Kingdom Hearts 15th Anniversary Post

If your a die hard Kingdom Hearts fan, then today should be like a holiday for you. It all started 15 years ago today when the original was released in Japan.

To celebrate Kingdom Hearts 15th anniversary I put together some facts, videos, and images I think fans will enjoy. What a great day to dust of your PS2’s and relive the story all over again.

Happy Kingdom Hearts Day

Video Source – Retro Red

Kingdom Hearts is an action role-playing game developed and published by Square (now Square Enix) in 2002 for the PlayStation 2 video game console. It’s the first game in the Kingdom Hearts series, and is the result of a collaboration between Squaresoft and The Walt Disney Company. The game combines characters and settings from Disney animated features with those from Square’s Final Fantasy series. It follows Sora, who fights against the forces of darkness. He is joined by Donald Duck, Goofy and other classic Disney characters who help him on his quest.

The game was a departure from Square’s standard role-playing games, introducing a substantial action-adventure element to the gameplay. Kingdom Hearts has an all-star voice cast and includes many of the Disney characters’ official voice actors. It was longtime Square character designer Tetsuya Nomura’s first time in a directorial position.

Kingdom Hearts was praised for its unusual combination of action and role-playing, as well as its unexpectedly harmonious mix of Square and Disney elements. It was a dominating presence in the 2002 holiday season, receiving numerous year-end “Best” video game awards, and went on to achieve Sony “Greatest Hits” status. Since its release, the Kingdom Hearts series has sold over 20 million copies worldwide, and the first game prompted numerous sequels. Kingdom Hearts is the tenth best-selling PlayStation 2 game of all time, the most commercially successful entry in the series to date, and is considered to be one of the greatest video games of all time.

Video Source – The Leaderboard

Gameplay

Kingdom Hearts is influenced by its parent franchise, Final Fantasy, and carries gameplay elements over into its own action-based, hack and slash system. The main battle party consists of three characters: Sora, Donald Duck and Goofy. Sora is directly controlled by the player from a third person camera angle. All other party members are computer-controlled, though the player can customize their behavior to an extent through the pause menu. Donald and Goofy comprise the party in most areas but nearly every level features a character who may replace them. For instance, Jack Skellington can join Sora’s party in Halloween Town, but cannot accompany the player elsewhere. In some worlds, the party changes its appearance, has abilities unique to that world or both, the party can fly in Neverland, acquire aquatic forms in Atlantica which enable them to survive underwater, and gain Halloween costumes in Halloween Town to blend in with the locals.

Like traditional role-playing games, Kingdom Hearts features an experience point system that determines character development. As enemies are defeated, the player characters gain experience and grow stronger, gaining access to new abilities. Unlike other games of its type, Kingdom Hearts allows a degree of character development customization through a short tutorial found at the beginning of the game. The tutorial allows the player to select from one of three main attributes―strength, defense, or magic―for Sora to excel in and one to lack in. By choosing certain options, the player may manipulate how Sora learns abilities, grows statistically, and gains levels. Donald, Goofy, and any other additional party members are assigned specific areas of strength from the outset. Donald excels in magic, while Goofy excels in defense and special attacks.

The game progresses linearly from one story event to the next, usually presented as a cutscene, though there are numerous side quests available that provide benefits to the characters. Players may also choose the order in which they tackle some areas. Most of the gameplay occurs on interconnected field maps where battles take place. Combat in Kingdom Hearts occurs in real time and involves pressing buttons to initiate attacks by the on-screen character. An action menu, similar to those found in Final Fantasy games, found at the bottom left of the screen provides other combat options such as using magic and items, although players can also assign selected magic spells that can be instantly used whilst holding the shoulder button. As players progress through the game, they can receive certain Disney characters as summons, such as Dumbo and Tinkerbell, each with their own unique abilities. There is also a context-sensitive option at the bottom of the menu, usually used for interacting with the environment or performing special attacks. This menu is manipulated by using the right analog stick or digital pad, while movement is controlled by the left analog stick, allowing the player to navigate the menu while avoiding or approaching enemies.

Sora, along with his allies, both possess a HP meter and an MP meter, which increases as they gain experience and level up. The MP meter is divided into various sections that are used up whenever that character performs magic, with more powerful magic using more MP. MP can be replenished by performing melee attacks or using items such as ether. The HP meter determines the character’s health, reducing whenever a character takes damage, although it can be replenished by using potions or healing spells. If one of Sora’s allies run out of health, they will be knocked out for a while until someone heals them. However, if Sora loses all of his health, the game ends and the player must resume play from the beginning of an area or boss. Defeating enemies causes various orbs to fall; green orbs which replenish health, blue orbs which restore MP and yellow orbs which represent Munny, the game’s currency, which can be used to purchase new items.

