Yeah, I know I said I would do Urban Chaos. But a few things (such as Steam not working…) got in the way. So, I will delve deep into a game I recently found out is twelve years old. Yup, the first Kingdom Hearts game came out in 2002. It seems hard to believe I was merely a decade old when this game surfaced, combining the likes of The Little Mermaid, Final Fantasy and The Nightmare Before Christmas. It was an ambitious move but one that I believe paid off.
The beginning of the game opens with a long arse cut scene which then moves into the protagonist choosing between a sword, shield and staff. This is a choice that stays with you throughout the game. Choose out of these three and that stat will be the players highest one. However, the second choice means the player has to sacrifice a stat and be weak in defence, magic or strength. The walk through of the controls can be a bit grating as it is a slow start.
I was only attacked by my evil shadow and a voice told me to pick up a sword shaped like a key!
When the main story kicks in, the player joins Sora, Kairi and Riku on Destiny Island. This is another bit in the game which sort of slows down the main action. Obviously, the game developers needed to build towards the main meat of the storyline. After the start of the story, I did assume that was the introduction and the player would start in media res.
But as a game aimed children and every person who harbours a Disneyrection, the player has to understand who Sora is and his relationships. Whilst Sora is experiencing weird dreams about keys and others worlds (bad coconut milk?), the player goes through the first few days on Destiny Island. Here, Sora gathers supplies for a raft to leave the Island with his friends. The game cuts to Disney castle where Donald Duck is a mage having a panic attack because the King (Mickey Mouse) has gone missing.
Alongside Goofy (a knight), the duo are given the task to find the special who carries the Keyblade. And then the action begins! Darkness swallows Destiny Island and throws Sora into an unknown land. Landing in Traverse Town, he encounters Squall Leonhart, Yuffie Kisaragi and Aerith Gainsborough. The trio inform him of the Heartless, which are clearly evil and destroying worlds. At this point, their only motivation seems to be taking hearts. Sora joins up with Donald and Goofy after defeating a badass Heartless. Defeating monsters seems to be a common way of cementing friendships.
Worked for these guys.
The plot follows a pretty basic storyline which isn’t too difficult. Sora is the special, destined to battle the darkness. Kairi is one of the seven princesses that can unlock the big bad. Rikku serves as the conflicted character butt hurt that he isn’t the special and betrays his friends. There’s always an emo character seeking redemption. When the other games came out, the main storyline became quite confusing and I stopped trying to remember what the hell was going on.
Sora, Donald and Goofy embark on a journey to different worlds in the hopes of finding their friends. To do this, they had to travel in the gummi ship which introduces a fun Mini game. You know I love me some Mini games. There is a flaw in this travel system. Until the player gets the Hyper Drive, you have to go through each level again in order to reach the previous world. It can become tedious since the player is like ‘I already did this, why do I have to do the reverse?’
The player also has the option of adding to the gummi ship and build a mean fighting machine. However, the instructions aren’t exactly clear. As much as I wanted to have an edge over the bad guys, I ended up with a ship that looked like a Picasso painting. You can go buy blocks from Cid but in my opinion its a waste of money. (Munny in this case).
Welcome to building the ship. Good Luck.
Once the player battles through meteors, evil ships and random hoop rings, they arrive at one of the many worlds such as Wonderland or Olympus or Hollow Bastion. They are awesome worlds full of imaginative quirks with the Heartless trying to blend into the setting. In certain worlds, even Sora and the gang are changed in order to not freak out the locals. All the worlds have a nasty bunch of Heartless trying to steal everyone’s heart and a keyhole. It is Soras duty to lock the worlds once again to keep them safe.
You can be a talking duck as long as your dressed to impress.
Although going up against the bad guys is fun, the battle system can be a bit so-so as a standard hack and slash. When the player is given the Keyblade, you’re pretty much spamming the X button until you can learn abilities. The battle system can be a bit annoying since the camera mainly concentrates on Sora. That isn’t useful when you have a swarm of enemies are trying to break open your chest cavity. As impressive as Soras hair is, I’d rather be able to focus on the bad guy.
