"You never know who you will run into next."
Kingdom Hearts is a Japanese action role-playing game developed and published by Square in collaboration Disney Interactive, and the first title in the Kingdom Hearts series. It follows the journey of a fourteen-year-old Sora, joined by Donald Duck and Goofy, as they search for their friends Kairi, Riku, and King Mickey Mouse.
The game was first announced at the 2001 Electronic Entertainment Exposition (E3 2001) on May 18, 2001, and released for the PlayStation 2 on March 28, 2002 in Japan, followed by international releases later that year.
Story[edit | edit source]
Sora is a fourteen-year-old boy who lives on Destiny Islands. He spends his days with his friends Riku and Kairi. On a particular day, he is dozing off on the beach and has a nightmare of a huge black thing attacking him. He awakens to find Kairi, who knew he'd be sleeping, and Riku, who complains that he's the only one working on a raft they're building to go off to other worlds. Together over the next two days, they gather the necessary supplies and materials for their trip. That afternoon, as they started heading home, Riku explains to Sora the legend of the Paopu fruit, saying that two who share the fruit would always be a part of each other’s lives, and teasing that Sora wanted to try it with Kairi.
At the same time, Donald Duck, the Royal Court Magician, finds King Mickey Mouse is missing, leaving only a letter behind with his trusted dog Pluto. Donald and Goofy, Captain of the Royal Knights, leave at the behest of Queen Minnie Mouse in search of a “key” which the King mentions in his letter. They are accompanied by both Jiminy Cricket, who will chronicle their quest at the Queen’s request, and Pluto. They then travel to Traverse Town to find Leon, who can tell them more about the key.
The following day, while searching for supplies, Sora finds his way to the Secret Place, where he finds the cave drawings he and Kairi had drawn of each other when they were kids. Thinking on what Riku had said the day before, Sora draws himself giving a paopu fruit to Kairi before being interrupted by a mysterious being in a cloak. The being cryptically alludes to the world’s connection before saying Sora understands nothing and disappears. That night, a storm hits Destiny Islands. Sora hurriedly makes his way to their play island to secure the raft, and is faced by the same creatures from his dream. He soon finds Riku, who is consumed by darkness as he explains to Sora that they would be leaving their world. In that moment, Sora finds himself carrying a gian key-shaped weapon, which he uses to fight the dark creatures until he finds Kairi in the Secret Place. However, Kairi then disappears, and Sora is thrown out onto a largely destroyed island to face the giant monster from his dream. He uses his new weapon to defeat it, but his island is destroyed and Sora is sucked off the remains.
Donald, Goofy, and Pluto make it to a world called Traverse Town, where they start looking for Leon when Goofy notices a star above them blinking out, just as King Mickey had said in his letter. They hurry to find the key, while Pluto split a off from the group and finds a knocked-out Sora in an alley not far away. Sora soon realizes he's in another world, and begins to search for his friends. He soon runs into a swordsman who challenges and defeats Sora. When Sora reawakens, he finds himself in a hotel room, where Leon, the swordsman, and a young woman named Yuffie explain to Sora about his weapon, called the Keyblade. They also tell him about the dark creatures, called Heartless, which seek for the heart of the worlds. In the next room, another young woman, an ally of Leon’s named Aerith, explains the same information to Donald and Goofy, who she had found in the Alleyway behind the hotel. She also tells them about Ansem, a man who had researched the Heartless and detailed them in a report now scattered throughout the worlds. Suddenly, the Heartless attack the rooms, and Leon and Sora escape to the alleyway.
Under instruction from Leon, Sora begins to search the town for the Heartless’ leader and makes his way to the Third District. At the same time, Donald and Goofy have made their way to a balcony ledge above the Third District. A blast from attacking the Heartless sends them flying off, and they crash on top of Sora below. When they recover, they recognize Sora and the Keyblade as the "key" the King mentioned, and the trio works together to defeat the Guard Armor Heartless that then appears. Afterwards, Donald and Goofy introduce themselves to Sora, and Sora, at the suggestion of Leon, decides to join them in their journey, hoping to find Kairi and Riku along the way.
Meanwhile, Riku awakens before a towering castle, where Maleficent finds him and promises to help him find his friends.
