'Kingdom Hearts' (キングダム ハーツ, Kingudamu Hātsu?) is an action role-playing game developed and published by Square Soft (now Square Enix) in 2002 for the PlayStation 2 video game console. The first game in the Kingdom Hearts series, it is the result of a collaboration between Square Enix and The Walt Disney Company. The game combines characters and settings from Disney animated features with those from Square's Final Fantasy series. The story follows a young boy, Sora, as he is thrown into an epic battle against the forces of darkness. He is joined by Donald Duck and Goofy, classic Disney characters who help him on his quest.
Kingdom Hearts was a departure from Square's standard role-playing games, introducing a substantial action-adventure element to the gameplay. In addition, it has an all-star voice cast which includes many of the Disney characters' official voice actors. Kingdom Hearts was longtime Square character designer Tetsuya Nomura's first time in a directorial position.
The game was praised for its unusual combination of action and role-playing, as well as its unexpectedly harmonious mix of Square and Disney motifs. It received numerous year-end "Best" video game awards, was a dominating presence in the 2002 holiday season, and went on to achieve Sony "Greatest Hits" status.
''''''''''Enlarge'''''The main character, Sora, fights against Heartless. The heads-up display consists of a game menu at the bottom left of the screen, and the character health and magic meters on the right side.(note: the world shown is Monstro)'''''Kingdom Hearts is influenced by its parent franchise, Final Fantasy, and carries gameplay elements over into its own action-based, hack and slash system. The main battle party consists of three characters: Sora, Donald Duck and Goofy. Sora is directly controlled by the player from a third person camera angle. All other party members are computer-controlled, though the player can customize their behavior to an extent through the pause menu. Donald and Goofy are the computer-controlled characters that are usable in most areas. However, nearly every world in the game features its own party member who can be chosen to replace Donald or Goofy in the party while the party is in that world. For instance, Jack Skellington can join the player's party in Halloween Town, but can not accompany the player elsewhere. In some worlds, the party changes its appearance, has abilities unique to that world, or both. For example, the party can fly in Neverland and has aquatic forms in Atlantica, which enable them to survive underwater.
Like many traditional roleplaying games, Kingdom Hearts features an experience point system which determines character development. As enemies are defeated, the player and allies gain experience, which allows the characters to grow stronger and gain access to new abilities. Unlike other games of its type, Kingdom Hearts allows a certain degree of character development customization through a short tutorial found at the beginning of the game. The tutorial allows the player to select from one of three main attributes―strength, defense, and magic―for Sora to excel in and one to lack in. By choosing certain options, the player is able to manipulate how Sora learns abilities, grows statistically, and even gains levels. Donald, Goofy, and any other additional party members are assigned specific areas of strength from the outset. Donald excels in magic while Goofy excels in defense and special attacks.
The game is driven in a primarily linear progression from one story event to the next, usually told in the form of a cutscene, though there are numerous side quests available that provide bonus benefits to the characters. Most of the gameplay occurs on interconnected field maps where battles take place. Combat in Kingdom Hearts is in real time and involves pressing buttons to initiate attacks by the on-screen character. A roleplaying game menu, similar to those found in Final Fantasy games, found at the bottom left of the screen provides other combat options such as using magic and items. There is also a context-sensitive option at the bottom of the menu, usually used for interacting with the environment or performing special attacks. This menu is manipulated by using the right analog stick or digital pad, while movement is controlled by the left analog stick, allowing the player to navigate the menu while avoiding or approaching enemies.
The Gummi Ship is the mode of travel between the various locations in Kingdom Hearts. The gameplay for piloting the vessel is very different from the rest of the game as it switches to a rail shooter format. The player controls the Gummi Ship from a rear, third person perspective as it travels in an outer space setting. While traveling, the player must avoid obstacles and defend against enemy ships which attempt to destroy the player's vessel by firing missiles or ramming it. Surviving the route allows access to the next world. At the beginning of the game, there are few options available to customize the vessel, but as the game progresses, new weapons, engines, and armor become available. In addition, many different pre-designed blueprints can be found throughout the game which can be used to quickly construct Gummi Ships.
