To some, Disney is a magical kingdom filled with much loved characters and timeless stories. To me, Disney is a hateful place full of annoying animated mice and songs that make me want to murder kittens, so quite why I love the Kingdom Hearts series so much is a bit of a mystery.
Kingdom Hearts and its sequel, the imaginatively titled Kingdom Hearts II, were released on the PlayStation 2 to critical acclaim. Series producer Tetsuya Nomura took the cheery House Of Mouse and mashed it up with Final Fantasy; a mix that should not work but somehow does.[drop]The main character in Kingdom Hearts, Sora, is joined on a quest by Donald Duck and Goofy. The gameplay is much like that of Final Fantasy, party members can excel in magic or combat, unleash special moves and can gain experience. The quest takes the fearsome trio through thirteen worlds, ten of which are based on Disney movies.
The cast for the series is huge and every major Disney character makes an appearence alongside Cloud, Cid, Wakka, Yuffie, Sephiroth, Squall Leonheart, Tiddus, Auron and even Moogles from the Final Fantasy series.
Captain Jack Sparrow, Mulan, SImba and Tron make it to Kingdom Hearts II, joined by persistent villains Pete and Maleficent (the Witch from Sleeping Beauty). Trying to fit all these characters and worlds in to one story seems impossible but somehow it works. As I mentioned, I’m not a fan of Disney but whilst playing Kingdom hearts: Birth By Sleep on the PSP I let out an audible squeak when Maleficent appeared.
Square Enix and Disney lavished the games with some the best cut scenes you will ever see, helped by an impressive voice cast with many characters retaining their orginal actors. Billy Zane, David Boreanaz, Mandy Moore, Haley Joel Osment, Hayden Panettiere, Ming Na, James Woods, Mena Suvari and Zach Braff all appear.
I think I have enjoyed the series so much because it’s a little ‘naughty’ with the Disney characters. In this day and age violence is frowned upon by the entertainment giant, so getting Donald Duck to beat someone up is subversive fun. I also enjoy the rather surreal nature of the game. How can you not love a series that, rather than summoning a vengeful god as your special move, allows you to call upon the awesome powers of… Simba, the cute cub from the Lion King.
Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep on the PSP sold 1.7 million units, the original Kingdom Hearts on PS2 sold 5.5 million and the sequel racked up an impressive 3.9 million. With the various ‘remixes’ and additional Nintendo titles the series has racked up over 14 million sales so the question is where is Kingdom Hearts III?
In the Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep Ultimania guide book, Nomura announced the third game, but production has yet to start as the team a busy working on Final Fantasy Versus XIII. Little has been seen on this mythical game and a release date has yet to be set.
Assuming a three year development for Kingdom Hearts III, even if Final Fantasy Versus XIII arrives in 2012 there is a very good chance that the PS3 and Xbox 360 may never see a Kingdom Hearts game.
Dig out your PS2 (or backwards compatible launch PS3) or pick up a bargain price PSP and Birth By Sleep. If you’ve never played a Kingdom Hearts game you are missing out.