I feel that I should preface this with a warning that this is an angry rant. While a lot of the things I said are completely true, and Kingdom Hearts storyline can get very convoluted, that doesn’t mean that I hate the series, or even the individual games. I think that there are a lot of positive aspects to Kingdom Hearts, the characters are loveable and the music is beautiful, the situations are moving and it’s easy to see why the game has such a large fan base, which has for a long time included myself. I do enjoy Kingdom Hearts, and I’ve liked every Kingdom Hearts game I’ve played, the points I made here were all based on my anger at how repetitive the games have gotten, even though each has a unique storyline, but it was the recycling of the places, scenarios, and abilities that bothered me so much.
I just need to take a moment to rant for a second. The new Kingdom Hearts game (Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance) is coming out soon, and I was watching this video where the guys at Square Enix unbox the game, and the first thing that one of them said was that if people had been waiting on a follow-up to Kingdom Hearts II, this is it.
I want to just go ahead and say that when Kingdom Hearts came out when I was like fourteen, I was amazed. I was so excited to see my favorite Final Fantasy characters again (especially Cloud, who at that time had never appeared anywhere other than his original game, because this is before Square Enix started trying to cash in on the Final Fantasy VII fandom with all of their spin-off games), I loved the story, the opening theme song was amazing, and I had a lot of fun playing the game. When the first sequel, Chain of Memories for the Game Boy Advance, was released, I played it and had a lot of fun with it. It introduces a lot of new characters that you’re going to meet in the second Kingdom Hearts game, it refreshes your memory of the events of Kingdom Hearts, and the battle system was a lot of fun.
Then Kingdom Hearts II was released. Again, I was beyond excited and fanboying all over the place, and when I got the game I had a lot of fun, but this is when the plot of the series really began to branch off into the silly and unbelievable, and a few sequels later the plot of the series has completed it’s descent into absolutely ridiculous. In the first game, the enemies were the Heartless who steal people’s hearts. That made sense, it was fun, it was a good concept to tie-in the Disney worlds. Then, beginning with Kingdom Hearts II, every game pretty much introduces a new version of the Heartless, in the second game they’re the Nobodies. When someone loses their heart, they become a Heartless, but their body left behind becomes a Nobody, and a persons heart can go into another person and a person can have two hearts inside of them becuase of that and you can unlock someone’s heart and you can turn them into a heartless but then their Nobody is created and…
It’s just ludicrous. It’s lazy plot design. It’s like the creators didn’t really try at all. The main concept of the game is that the main character, Sora, is the “Keyblade master”, but you learn that his friend Riku is ALSO a keyblade master, and then King Mickey is ALSO a keyblade master, and then Sora’s nobody, Roxas, is ALSO a keyblade master who somehow inexplicably has two keyblades, and then later on in the series another girl named Xion who is kind of the half-Nobody of Sora’s friend Kairi, but Kairi never became a Heartless because she gave her heart to Sora, but Namine is also her Nobody, and Xemnas, who is the Nobody of Xehanort, whose Heartless is Ansem, who is fused with Riku, who lost his heart but isn’t a heartless, wants Xion and Roxas to fuse together to become a different Sora, who…
See? Ludicrous. This is literally the plotline of the games. And we’ve only covered a few of them. It gets much, much worse. To add to this frustration, each “new” title after Kingdom Hearts II has been a rehash of that game, in which you go to the same worlds (such as going to Agrabah and saving Jasmine from Jafar, going to Wonderland and saving Alice from the Queen of Hearts), do the same things, and they even recycle the music too! The enemies are usually recycled, and while in every new game they do add some new tracks and villains, it’s always just lazy ways of recreating the same already confusing story from the first two games. The way you can tell is the main theme of the game: in the first game, Utada Hikaru recorded a song called Hikari (or it’s English version, Simple and Clean), and it’s used for the first game and it’s Game Boy Advance spin-off (along with aforementioned spin-off’s Playstation 2 remake), and in the second game, Utada Hikaru returned to record Passion (or it’s English version, Sanctuary), which has, as far as I can tell, appeared in every Kingdom Hearts game since as the main theme.
It’s just unbelievable to me that Square and Disney are really making money by remaking the same game over and over! The plot is absolutely ludicrous, the characters come and go and don’t really matter to the overall story arc (if such a thing exists), the adventure is exactly the same in almost every game (even in Kingdom Hearts II, you still traveled to a lot of the worlds you went to and supposedly solved the problems of in the first game), and you have to listen to the same music for the places you go and enemies you fight. I am just confounded with this series’ popularity, surely I can’t be the only person to notice how ridiculous it is, but beyond that, how each new game is just the same game with slight variations, a couple new enemies thrown in and a terrible twist on the same already unbelievable plot. Then you have the “final mix” versions of the original two games, which add in more story, weapons, and challenges, but ultimately give you important storyline info you can’t get in the original, and you can’t even purchase these versions of the game in English!
For the final count, this is how it adds up: Kingdom Hearts, Chain of Memories, Re:Chain of Memories, and Kingdom Hearts “Final Mix,” for a total of one Kingdom Hearts and three spin-offs for that game. Then there’s Kingdom Hearts II, 358/2 Days, Coded, Re:Coded, Birth By Sleep, 3D: Dream Drop Distance, and Kingdom Hearts II “Final Mix,” for a total of one Kingdom Hearts II and six spin-offs for that game. That means you’re getting eleven games for the price of two. And yet, people keep eating it up.
It’s not an awful series, in fact the two main installments are pretty good, and I’ve enjoyed playing them (despite having a big lack of replay value for me personally because not much changes throughout the story), but the fact is that nine of these games are remakes or recycled versions of the original two, and no one seems to notice that they’re spending a ton of money to get the same game over and over again. It makes me mad because it’s lazy game design, and an attempt to get money out of people who like the originals without having the decency to MAKE A NEW GAME.
Supposedly there’s been talk of a Kingdom Hearts III somewhere far off in the distance, but when will that be? After they’ve milked Kingdom Hearts II for another three or four titles? They’re even releasing 3D: Dream Drop Distance on the ten-year anniversary of the first game, and still after ten years, there have only been two genuine titles. I don’t know why it bothers me so much, it just seems unfair to people who enjoyed the first two games to ruin them with all of the ludicrous and unnecessary plot, and keep recycling them again and again without creating a NEW adventure for the players.
As a final note, I would like to say that I personally have enjoyed a lot of the Kingdom Hearts titles. I haven’t said that they aren’t fun games, and I can clearly see why someone would buy a game, even if it IS a rehash of the last game, because the enjoyed the last game so much. But I cannot respect it. It’s just like with music: there are a lot of musicians that I like, but don’t respect (i.e. Britney Spears), and there are a lot of musicians that I respect, but don’t personally enjoy (i.e. U2). I think that it is a franchise’s responsibility to their fans (especially one ran by Square Enix and Disney, both beloved companies known for superior and original products ) to create respectable games, ones in which a player is given something new to work with, not a slightly tweaked version of the original. It may still be fun, but it certainly doesn’t earn my respect as a player and as a customer.