My Journey with Kingdom Hearts

This post contains spoilers for the series, but spoilers for the latest game are marked near the end.

So I played Kingdom Hearts Ⅲ.  In many ways, it was exactly what I expected it to be, so I can’t say I was disappointed per se.  For me, the series had gone off its rails early and quite thoroughly.  But even when you’re watching a train wreck for the spectacle, it’s hard not to feel a bit sad – after all, it had been such a nice train once.

The game had its moments.  The gameplay was fun and flashy, the worlds were full of satisfying details, the visuals were often gorgeous.  But ultimately, the entire experience felt like a string of semi-random Things that Happened.

It’s part of what I’m noticing as a larger trend, especially prevalent in recent Japanese pop media, were sequels to compelling works seem to disregard the very things that made those works compelling.

But to me, Kingdom Hearts is a particularly tragic example, because the original game got so much right.

There is a reason this series still has such a strong following, and I believe it has a lot to do with its first impression.  Of course, I can only speak from my own subjective experience. With that in mind though, this is a post I’ve wanted to write for years: an exploration of why the original game resonated deeply with me and why, instead of building on that resonance, its sequels trampled on it.
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