When You Wish Upon a Square (Enix)
I waited nearly a year after release to play the original Kingdom Hearts, there was something about the idea of Disney Games not being up to scratch in the twilight days of the PSOne where there was seemingly an influx of mediocre releases all seemingly a reskin of the same average game and gameplay; 102 Dalmatians, The Emperors New Groove, Treasure Planet, Aladdin in Nasira’s Revenge, The Lion King – Simba’s Mighty Adventure, Lilo & Stitch: Trouble in Paradise, Disney’s Dinosaur, Monsters Inc Scream Team…there’s more too. Upon reflection it wasn’t a great time for Disney regarding their movie releases so it’s not surprising these were subsidised with their past hits. Whilst the games were not 100% terrible, they were largely unremarkable and it was this paired with the fact that the press was filled with news that Sony had signed a deal with Disney and no further games were coming to the Dreamcast my inner fanboy was first to boycott their latest offering.
As mentioned, it took a year but I got over it and finally had a go and it didn’t take long before I was hooked on a mix of childhood nostalgia and light action RPG goodness.
So finally getting to the point here, I wanted to put my own thoughts down as to what I would like to see in Kingdom Hearts 3. The game is still deep in development and only a few solid announcements have really been made so there’s still plenty of room for speculation and more importantly a wish list from a fan of the series;
Obviously I could have put together a “Top 10 Kingdom Hearts Worlds Wish List” but I’ll leave that privilege to Hope Eliza, our resident Kingdom Hearts superfan – She has written previously on the topic in her own blog which can be viewed here.
I don’t want to dictate what I want to be included directly as I’m sure there’s just as many things that I would accidentally leave out (Mary Poppin’s anyone?). Since the release of Kingdom Hearts 2 and Birth by Sleep, there’s been a lot of new Disney content which has remained unused;
Not to mention other IP’s which are previously unused;
Throw in the unused Final Fantasy characters from III,IV,V, VI, XII, XIII(Snow or Sazh only!) and XV.
To name but a few..
We know that Toy Story and Big Hero 6 has been announced and footage has included a Tangled world but the difficulty found when looking at games is that a lot of these worlds are very similar albeit in different ways. This is a game at the end of the day you don’t want every chapter or stage to essentially look the same. What I would love to see is rather than a world separated by Gummi Ship flights is a world of Disney and Final Fantasy that has been smashed together! I want to run through Zootropolis and find I’ve stumbled into Duckburg then night falls as I run into a neon lit San Fransokyo. I want to explore a forest and find Rapunzel’s Tower and bump into some Gummi Bears before finding Robin and his merry men and stumbling into the highlands to win the heart of Merida. Onto a tropical jungle discovering the temples of Kuzco and then the throne of King Louie (FUN FACT - Jungle Book nearly made it into Birth By Sleep only to be cut and discovered by datamining). From there I want to venture to the beach and sail with Moana before diving into the ocean to Atlantica and then discovering Atlantis and find Nemo on route. I want to see who’s stronger, Hercules or Maui!? I want to go into space and search for treasure planet whilst meeting Wall-E and escaping from the Empire (Rebels, not live action).
The previous titles have included some slightly obscure area’s like the Book of Pooh, Tron and even Steamboat Willy. Journeying into the mind of a character and experiencing Inside Out is ideal for the next step…Random doors can litter the world leading to Monsters Inc and characters can be digitized into Fix it Felix Jr or Sugar Rush.
A huge open world where all these things could happen would be an amazing experience, rather than simply re-playing the stories we’re all familiar with from the movies. Use the characters that have been created rather than the stories they’ve told. Obviously the unused stories I’ve mentioned could be run through but despite how much I love Aladdin and Nightmare before Christmas, I just don’t really need to play the story again (or their straight to video sequels!) and at the same time I would still like to see them in here.
One area which I hope Square avoids is too much focus on is the live action movies. We’ve had a lot of remakes come as late and Square have previously given us a world based on Pirates of the Caribbean but I always felt like that was a little out of place. Maleficent has always been a large antagonist in the Kingdom Hearts story and I wouldn’t want that to get retconned due to the more recent movie. Seeing Sora's and Aqua's designs next to an uncanny valley Dick Van Dyke (with dead eyes) would somehow seem less plausible than next to Lilo and Stitch. If they did insist on including these the other thing I don’t think would work is to stylise any of the live action IP's. Using the Rebel's style to include some Star Wars actions would be ok but if Mary Poppins does decide to show up I'd rather they avoid having her looking like a Disney Infinity figure. And I just plain don't see Marvel fitting in here against the likes of the Incredibles or Big Hero 6...hopefully that's the superhero roster full.
Get Meta. Disney are finally starting to do this elsewhere. There’s a long standing debate as to which Disney princesses are actually princesses (despite what the doll’s packaging tells us). In the original Kingdom Hearts they went a certain length to use the Princesses in the plot and even so far as to twist it to say that Alice (from Wonderland fame) was technically a princess, which is both to suit their story and nonsense at the same time (I remember thinking they were stretching it at that point!). There were fewer around at that point to be fair but there’s now an abundance to write in thanks to the release of Frozen, Tangled, Brave etc. In Moana (which my daughter gave me the privilege of watching numerous times lately) it’s referenced that she isn’t a princess in her own words so the argument has been kept alive somewhat (FYI, Moana, Mulan, Alice and arguably Pocahontas are amongst those who are not princesses). Using this as a self-referencing plot device could provide some interesting interactions between the worlds. In the teaser for Wreck It Ralph 2 the Disney princesses have made an appearance so they are seemingly open to this type of exposure.
Finally plot wise, frankly I think Square need to reel it in. It doesn’t need to be Disney levels of basic but there is a very complicated setup to the story which includes lots of characters who look alike but are in fact completely different people, not to mention the ones who make themselves look like other ones when they’re not themselves…
As I understand it, Square are firmly in control of the story of the series (with certain freedoms to whom they have to include/exclude) and as such they have built Disney around the story they want to tell, hence it’s complexities. By leaning on the Disney element a bit more I think they would make things more accessible for new beginners and provide a bit of fanservice for those that appreciate such things.
I’ve played many, many RPG’s and I think this has one of the most complicated makeups going. A line should be drawn under some of this nonsense which will allow new players to get up to speed whilst not cheapening the experiences for those who have persevered so far.
And don’t make me play a week’s worth of nonsense I don’t quite understand because I didn’t play the GBA version in 2004!
Hopefully Square Enix is listening (I'm sure they keep track of the site).