When Kingdom Hearts came out in 2002, my little 11-year-old mind was blown. Having grown up on hack-and-slashes, RPGs and action-adventure games (as well as platformers and horrors, though that’s irrelevant), it was a perfect combination of everything that I loved about gaming at the time. At that young age, I didn’t follow video game news – I just impulse purchased games that looked good by the box and I’d liked previous Square-Enix titles, so I picked it up a year after its release.
I played the game and loved every minute of it. At the time, its story felt humongously epic, the graphics colourful and charming, its gameplay perfect for my tastes, the characters (the original characters, anyway) iconic and, for the first and only time in my life, I enriched myself in a game’s fandom. I recall reaching the Maleficent battle and thinking ‘this is probably my favourite game of all time’ and pre-ordered a game for the first time when the sequel was announced. Though I somehow missed Chain of Memories at the time, I even enjoyed 358/2 Days on the DS — in short, I was a fan.
It’s surprised me then that, having been such a large fan and still regarding the series quite highly, I’m not quite as excited by the announcement of Kingdom Hearts 3 as I once thought I would be by the news – and here’s why.
My interest in the series has been dimmed by many factors but first and foremost, Square-Enix really underestimated how damaging excessive spin-offs can be, especially when they’re spread out over a spectrum of platforms. When there’s more spin-offs of a franchise than primary titles, you know you’ve gotten off track a fair bit. The problem with this is that, barring perhaps Kingdom Hearts Coded for the mobile and Kingdom Hearts Re:Coded on the Nintendo DS, each title is integral to the running plot of the series.
This means that in order to follow the game’s storyline and own every title, you’d have to purchase a PlayStation 2, a Game Boy Advance, a Nintendo DS, a Nintendo 3DS, a PSP and soon a PlayStation 3 (for the HD re-release). This means that the series’ plot convolution and over-complexity that began with Organization XIII’s first appearance (bringing with it an attempt to shake off much of the Disney vibe) has continued from platform to platform, bringing with it the typical RPG-esque flaw of an insane Lost-like plot structure.
I specifically remember explaining the entire plot of 358/2 Days and its significance to the first two titles to a friend one day and realising just how unnecessarily complicated it all was. I worry that if I still haven’t played Birth by Sleep or Dream Drop Distance by the time Kingdom Hearts III is released that I’ll be slightly out-of-the-loop.
It should be kept in mind that what has now become the upcoming next-gen title Final Fantasy XV has been in development for seven years since it was announced. Honestly, don’t be shocked if Kingdom Hearts III suffers the same fate — it was announced much earlier than it should have been and you’ll most definitely be waiting for years still before you see this game. Don’t take much notice of tentative 2014 dates buzzing around the internet as that estimate it’s simply false – the game’s going to take a while, so don’t get too excited yet.
Let’s hope that they don’t introduce yet another monster type in the next game. The way they explained Nobodies sort-of made sense, but they’re seemingly clutching at straws now and I’m more than happy enough with just the Heartless and Nobody archetypes. Let’s also hope that Kingdom Hearts III sticks to classic Disney worlds (even Tron and Pirates of the Carribean worlds were pushing it), seeing as Star Wars and Marvel properties are now possibilities.
To make a game out of this that will live up to the first two numerical titles’ standards will be a miracle. I’d be lying if I said it’s not still one of my most desired upcoming games; perhaps I’m just being cynical with age, perhaps I have legitimate concerns. Either way, it’ll be years before we get to see what they come out with.