When’s the last time you thought about Kingdom Hearts? If you’re like me, it was probably the last time you saw a preview for the latest remaster/re-release that Square-Enix decided to roll out. We are now up to Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue (a bit of a mouthful isn’t it?), and still have Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 + 2.5 ReMIX, a re-re-release of the PS3 re-releases for PS4, due out early next year. As a fan I find this all to be rather annoying. It feels like I haven’t played a new *Kingdom Hearts game in 10 years. Yet, at the same time, it’s a relief to see Square-Enix put so much effort into making sure gamers are still aware of the series. It means they still care and that Kingdom Hearts III is still coming. I haven’t stepped into Sora’s shoes for a very long time now, yet somehow I still love these games; all because the originals managed to be the most endearing games I’ve ever played.
Kingdom Hearts is an anomaly for me; it always has been. I don’t enjoy it for the same reasons I do other games. With them I’m there for an engaging story and entertaining gameplay. With Kingdom Hearts though, I’m mostly there for the characters and emotion. That’s it. Sure, it helps that the gameplay has always been fun, but I’ve always considered that more of a bonus. No, I’m there to spend time with Sora, Donald, Goofy, and all of the friends they meet along the way. I’m there to see them forge bonds with others, overcome monumental obstacles together, and earnestly fight to protect those they care about. I’m there because, as ridiculous as these characters are, I’ve genuinely come to care about them and their struggles. They’ve managed to get me caught up in the emotion of it all.
Gets me all choked up every time.
If there’s one thing I think Kindgom Hearts has over every other game out there, it’s overwhelming emotion. The plot is mostly incoherent at this point, but that doesn’t really matter since the core struggle has remained largely consistent. In the case of both the original Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep everything is set into motion by good friends getting separated. Everything that follows is their struggle to reunite with those they’ve lost and then to set the world right so that they won’t have to be separated again. With a simple and very relatable motivation like that, one doesn’t need much else to cheer these characters on and form a connection with them.
This may just be me projecting a little bit (or probably a lot), but for awhile now I’ve felt like Kingdom Hearts reflects a major aspect of life: relationships. For the entirety of our lives we’re constantly making new connections. Most are shallow and temporary. They’re easily forged and just as easily forgotten. Some are deeper; we invest time in them and it is saddening when their time comes to an end. Then there’s our core relationships; the indispensible people in our lives. The relationships that we’re willing to fight and sacrifice to maintain. All of these different levels are seen in Kingdom Hearts; in the summons, the world-based allies, and finally in the friendships of Sora, Donald, and Goofy/Terra, Ventus, and Aqua. Their struggle is one that’s faced by everyone…minus the cool adventuring and swords that double as magical keys. In short, the characters are the sort thin which one can see a reflection of themselves. …Okay, I seem to be waxing a bit philosophical here, so let’s move on.
The Kingdom Hearts games are the sort that stick with you. They’re fun to play, have bright imaginative worlds and have a built-in connection to our childhoods via Disney classics. For me though, that’s just their surface appeal. Their real charm and staying power comes from their genuinely likeable cast of characters, their relatable motivations, and the universal struggle they undertake. They manage to get their players to care.It’s exactly why I’m still a fan, and why I’ll likely continue to be one for a long time to come.
These are just my own reasons for staying with the series, but what about you? If you’re a fan of Kingdom Hearts, what is it about the games that’s kept you around for all these years?
Oh, and here’s the latest trailer for Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue if you haven’t seen it yet. Enjoy!
Lede image captured by Hatm0nster