Warning: light spoilers for Kingdom Hearts 3 and Kingdom Hearts overall.
Kingdom Hearts is an amazing video game series with a wild story to boot, but it doesn't make any sense - yet, that's what makes it great. Around 10 hours into Kingdom Hearts 3, player character Sora is running around the Toy Story-themed world of the Toy Box. It’s a joyous time, with Sora, Donald, and Goofy given new toy forms to fit in with their new friends from the Pixar property. There are fun jokes about Sora coming from a video game, wonderful set pieces within an imaginatively-crafted toy store, and moments of brilliant, childish ingenuity.
Five minutes later, Buzz Lightyear is aiming his now-deadly wrist lazer at Woody’s head, having succumbed to the forces of darkness that threaten to destroy everything beautiful in the world. In this light-hearted nod to one of Disney-Pixar’s most well-loved properties, the stakes are not only literally the universe at large, but also those of long-lasting friendships that people have witnessed across film and video game for decades. In the eyes of Kingdom Hearts, these two factors are permanently intertwined.
This is the essence of Kingdom Hearts as a whole. At face value, the games appear to be a gateway drug to the realm of JRPGs, with what can be complex gameplay systems masked by characters like Mickey Mouse and Winnie the Pooh, but this isn’t entirely the case. Although there is a veneer of Disney charm across the entire franchise, it has its own, individual tone, and the plot at large is much more of a complex, winding path than even some of the more traditional Square Enix titles.
- This Page: Kingdom Hearts Is A Weird Franchise
- Next Page: Kingdom Hearts' Story Doesn't Make Sense - But It's Still Great
Kingdom Hearts Is A Weird Franchise
On paper, Kingdom Hearts should never work. The joie de vivre of its Disney (and now Pixar) worlds is stitched onto melodrama of epic proportions, throwing caution to the wind by both placing previously safe characters into a plot far beyond their comfort zone and reforming others into valiant monster killers. In Kingdom Hearts, Mickey Mouse is a dimension-hopping royal wielding powerful weapons, Donald Duck is a master magician, and Goofy is a loyal knight whose apparent death leads to calls for vengeance from Mickey.
It’s a far cry from what these stalwarts are known for, yet for fans of Kingdom Hearts it makes for one of the most gripping video game series ever released. Those unfamiliar with the franchise as a whole may find the "death" of Goofy as an absurd twist, or possibly even hilarious in its otherness. For fans, it proves that Kingdom Hearts goes places that no-one would expect, and it’s very hard to argue with that analysis.
Of course, Goofy isn’t permanently bumped off in Kingdom Hearts 2, and reappears relatively soon after his apparent death, but in a way that doesn’t matter. It showcases the way in which Kingdom Hearts plays fast and loose with Disney in a fantastic crossover that is, above all else, extremely entertaining. And within that, there’s a seriously convoluted overall plot that perhaps makes the story less comprehensible rather than bringing things together.