The universe of Kingdom Hearts is a collection of various levels, referred to as "worlds", through which the player must progress. Thirteen can be accessed throughout the game and one, the Disney Castle, is shown in cutscenes. Additional worlds are mentioned by various characters, but are not accessible because they have been destroyed by the Heartless, beings of darkness. Ten of the worlds are based on Disney fiction, primarily from the Disney animated features canon, and the other four were created by Square specifically for the game.
Each world varies in appearance and setting, depending on the Disney world upon which it is based. The graphics of the world and characters were meant to resemble the artwork style of the environments and characters from their respective Disney film. Each Disney world is inhabited by characters from their respective Disney film; Hercules and Philoctetes inhabit Olympus Coliseum; and Aladdin, Princess Jasmine, and Jafar inhabit Agrabah. Each world is disconnected from the others and exists separately. Most characters in the worlds are unaware of the existence of the other worlds, with few exceptions, such as the Beast, whose world is destroyed by the Heartless and journeys to Hollow Bastion to confront Maleficent. Players travel from one world to another via Gummi Ship.
The worlds created specifically for the game mirror the overall appearance of the other worlds and feature either new characters or characters from several Final Fantasy games. The new worlds include: Destiny Islands, where the story opens; Traverse Town, which serves as a launching point for most of the game; Hollow Bastion, which many of the Final Fantasy characters call home; and End of the World, a large, dark world created from the remnants of various worlds consumed by the darkness. The main characters travel from world to world to seal each "Keyhole"; this protects the world from the Heartless and ultimately from destruction. They also try to minimize their interaction with characters of other worlds to maintain a balance of separation. This sometimes requires Sora, Donald, and Goofy to blend in with the world inhabitants by changing their physical appearance.
Further information: Characters of Kingdom Hearts' 'Enlarge'The main protagonists, from left to right: Riku, Kairi, Sora, Donald, and Goofy'Because Kingdom Hearts was a collaboration between Disney and Square, it features a mixture of familiar Disney and Square characters, as well as several new characters created and designed by Tetsuya Nomura. The primary protagonist of the game is Sora, a 14-year old boy who is chosen to wield the Keyblade, a sword-like weapon for battling darkness. The game also features two of his friends, Riku and Kairi. For most of the game, Sora is joined by Donald Duck and Goofy. Donald, the court wizard, and Goofy, captain of the royal guard, were sent from Disney Castle to find the Keyblade. The three join forces to search for King Mickey Mouse, Kairi, and Riku. The primary antagonist is Ansem, who is seeking to find power and knowledge by using dark beings called the Heartless. The Heartless, hearts corrupted by darkness, serve as most of the enemies encountered in the game and come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
As a game meant to explore the fictional universes of various Disney films, over one hundred Disney characters are featured in various capacities. While many serve as major characters in the story, others appear in cameo roles, such as the One Hundred and One Dalmatians playing a part in a side-quest. Most worlds also feature a Disney villain whom the player must defeat. The player can summon various Disney characters to fight alongside Sora in battle, causing Donald and Goofy to withdraw from the battlefield for the duration of the summon. Available summoned characters include the Genie from Aladdin, Tinkerbell from Peter Pan, and Simba from The Lion King, among others.
Square also incorporated several characters from the Final Fantasy series into the game, though the characters were slightly altered to fit the game's back-story. On Destiny Islands, the player meets younger versions of Tidus and Wakka from Final Fantasy X and Selphie from Final Fantasy VIII. In Traverse Town, the player encounters Squall Leonhart (known in the game as "Leon") from Final Fantasy VIII as well as Final Fantasy VII's Aerith, Cid, and Yuffie. Rikku from Final Fantasy X was originally set to make cameo appearances, but was replaced by Yuffie. Cloud and Sephiroth, both from Final Fantasy VII, make appearances in Olympus Coliseum, where the player can fight them in tournaments. The emphasis on characters from later Final Fantasy installments stems from Nomura's hesitation to use characters he did not design. The game also uses other Final Fantasy icons such as the Moogles appear to provide item synthesis.
