In 2002, there were probably a lot of gamers who thought a game like this wouldn't work. Except for an exception here and there, a Disney game tended not to fall under the 'had-to-play' category. And while Square-Enix managed to make Mario a viable RPG star, turning movies like Alice In Wonderland and The Little Mermaid into locations for a popular action-RPG seemed to be beyond their reach in the mind of the hardcore RPGers. Six years and three games later though, players are still asking for more Kingdom Hearts and more chances to see Mickey Mouse wail someone upside their skull with an oversized key.
What's Out Now
It all started with this title, released here in September. The game had you playing the role of Sora, a 14-year-old living on an archipelago called the Destiny Islands. One day, his home and the entire world it's on gets chopped to pieces thanks to the game's group of baddies, the Heartless. Creatures of the dark with an addiction to the spiritual version of a heart, they drag Sora's home into the black with his survival only achieved with an weird weapon known as the Keyblade. Hooking up soon enough with a magic-blasting Donald Duck and Captain-America-imitating Goofy, Sora ends up taking a tour of various Disney-based locations. While using the Keyblade to kick Heartless-ass as well as lock them out of the worlds, he also tries to keep an eye out for Kairi and Riku, a pair of friends from the Islands, as well as Mickey Mouse (who happens to run a kingdom that Donald and Goofy work for).
Probably one of the top points for the game was the voice-cast, bringing together not only some of the original voice-actors behind the Disney characters seen in the game but adding voices to popular Square characters that hadn't said a peep before then. Though if Lance Bass should have been the first person to voice FF7-villain Sephiroth or not is still debatable to say the least.
Two years after KH1's release, fans were finally rewarded for their patience with the next title. Instead of a proper PS2 sequel though, we got what could be called a bridging game which would link and set up events from the first game to the second. The story kicks off on the last moments of KH1's story, with Sora, Donald and Goofy soon directed to a bizarre place called Castle Oblivion. Teased with answers to their (and our) current quest, the three start climbing up the thirteen floors of the castle. However, the building's magic not only forces them to revisit places of from their more recent memories but it's also eating away at their deepest ones, leaving them vulnerable to Castle Oblivion's owners.
While the game was made mainly due to series-director Tetsuya Nomura seeing how much green putting a KH-title on the GBA could get him, it probably didn't get as much as he hoped. Primary reason was probably due to a unique card-deck fighting system implemented to replace the regular button-bash gameplay from KH1. Mind you, with a deck set up the right way, you could still hammer the action button more or less. Players who dismissed the game originally most likely returned to it after Kingdom Hearts II's release as Chain Of Memories ended up hosting the deaths of nearly half of the top villains from the sequel. Japanese gamers managed to avoid much of the hassle though thanks to a special edition re-release of KH2 which hosted a PS2-revamped, 3D-version of CoM. The PS2 port, KH re: Chain Of Memories was later released in the States as a stand-alone title.
Players finally got a chance to play the proper sequel to Kingdom Hearts nearly two years after CoM's release (US-wise anyway). Set a year after CoM's ending, players started up the game to play as not Sora but Roxas, a 15-year-old living in the perpetually-sunset-covered Twilight Town. While we would eventually get to Sora, Roxas gave us a chance to see the new group of villains sharing the spotlight with the Heartless; the Nobodies, led by the black-cloaked group of Organization-XIII. Roxas' connection to them as well as Sora would provide much of the plot for the sequel. As Sora, players would revisit some old worlds and visit new ones, using the Keyblade to not shut down the worlds' weak-points but open up new gateways in order to find a still missing Riku, a semi-missing King Mickey and the headquarters of O13.
KH2 offered a lot more to players as any sequel should, including new Disney-based worlds (as mentioned) and new ways of fighting such as the clothing-altering Drive system and the teamup-based Limit system. And while some of the voices from KH1 didn't return to the sequel, new voice-actors filled the gap as best as they could, topped off with legendary actor Christopher Lee voicing the new addition known as DiZ.
Appearing on the DS roughly three years after KH2, the unusually titled 358/2 explores what both Organization-XIII and Roxas did in the gap of time between CoM and KH2. The plot also revolves around the unheard-of-till-now 14th member of the Organization. The game gave not just a single-player story but a multiplayer mode, allowing gamers to run around in black-suits and killing enemies with the very same characters they had to fight against in CoM and KH2.
Coming out to the US on September 7 and referred by some as Kingdom Hearts 0, Birth By Sleep is a PSP game set ten years before KH1. The game revolves around characters seen in a secret pair of movies unlocked at the ends of KH2 and the Japan-only Final Mix version of KH2 respectively. The main characters are Terra, Aqua and Ven, armored Keyblade-wielders who find themselves in conflict with an old but powerful mage named Master Xehanort who also knows how to use a Keyblade of his own. Mickey Mouse will be appearing to help fill in the Disney-quota as well as some of the old worlds seen in the KH series as well as new ones based on untapped movies like Snow White And The Seven Dwarves, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty.
What's Yet To Come
Set after KH2, Jiminy Cricket, who had tagged along with Sora to write down his adventures in a journal, finds a mysterious message not written down by him, "We must return to free them from their torment." Mickey Mouse decides the only thing to be done is to feed all the records in the book into a computer and run through a virtual world along with a computer-made Sora to find the answer behind the line. Gameplay seems to be based partially on a puzzle-clearing system, using blocks to get to enemies and advance the plot. It seemed at first that we wouldn't get Coded as it was released as a cell-phone game but then SE revealed it was porting the game over to the DS as KH re: Coded, giving players outside of Japan a better chance at trying it.
Thought I'd put up the links for the secret videos that KH1, KH2 and their Final Mix versions had after their credits ran to end the OP. The Final Mix movies act as a continuation of the movies placed in the regular version of the game.
Kingdom Hearts II