I have enjoyed and played games for most of my life. Usually shooting games like Call of Duty, or RPGs like Skyrim, or even story based games like Assassin’s Creed (before they became RPGs themselves). I would come home from school, promptly ignore my homework or household duties, for the comfort of the couch, my controller, and the green glow of an Xbox start screen.
However, having only ever had that green glow of the Xbox, I never experienced a Playstation game, not until the PS4 that is. And that means I missed out on a lot of well renowned games that came out on the Playstation. Most notable of which was the Kingdom Hearts franchise.
Friends that I have made over the years all have stories of how it felt to play Kingdom Hearts for the first time, or to beat the final boss, or to play alongside their favorite Disney characters through all these different worlds. I was always happy for my friends that they got to experience these things and have these stories, and I just chopped it up to an experience I would never have and left it at that.
And then Kingdom Hearts 3 received a release date.
So, I decided I was going to do something I don’t typically do. I bought the previous kingdom hearts games on Playstation store, and started playing through them in preparation for Kingdom Hearts 3.
I have never played, watched, read, or heard anything about Kingdom Hearts until this game, which I only just beat a short while ago. My blind Playthrough of Kingdom Hearts 1 was a blast, and here is what I thought about it.
I have been trying to write this section for almost an hour now and you know what I’ve come to realize? If you don’t explain the story of Kingdom Hearts completely and with a lot of detail, it makes absolutely no sense. Now there are plenty of resources for the story and lore behind Kingdom Hearts that are vastly superior to anything I can give you, including other articles on this website made by other fantastic writers, and I would highly recommend you check those articles out. For now though, enjoy a very spoiler free (mostly) overview of the story of Kingdom Hearts, which will be broken down into Act 1, and Act 2.
Act 1 of the game is very straightforward. Good guy does good things, bad guys do bad things. Even the big plot twist for Act 1 is revealed maybe a third of the way through. Very basic storytelling, and for a while I thought I wouldn’t like this game and that I put a lot of money into a franchise that I wasn’t going to like. Act 1 felt the way you would expect a game with Disney characters and worlds to feel; like it’s made for children. However I will say this. By the time Act 1 was wrapping up, I honestly felt like it was the end o the game. I was convinced I was on the final boss. So convinced that I had to step away from my stream when I didn’t see end credits role at the end of the fight.
Then, enter Act 2. An almost entirely new story arc, building off of the first part of the game. It takes a much more serious tone, more serious boss fights, themes, worlds and even characters. It becomes much less of a Disney game and more a game of it’s own. And I will be completely transparent here.
Act 2 blew me away.
Twists and turns that I would never have seen coming, unexpected allies, crazy, and I mean CRAZY boss fights, character redemptions, heart tugging moments, the whole nine.
By the end of Act 1 I had warmed up to the game enough to where I wasn’t upset about playing the others in the series, but in Act 2, I fell in love with the game. Absolutely in love. Because it no longer felt like a game for children that adults look back on now with nostalgia. It felt like a game that teaches you and challenges you and makes you think. And that is an amazing feat to pull off.
This will be a very short section. The places where I actually paid attention to the music, I loved it. I never yearned to listen to anything else while playing. When things got hot and heavy in the game and I had to focus on a boss fight or solve a challenging puzzle, it never got in the way. Even when I spent hours (yes, hours) on a boss encounter, I never got tired of the music, or even mocked it as I am one to do.
Music can make or break a game, I count it as one of the most important aspects of world building, which is why I often give it it’s own category. However, Kingdom Hearts never made me take particular note of the music, which in my opinion, is one of the best things you can do for a game. Music that builds the world so well, that it never feels separate from that world.
Kingdom hearts tries to be a lot of things. A platforming, button mashing, puzzle solving, boss fighting, story telling game. Which doesn’t sound like it would be hard, but believe me, there are many places where things can go wrong. And at the beginning of the game, it felt like they did, especially the platforming. Dear lord the platforming.
However, Kingdom Hearts does something that helps all the other aspects of this game. It relies heavily on RPG mechanics. Abilities you can equip, magic you can use, potions to drink, items to wear, and all of these make everything else easier and/or more fun to do. Except for the platforming. I cannot reiterate that enough. Platforming in this game is what fuels my nightmares.
Allowing players to unlock new abilities, which by the way, are things like jumping higher, dodge rolling, flying, being able to see enemy health bars, landing critical hits more often, etc. And to give players equipment they can wear to increase resilience against different damage types and raising mana is something that really aids the game in almost every other aspect.
Even your companions, Goofy and Donald have their own abilities you can equip and items you can give to them, like being able to wake up faster and with full health when they are knocked out. These items and abilities are life savers, and they make what is already a great Act 2 even better.
I should also mention, as a footnote, summoning. You unlock different characters to summon throughout the game to help aid you in combat, such as Tinkerbell and Genie. These characters use up mana, can only be used once per fight, and are on a pretty decent cool down. I didn’t use summons all that much, but when I did, I used Tink, simply because she healed you periodically throughout the fight and would only go away if you told her to. So basically free heals that I don’t have to press buttons for. Yeah.
Also, just want to make sure you understand, the platforming of this game will make you want to quit more that the boss fights.
Allow me to vent for a moment, yes? THIS WAS MY LEAST FAVORITE PART OF THE ENTIRE GAME!
The type of writing that Kingdom Hearts uses is absolutely targeted towards young children ages 8-12, which I find funny, because the combat sure isn’t. Now, normally, cheesy, easy to understand writing has its place, and anyone who enjoys watching Anime will probably relate. However this is a new level. The writing is SO CHEESY that I could have written this entire script with a crayon on cardboard when I was 6. I could tell you what every character would say as they were saying it, and I’ve never played this game before in my life.
Now, to be completely fair, the subject matter of the game leaves a lot open to simplicity. Light prevailing over darkness, the power of friendship, hearts of the innocent, all that jazz, but sometimes, SOMETIMES, it feels like they didn’t even try.
NOT TO MENTION THE PACING, OH MY LORD!
One of the first things you learn in entertainment, especially if you’ve ever done acting or theater, is that dead space is fine in normal conversation because people need time to process and think before they give a response. However, in context of something like a play, dead space, ANY dead space that is not deliberately placed there, is almost agonizingly long, even if it’s only a second. Even in youtube videos where there is only one person talking, they are working off of a script or they are editing out dead space or even both, because they understand how audiences feel about silence in performance.
There are moments in Kingdom Hearts where seconds will pass between characters exchanging dialogue. Every line or two is met with 2 or 3 seconds of silence before it is cut to the next person talking about something.
It. Is. Agonizing.
Otherwise, the game was pretty alright.
Overall, Kingdom Hearts is a solid 8.5/10 from me. Not that number ratings mean anything to me or to any of you. A wonderful story, great world building, fantastic sound design, semi challenging combat with very well executed RPG mechanics (though fairly limited, what was there was very well put together).
This game rose to be one of my favorites that I have ever played, and I can’t wait to play even more Kingdom Hearts going forward. If you haven’t played it yet, and you have the means to, and you’re willing to look past the writing being headed by a team of sugar rushed toddlers, I would highly recommend playing this game. Especially with leading up to Kingdom Hearts 3.
P.S. There are moments when the characters smile at the camera. Like intentionally. These moments are creepy and should be blocked from children’s view at any cost.