Kingdom Hearts begins on Destiny Islands, where Sora, Riku, and Kairi live. The three friends want to leave the islands to explore new worlds and have prepared a raft for this purpose. One night, the islands are attacked by shadow creatures—the Heartless. Sora seeks out his friends, finding Riku, who disappears into a dark portal. At the same time, Sora obtains the Keyblade, a weapon effective against the Heartless. He then finds Kairi, who seems unresponsive to him, in a cave nearby. A large force then expels Sora from the cave, where he does battle with a large Heartless in an attempt to save the islands. However, the islands are destroyed and Sora drifts into space. Meanwhile, King Mickey has left his own world to deal with the increasing numbers of Heartless and left instructions for mage Donald and knight Goofy to find the "key" that will protect the worlds from the encroaching darkness.
Donald and Goofy use the Gummi Ship to reach Traverse Town, where Sora has drifted. Sora encounters the Heartless again, and meets and fights Leon, who explains the Heartless are beings that consume hearts, and that the Keyblade is the only weapon capable of defeating them. A man named Ansem is said to have studied the Heartless. Sora then meets Donald and Goofy, and the three decide to travel together — Donald and Goofy to find King Mickey, and Sora to find Kairi and Riku. The three go to various worlds based on Disney films, finding that the Keyblade also locks "Keyholes", passages to the "heart" of a world which, when sealed, prevent it from being consumed by the Heartless. Meanwhile, a group of Disney villains, led by Maleficent, seek out the seven Princesses of Heart to unlock the final Keyhole that leads to "Kingdom Hearts", a repository of knowledge and power and the source of all hearts. This group includes Riku; Maleficent having promised him that she will help him find Kairi in exchange for his support. Maleficent sows distrust in Riku, telling him Sora has abandoned him and Kairi for new friends and the Keyblade. An increasingly antagonistic Riku finds Kairi's body, but cannot find her heart, and without it, Kairi is little more than an empty shell, trapped in a catatonic state.
Sora and his friends eventually arrive at Hollow Bastion, the homeworld of Ansem and the headquarters of Maleficent. Riku takes the Keyblade from Sora, revealing him to be the true Keyblade master and that Sora only received it in his absence. Donald and Goofy, having been explicitly ordered to follow the "key", reluctantly leave Sora for Riku. Sora challenges Riku, stating his heart derives strength from his friends; his friends return to him, as does the Keyblade. Shamed, Riku meets a cloaked man who goads him to give into the darkness. Meanwhile, the three engage and kill Maleficent, but then meet a strangely-behaved Riku with a Keyblade that unlocks hearts. Sora finds Kairi's body and confronts Riku, who reveals that he is possessed by Ansem. Ansem explains that Kairi is a Princess of Heart, and that her heart has been hiding within Sora's body since the Destiny Islands were destroyed. After defeating Ansem, Sora, in an act of altruistic suicide, stabs himself in the chest with Riku's Keyblade, releasing both his and Kairi's heart. Kairi's heart returns to her body, in turn completing the final Keyhole, while Sora becomes a Heartless. Kairi recognizes Sora's Heartless and the light in her heart restores him to human form. He resolves to confront Ansem.
Ansem is found in End of the World, the combined remnants of worlds taken by the Heartless. Ansem explains his belief that "darkness is the heart's true essence", and he seeks Kingdom Hearts, hypothesizing it to be the ultimate darkness. However, upon opening the door to Kingdom Hearts, it reveals its light, overwhelming and destroying Ansem. Beyond the door are King Mickey and Riku, and they help Sora and the others close the door, as there are many Heartless beyond it. Mickey and Sora use their Keyblades to lock the door. Kairi meets Sora a final time in Destiny Islands, and they promise to each other that they will meet again before being forced apart by the reconstruction of the worlds previously lost to the Heartless. A montage of clips showing the supporting cast of Disney characters regaining their homes is played during the credits.
After the credits play, the game goes back to Sora, Donald, and Goofy, who resolve to find Riku and Mickey. Just then Pluto walks by, holding a letter from Mickey. The game ends with the trio of friends chasing after Pluto through a long and winding path.