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Gummi Ship

The Gummi Ship is the mode of travel between the various worlds in the game. The gameplay for piloting the vessel is very different from the rest of the game as it switches to a rail shooter format. The player controls the Gummi Ship from a rear third-person perspective as it travels in an outer space setting. While traveling, the player must avoid obstacles and defend against enemy ships that attempt to destroy the player’s vessel by firing missiles or ramming it. Surviving the route allows access to the next world. At the beginning of the game, there are few options available to customize the vessel, but as the game progresses, new weapons, engines, and armor become available. Different pre-designed blueprints can be found throughout the game that can be used to quickly construct Gummi Ships. Geppetto also gives the player different Gummi Ship designs based on the number of Heartless defeated. From the start, the player can travel between worlds by using “Normal Drive”, which initiates the rail shooter-like minigame. Later in the game, Sora can acquire a “Warp Drive”, which allows instant travel between previously-visited worlds without having to play the minigame. However, worlds that have not been visited cannot be accessed with Warp Drive, and must be discovered first normally.

Plot

The universe of Kingdom Hearts is a collection of various levels, referred to as “worlds”, through which the player must progress. Thirteen can be accessed in the game and one, Disney Castle, is shown in cutscenes. Additional worlds are mentioned by various characters, but are inaccessible because they have been destroyed by the Heartless. Ten Disney worlds are based on fiction, primarily from the Disney animated features canon, and the other four were created by Square specifically for the game.

The graphics and characters of each worlds were designed to resemble the artwork style of each Disney films. Each Disney world is inhabited by characters from the film: including Hercules and Philoctetes in Olympus Coliseum, and Aladdin, Princess Jasmine and Jafar in Agrabah. Each world is disconnected from the others and exists separately. Most characters in the worlds are unaware of other ones, with few exceptions. Players travel from one world to another via Gummi Ship.

The worlds created specifically for the game mirror the overall appearance of the other worlds and feature either new characters or ones from several Final Fantasy games. The new worlds include: Destiny Islands, where the story opens; Traverse Town, which serves as a launching point for most of the game; Hollow Bastion, which many of the Final Fantasy characters call home; and End of the World, a large, dark world created from the remnants of various worlds consumed by the Heartless. The main characters travel from world to world to seal each “Keyhole”; this protects the world from the Heartless and ultimately from destruction. They also try to minimize their interaction with characters of other worlds to maintain a balance of separation. This sometimes requires Sora, Donald and Goofy to blend in with the world inhabitants by changing their physical appearance.

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Image Source – DeviantArt

Characters

The collaboration between Disney and Square resulted in a mixture of familiar Disney and Square characters, as well as several new characters created and designed by Tetsuya Nomura. The primary protagonist of the game is Sora, a 14-year-old boy chosen to wield the Keyblade, a large weapon which is a cross between a key and a sword for battling darkness. The game also features two friends from his home world, Riku and Kairi. For most of the game, Sora is joined by Donald Duck and Goofy. Donald, the court wizard, and Goofy, captain of the royal guard, were sent from Disney Castle to find the Keyblade. The three join forces to search for King Mickey Mouse, Kairi, and Riku. The primary antagonist is Ansem, who seeks power and knowledge by using dark beings called the Heartless. The Heartless, hearts corrupted by darkness, serve as most of the enemies encountered in the game and come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

As a game meant to explore the fictional universes of various Disney films, over one hundred Disney characters are featured in various capacities. While many serve as major characters in the story, others appear in cameo roles, such as the One Hundred and One Dalmatians playing a part in a side-quest. Most worlds also feature a Disney villain whom the player must defeat. The player can summon various Disney characters to fight alongside Sora in battle, causing Donald and Goofy to withdraw from the battlefield for the duration of the summon. Available summoned characters include the Genie from Aladdin, Tinkerbell from Peter Pan, and Simba from The Lion King, among others.

Square also incorporated several characters from the Final Fantasy series into the game, though the characters were slightly altered to fit the game’s back-story. On Destiny Islands, the player meets younger versions of Tidus and Wakka from Final Fantasy X and Selphie from Final Fantasy VIII. In Traverse Town, the player encounters Squall Leonhart (also known as “Leon”) from Final Fantasy VIII, as well as Aerith, Cid and Yuffie from Final Fantasy VII. Rikku from Final Fantasy X was originally set to appear, but was replaced by Yuffie. Cloud and Sephiroth, both from Final Fantasy VII, make appearances in Olympus Coliseum, where the player can fight them in tournaments. The emphasis on characters from later Final Fantasy installments stems from Nomura’s hesitation to use characters he did not design. The game also uses other Final Fantasy icons such as the Moogles who mediate item synthesis.

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Image Source – snowembrace.deviantart.com

Story

Sora, Riku and Kairi plan to use a raft to leave Destiny Islands and explore new worlds. One night, the islands are attacked by the Heartless, and Riku and Kairi disappear. At the same time, Sora obtains the Keyblade, a weapon effective against the Heartless. However, the islands are destroyed and Sora drifts into space. Meanwhile, King Mickey has left his own world to deal with the increasing number of Heartless, and leaving instructions for Donald and Goofy to find the “key” that will protect the worlds from the encroaching darkness.

