The first game in the Kingdom Hearts series began development in the year 2000. It was planned to be a crossover between the various animated Disney franchises and Squaresoft’s Final Fantasy series. When it was first announced, it was as if God and the Devil were collaborating on a song. The question of which company was God and which one was the Devil depended on who you asked. Kingdom Hearts managed to surprise everyone, by being one of the finest games on the PlayStation 2. It spawned a series of sequels and spinoffs, that continue to please fans to this day.
We are here today to look into the history of one of the strangest crossovers in history. From the time we almost had lightsaber Keyblades, to the backlash over the voice of one of gaming’s most beloved villains.
Here are 15 Things You Didn’t Know About Kingdom Hearts!
15. The Star Wars/Kingdom Hearts Crossover
In 2012, The Walt Disney Company purchased Lucasfilm for over four billion dollars. This gave Disney control over various movie and video game franchises, the most famous of which was Star Wars. Disney almost immediately announced a continuation of the Star Wars film series, along with a series of spinoff movies that would fill the gaps between releases.
Disney’s purchase of Star Wars was exciting for many fans. The Kingdom Hearts fanbase was the most excited of all, as it was now possible for the series to cross over with Star Wars.
In 2013, Disney was working on a Kingdom Hearts game for mobile phones, called Kingdom Hearts: Fragmented Keys. The game was canceled before completion. According to pieces of concept art, this game was going to officially cross Kingdom Hearts over with Star Wars. The concept art suggests that the crossover would take place in the prequel trilogy/Clone Wars era.
14. Kurt Zisa Is Real
The original Kingdom Hearts features an optional boss that can be fought in Agrabah from Aladdin. This creature has the unusual name of Kurt Zisa. It is a six armed monstrosity that fights with two scythe-like swords and can cast powerful magic spells. As one of the Kingdom Hearts‘ superbosses, it is considered to be one of the hardest opponents in the game. Defeating Kurt Zisa grants Sora the Zantetsuken technique, which deals a ton of damage to the enemy. This is the same sword attack used by Odin in the Final Fantasy series.
Kurt Zisa is actually the name of a real person. Squaresoft held a contest before the release of Kingdom Hearts, called “KINGDOM HEARTS: Name-In-Game”. The winner of this competition would see their name included in the game. Kurt Zisa of New York was the winner. His name was given to the optional boss, who originally only appeared in the international versions of the game.
13. The Lost Summons
Summoning monsters is a big part of the Final Fantasy series. The ability to conjure a powerful creature from nothing has appeared in every mainline Final Fantasy title since the third game in the series. Some of the summonable creatures (like Shiva and Ifrit) have become iconic parts of the series, and are some of the few recurring characters to appear in multiple Final Fantasy games.
The Kingdom Hearts series has adopted the ability to summon monsters in several different games. These have mostly been Disney characters, who may not have been able to fit into the story otherwise.
There were several planned summonable creatures that never made it into the final versions of Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II. Bahamut, from the Final Fantasy series, was going to appear in Kingdom Hearts, but only a name in a menu remains of his presence in the game. Untextured models of Woody and Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story appear in the files of Kingdom Hearts II, but they were left unfinished.
12. The Nintendo Characters
The Kingdom Hearts series has always weighed heavily on the Disney side of things. Square Enix has mainly created new characters to use in the games. Disney has allowed the use of every one of their franchises (including the live action ones, like TRON), while Square Enix has only provided a few of the PlayStation-era Final Fantasy characters. Sora and his friends have only ever visited Disney worlds, and have never ventured to places like the city of Midgar, or Balamb Garden.
In the history of Kingdom Hearts, there have only been a few instances of older Final Fantasy characters and other Square Enix franchises being used. Setzer, from Final Fantasy VI, is the only pre-Final Fantasy VII character to appear in Kingdom Hearts. He appears in Kingdom Hearts II, where he is the final opponent of the Struggle competition.
The only time one of Square Enix’s non-Final Fantasy franchises appeared in the series was in Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance. In Dream Drop Distance, Traverse Town is taken over by the Reaper Game from The World Ends With You. No Final Fantasy characters (excluding Moogles) appear in this game. They are replaced by the cast of The World Ends With You instead.
11. Alice’s Voice
Kathryn Beaumont was only thirteen years old when she was chosen by Walt Disney to be the voice and visual inspiration for Alice, for his upcoming animated adaptation of Alice in Wonderland. Two years later, she voiced Wendy Darling in the Disney version of Peter Pan.