They’re behind you!
For a game that came out in 2002 (feel the old!), it has aged surprisingly well. Taking a Rayman route, the characters are designed with a cartoony appearance which reflects most of the world’s original design. Through this tactic, the game hasn’t become tremendously dated. The player isn’t burdened with staring at misshapen heads or flat faces. Each world is completely different from the last, standing out on their own. Vibrant, colourful and well planned, the player is immersed in each one with relative ease. The worlds in the first game are:
100 Acre Wood: The heartless were right gits and tore up poor Pooh Bears book. Sora can find the ripped pages in other worlds. Within 100 Arce Wood the player has to help Pooh find his friends. No Heartless, just a lot of Mini games.
Agrabah: Sora and the gang have to help Aladdin and Genie defeat Jaffar and rescue Jasmine. In this realm, the player faces the fat Heartless which you can only attack from behind unless you use magic.
Atlantica: Sora gains a fin in order to survive under the water. Battle Ursula to help King Trident and Ariel. Here you have to swim against the tide and beat up whale Heart.
Deep Jungle: The world of Tarzan. Clayton decides to side with the bad guys and Tarzan has to battle his parents killers.
Destiny Islands: Where the game starts. Sora competes against Rikku in order to impresse Kairi.
Disney Castle: In the first game, the player doesn’t actually get to go here. However, cut scenes do take place here.
End of The World: The last level before the player goes bitch slap Ansem into the darkness.
Halloween Town: Join Jack Skellington as he curb stomps the Heartless and Oogie Boogie. One of favorite levels, the music and boss fight is awesome.
Hollow Bastion: A strange world where you meet Beast who is seeking Belle. This is where Sora finally finds Kairi and Riku but it isn’t a happy reunion.
Neverland: Ever wanted to fly? Neverland gives the opportunity to join Peter Pan in the sky.
Olympus Coliseum: Phil the Satyr is just not convinced that Sora, Donald and Goofy are heroes. Prove to him you are by beating the monsters within the Coliseum.
Traverse Town: The first world that Sora lands in. Riddled with Heartless, characters such as Merlin, Squall, Aerith and the Dalmatians populate the area.
Wonderland: Big or small, the world of Wonderland is still pretty wacky. Go up against Hearltess to prove Alice wasn’t trying to steal the Queens heart. Whether she has one is up to debate.
Can you beat Tarzan? The answer is no.
There you go, the worlds of the first game, ready to knock the stuffing out of you. Not only does the player have to battle Heartless but villains too. On each level, the player either goes up against the standard Disney villains such as Hook, Ursula, Oogie Boogie etc or a mean looking heartless.
And remember, kids, don’t run with spoons or annoy pirates.
Any player who loves the Disney franchise finally gets the option of punching the villain in the face. Or keying them, depending on how you look at it. All the bad guys have their own fantastical fight sequence and tricks to throw the player off guard. Fulfill that dream of beating up Hades! Just watch out for the fire…
Now, let’s talk about the score. Yoko Shimomura is a bloody genius. Yeah, that’s how much I enjoyed the music. Though the developers had the task of immersing the player in new worlds, Shimomura had the task of setting the atmosphere for each place the player visited. The battle music, Wonderland and many more help build towards the different world’s character. The themes are always perfectly suited for the worlds and I recommend getting the soundtrack.
Now, lets take a moment to appreciate the voice acting. The game almost got all the original voice actors to return and reprise their roles. Even the actress Kathryn Beaumont who voiced Alice in 1951 and Wendy 1953, returned to provide their voices in 2002. That is a gap fifty-one years! Some characters aren’t just aren’t the same without their original voice actors. I don’t think I would have quite recovered if Jack Skellington or Hades had a different voice.
Apart from the annoying camera angles and crappy travel system, Kingdom Hearts is a highly enjoyable game. With the third one coming out on PS4, I suggest replaying through the first two (and maybe Chain of Memories). This way, you remember all the worlds and what Sora did on his journey. Because it’s been twelve years, I have trouble recalling what happened last week. Next time, I’ll defiantly be going over Urban Chaos.