom Hearts 2
Kingdom Hearts 2: Final Mix*
Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days
Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep
Kingdom Hearts: Coded*
Kingdom Hearts: Re-Coded

Sure, three games. Soon to be four since Birth By Sleep is getting its own Final Mix in January. And yes, Coded isn’t even given attention and Re-Coded looks a lot better, but the real attention should be drawn to the Final Mix versions of Kingdom Hearts 1 and 2. Kingdom Hearts: Final Mix came across as a special edition of the vanilla version. Nothing overwhelmingly different was put into the game. The Japanese version of the original Kingdom Hearts had less than the North American version (A secret boss fight with the one-winged fangirl’s dreamboat – Sephiroth and a short teaser video of events that’ll occur in the games released 4 and more years later).

The Japanese fans hated this and wondered why the fat westerners got more content. So Square made Kingdom Hearts: Final Mix and everybody was happy. The biggest addition to the game was the redone and extended teaser video, which American fans ate up on Youtube.

Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories came out in 2004 and received love and hate, despite arguably having the most creative gameplay and very intriguing plot. It was on the Game Boy Advance, so people who bothered playing the game used it to get Kingdom Hearts dosage until Kingdom Hearts 2 came out.

And then….Kingdom Hearts 2 was released.

Playing and beating Kingdom Hearts 2 for the first time made many flaws of the first game obvious to me, yet the sequel felt almost like a downgrade. Mashing X in KH1 managed to be more enjoyable than watching Sora, the playable character, go through Quick-Time Events with just one button and do all sorts of cool things without your control. However, the worst parts were how overall KH2 was easier than 1, the sense of exploring and finding new items, weapons, and secret bosses was almost gone, and what used to be a charming fairy tale with the right amount of subtle detail was a turned into a debacle. The direction of KH2’s design took too casual of an approach. This is obvious when you find every treasure chest right in front of you, as if the player would get frustrated having to actually find things.

Thinking about it, the differences between Mass Effect 1 and 2 are very reminiscent of the differences between Kingdom Hearts 1 and 2. The first games were fun despite their flaws and the sequels were made with a more streamlined experience in mind. This meant that the player didn’t have to think when playing the game. At all. If you manage to juggle an enemy into the air, you won the game. In ME2’s case, you shoot…a lot. However, ME2 was far more enjoyable than KH2 but that’s a whole ‘nother story!

Kingdom Hearts 2 also expanded on the lore started by the first game, as a sequel should. But what was revealed made me and a whole ton of other people (don’t lie, nobody’s judging you except for those crazy message board folks who come up with theories about the series) feel stupid. Seriously, too many things happened in the game that were A) weren’t explained and would be explained in future games which took place before the events in KH2, or B) weren’t explained clearly enough and players would have to rely on the word of the Kingdom Hearts god himself, creator and zipper fetishist Tetsuya Nomura.

It’s bad when someone reads a book and has to ask the author what was going on in chapter x or in paragraph y. It’s TERRIBAD when the author fullheartedly welcomes the confusion, and the fans somehow take lack of information and call it ‘depth’. Super Mario Galaxy 1 and 2 are deeper than all of the Kingdom Hearts games, and I am huge geek over both series.

So it turned out that Square-Enix are Magnificent Bastards and Kingdom Hearts 2:Final Mix+ is released in Japan for about 70 USD. The package contained both Kingdom Hearts 2: Final Mix and a PS2 remake of the GBA Chain of Memories cleverly called Re:Chain of Memories.

Kingdom Hearts 2: Final Mix is the main reason why I think it’s okay for people to hate the series. I don’t care if you stop reading after this paragraph. I probably should’ve had this as the first sentence of the article, but then I’d have to explain to the entire world why while doing more backtracking than you do in a 2D Metroid game.

Where Kingdom Hearts: Final Mix added a few shiny things, Kingdom Hearts 2: Final Mix was a whole new and better game over vanilla KH2. A new difficulty was added that capped HP gained through leveling up, and gave the option to not gain experience points at all in order to do level 1 runs. New cutscenes were put in that explained some of the things that were confusing in the first go-around (and they were oddly done with the characters animated to move their lips as if they were talking in English, yet they had no voices and all the subtitles in the game were Japanese.) And most of all, the post game content with all the extra bosses with supped-up HP and strength made KH2:FM so much better than vanilla KH2, that I hated it.

Yes, KH2:FM is one of my favorite video games, but I hate it because of what it represents. Yes, video games cost money, but it doesn’t need to be thrown in my face that there’s more to what’s going on in the game and that I have to pay to find out. I’m all gung-ho over buying Half Life 2: Episode 3 whenever it comes out. I bought the previous 2 episodes no problem. Each episode was fun and entertaining and left me with a great, meaningful cliffhanger. None of the Half Life 2 characters pulled a keyblade out of thin air with no questions about where it came from and how the person managed to obtain it. But instead, with Kingdom Hearts, the non-numbered games and the Final Mixes (KH2:FM at least) have to be played in order to get what’s going on. Kingdom Hearts 2 made no sense without playing Chain of Memories, and again, someone had to have a GBA and a PS2 to play both.

And then, even when playing all of the games, the story is a mess that is far removed from what the first game started. Yes, everything makes sense now, but the story is flat out terrible. How it got terrible is anyone’s guess. I am of the opinion that Kingdom Hearts was raking in so much money, an excuse (see: plot) was made for each game as they came into development. This is normally forgivable, for I forgive and appreciate the timeskip between Half Life 1 and 2, but I can’t say the same for the Kingdom Hearts series. The current trend with the games is that you later understand why something happened in the previous game in the later game. That is not a good trend.

Fuck what the critics say. This game owned hard.

The first Kingdom Hearts, Chain of Memories, and more or less 358/2 and Birth By Sleep stand out as my picks for the best made games of the series, each one having a wholesome feeling despite every single game in the series ending with a cliffhanger. Stepping back and looking at all of the games as a whole, the story is taking Disney characters to a point of ‘depth’ that screams cash cow (it’s better to whisper cash cow than to be obnoxious about it) and the charm of the series is gone. It has been replaced with a desire to see what will happen in the last Kingdom Hearts game, whenever it comes out…if ever. And chances are it’ll have a cliffhanger also with unexplained nonsense happening. I believe I’ll be 30 and married by the time said nonsense is actually explained in a game.

Kingdom Hearts – a series of initially unexplained events. At least, if you do try to get into all of the games, you’ll have access to a wide library of games since you’ll have almost every console and handheld. Soon, you’ll have to get a 3DS and shell out…what…300 or 400 bucks?

I could go on.  I could talk about the flaws of fighting until you reach a cutscene or talk about how every single character likes to say every other character’s name.  I could talk about how the series is a prime example of what video games need to avoid being like.

But I won’t.  Instead, I’ll figure out how to use WordPress.

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