After her Disney roles were finished, Kathryn Beaumont retired from acting and became an elementary school teacher. She only returned to acting on the occasions when she was asked to voice Alice and Wendy in Disney productions. This eventually included video games, when the technology finally allowed for full voice acting to be stored on a disc. In 2002, Kathryn Beaumont voiced both characters in the original Kingdom Hearts. This was over fifty years since she first played the roles.
10. Rikku & Riku
The three protagonists of Kingdom Hearts are Sora, Riku, and Kairi. Riku is Sora’s main rival and the two have battled on numerous occasions. He has also been a playable character in the series and is one of the main characters in Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, where he attempts to take the Mark of Mastery exam.
Riku’s choice of name is unusual, as a character named Rikku was one of the main party members in Final Fantasy X, which was released a year before Kingdom Hearts. This actually became an issue during the development of Kingdom Hearts, as Rikku was planned to have a cameo in the game. It was decided that it would be too confusing to have a character named Riku and another one named Rikku in the same game, so she was scrapped. Rikku was replaced by Yuffie from Final Fantasy VII, who was also given Rikku’s outfit.
9. The Two Deaths Of Master Xehanort’s Voice
Master Xehanort is a major antagonist in Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep and Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance. He is a former Keyblade Master, who uses the power of darkness, rather than opposing it. Xehanort is responsible for manipulating events from behind the scenes, as part of his quest for power.
It seems that Master Xehanort might be one of the most unlucky villains in the Kingdom Hearts series, as he lost both of his voice actors within a month of each other. In the Japanese version of the Kingdom Hearts games, Xehanort was voiced by Chikao Ohtsuka, who was a very prolific voice actor. Ohtsuka was known for voicing characters like Doctor Eggman from Sonic the Hedgehog and Big Boss in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. He passed away in January 2015, at the age of 85.
In the English version of Kingdom Hearts, Master Xehanort was voiced by Leonard Nimoy, who was best known for the role of Spock in Star Trek. Nimoy was also a prolific voice actor, who appeared in numerous animated movies, TV shows, and video games. He passed away in February 2015, at the age of 83.
8. Kingdom Hearts: The Series
One of the most peculiar things about the Kingdom Hearts franchise is that Disney has never attempted to make an animated movie or TV show based on the series. It’s not as if Disney are too particular about their output, especially when you consider all of the horrible straight-to-video sequels they have made in the past.
There was actually a pitch for a Kingdom Hearts animated series in 2002. The project originally fell to Seth Kearsley, who had previously worked on The Simpsons, The Maxx, and Dilbert. He has uploaded the storyboards for the pilot episode to his Deviantart account, which gives a basic outline for how the show would have started. The Kingdom Hearts episode would have shown the sequence with Sora, Riku, and Kairi on the beach together, from the beginning of the first game. They would have eventually journeyed to Agrabah, from Aladdin. Sora and Riku are shown battling Nobodies, with the first episode concluding with Maleficent possessing Riku.
Seth Kearsley claims that the pilot animatic was well-received during focus testing. The reason the show never came to pass was due to the success of the first Kingdom Hearts game. Disney wanted to focus more on sequels to the game, rather than a separate TV project.
7. Riku’s Lost Arena
In the original Kingdom Hearts game, Riku is possessed by a being known as Ansem. It is up to Sora to defeat Ansem/Riku in combat. The final confrontation between the two happens in the Hollow Bastion. Once Riku is defeated, he is freed from Ansem’s control. The game ends with Riku and King Mickey being separated from Sora and the others, with his fate left unknown. Riku could briefly be seen in the secret ending of the game, should you be able to unlock it.
It was originally planned for Riku to be fought in a darkness filled version of the Destiny Islands. The area was known as the Crumbling Island, and it featured trees roots that were covered in bright green lines of energy. This was cut at a very later point in development. As such, the original boss arena can be found within Kingdom Hearts‘ files. It is possible to play this boss fight, in the original area, with the use of a GameShark device.
6. Remaking The Game
Squaresoft used to be very fond of releasing multiple editions of the same game. This usually meant that a game would be released in Japan first, then it would receive international editions that contained more content, which would then be rereleased in Japan with even more content. These final editions were usually exclusive to Japan, which meant that a lot of content would never be seen in the English versions of the game. The Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts series were both notorious for having games that would never be seen outside of Japan.
This all changed with the advent of HD remakes. A lot of the old Japan exclusive content has been added into the HD remakes of Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts games. The creation of these games has actually been a huge burden for Square Enix, as they lost all of the original data for the first two Kingdom Hearts games. They both had to be remade almost entirely from scratch, in order to receive an HD update.
