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Joystick: ‘Kingdom Hearts’ rerelease brings nostalgia to a classics-inspired game

Published 10:40am Thursday, September 12, 2013

According to popular lore, the mega-hit game series “Kingdom Hearts” began as an offhand comment between two executives from developer Square Enix and Disney while they shared an elevator in an office building.

That story has been repeated so often, it’s become a legend. It’s not true — Square Enix programmers sought out Disney after discussing a new series to rival Nintendo’s Mario, and an elevator pitch to a Disney exec turned into the full-fledged project — but it illustrates the kind of myths a powerful gaming experience can spawn.

“Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix” hit shelves this week as a compilation of the first “Kingdom Hearts” and two spinoff titles, one of which was reduced to an almost-three hour cinematic. The original game was released on the Playstation 2 in 2002 as an original story featuring new characters interacting with Final Fantasy and Disney characters throughout Disney worlds. It had a captivating plot centered on innocence and the power of a person’s heart, as teenager Sora must find his way through the galaxy with Donald Duck and Goofy by his side, on a search for his friends Kairi and Riku, along with the mysterious king Mickey Mouse, who holds the secret to Sora’s newfound powers.

The game was bolstered by incredible action-RPG gameplay and smooth, exciting battles, as players fought cartoonish baddies called the Heartless, along with Disney villains like Ursula, Maleficent, Captain Hook and Czernobog from Disney’s “Fantasia.”

It was a thrilling game that captured global attention and spawned a successful franchise that continues today. Many gamers are enchanted with its deep gameplay and character design, though its tangled plot over the games has now become a running joke among older players. Its innovative battle system has influenced many Square Enix games since then, and the “Kingdom Hearts” series has arguably changed the direction of “Final Fantasy” over the past several years. Most important to the gaming industry, “Kingdom Hearts” caught attention from younger and older gamers alike, and more than 5 million copies of the first game have been sold since it was released.

It’s the kind of game that evokes an emotional response, the kind of artistic expression you see in other Disney films that appeal to people across the board. It deserves its many accolades and its place as a culturally significant game series.


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