Peripheral Love for Kingdom Hearts And Love for Disney Games

I have to admit that I’ve never played Kingdom Hearts. Our family tended to buy the storybook CDs that accompanied the movies. We weren’t the type that would have bought a game for the fun of it, apart from a Toy Story actionized game that took events of the movie and changed various scenes into intense mini-games.

Kingdom Hearts is a series about a boy named Sora who goes on a quest with Donald Duck and Goofy to fight the Heartless — eldritch beings that eat hearts and worlds– in various Disney films. Each world has a quest, like keeping Jafar from getting the genie’s lamp, or helping Pooh Bear get some honey.  In the meantime, Sora hopes to find his friends, Riku and Kairi, who grew up with him on a desert island. Riku wants to save Kairi from evil, but thinks that he has to use the Heartless’s power to achieve his goal.

In short, this game is the ultimate crossover that Disney tried to achieve with House of Mouse. We get a logical reason for the jumps into many worlds, and seeing the changes to the movie’s timelines. Aladdin comes off as more compassionate, and Hercules gets to show he’s more than a janitor and hero-in training.

Kingdom Hearts III was released this week. It promises a return to some familiar worlds, and also diving into the films from the 2010s and Pixar. We get to see Elsa from Frozen, Remy from Ratatouille, and the Toy Story cast. People are excited, and streaming. I actually don’t know what the game entails so fortunately I won’t have to put a spoiler warning. But the excitement — and tears of joy — are real.

RIP Tokyopop KH Manga

I read the manga, after reading some positive reviews of the series on a website where I used to contribute reviews. The now defunct Tokyopop wrote several volumes that serialize the crossover, which covered the first four games and included some fun humor to go with the plot and Sora’s pain. Yen Press would later pick up the license to continue the series. Let’s hope that they also translate the third game’s manga for American consumers.

While I haven’t seen the game, I remember how Donald and Goofy have their personal agenda for helping Sora. Their king Mickey has gone missing, and Donald worries about finding Mickey and fighting the Heartless. At the same time, Goofy can’t really act against Sora’s interest, while Donald tries to be the reasonable and pragmatic one. We know that Donald has the chops for it, given his comic book history, but seeing him as the more reasonable duck can throw us for a loop. At the same time, he has to grow out of his brash nature to be any help.

Also, the manga was fun. A Disney fan could enjoy it, but so could an outsider not knowing the continuities. You get a decent introduction to each world, and some pretty scream-worthy cliffhangers. The art is gorgeous, blending anime and the classic Disney style.

Seeing Others’ Joy

People love Kingdom Hearts for the pathos, and the friendships that bloom. The animation and music are also quite beautiful, from what I have seen. Sora moves with grace as you navigate various Disney worlds. Several people have eagerly

My friend Cory talks about how each character, hero and villain, provides many lessons for the player, and for the heroic trio: “As a player who came into this when it first came out . . . you learn things that builds character in yourself. But you also grow with Sora and Riku (I learned a lot from him specifically) and even Kairi. Everyone in some way grows, and it’s great that you start growing with them.”

It’s especially remarkable when you know that Disney toons generally don’t get much growing space. Donald and Goofy entertain with their flaws throughout the ages, only here their flaws have real consequences. Donald accidentally rebuffs Riku at the wrong time with his abrasive nature, and Goofy cannot protect Sora from the sacrifices that Sora makes for Kairi. They have to grow together, and work together as a team to protect their worlds, and many others.

Going Forward

While I don’t know if I’ll dive into Kingdom Hearts deeply except through Let’s Plays, I’m more inclined after seeing how happy people are with the new game. The footage I’ve seen promises “Far off places, magical spells,” to quote Belle, and more.

Disney, you’ve created one heck of a crossover. Kudos to you, and to making friendship a worthwhile, terrifying and fun adventure.

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