The idea for Kingdom Hearts came about when producer Shinji Hashimoto met with a Disney executive in an elevator; Square and Disney had previously worked in the same building in Japan. The production team was composed of over one hundred members from both Square and a team at Disney Interactive. The game began development in February 2000 and originally focused more on the gameplay with a simple story to appeal to Disney's target age range. After executive producer Hironobu Sakaguchi told director Tetsuya Nomura the game would be a failure if it did not aim for the same level as the Final Fantasy series, Nomura began to develop the story further. When choosing the Disney worlds to include in the game, Nomura and his team tried to pick worlds that had distinctively different looks. They also tried to take into account worlds with Disney characters that would be interesting. Though they had few restrictions on which worlds they could use from the Disney franchises, they tried to remain within each character's boundaries set by their respective Disney films.
Additional content was added to the North American release that was not included in the initial Japanese release: new optional bosses, one of which was named after the winner of the official website's "Name-In-Game" sweepstakes (Kurt Zisa), an extra difficulty level, and a teaser of Kingdom Hearts II accessible by meeting certain criteria. Nomura included the teaser in order to gauge fan reaction to the possibility of a sequel; he felt that if the idea was not popular, then it would be best to leave certain events in the game unexplained. The new content was later added to the Japanese rerelease titled Kingdom Hearts Final Mix. Final Mix also included additional content such as new items, cut scenes, and enemies. The new content further hinted at plotlines that would be explained in sequels. Some content that did not make it into Kingdom Hearts was later added into Kingdom Hearts II. The "Pride Land" from The Lion King, for instance, was infeasible because an additional program was required to process movement on four legs—a necessity since Sora would become a lion in that world. Due to time constraints, the developers left out an optional boss battle, similar to the Sephiroth battle, against Tifa Lockhart. She was later included in Kingdom Hearts II as a more developed character.
Kingdom Hearts was announced at E3 in May 2001. Initial details were that it would be a collaboration between Square and Disney Interactive and would feature worlds developed by both companies and Disney characters. New characters were designed by Nomura and included Sora, Riku, Kairi, and the Heartless. A playable demo was available at the Tokyo Game Show in the autumn of 2001. The gameplay of the demo showcased many action role-playing game elements that would be included in the final product. To help market the English release of the game, Square launched the official website in April 2002, which featured trailers, a "Name-In-Game" sweepstakes, and other Internet content. On May 14, 2002, a press release announced a list of the English voice actors. The list included Haley Joel Osment, David Gallagher, and Hayden Panettiere as the three new characters introduced in the game. It was also announced that many of the Disney characters would be voiced by the official voice actors from their respective Disney films. Other marketing efforts included auctions of the game and related items before the North American release and a Consumer Demo Day in San Francisco, California.
The music of Kingdom Hearts was composed by Yoko Shimomura. While there are some arranged melodies derived from previous Disney films, most of the soundtrack consists of original themes written specifically for the game by Shimomura. The opening orchestration and ending credits theme were arranged and orchestrated by Kaoru Wada and performed by the New Japan Philharmonic Orchestra. The main vocal theme for the original Japanese release was titled "Hikari" (光?). The English version of "Hikari", "Simple and Clean", was used in the Western releases and the Japanese rerelease, Final Mix. Both versions of the song were composed and performed by Hikaru Utada. Her involvement, along with the Japanese song title, was announced in January 2002. Utada was the only singer Nomura had in mind for the Kingdom Hearts theme song. This marked the first time Utada had produced a song for a video game. The single, "Hikari", was released in Japan on March 20, 2002 and proved to be very popular; by August 2002, it had sold over 860,000 copies in Japan. The Kingdom Hearts soundtrack was released on a two CD set on March 27, 2002 in Japan and a year later in the United States. The soundtrack was later included in the Kingdom Hearts Original Soundtrack Complete, which was released in Japan on March 28, 2007. Music from Kingdom Hearts was also included in Yoko Shimomura's best works compilation album Drammatica.
Kingdom Hearts featured well-known voice actors for both the Japanese and English versions. The Japanese version featured Miyu Irino as Sora, Risa Uchida as Kairi, and Mamoru Miyano as Riku. Other notable voice actors included Kōichi Yamadera, Hideo Ishikawa, and Maaya Sakamoto. A special effort was made to preserve the official voice actors of characters from the Disney movies used in Kingdom Hearts. Some of the voice actors from the related television series or direct-to-video sequels were chosen over the original voice actors from films, where applicable (e.g. Dan Castellaneta as Genie, rather than Robin Williams). The English version featured Haley Joel Osment as Sora, David Gallagher as Riku, and Hayden Panettiere as Kairi. Other notable voice actors included Billy Zane, Lance Bass, David Boreanaz, James Woods, Mandy Moore, and Christy Carlson Romano.