Donald and Goofy use the Gummi Ship to reach Traverse Town, where Sora has drifted. After Sora meets Donald and Goofy, the three decide to travel together—Donald and Goofy to find King Mickey, and Sora to find Kairi and Riku. The three go to various Disney-inspired worlds, finding that the Keyblade also locks “Keyholes” in the worlds that, when sealed, prevent the “heart” of those worlds from being consumed by the Heartless. Meanwhile, a group of Disney villains led by Maleficent seeks out the seven Princesses of Heart to unlock the final keyhole that leads to “Kingdom Hearts”, a repository of knowledge and power and the source of all hearts. This group includes Riku, whom Maleficent convinces has been abandoned by Sora for new friends and the Keyblade, and promises that she will help him find Kairi in exchange for his support. An increasingly antagonistic Riku finds Kairi’s body, but cannot find her heart.

Sora and his friends eventually arrive at Maleficent’s headquarters in Hollow Bastion. Riku takes the Keyblade from Sora, claiming to be the Keyblade’s intended wielder, and that Sora only received it in his absence. Donald and Goofy, having been explicitly ordered to follow the “key”, reluctantly leave Sora for Riku. Sora challenges Riku, stating that his heart derives strength from his friends; his friends return to him, as does the Keyblade. After the three defeat Maleficent, Sora finds Kairi’s body and confronts Riku, who is possessed by Ansem, a figure who has been manipulating Maleficent and the Heartless from the beginning. Ansem explains that Kairi is the Princess of Heart, and that it has been hiding within Sora’s body since Destiny Islands was destroyed. After defeating the possessed Riku, Sora impales himself with Ansem’s Keyblade, which is designed to unlock hearts, releasing both his and Kairi’s heart. Kairi’s heart returns to her body, in turn completing the final Keyhole, while Sora becomes a Heartless. Kairi recognizes Sora’s Heartless and the light in her heart restores him to human form.

Sora, Donald and Goofy battle Ansem outside the door to Kingdom Hearts, which Ansem believes to be the ultimate reservoir of darkness. Upon opening the door, however, it reveals its light, overwhelming and destroying Ansem. Beyond the door are King Mickey and Riku, and they help Sora and the others close the door, as there are many Heartless beyond it. Mickey and Sora use their Keyblades to lock the door. The worlds lost to the Heartless reconstruct themselves; as the Destiny Islands reform, Kairi returns there while Sora is forced to part with her. The game concludes as Sora, Donald and Goofy resolve to find Riku and Mickey.

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Image Source – Protoeyesore – DeviantArt

Development

The initial idea for Kingdom Hearts began with a discussion between Shinji Hashimoto and Hironobu Sakaguchi about Super Mario 64. They were planning to make a game with freedom of movement in three dimensions like Super Mario 64 but lamented that only characters as popular as Disney’s could rival a Mario game. Tetsuya Nomura, overhearing their conversation, volunteered to lead the project and the two producers agreed to let him direct. A chance meeting between Hashimoto and a Disney executive in an elevator—Square and Disney had previously worked in the same building in Japan—allowed Hashimoto to pitch the idea directly to Disney. Nomura struck down a number of proposals from Disney in order to pursue his own concept featuring an original character not based on a Disney property. The production team consisted of over one hundred members from both Square and Disney Interactive. The game began development in February 2000 and originally focused more on the gameplay with a simple story to appeal to Disney’s target age range. After executive producer Hironobu Sakaguchi told director Tetsuya Nomura the game would be a failure if it did not aim for the same level as the Final Fantasy series, Nomura began to develop the story further. When choosing the Disney worlds to include in the game, Nomura and his team tried to pick worlds that had distinctively different looks. They also tried to take into account worlds with Disney characters that would be interesting. Thanks to support from Disney’s then-president and current chairman and chief executive Bob Iger, the team had few restrictions on which worlds they could use from the Disney franchises. However, they tried to remain within each character’s boundaries set by their respective Disney films. In June 2013, Nomura stated the name of the game came from him thinking about Disney Theme Parks, especially Animal Kingdom. However, Nomura could not get the IP with just Kingdom, so the development team began to think about “heart” as a core part of the story, so they decided to combine the two to form Kingdom Hearts.

Additional content was added to the North American release that was absent in the initial Japanese release: new optional bosses, one of which was named after the winner of the official website’s “Name-In-Game” sweepstakes, an extra difficulty level, and a teaser of Kingdom Hearts II accessible by meeting certain criteria. Nomura included the teaser in order to gauge fan reaction to the possibility of a sequel; he felt that if the idea was unpopular, then it would be best to leave certain events in the game unexplained. The new content was later added to the Japanese re-release titled Kingdom Hearts Final Mix. Final Mix also included additional content such as new items, cut scenes, and enemies, such as a new secret boss that sets up the sequel. The new content further hinted at plotlines that would be explained in sequels. Some content omitted from Kingdom Hearts was later added into Kingdom Hearts II. A world based on The Lion King, for instance, was unfeasible because an additional program was required to process movement on four legs—a necessity since Sora would become a lion in that world. Due to time constraints, the developers left out an optional boss battle, similar to the Sephiroth battle, against Tifa Lockhart. She was later included in Kingdom Hearts II as a more developed character.

Info Source – Wikipedia
Featured Image Source – matome.naver.jp