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The ‘Kingdom Hearts’ story should stay convoluted

The ‘Kingdom Hearts’ story should stay convoluted

The ‘Kingdom Hearts’ story should stay convoluted
February 19
18:59 2020

“Kingdom Hearts III,” the 11th game in the “Kingdom Hearts” franchise, has recently been updated with its DLC called “Re:Mind.” After many questions fans have had after seeing the end of the base game, this DLC answers only some of them. This franchise is infamous for one of the most convoluted and plot hole-riddled stories in the gaming industry — maybe even in all of media. Many critics of the series shame its storytelling decisions as being off-putting to newcomers and for not supplying satisfactory answers, but I disagree.

“Kingdom Hearts” spawned from a classic elevator pitch. After “Mario 64’s” success, Square Enix wanted to create a 3D video game series of their own but lacked an iconically recognizable character like Nintendo’s Mario. Somehow, Square and Disney came to share an office building and, in an elevator, Square and Disney’s executives met and agreed to create a game series. This spawned the JRPG franchise “Kingdom Hearts” featuring crossovers between a plethora of Disney’s worlds and characters as well as a few of Square’s “Final Fantasy”characters.

The first game in the series is actually quite simple looking back, but it was apparently going to be even simpler until Tetsuya Nomura, now the series’ director, stepped in and insisted on a more complex story. Every game after the first was truly the beginning of “Kingdom Hearts’” insane tale. The series actually created a number of its own unique characters and typically centers the main plot around them, with a few Disney characters like Mickey, Donald, Goofy and Maleficent playing major roles. Many fans’ gripes are that the Disney and “Final Fantasy” characters are not the stars of the show. The Disney worlds you explore in games all have self-contained plots that don’t impact the overarching story and there hasn’t been a single “Final Fantasy inspired world in any of the games.

I’ve been following and playing the franchise for years, and I don’t think it’s wrong for Nomura to want to spotlight the characters he made for this series. Nomura can do whatever he wants with his own characters, but handling Disney’s IP’s are tricky which is why it’s safer to keep these worlds self-contained. I’ll concede and agree that “Final Fantasy” needs more usage but as far as the Disney worlds, those worlds often serve as thematic pairings to the ongoing plot rather than directly affecting it. It might help Nomura in the future, however, to better pace his primary plot points throughout the game in between Disney worlds rather than all at the end. But there really isn’t a need to tone down the absurd complexity of the plot, because it’s part of “Kingdom Hearts’” identity at this point.

In a bizarre way, “Kingdom Hearts” is the largest inside-joke in the video game industry. Going through all the stories and plot points creates an odd cycle of confusion, frustration, acceptance and celebration of it all. Veteran fans both understand everything and are just as confused as newcomers, and we thrive in the absolute absurdity of it. Three fans who go by Nal, Niku and Gemma, composed a 443-page fan theory that is of the same level of absurdity as Nomura’s writing. So what could possibly drive us to keep supporting such a crazy series?

“Kingdom Hearts” has been around for 18 years and I’ve been following it since I was 12. The answer is pretty simple: we’ve grown up with this series. I still tear up when I listen to some of the music from the series. You can ask any fan and they’ll pour their hearts out you why they love this series. Vice wrote a beautiful article on the subject. 

I understand why some are upset that “Re:Mind” didn’t answer everything, but that’s because Nomura wants to make more games. In fact, a new mobile game starring series villain Xehanort will release this spring, according to a new Project Xehanort Twitter account. Many fans believe that “Kingdom Hearts should’ve focused on its roots, but I can still see its “Final Fantasy” aesthetic and Disney-style themes that have birthed an infamous and legendary IP in the gaming industry.

One of the franchise’s oldest questions is what “Kingdom Hearts” actually is. In the first game it was a door, in later games it was a moon, but for me, it’s a gloriously confusing and fun game series.

Featured Illustration: Olivia Varnell

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Matthew Payne

Matthew Payne

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1 Comment

  1. InvisibleOpinion
    InvisibleOpinion February 20, 20:27

    I agree. The problem with complaining about the convoluted and intense story is one could simply play any other Disney game out there and not come close to having that complaint; I guarantee you no one could get confused about the story of DuckTales. Moreover, there are reasons why the Kingdom Hearts series is the highest-selling game franchise Disney (mostly) owns, and it is certain that the franchise’s story is one of them. Lastly, it should be noted that with a crossover game that has original characters, Square Enix IP, and dozens and dozens of Disney IP, the story should in no way be taken lightly; In no way should a crossover that large have a “Mario saves Peach from Bowser” story.

    On the brighter side, for the newer or more confused fans out there, they may be able to handle the future of the series better. While the series is heading deeper into the story, it seems to be digging out of a new plot of land, per say. In other words, some old questions and confusions have become irrelevant or resolved (Spoilers for those who haven’t played Kingdom Hearts III). For instance, fans may no longer have to ask questions like “Who or where are Aqua, Terra, Ventus, Xion, Roxas, Axel, and Naminé?” “Are they going to be okay?” Or “How do Nobodies/Dream Eaters/Unversed work, and where did they come from?” Instead, the future seems to revolve around only three questions: “Where’s Sora?” “Who’s Yozora?” And “What are the foretellers up to with the Black Box?”

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