Sora, Donald, and Goofy set off and visit various worlds. Along the way, they learn more about the Heartless, Maleficent and her band of villains, and the mysterious Ansem who had experimented on the Heartless. On a return trip to Traverse Town, they find Riku, who then mysteriously disappears while Sora and Donald argue about letting him join them. Maleficent convinces Riku that Sora no longer cares for him or Kairi, and as Sora’s adventure continues, they continuely run into an increasingly hostile Riku. Riku, in the meantime, with the help of Maleficent and her allies, finds Kairi in a comatose state.
Sora, Donald, and Goofy arrive in Hollow Bastion after searching many worlds. However, soon there after, Riku arrives and takes the Keyblade. Donald and Goofy decide to follow the instructions of the King's letter and follow Riku, leaving Sora alone. However, Sora, with the help of the Beast, catches up to them in the Entrance Hall. When Riku attempts to kill him, Goofy and Donald both come to Sora’s aid. Declaring his friends as the source of his power, Sora is able to take back the Keyblade and defeat Riku.
A frustrated Riku retreats, and is confronted by a bodiless personage who explains to him that his heart we weaker than Sora’s, for which he lost the Keyblade. The being offers Riku greater strength, and Riku allows him into his heart. Meanwhile, Sora, Donald, and Goofy catch up to Maleficent in the Castle Chapel. After fighting her, Riku shows up with another Keyblade and stabs Maleficent, releasing the darkness in her heart, which turns her into a dragon. Nevertheless, Sora and company vanquish her, and Riku reveals that she had been used by the Heartless before leaving again. The trio find Kairi in the Grand Hall, where she remains in a coma. Now introducing himself as Ansem, the seeker of Darkness, a possessed Riku reveals that Kairi is one of the seven princesses of light, but that her heart was within Sora. He attempts to extract her heart for Sora, but Sora fights back and defeats Riku once again. Sora then attempts to seal the keyhole formed from the hearts of the princesses but is unable to because Kairi’s heart is still within him. Realizing what will wake her, Sora takes Riku’s abandoned Keyblade and stabs himself with it, releasing Kairi’s heart, but becoming a Heartless in the process.
Ansem then appears and attempts to harm Kairi, but Riku, still within his heart, is able to overpower Ansem long enough to tell Kairi, Donald, and Goofy to flee. In the Entrance Hall, they are surrounded by Heartless, but Kairi recognizes one shadow as Sora. When she turns to protect him from the other Heartless, her light brings his heart back, and Sora comes back. Together, they flee to Traverse Town and tell Leon what had happened. While preparing to return to Hollow Bastion to seal the keyhole and rescue Riku, Sora finds Kairi in the Secret Waterway. After being told she couldn’t join them on the journey, Kairi gives Sora her lucky thalassa shell charm, making him promise to bring it back and promising to always be with him wherever he goes.
Riku having lost his body, finds himself in a dark world. He soon hears a voice that helps him, claiming that they together can close the door to darkness. Meanwhile, Sora, Donald, and Goofy return to Hollow Bastion to seal the Keyhole, after which they move on to the End of the World, where Ansem has escaped to. They finally find Ansem in the dark remains of Destiny Islands, where he claims that all will return to darkness. After several battles in which Ansem becomes increasingly more powerful, Sora, Donald, and Goofy finally defeat Ansem right outside the door to darkness. In a desperate last effort, Ansem calls to the darkness within Kingdom Hearts that he'd been searching for, but Sora reveals that Kingdom Hearts is light. The doors to Kingdom Hearts open, and the light destroys Ansem.
Sora, Donald, and Goofy hurry to try and close the doors, especially as they see the Heartless on the other side, but are unable to do so. Suddenly, Riku appears from the other side of the door, and begins to help close the door. The King, whose voice had guided Riku through the dark realm, also appears, and tells Sora that it's time to close the door and explains that there will be a door to the light. Together, they finally close it, and both Sora and King Mickey, with Keyblades on each side of the door, seal it, leaving the King and Riku inside. Sora then finds Kairi at a distance. As she's pulled away with her islands forming back again, Sora promises that he'd always be with her, too, and that he would return to her.
Sometime later, while looking for Riku and King Mickey, Sora, Donald, and Goofy run into Pluto, who has another letter from the King, and they begin to chase him down. Meanwhile, Kairi explores the Secret Place and finds their old cave drawings, including one Sora had recently drawn of himself giving her a paopu fruit, which causes her to tear up. She completes it by adding her giving him a paopu fruit back.
Another side, Another story...[edit | edit source]
Main Article: Another side, Another story...
Sometime later, Riku watches a man in a black hood high above a building, then begins to fight him. Meanwhile, a shooting star flashes in the sky above Destiny Islands as an older Kairi stands on the shore, waiting for Riku and Sora’s return.
