Final Fantasy is one of the biggest Japanese Role-Playing Game (JRPG) series in the world. From the first game on the Nintendo Entertainment System, all the way to the 16th on current consoles, this series has been around for decades. You know what else has felt like it’s been around since the dawn of time, the house of mouse, Disney. Now, you wouldn’t normally associate these two brands with one another, and why would you? One has a wide variety of characters each with distinct personalities, relationships, and dreams, and the other is Final Fantasy.
Now, what if I told you that since 2002, there has been a JRPG series that combines both Disney and Final Fantasy into one magnificent beast - Kingdom Hearts. This collaborative series has always been beloved by fans and has even gone mainstream thanks to Kingdom Hearts 3. With its fun combat and whimsical art style, what’s not to like? I mean, who wouldn’t enjoy playing through all their favorite Disney movies, smacking little shadow creatures with an oversized key. The only real downside, especially for newcomers, is that this series, is really stupid.
For those of you who aren’t on the Kingdom Hearts pain train, I’ll give you a quick rundown. Kingdom Hearts is a JRPG series that puts you into the oversized shoes of Sora and his friends as they travel to different Disney worlds fighting creatures called Heartless and generally saving the universe. Along the way, you’ll team up with a whole bunch of Disney characters to unlock the power of friendship. From the classics like Donald Duck and Goofy, to real oddball characters like Tron and Captain Jack Sparrow.
Now, you would think that because this is basically a massive Disney crossover that the story would be pretty basic and easy to follow, but you’d be wrong. A lot of people claim that the series is too confusing, be it the story, characters, or even the inclusion of Disney, some people just don’t get it (which is completely fine). It’s really just a lot to take in, and if you aren’t paying attention, you’ll miss one thing that is for whatever reason, super important. Hell, even I get confused sometimes, especially when they add crucial story details IN THE FREAKING MOBILE GACHA GAME!.
The first thing that raises eyebrows whenever someone looks at Kingdom Hearts for the first time is seeing Donald Duck and Goofy next to "normal" people. You can’t blame people for having that reaction, it’s jarring going from Donald and Goofy talking about friendship and then having a clone of a god start attacking you. Then you’re just left sitting there, dazed, and confused asking yourself why the silver-haired man with the big sword kills you instantly.
Now, as an outsider looking in, this once again makes little sense, but in the moment, everything is crystal clear, it’s just a little stupid, which is part of the series charm. You have to remember that Kingdom Hearts was initially created as a crossover between Disney and Final Fantasy, so these conflicting character designs are all (for the most part) intentional and help the series’ stand out. If you told me that after you played the first game, you didn’t laugh when Hercules and Sora had to talk to Cloud Strife about friendship, I’ll just assume you’re a liar.
Sticking with character designs, Kingdom Hearts doesn’t just have already established characters, there’s whole truckloads of original anime bois and gals to get attached to, and half of them have the same face. But who would get confused over characters who look identical? I mean, it’s pretty obvious they’re all different.
Take the main character Sora for example. You have normal Sora, Data Sora, and an evil version called Vanitas, who all share the same face, character model and voice actor but are completely different characters. Then you have his best friend Riku who has a replica version of himself as well as an evil version that all exist at the same time. Then you have Ventus and Roxas who also share a face and voice actor but one is a real person and the other doesn’t have a heart.
See, I told you, not confusing in the slightest. In all seriousness though, if you only read about the characters in an article or watch summary videos, you will most likely get confused. When you’re playing the games though, all of these similar-looking characters are explained in ways that make sense within the story. I’m not going to spoil anything here but just trust me, it all makes sense as long as you don’t think about it too hard, because some of the reasoning is pretty dumb.
With a series that has an inherently weird concept and characters that look similar, you’d want to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to experience the story in its entirety to make sure no one gets lost. Square-Enix obviously didn’t get that memo because when the series was first releasing, nearly every game was on a different console.
You had the direct sequel to the first game released on the Game Boy Advance and the prequel to the entire series on the Playstation Portable. There’s also been a Japan-exclusive browser game and phone games that set up the entire Kingdom Hearts world. These releases are the main reason people say the Kingdom Hearts plot is confusing, they’re missing chunks of the story. People jumped from Kingdom Hearts 1 to Kingdom Hearts 2 and were completely lost when Sora wasn’t around, and you were playing as a completely new character. The Game Boy game explained this, but you wouldn’t know that because it was a spin-off on a handheld.
Personally, I got into the series with the 1.5 + 2.5 collection and 2.8 collection on the PS4. These came with every game up until Kingdom Hearts 3. They even listed the games in their release order, starting with Kingdom Hearts 1 and going all the way through to 0.2 ( these titles only get stupider). Square-Enix have made it even easier now with the All in One collection which also includes Kingdom Hearts 3, so you can get this fever dream of a series all at once.
Kingdom Hearts is a wonderfully stupid series. When you first take a look at it, you’ll think it’s the most confusing cross-over in the history of forever. But once you get sucked in by that fun gameplay and Disney nostalgia, you’ll find yourself understanding more and more and enjoying each game more than the last. You’ll begin to see the clashing character designs as normal, you’ll be able to tell apart 3 characters that look and sound identical, and you’ll even be able to understand this massive dumpster fire of a story. If you haven’t already and are a fan of JRPG’s, action games, anime, or Disney, I would strongly recommend Kingdom Hearts. It’s not as confusing as you think, just a little stupid.
Are you a fan of Kingdom Hearts? Have you heard of the series before? Can you follow this crazy story? Let us know in the comments were we can try to figure out just were this stupid but fun series is heading.