Kingdom Hearts received overall positive reviews and sales figures. During the first two months of its North American release it was one of the top three highest-selling video games and was one of the top selling titles during the 2002 holiday season. In November 2002, UBS Warburg listed it as the 6th highest console game in terms of sales during the week of November 5. At the end of April 2003, Square announced that Kingdom Hearts had sold its millionth copy in the United States, which made it eligible for PlayStation's "Greatest Hits" status, and over 3 million worldwide. Sales reached 1.2 million in Japan in the first quarter of 2004, and broke 4 million worldwide. In December 2005, the NPD Group listed it as "one of the top ten best-selling PlayStation 2 titles of all time in North America". As of December 2006, Kingdom Hearts had shipped over 5.6 million copies worldwide with 1.1 million in PAL regions, 1.5 million in Japan, and 3 million in North America.
The game received high ratings among reviews. In IGN's Best of 2002 awards, it was nominated for "PS2's Best Game of 2002 Editor's Choice Award" and was a runner up for "PS2's Best Game of 2002 Reader's Choice Award". In 2007, they listed Kingdom Hearts as the 22nd best PlayStation 2 game of all time. Critics commended the visuals, orchestral score, voice acting, and hybrid action-adventure and role-playing feel to the game. IGN named it "Best Art Style/Direction", runner-up for "Best CG Graphics", and honorable mention for "Best Animation" in IGN's 2003 list of "Best Looking Games on PS2". GameSpy listed the Final Mix's secret ending and the opening 20th and 7th, respectively, in their article "GameSpy's Top 25 Video Game Cinematic Moments". GamePro stated the graphics were "gorgeous" and rated them a 4.5 out of 5. The audio was also praised, particularly the quality of the voice-overs and a well received musical score. GamePro had positive comments on the overall audio and rated it a 5 out of 5.
Criticism about the gameplay was mixed. Many reviews complained that the camera was at times frustrating and the Gummi Ship portions were out of place. GameSpot cited "tedious" gameplay and Gummi Ship sections as "pale imitations of the Star Fox series", but stated that the combat was fun, particularly the boss fights. Dengeki Online commented on the camera controls, saying that the camera would often run into objects while being rotated by the player. GamePro compared the battle system to "old N64 Zelda games" and had positive comments about Donald and Goofy's artificial intelligence.
GameSpot commented that the concept of mixing the serious elements of Final Fantasy with the lighter elements of Disney seemed impossible, but was pulled off quite well. Because of that they awarded Kingdom Hearts "Best Crossover Since Capcom vs. SNK" in their 2002 Best and Worst of the Year awards. GameSpy noted that the periodic departure from the main plot into the Disney side stories was disappointing, and when the original plot builds to a climax, "...the story fails to gel thanks to a confusing mish-mash of vague terms and symbolism that probably made more sense in the director's head than in this final product." Aside from the plot, they stated the overall package was worth playing through to the end. G4TV awarded it "Best Story" at their 2003 G-Phoria awards show. Fan response was also positive; Kingdom Hearts was voted as the 19th best game of all-time by readers of the Japanese magazine Famitsu, 16th by the users of website GameFAQs, and 92nd by IGN users. Kingdom Hearts ranked ninth on IGN's most recent "Top 25 PS2 Games of All Time" list. It was also a nominee for the Best Game Award from the CESA GAME AWARDS for 2001-2002.
Versions and merchandiseEdit
Multiple versions of Kingdom Hearts have been released. The first was the original Japanese release, followed by the North American and PAL releases, which included additional content. The game was later rereleased in Japan as Kingdom Hearts Final Mix, which featured the content of the North American/PAL release, as well as more new content. Both Square and Disney also released numerous types of merchandise before and after the release of the game. Merchandise ranged from toys and figurines to clothing items and books. However, there is a curious absence of Kingdom Hearts merchandise at Disney Theme Parks and Disney Stores across the globe. Like the Final Fantasy games, Square released an Ultimania book on Kingdom Hearts in Japan following the release of the game and a revised edition following the release of Final Mix. In North America, a strategy guide was released by Brady Games. It featured a comprehensive walkthrough and a sticker activity journal. A manga series based on the game was released in both Japan and the United States. A novel series also based on the game was released in Japan. It was authored by Tomoco Kanemaki and illustrated by Shiro Amano. The novel series consists of two volumes and was released in North America on March 25, 2008.
