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Gamer Tuesday

September 18, 2012

Pap the Disney Gamer Presents a Year Long Celebration

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

Last time on the Kingdom Hearts Retrospective

'It is time to start the journey! Light versus dark! New worlds!'

And now...

Part 9: Is any of this for real, or not?

Before I begin with part 9 of this retrospective, I want to answer a question that might or might not be in your minds... Why wasn't this posted on the third Tuesday of September? Well, that is because this entry of the retrospective lies on the actual tenth anniversary of Kingdom Hearts! That's right, ten years ago, the very first entry in the Kingdom Hearts series was released! As previously noted in earlier entries in the retrospective, the release of Kingdom Hearts came as a big surprise to everybody: a Disney themed RPG that was aimed at an older audience using every asset from Disney's legacy to tell an epic and elaborate story that would go on for ten years. I will leave the legacy of Kingdom Hearts for another part of the retrospective, as well as my own views on the franchise as a whole. Now, I want to focus on how Kingdom Hearts actually begins.

In the intro, Sora sees his best friend out in the ocean, about to be engulfed by the tidal wave. Could the wave symbolize how Riku will be involved in something dark and dangerous?

Square Enix is primarily known for their elaborate computer generated introductions and endings, and Kingdom Hearts is no exception to the rule. As we load the game for the first time, we see our young hero and protagonist Sora reflecting upon some dreams that he is having, leading him to wonder whether any of his dreams are real or not. This serves as a metaphor of how he is about to be plunged into a complex world where its fate lies on the course of his actions. While Utada Hikaru's 'Simple and Clean' plays, Sora is seen flying through the skies, all indicating something bigger that is about to happen. When the scene ends, Sora lands upon a tower. As he lands, the darkness turns into doves that reveal a beautiful painting of Snow White, the very first Disney character we see in the game.

This is where two things start: Sora's journey, and the tutorial that introduces the game's mechanics. Usually, gamers lament the existence of the tutorial level. They feel it is slow, cumbersome, and if the game is very complicated, very long and tedious to endure. Square Enix, however, made this introductory level one that is mysterious and engaging while teaching players the basics of gameplay. First we have the enigmatic image of Snow White painted as a saint and adorned by elements from her story (the seven dwarfs, the apple, the old hag). It is here where a chilling voice asks Sora questions about his character. This serve as both an element of the story as well as character development and RPG mechanics.

Sora is given the option to choose from three weapons: a sword, a staff and a shield. These weapons are actually representations of how Sora will level up as an RPG character through different means. For example, if the player chooses the sword, Sora's attack prowess will be higher when he levels up, whereas the shield will elevate his defenses, but lower his attack abilities. In RPGs, it is very crucial how you decide to develop your character. Battles will either be easier or harder depending on what class or stats you decided to pick for your character.

As soon as Sora has decided his path, the Snow White image begins to collapse, leaving Sora to fall into the dark void. He is, however, quickly sent to another tower (called stations in Kingdom Hearts): a Cinderella themed station. Much like Snow White's, Cinderella's story is beautifully told through stained glass images, indicating yet again her enigmatic role in the story. In here, Sora (and the player) is taught to attack his enemies using the weapon he has chosen earlier. It is here where Sora meets the most common enemy in the game: the Heartless.

Once Sora defeats them, the station is yet again destroyed, this time engulfed by dark shadows. When he wakes up, he finds himself in another station. On this station, there are three hearts with three silhouettes of princesses. This is a plot point that is later revealed down the line. In here, the player learns how to move crates in order to reach new areas. Once the tasks are completed, the door opens, and leads us to a tropical island. This island is named Destiny Islands, the home of our heroes. We will talk about that later when we discuss the worlds we will visit. In here, Sora finds himself face to face with his face, all asking questions that seemingly define his character once the player picks the best answers.

A blinding light then transports Sora to another station: Princess Aurora's station. Here, Sora does battle with even more Heartless. Gameplay wise, we are instructed about the save points, small circles of light that recover your life points and lets you save the game. The whole scene concludes with Sora ascending a set of stairs, which lead to the final station in this segment: Belle and the Beast's station. To fully prepare the player, Sora does battle with a giant Heartless. When the Heartless is destroyed, Sora is captured by the darkness. The scene then cuts to Sora sleeping on the beach, it was all a dream... or was it a premonition of things to come?

And with that ends this month's article on Kingdom Hearts. Stay tuned next month as we are introduced to the characters that will make this journey an unforgettable one, as well as take a look at the actors that bring them to life.


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