Recently I sold off my PS4 collections of Kingdom Hearts games (1.5 & 2.5 and 2.8), still sealed, my Kingdom Hearts 3 for Xbox One is still with me, but it is up for sale. I did not complete even the first game, so why did I decide to sell off Kingdom Hearts series? Well, let’s start with why I got the series in the first place, as there might lie part of the answer.
I heard a lot of good things about Kingdom Hearts, about the convoluted story line, the great music and the connection to Final Fantasy series; all this was pushing me to try these games out. At the same time the presence of Disney characters was always pushing me away, as I saw their presence as indication that the narrative will not be compelling to me as an adult. It was the Kingdom Hearts 3 release and the praise for it from people, which finally pushed me to get the series. So I bought them.
Now, as it usually happens there is a delay between deciding to buy the games and playing them. This is a problem of physical distribution. The other reason for delay is that I was playing something else, and wanted to complete that first. So in the end the Kingdom Hearts were sitting in the shame pile for a while, until I heard that the games were now available on Xbox Game Pass. So I promptly downloaded them to Xbox One and decided to give the series a whirl.
At first, it looked promising, with the start that suggested a simple straight forward plot, and yes I mentioned that the actual plot of Kingdom Hearts is so complicated nobody understands it, but I never got to complicated part. The reason for that is that I quickly hit a wall in the enjoyment. The gameplay itself involved a lot of platforming, which I hate with a passion, bosses that were extremely difficult and consumed too much time to defeat. Cerberus took me hours, after I searched on the Internet for guide to defeat him, I found that solution was to hit him once during his weak moment, and then spend the rest of the time dodging his attacks and wait for when he is in weak position again. So that took a long time, and no strategy or thinking to accomplish. The game also wanted me to grind, it seems that to beat the bosses was to raise the levels to allow to survive their hits, but grinding involved running around through the same small levels over and over again. And, of course, I was accompanied by Donald and Goofy who spent a lot of time in knocked out state. This all led to inevitable result of me quitting the series.
My decision to quit the series left me in a puzzled state of why do so many people liked those games. Why so many people did praised the series. I did not dwell on the thought until much later when I was selling the games. My mind sprung to the explanation: nostalgia. Nostalgia, not for the old games, since original Kingdom Hearts were a PS2 release but rather nostalgia for Disney. In the games, the Disney worlds are visited by the main character, for those who grew up with those animated worlds, the visit to the world and living next to those characters must be hitting nostalgic notes. While playing they are fighting alongside or saving the characters of their childhood. Children often imagine themselves on the adventures with their favorite characters and Kingdom Hearts is delivering that. I think, that it is this nostalgia that is pulling people in the game along and overriding the other problems I mentioned. It is also this nostalgia that leads people to repurchase the games as they remastered and re-released for the new systems. Nostalgic factor did not work for me, because I did not grow up on those Disney cartoons. However if there was Tail Spin world, it would have certainly captured me, as the WarThunder event that paid homage to the cartoon showed. That event left many non-Eastern European players puzzled, but for those of us who grew up in Eastern Europe, Tail Spin was one of the first Disney cartoons we saw.
In the end, I will say that nostalgia is a powerful force; it gets us to go back and re-read, re-watch or re-play things from our childhood. Kingdom Hearts developers seized on it and transformed that into a successful series, where adults get to live out their childhood fantasies. Well good for them.