' 'Enlarge'Sora battles Neoshadows, a new type of Heartless introduced in Final Mix, using the One-Winged Angel Keyblade.'Released only in Japan, Kingdom Hearts Final Mix has several events and a number of gameplay tweaks that are not in previous releases. Spoken dialogue is in English, with Japanese subtitles. New scenes, clarifying certain plot points, such as Riku's journey and foreshadowing of Kingdom Hearts II, were included. A gameplay option allows the player to skip cut scenes after seeing them once. The optional bosses first included in the English version were introduced to Japanese players for the first time, along with "khklahfklakfldfkldhklhkafkjdkjshkjhasdkldhkjahkjshjajksalslfhjdshfhskjdfdsjkfshsfhkjfhfsklsklaklahkshshskfhdsdfkdhdkdskslalaasklin an attempt to raise interest for the sequel.
In another attempt at foreshadowing, a video titled "Another Side, Another Story" plays at the ending if the player accomplishes certain tasks. New music tracks incorporated were "Disappeared" and "Another Side". The "Night on Bald Mountain" and "One-Winged Angel" tracks from the English version were included as well. Other changes include new abilities, new weapons, new items, additional and recolored enemies, and gameplay tweaks to make the game easier for the player, along with two new levels of difficulty. When first released, Final Mix included either a deck of Kingdom Hearts cards or special music CD. A limited "Platinum Edition" version of Kingdom Hearts Final Mix was later released with an action figure of Sora, a sticker set, and sketches of some of the main characters.
The game was adapted into a manga by Shiro Amano. The story follows the events that took place in the game with a few minor differences to account for the loss of interactivity a video game provides. Some events that took place in the Final Mix version were also included. The manga was originally serialized in Japan by Enterbrain's Famitsū PS2, but has since been released worldwide in four volumes. The volumes have been published in English in the United States by Tokyopop. The first volume was released on October 11, 2005, and the fourth volume was released on July 10, 2006. The entire series was later released in a boxed set on October 10, 2006.
The manga series has had moderate success. The first volume was ranked 95th in USA Today's "Top 150 best sellers" during the week of its release. IGN praised Amano's artwork and commented on wanting to replay the game after reading. They criticized the lack of new content and stated the transition from game to print lost most of the story's appeal. The series was followed by others based on the game's sequels: Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories and Kingdom Hearts II.
'Further information: Kingdom Hearts (series)'Kingdom Hearts was followed by several sequels, becoming the first game in the Kingdom Hearts series. It was followed by a direct sequel, Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, on the Nintendo Game Boy Advance, which was released in Japan on November 11, 2004. Kingdom Hearts II is the third game in the series, set one year after Chain of Memories, and was released in Japan on December 22, 2005 for Sony PlayStation 2. Like the first game it was re-released as Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix. A Kingdom Hearts game was developed exclusively for V CAST, Verizon Wireless's broadband service, and was released on October 1, 2004 in Japan and on February 4, 2005 in the United States. In November 2008, Kingdom Hearts coded was released for mobile phones in Japan, the game takes place after the events of Kingdom Hearts II. In December 2008, a remake of Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories was released for the PS2 under the name Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories. A midquel entitled Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days was developed for the Nintendo DS and released in Japan on May 30, 2009 and in North America on September 29, 2009. A prequel was released in Japan on January 9, 2010, entitled Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep, for the PlayStation Portable, which takes place 10 years before the events of Kingdom Hearts. The next installment in the series will be Kingdom Hearts 3D for the Nintendo 3DS.
#^ "PlayStation 2 - Kingdom Hearts". PlayStation Underground. Archived from the original on May 28, 2007. http://web.archive.org/web/20070528044336/http://www.us.playstation.com/PS2/Games/Kingdom_Hearts. Retrieved 2007-05-15.