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Gamer Tuesday

February 7, 2012

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

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

Last time on the Kingdom Hearts retrospective...

'Disney is awesome! Square Enix is amazing! Elevator rides! We should totally make a game together! HISTORY IS MADE!'

And now...

Part 2: Evolution of Concepts

Disney and Square Enix have finally met and agreed to make a game together. Just what kind of games did they have in mind when working on such an ambitious collaboration? The possibilities seemed endless. The exact details regarding the various game concepts for the dubbed Disney RPG are not fully known, though.

It is believed that the one game concept that went the furthest was a Disney RPG in which you played as the Disney Princes out to rescue their princesses in worlds based on various Disney movies. At the end of each world, the Disney Princess was there waiting to be rescued, after a battle with the appointed Disney villain. It was going to be a concept that would be aimed towards a very young set of gamers. But then one very vital Square Enix player stepped in and made a bold suggestion that would change the course of development, and the franchise as a whole, forever.

 'Sorry Prince Philip, but your princess is in another castle'

Enter Hironobu Sakaguchi. Who is he exactly? He is a video game producer, director and game designer best known for creating Square Enix's flagship Final Fantasy series. He worked on many Square games prior to creating Final Fantasy, a game that ended up saving the company after many failures on the Famicom (the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) as it was known in Japan). For years he worked on the first ten entries in the series, switching between being the roles of director and producer, working on the storylines and overseeing the development of the battle systems. In 2004, Sakaguchi left Square to work on his own company, which he called Mistwalker. He brought his Final Fantasy expertise on games like The Last Story for the Wii and Blue Dragon for the Xbox 360 (which featured character designed by famed anime and manga artist Akira Toriyama, who also does designs for Dragon Quest, another of Square Enix's famous franchises).

During the development of Kingdom Hearts, Sakaguchi suggested that the game should be made as a serious role playing game rather than a game strictly for children. In other words, make the game for the same audience that loves and supports the Final Fantasy series. Clearly a very risky move as even with the strong legacy and nostalgic value Disney has on people all over the world, the chances of a Disney game being successful and adopted by a hardcore RPG audience were small.

For a long while, development of the game took place in North America, until they decided to mash up the two worlds (the Disney world and the Final Fantasy world) to create a different kind of Disney game. And just who was going to helm the game down this new direction? None other than Tetsuya Nomura. Nowadays, Tetsuya Nomura has been established as the man behind the Kingdom Hearts phenomenon as we know it, but that wasn't always the case. He first joined Square Enix in 1990 as a debugger on Final Fantasy IV for the Super NES (Fun Fact: In North America Final Fantasy IV was known as Final Fantasy II. It would take the release of Final Fantasy VII so that the game would obtain its original Japanese title). Nomura began to get noticed in 1997 when Square Enix released their groundbreaking game, Final Fantasy VII. He designed the characters, which were very unique in comparison to previous Final Fantasy games.

The grand success of Final Fantasy VII lead Nomura to gain bigger roles in other Square Enix projects. Some of these include character designer for Final Fantasy VIII, X and X-2, directing the CG motion picture film sequel to Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children and becoming Kingdom Hearts' director in charge of story, character design and gameplay.

The decision was made. The Disney RPG project went from being a game only children would appreciate to a massive collaboration that yielded an incredible fantasy mythos. The men to be in charge have been picked, and now it came time to work on the most important aspect of any video game effort: the Gameplay. Just how Kingdom Hearts' signature gameplay came to be? Stay tuned next month for part 3 as I detail how Kingdom Hearts' battle system served as the stepping stone other Kingdom Hearts games would follow.


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