As the 2018 train chugs through the last half of the year, we are getting closer to Kingdom Hearts III’s long-awaited release date each day. This entry is promised to be the end of the “Xehanort Saga,” but is that even what Kingdom Hearts was about in the first place? Or did it simply lose sight of a simple and clean goal?
As the series has progressed, it went from being a collection of Disney characters with the occasional Final Fantasy character sprinkled in to a large, complicated narrative with heartless, nobodies who are bodies without hearts, and dream eaters. The first game had Disney villains ominously gather around a table to discuss their evil plans. But, even now, Kingdom Hearts III is set to be the end of the Xehanort Saga, but it can be argued that the saga didn’t begin in the first entry.
Playing through the first Kingdom Hearts gives the player a remarkable sense of nostalgia. They’re flung into familiar worlds with familiar characters, many from the renaissance era of Disney. Fighting bad guys alongside Aladdin or the Beast is something we could only dream of, and the fact that it was done with a sense of quality is nothing short of remarkable. As kids, we imagined ourselves in these worlds, and in Kingdom Hearts, we kind of were. This is where the heart of the series lies, not the complicated on-the-fly narrative the various in-between games would suggest.
And in a way, Square Enix understands that this is the heart of Kingdom Hearts. At PlayStation’s E3 2018 presentation, the Kingdom Hearts trailer featured Sora, Donald, and Goofy singing along as pirates. Sora, as grown as he’s become, was just happy to be on an adventure, and so should we. When the trailer that featured Aqua having been “Norted,” the creators were surprised that that caused a bigger buzz than the inclusion of a Frozen world.
The mysterious cloaked veil of Kingdom Hearts’ narrative is only a cover for what the series is truly about at heart, and that’s something Square Enix is well aware of. Kingdom Hearts III will be released on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on January 27th, 2019.