169. Kingdom Hearts

Do you remember when I claimed the Super Mario Bros. games are weird?

Forget about them. For video game weirdness, look no further than Kingdom Hearts.

Kingdom Hearts

I may have mentioned this series once or twice before, but it’s worth taking an entire post just to examine how incredibly strange it is.

In fact, the only thing stranger than the Kingdom Hearts games is that they’re actually pretty awesome.

I won’t even try to explain the story of Kingdom Hearts. Frankly, I’m not sure I understand it. The plot is endlessly convoluted, hinging on a complicated cosmology that’s never really explained. Locations in the Kingdom Hearts games might be illusions, memories, computer-generated virtual realities or even real places. Characters might be Heartless, which are ex-people; Nobodies, which are pseudo-people; computer programs, which aren’t any kind of people; or even—wonder of wonders!—ordinary people.

Odd as these things are, they don’t begin to compare to the thing that’s strangest about the Kingdom Hearts games: they’re a collaboration between Disney and Square Enix, which means Final Fantasy characters rub shoulders and bump elbows with characters from classic Disney films.

Yes, this means a murdering, genocidal psychopath like Sephiroth is in the same game as Winnie-the-Pooh. Complex, brooding heroes like Cloud Strife and Auron interact with Goofy and Donald Duck.

Oh, and did I mention the protagonists of the Kingdom Hearts games fight with oversized keys?

I'm desperately resisting the urge to make several key-related puns.

I’m desperately resisting the urge to make key-related puns.

Even though the story of the Kingdom Hearts games is all but incomprehensible, it manages to deliver many surprisingly touching moments. The plot may be confusing, but the characters are easy enough to understand. Wonderful character moments such as poignant goodbyes and tragic sacrifices leave the player misty-eyed. At least, they left this player misty-eyed.

The Kingdom Hearts series belongs to the genre known as hack and slash, in which gameplay consists mostly of hitting things with swords… or keys. Fortunately, the series adds exploration, platforming, role-playing elements, minigames and other gameplay mechanics to prevent the games from becoming stale.

Although its story is hard to follow, the Kingdom Hearts games have some of the best presentation I’ve ever seen in video games. The music is fantastic, whether it happens to be upbeat or heart-rending, and the voice acting is superb. (Disney got most of the voice actors for its classic characters to reprise their roles for the Kingdom Hearts games.) The cutscenes are impressive and occasionally a bit trippy.

You know, trippy is a fine word for the Kingdom Hearts series. The games are trippy in the best possible way. If you ever play a Kingdom Hearts game, don’t try to understand it. Just enjoy the ride, and try not to lose your keys.

2 thoughts on “169. Kingdom Hearts

  1. I’m not a gamer really, but I love Kingdom Hearts. The animation is gorgeous, the plot is intriguing, the music is intoxicating, and the characters keep me wanting more. I wish someone would make a movie about the Kingdom Hearts story line because I desperately want to know how the story ends but I lack the equipment, time, and skills to complete all of the games. I suppose there are always play through videos on YouTube.

    • I really enjoy the Kingdom Hearts games. The music, visuals, and characters are all splendid, but the thing I enjoy most is actually playing the games. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that I’m really nostalgic about Disney and Final Fantasy… 🙂

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