Worlds and Characters[edit | edit source]
Gameplay[edit | edit source]
Kingdom Hearts uses a free-roam style gameplay much like the Final Fantasy series the game is based on. However, instead of the turn-based combat from the same series, the game features a more free hack-and-slash style combat. Sora is the only playable character, but he is often accompanied by a party usually comprising of Donald and Goofy. Certain characters can replace either Donald or Goofy in certain worlds. Tarzan, Aladdin, Ariel, Jack Skellington, Peter Pan, and the Beast can each replace Donald or Goofy when visiting their respective worlds, with the Beast able to be switched in in Hollow Bastion. Though the rest of the party cannot be controlled, their AI can be customized in the Menu.
Sora’s movement is controlled through the left analog stick. His actions are controlled by pressing the X button on the highlighted option in the Command Menu. The default option is always Attack, but there are options in the menu to use magic, healing items, and summonable Disney characters, which he acquires as the game progresses. Sora and his party each have a certain amount of hit points (HP) and magic points (MP), measured by green and blue gauges respectively around each character’s avatar in the heads-up display. The former determines each character’s health; when it empties completely, the game ends and must be picked up from either the last point it was saved or from before the battle that ended the game begins. The latter allows Sora to use magic, summons, or other special attacks.
Each character gains experience points (EXP) as they defeat enemies; these translate into levels at which the characters gain strength, magic ability, increase their HP or MP, or learn new abilities. Abilities are learned as Sora and the party gain experience, and must be equipped in the Menu. Abilities consume ability points (AP), which requires that not all abilities be equipped simultaneously throughout most of the game. Equipment can also be equipped to each character, which improves stats, in the menu. Sora, Donald, and Goofy can acquire new weapons that have greater strength or magic, which can also be equipped in the menu.
The game also features the Gummi Ship minigame. To travel from one world to another, Sora, Donald, and Goofy must travel in the gummi ship. The ship is controllable with the left analog stick, with the objective being to defeat Heartless ships and avoid obstacles as you travel through space. The HUD also features a green gauge for the ship’s health, labeled armor, and a blue gauge for power. In Kingdom Hearts Final Mix, missions are introduced to the gummi ship minigame, along with a count for how many Heartless are defeated and how many prizes have been acquired during the run. Later in the game, the gummi ship acquires a Warp Drive gummi ship piece, which allows Sora and company to warp directly to worlds they’ve previously visited without needing to travel through route.
Development and Release[edit | edit source]
During development of Final Fantasy VII, Tetsuya Nomura, then a character designer for the game, was greatly impacted by the work Nintendo had done on the then-recently released game Super Mario 64, particularly its full three-dimensional areas and the freedom it gave to run around. However, his colleagues didn't believe that he could make a game like that from scratch, noting that he would need characters as well-known as those created by the Walt Disney Company. Sometime later, Shinji Hashimoto and Hironobu Sakaguchi were discussing creating a game in collaboration with Disney. Nomura had been called to the same room for a different reason, but upon hearing the discussion, volunteered to head the project. Because Square was housed in the same building as Walt Disney Japan at the time, a chance encounter between Shinji Hashimoto and a Disney executive in an elevator in the building gave him the opportunity to pitch the idea, and Disney Japan was on board. However, Disney had never approved a license in Japan for a title with a completely new setting, nor combined multiple IPs altogether into a singular title even though the game had already entered production. Then-CEO Michael Eisner's approval allowed the game to continue production after facing potential cancellation. The name of the game stems from combining the words "Kingdom" and "Hearts". The former is a reference to the Disney Parks, as Nomura wanted the game to be like Disneyland. The term "Hearts" comes from the general theme of the story revolving around hearts.
