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Gamer Tuesday

January 3, 2011

Pap the Disney Gamer Presents A Year Long Celebration...

Ten Years of Hearts, Keyblades and Disney Magic: A Kingdom Hearts 10th Anniversary Celebration

Part 1: Introduction and Origins


2012 promises to be one busy year for a lot of people. The time has come to once again vote for our political hopefuls, Marvel's The Avengers promises to become one of the most popular movies of the year, and part of Walt Disney World's Fantasyland expansion project will be unveiled for the world to see. But for me, 2012 is a year of celebration. Not only will I be turning 30 (meaning that I have been successfully alive for 3 decades should I make it that far into the new year), one of my all time video game franchises will be turning 10 years old. I am talking about Square Enix's Kingdom Hearts.

To this day, the original Kingdom Hearts remains one of my most cherished Disney gaming memories ever. While the classic games on the NES, Sega Master System, Genesis, and Super NES were captivating in their own right, and served a very important purpose in my growth as a Disney fan, there will never be anything as magical and wonderful as the first Kingdom Hearts game (Author's note: Your mileage may vary). It was one of the weirdest crossovers every conceived, an idea that many believed would backfire badly. And here we are, ten years later. The experimental game has become one of Square Enix's most popular franchises after Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest, with six games under its belt, and a seventh one coming out later in 2012 for the Nintendo 3DS.

On the first Tuesday of every month in 2012, I will be writing about a different aspect of the franchise as a whole, from its creation to massive popularity, the highs and lows the series has experienced and even some of the intricacies of its complex narrative. So come back every first Tuesday of the month to see where our journey into the depths of the heart might take us!

There's no better place to start than at the beginning! Just how did two vastly different companies from different parts of the world got together for such an ambitious project?

The exact details as to how this idea was brainstormed are still speculated and talked about to this day, but there was one thing that was certain at the time: the two companies involved were at the very top of their game. Everyone knows Disney. What started out as a man's quirky dream involving cartoon mice and rabbits soon became an empire of dreams whose creativity has touched upon the lives of many all over the world, making websites like From Screen to Theme possible. Meanwhile, Square Enix was still riding on the success of their RPGs, most notably Final Fantasy.

The name Final Fantasy would become one of the most ironic in the history of video games. The name was used to represent the possible final game the company would ever produce for the Famicom (as the NES was known in Japan) after years of many unsuccessful releases. Taking a lot of cues from then rival Enix's Dragon Quest, Final Fantasy was a successful game that plunged players onto the complex role playing world of magic, monsters, and heroes. The game shined in its simplicity yet difficult nature, and Square's Final Fantasy would become an eternal story retold over and over again. Thirteen main entries and countless of spin-offs later, Square Enix is still producing a lot of great games.

With the two companies being completely different entities, one would never think that they would seek the assistance of the other in order to create an unforgettable game. But when you look deeper into the history of each company, you begin to see that this collaboration was destined to happen. Both are about innovation through the use of the latest technology. Walt Disney was a man that loved innovation. He would hardly stay using just one technique of storytelling and would invest a lot of money just to experiment with it. Square Enix is a company with similar ideals. The release of Final Fantasy VII in 1997 was a benchmark event that launched the PlayStation into immense popularity in the late 90s, and it too used its technology to tell one gripping story that players to this day are still enjoying.

So on the one hand you have Disney, a company known for having the highest nostalgic value of any of its kind, and on the other you have Square Enix, a development house all about designing the most complex gameplay while still weaving an engaging narrative. How did these two titans cross paths? One story says that it all started with an elevator ride...

The story, according to an interview on the September 2002 issue of PlayStation magazine, is that both Disney and Square shared the same building in Japan, and when two representatives met on an elevator ride, one of them said...

'We should make a game together'.

And if that story is to be believed, history was made with just one brief exchange of words.

We will never exactly know how all of this really got started, but the one thing we can be certain of is that we are all thankful that this silly idea was given an opportunity to grow and evolve. And thus with the concepts of growth and evolution I end this entry.

Come back next month as I discuss how the game went from being a basic Disney RPG starring the Disney Princesses and their princes to something that would be more significant in the gaming industry.


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