When the first Kingdom Hearts game was announced back in the early 2000's, nobody knew quite what to expect. Final Fantasy meets Disney? It seemed insane, but the resulting game was charming and fun, if a bit overly simple in the combat department. The game was a hit and spawned an entire series, but all hasn't always been well in the House of Squeenix Mouse.
After the first game, the series began to be taken over by its original characters rather than focusing primarily on the Disney and Final Fantasy casts. Series director Tetsuya Nomura is generally blamed for this focus, along with the increasingly convoluted storyline that surrounds these characters. It doesn't help that after Kingdom Hearts II, the series has been relegated to generally sub-par portable titles, which must be played in order to even begin to understand the storyline. It's no wonder that, faced with this confusing storyline mess and a lack of quality console titles, many fans have thrown up their hands and walked away from the series.
As the latest entry, Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, is due to come out at the end of July, I'd like to provide an argument for why fans shouldn't give up on Kingdom Hearts. My first reason draws from the recent past and the return of quality to the series in Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep. My second looks to the future, where Kingdeom Hearts III may finally be on its way to home consoles.
Because it came out on the much-ignored PlayStation Portable, many North American fans likely missed Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep. That's a shame because, in my opinion, it's the best overall Kingdom Hearts game yet. Positioned as a prequel to the original Kingdom Hearts, it takes place while series protagonist Sora is just a kid. It follow the adventures of Aqua, Ventus, and Terra, three Keyblade Masters in training, and the story (gasp) largely makes sense! All three characters experience development over the length of the story, which is incorporated through the various Disney worlds that they visit. The main theme of the game is the friendship between the three characters, which is tested as they face challenges, manipulation from villains, and differences in philosophy. Although there's some Nomura madness at the end of the game, it's generally kept to a minimum. It's not one of the great stories of video gaming, but it gets the job done and has some touching moments.