Development began in 1999, after the completion of Final Fantasy VIII. For the first year, the development team consisted solely of Director Tetsuya Nomura. Planning continued for the first year, with Square and Disney officially announcing their collaboration on a new title during a press briefing at the PlayStation Festival on February 18, 2000. The development team was assembled by Nomura, involving many staff members that he previously worked with on Final Fantasy VII, VIII, and X within Square's internal Product Development Division 1 based in Tokyo. Initially, the game had focused more on gameplay while avoiding a complex story; early on, the game was planned to end by defeating Maleficent, and characters like Ansem didn’t exist. However, Sakaguchi convinced Nomura that the project would fail if the story wasn’t on a similar level with that of the titles in the Final Fantasy series, and Nomura began to flesh the story out more. Nomura chose all the worlds, and initially there were more than twenty worlds in the game before it was reduced to the current total. Worlds were chosen based on the popularity of the films. Some of the worlds were chosen based on how interesting the staff felt it would be to use the characters and settings. Despite being largely free from restrictions, the development team chose to stay true to the style of the original Disney movies, wanting to bring out the best of them. Mickey’s appearance in the game, however, was restricted to a single scene, for which reason he appears briefly at the end of the game. Nomura designed all the new characters, including the Heartless. Initially, Square wanted to use Mickey as the main character, and Disney wanted to use Donald, but Nomura insisted on making his own main character. Initially, Sora’s design was more lion-like and he wielded a giant chainsaw-like sword.
Kingdom Hearts was first announced at E3 2001, on May 17, 2001. A demo of the game was featured at Tokyo Game Show, premiering on October 12, 2001. The game was released on March 28, 2002 in Japan, delayed from its initial Q4 release target.
Following the release of the Japanese title, and to promote its international release, Square held a “Name-in-Game” sweepstakes. The winner had his name added somewhere in the game. The winner was Kurt Zisa; his name was given to an optional boss in Agrabah. On May 14, 2002, Square published a press release announcing several of the voice actors, including Haley Joel Osment, David Gallagher, and Hayden Panettiere as Sora, Riku, and Kairi respectively. Kingdom Hearts released in North America on September 17, 2002. The game released in Europe on November 15, and in Australia on November 22 of the same year.
Kingdom Hearts released to incredible success. It won awards for "Best Story" at the first annual G4 awards on July 31, 2003, as well as IGN's "Best Overall Game", "Best Presentation" and "Best Role-Playing Game" Awards for the PlayStation 2 at E3 2002. On October 6, 2003, Kingdom Hearts was released as one of PlayStation's Greatest Hits. On March 17, 2004, Square Enix announced that Kingdom Hearts had sold over 4 million copies worldwide. On Febuary 5, 2005, Square Enix announced that the Kingdom Hearts series had shipped over 10 million copies worldwide, including approximately 5.6 million copies of the original game. As of 2006, Kingdom Hearts and its Final Mix re-release have sold 6 million copies worldwide.
Re-releases[edit | edit source]
Main Article: Kingdom Hearts Final Mix
Kingdom Hearts Final Mix was released on December 26, 2002 as a Japanese-exclusive re-release of the original title. The re-release contains additional cutscenes that shows some of Riku’s journey, and also features all the additional battles from the international release. The game also featured English audio with Japanese subtitled. An additional battle against the Unknown was also added, as well as an extension of the original secret video, now titled "Another Side, Another Story [deep dive]".
The title was released internationally for the first time in Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMIX, which released on September 10, 2013 in North America, with releases in Australia on September 12 and in Europe on September 13. It was re-released on the PlayStation 4 as part of Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 + 2.5 ReMIX and Kingdom Hearts -The Story So Far-
References[edit | edit source]
- Iwata Asks: Volume 12 – Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance
- Multiplayer.it: "Kingdom Hearts 3: intervista esclusiva a Tetsuya Nomura"
- KHInsider: Otocoto reveals history of how Kingdom Hearts got approved by Eisner
- E3 2013 Interview with Square Enix Members
- Kingdom Hearts Ultimania Interview: "Nomura: I was a one-man team for a year. (laugh) I began after FFVIII."
- IGN: "PS Festival 2000: Square forms Alliance with Disney"
- KINGDOM HEARTS ULTIMANIA INTERVIEW
- Dengeki: すでにお伝えした『キングダムハーツ』続編と『FFVII』CG作品について、発表会で語られたことの詳細をまとめてみよう。
- E3 2001: Square announces Disney RPG for PS2 - Gamespot
- "Square announces Kingdom Hearts voice talent" - GameSpot
- KINGDOM HEARTS receives "Best Story" Award at first annual G4 Glow Awards - Square Enix Press (Archives)
- IGNPS2's Best of E3 2002 Awards - IGN.com
- Disney Interactive and Square Enix again join forces to continue the KINGDOM HEARTS saga - Square Enix Press (Archives)
- KINGDOM HEARTS ships 4 million units worldwide - Square Enix Press (Archives)
- Gamespot: Kingdom Hearts Series Ships over 10 Million Worldwide
- Square Enix: Kingdom Hearts Chain of Memories | ULTIMATE HITS | SQUARE ENIX