It’s important to stay inspired in life, to keep searching for the good jams and stay positive in a world that can be as frightening as it is beautiful. At least, for me it is. I, like many people, often turn to video games to help lift my mood, and give me something more redeeming to believe in, to feel a real sense of wonder about life. Growing up, I loved Disney movies and was utterly fascinated by the Final Fantasy series. I was inspired watching classic Disney films, feeling like anything was in my grasp, and that I, like everyone else, am always capable of changing and becoming a better person and I dedicated many, many hours to Final Fantasy’s 7, 9 and 10 (8 came a bit later for me), exploring every facet of the worlds and soaking up everything the games had to offer.
Thankfully, in 2002, a game was released that encapsulated all of these things into what is one of my favourite games of all time. Kingdom Hearts, a never-ending sense of wonderment whenever I need it.
A collaboration project between Disney and Square Enix, Kingdom Hearts is a game that takes the characters of Final Fantasy, the characters and worlds of Disney, and puts them together with some characters and worlds all it’s own in an incredible adventure across . The game tells the story of Sora as he teams up with Donald Duck and Goofy to fight the forces of darkness, save all the universes and find his friends.
It is, but it’s also so much fun and genuinely a game with that little something special that can be so rare as we get older. The game is this perfect middle ground between the two story-telling styles, with the more anime influenced art-style of Final Fantasy and the cartoon influence of Disney sitting very comfortably together.
The cast includes favourites from both universes with Tarzan, Hades, Beast, Squall Leonhart, Yuffie and the Moogles amongst many others, some of whom help you, some hinder you, and some are just along for the ride to see what happens.
The game brings your childhood dreams of being the hero to life, not just any hero though, you are a new hero that must go beyond the worlds and characters of both Disney and Final Fantasy and save them all from destruction. Squall, Cloud, Cid, Aerith? They’re all counting on you to destroy the heartless, and destroy the heartless you do, and with some damn cool team-mates.
Ever wanted to visit the Deep Jungle? You get to go tear the heartless a new one alongside Tarzan. Agrabah? You get to rumble with the heartless alongside Aladdin. You even get eaten by Monstro the whale and find Geppetto and Pinocchio inside! The gameplay is very fast and flowing, with a more streamlined, active style of combat being utilized from Square-Enix. They take out all the stops to give you the strategy you know and love, along with fun, fast gameplay that gives you the freedom of platforming with the combat options of RPG-ing. Kingdom Hearts really is this ultimately rewarding experience that gives you the game you never knew you wanted from these two pillars of creativity.
It can be really hard as we get older, and sitting here at 24, I often feel older than I probably should, to retain that childhood sense of wonder and innocence, that your dreams can be real. We’re all but automatically marched into this cyclical system of working most of your day and sleeping most of your night until you’re old. It can sometimes only get harder to feel a sense of wonderment and excitement and awe at what has been created, and what we can create, given some time and effort at the things that make us happy.
Kingdom Hearts consistently instils that in me. Every time I hear that menu music, I feel like I’m watching the trailer for it on the ‘Beyond Final Fantasy’ disc we got with Final Fantasy X for the first time, and I am giddy and I am happy. Hell, even in writing about it I got giddy just listing all my favourite aspects of the game. Even though Square Enix have gone of the deep end a little bit as of late, Kingdom Hearts still makes me feel like anything is possible, and even if it is only a medicated feeling whenever I play the game, it’s as important to feel it as it is anything else.