Experience Points: My Hopes For Kingdom Hearts III
The first Kingdom Hearts is a game I remember fondly from my last few years in high school. It was a game I poured many hours of play into, and following that with the release of Kingdom Hearts II my efforts were doubly so. I appreciated the imaginative steps that Tetsuya Nomura and the staff at Square Enix took with the series, and now with the HD 1.5 Remix finally releasing, and the news of Kingdoms Heart III in the air, my interest for the series has been re-ignited. I admit that a great deal of nostalgia kicked in, when I watched the trailer during Sony’s E3 Press conference. Moreover, I am genuinely excited for the possibilities with Kingdom Hearts III, and I have some high hopes for the finale to the series.
The premise of the Kingdom Hearts series has always been a captivating one, mixing Square Enix’s Final Fantasy character roster with Disney settings and characters, creating an interesting blend of Disney and Square Enix charm. The basic plot-line of each game, in the main series, is that Sora and his cast of friends help to resolve problems faced by popular Disney characters in their respective worlds, due to the outbreak of the forces of darkness known as the Heartless. Sora opens up doors to the various Disney worlds by using his Keyblade, a key-shaped weapon created to combat darkness and open and close doors to various worlds.
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What I would love to see is an exploration of less popular Disney and Square Enix properties. We saw that with the first two games the focus on popular Final Fantasy games such as Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy VIII and Final Fantasy X (all of which Nomura was a character designer for) featured heavily in Kingdom Hearts. If Nomura and his staff have access to a great number of franchises created by Square Enix, why not include them in the game? In Kingdom Hearts II, Vivi from Final Fantasy IX was featured, with his character design altered by Nomura. I would love to see characters from Chrono Trigger, Secret of Mana and Vagrant Story make a debut in the third game of the series. But I think that the choice of cast has much to do with what are popular films and game series, from both Square and Disney. With recent news of Nomura stating that there could be the possible inclusion of Star Wars characters in the next Kingdom Hearts, including a greater cast of Final Fantasy characters may not be too much to ask for.
In terms of story, all I really want is a definitive conclusion to the main series of games that does a decent job of closing up all the lines of narrative throughout the story of Kingdom Hearts. Essentially, it just needs to be a befitting conclusion to Kingdoms Heart as a series overall. In no way do I expect the final game to be groundbreaking or re-define JRPGs as a genre. I would preferably enjoy it if the story remained true to the narrative structure of the previous games. It is truly bad practice when a developer turns a game series into a confusing mess in the final instalment.
With gameplay design and mechanics, I’ve always enjoyed Kingdom Hearts’ blend of action and RPG. The main game series features real-time combat, in a hack-and-slash fashion, where physical attacks, magic and summonings, are all accessible via an always present menu on-screen. Although, battles are handled slightly differently in the previous two games, much of the combat dynamics remains the same. The influence of the Final Fantasy series is noticeable in Kingdom Hearts, with a similar party system and experience point system. Characters gain experience and new skills every time they level up. I have no issues with the combat as it stands in the past two games, the Drive gauge and character fusions from Kingdom Hearts II were a great addition to the game, and the combat formula shouldn’t be altered greatly at all.
Kingdom Hearts can’t appeal to all JRPG and RPG fans, and changing game design drastically wouldn’t work in Square and Disney’s favour. The only element of gameplay that I didn’t feel served any true purpose were Gummi Ships, the mode of transport from world to world in Kingdom Hearts. There must be an interesting way of transporting characters across Kingdom Hearts’ interconnected world. A rail shooter is not the most enjoyable form of transport. What about characters travelling by portal, or some form of teleportation spell? There are a number of ways to do it. Gummi Ships are not the only answer.
When I played the original game, I thought that the combination of classic Final Fantasy gameplay elements with fresh action-oriented design made the Kingdom Hearts series appealing to a vast array of gamers. In my own opinion, the inclusion of memorable and charming Disney characters, and settings, also boosted this sentiment among gamers. It was unusual at the time of release of the original Kingdom Hearts to have two disparate companies combine their beloved franchises into one game. For many people this was a sceptical combination, but Kingdom Hearts has proved to be one hell of a popular and well selling game series. I hope that Kingdom Hearts III builds on the solid base of the previous games and that fans and gamers alike receive a game that is the conclusion that the Kingdom Hearts series deserves.