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Press Start

Video game news, reviews and commentary with Gazette reporter Jake Magee.

Press Start: I don't get the 'Kingdom Hearts' craze

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Jake Magee
Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The original "Kingdom Hearts" came out on Sony's PlayStation 2 in 2002.

Now, more than 15 years later, it has been announced the long-awaited "Kingdom Hearts III" will release next year. Fans who grew up with the series are, naturally, elated.

But I just don't get it.

Here's the series' premise: A heroic boy akin to something you'd find in any "Final Fantasy" epic is on a quest to defeat the forces of darkness. It sounds like any cliché Japanese role-playing game, but something strange sets "Kingdom Hearts" apart: The entire game is combined with several different, well-established Disney franchises.

While the game is developed by "Final Fantasy" creators Square Enix and features the combat, characters and settings you'd expect from the developer, the game is mashed together with popular Disney licenses such as "Winnie the Pooh" and "Aladdin." For instance, for most of the first game, you fight baddies alongside classic Disney characters Donald Duck and Goofy.

A bit strange, no?

I get why the game exists: "Kingdom Hearts" appeals to kids. Children love Disney movies, they think video games are fun, and they simply adore anime-esque teenage boys on violent quests to save the world, right?

But that doesn't explain the series' wild popularity with today's gamers. Disney franchises exist in their own separate universes. Am I supposed to believe it's canon when a young boy travels through alternate dimensions that somehow link to already existing, individual franchises to partner with the likes of Simba and Buzz Lightyear? I think not.

It's all just so jarring.

But maybe you're not supposed to take it seriously. Where, then, lie the tension and emotion I've come to expect from the best video game series of our time?

I have a couple of friends in their early and mid-20s and know others even older than I who can't wait for "Kingdom Hearts III." This probably comes down to two reasons: nostalgia and hype.

Most people I know who are eagerly anticipating "Kingdom Hearts III" were in elementary or middle school when the first and second games came out. That's the exact demographic the game appeals to. It would only make sense that the third main entry in the series would appeal to longtime fans who haven't played the games in more than a decade.

On top of that, word of "Kingdom Hearts III's" release has been floating around since at least 2010. Fans who are in their early 20s now were barely teenagers when word of a third game began to surface. It's only logical that such adult fans are eagerly anticipating a game they've been awaiting since middle school.

While I'm not personally a fan of a game that tries to mix already existing and completely separate Disney franchises into some sort of serious story, I admit I could feel differently if I ever gave the games a chance. Perhaps the gameplay and story are actually amazing. I could be missing out on something amazing.

But I'm probably not.

Regardless, I'm sincerely happy for fans who have been awaiting the series' return since the second main entry released in 2006. Have fun fighting evil alongside the likes of Mickey Mouse and Baymax from "Big Hero 6" or whatever, I guess.


Video game columnist Jake Magee has been with GazetteXtra since 2014. His opinion is not necessarily that of Gazette management. Let him know what you think by emailing jmagee@gazettextra.com, leaving a comment below, or following @jakemmagee on Twitter.


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