Imagine If Kingdom Hearts Was Actually Good
I've seen every Walt Disney Animation Studios movie. Yes, Saludos Amigos. Yes, Make Mine Music. Yes, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. All of them means all of them. That last one is secretly the scariest movie Disney has ever made, even more than The Black Cauldron, which yes, I've also seen. I even used to have that one on VHS. None of this is to brag – it feels more like a shameful confession, in truth – but to caveat what I'm about to write. Or, given that you've all presumably read the headline first, what I've already written. I am a fully fledged Disney adult. I love Disney. Disney is not what's wrong with Kingdom Hearts. But make no mistake – Kingdom Heart sucks.
I don't say this lightly. In some ways, it's a phenomenal achievement. For all Kingdom Hearts' flaws, it never feels silly. You and your massive feet can be running around Tarzan's jungle waving a big key around, then hop in a spaceship to fight off Cerberus with Hercules and Cloud Strife by your side, and it flows seamlessly. It deserves credit for linking all of these different ideas together, but that's about all it deserves credit for.
Related: Encanto Is Perfect For An Animated SeriesThe House of Mouse might be a soulless capitalist machine, but it makes damn good movies. Because I've watched them all, I know it has some duds, but Kingdom Heart picks the elite. It leans on the likes of Toy Story and Frozen and Aladdin, rather than Fun & Fancy Free or Meet the Robinsons. These are some of Disney's finest, most heartfelt stories – and as a result, they're some of the most heartfelt stories in the history of film. There is some justified resentment over Disney buying up anything that moves (and some unjustified snobbery towards the childish nature of cartoons), but few would argue Toy Story 3 is a bad or even an average movie.
The same is true of Final Fantasy, the property Square Enix has married to Disney throughout Kingdom Hearts. No self respecting list of the most important titles in our medium's history is complete without Final Fantasy 7, and a large part of that stems from the character relationships – especially the rivalry between Cloud and Sephiroth. All the ingredients are there, yet time and time again Kingdom Hearts manages to be less than the sum of its parts.
Kingdom Hearts is so famously (or infamously) convoluted it has become a meme unto itself, and while it's natural that a JRPG made by Square Enix and intertwined with Final Fantasy would feel somewhat tangled (wahey), Disney movies are beloved because of their simplicity. Even when they tackle complex themes in layered ways, as movies like Frozen and The Hunchback of Notre Dame do, there is a human simplicity at their core. Kingdom Hearts boots that idea out the door and runs in the complete opposite direction.
Kingdom Hearts either eats itself alive with lore which is way too thick to draw any emotions from its audience unless they have several binders to help keep up with what's happening, or it reduces some of the best stories in cinema to "boy I sure am glad friendship is important!"
I'm not kidding when I say I wish it was good. A game that mixes the stories of Disney's best tales together should be extremely my jam. I miss the old tie-in games for the PS1s, I miss Hercules and Tarzan. I got every Achievement in the Pixar Brave game. I unironically love Disney and I would unironically love a Disney game. I don't need Kingdom Hearts to do an Iron Man world or a Star Wars world. I just need it to be good. Please. How can it waste these ingredients time and time again and just get away with it?
In a way, it's like those old tie-in games. I played the Hercules game over and over despite the fact that it was a bit naff. I loved it anyway. A lot of people seemed to get in on the ground floor with Kingdom Hearts as kids, and now they're trapped in the elevator as it descends further and further into mediocrity. I wish it was good. I want a real Disney game, a Disney game that understands the source material and offers a new way to explore it. Disney Infinity got closer than Kingdom Hearts ever has. Take away the Disney, and there's a decent JRPG with a range of interesting mechanics, but it's a Disney game. You can't 'take away the Disney' and expect me to judge it at face value. Imagine if it was good though. Just imagine.
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