5. Cheating Hercules
The Olympus Coliseum in Kingdom Hearts comes from Hercules. You are able to compete in various tournaments here, in which you can battle foes like Hades, the Ice Titan, and Sephiroth from Final Fantasy VII. The Coliseum provides some of the most difficult challenges in the game, which will chew up and spit out any unskilled players who attempt to complete it.
It is possible to enter a tournament known as the Hercules Cup in the Olympus Coliseum. This will eventually pit you against Hercules himself, who is a highly skilled opponent. Once you unlock the time trial version of this mode, it is possible to exploit a glitch, that will give you as much time as you need. Once you reach Hercules, you can select “restart” in the pause menu. This will restart the fight against Hercules, but the timer will be frozen at whatever it was when you ended the previous match. You can now take all of the time you want in your fight against Hercules.
4. Vivi Disney
Vivi Ornitier is one of the most popular characters from Final Fantasy IX. At first glance, he looks just like the other members of the Black Mage job that are seen throughout the Final Fantasy series. Vivi is actually the prototype unit of a mass-produced army of Black Mage machines, that are used to wage war across the world. Vivi’s story is one of self-discovery and asks questions about the meaning of having a soul.
Tetsuya Nomura originally did not want to use any Final Fantasy characters in Kingdom Hearts that he did not design himself. Vivi is one of the few exceptions this. It is due to his popularity that he is the only Final Fantasy IX character to appear in any Kingdom Hearts game. Vivi appears in Kingdom Hearts II, as a member of Seifer’s gang.
The voice of Vivi was provided by Melissa Disney, who is a relative of Walt Disney. This makes Vivi the only Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy character to be voiced by a member of the Disney family.
3. The Lost End Boss Of Kingdom Hearts II
Xemnas is one of the main antagonists of the Kingdom Hearts series. We aren’t even going to begin to try and explain his backstory or his motives, as any attempt would take up 90% of the article. Just trust us when we say Xemnas is a bad dude, who kind of looks like Sephiroth if you squint your eyes.
The final boss battle in Kingdom Hearts II takes place against Xemnas. Sora and Riku have to team up, in order to defeat Xemnas in a boss battle, which resembles something out of Dragon Ball Z.
Xemnas’ final form in the game isn’t anything special. It’s just Xemnas wearing a coat that looks like it belongs to Cruella de Vil. Originally, this boss battle was going to be a lot more epic. Xemnas was going to transform into a giant monster, made up of numerous buildings. This would have been topped off with a huge crown. Xemnas was also planned to have a similar form, where he would transform into a colossal centaur made of buildings. These forms may have been too difficult to pull off on PlayStation 2 hardware, so they were never implemented into the game.
2. The Gargoyles Crossover
Gargoyles was a Disney animated TV show from the mid-nineties. It was known for its dark premise and gothic aesthetic. Gargoyles was often seen as Disney’s answer to Batman: The Animated Series and the two shows have often been compared to each other. While Gargoyles ended in 1997, it earned a significant cult fanbase, and there have been numerous attempts to revive the series. Gargoyles has also managed to earn a lot of nerd credibility, due to its penchant for featuring Star Trek actors on the show.
As Gargoyles is a Disney show, it is eligible to appear in Kingdom Hearts. This crossover has yet to happen. According to the creators of the show, the world of Gargoyles was considered to appear in one of the Kingdom Hearts games. The plans fell through when most of the original creators of the show left Disney. Gargoyles fans still hold on to the hope that the characters from the show will appear in a future Kingdom Hearts game.
1. Bye Bye Bye Sephiroth
Sephiroth is one of the most beloved characters in the Final Fantasy series. This is despite the fact that he is a mass-murderer, who tried to destroy all life on the planet, whilst looking like he just came from a sale at the “Gaudy Wings” store. The fans don’t care how evil Sephiroth is, they just love his striking design and how cool he is.
When Sephiroth was announced to appear as a bonus boss in Kingdom Hearts, the fans got really excited. This was long before Sephiroth was appearing in every Final Fantasy crossover game, so a cameo by him still meant something. All of the fans’ excitement quickly turned to anger, when it was revealed that Sephiroth would be voiced by Lance Bass of NSYNC. The idea that one of the coolest video game villains of all time was going to sound like a member of a boy band caused the Internet to overflow with salty tears and angry voices.
It seems that Square Enix took these complaints to heart, as Lance Bass only voiced Sephiroth once. He was replaced by George Newbern in subsequent Kingdom Hearts appearances. Bass has never spoken publicly about losing the role, though we can assume that it was tearin’ up his heart that he lost the gig.