So, I like Kingdom Hearts.
I shall pause for my friends reading this blog, to give them enough time to roll their eyes and say, “Yeah, we KNOW.”
I have played and beaten almost every game in the series, except Coded and Unchained Chi. But I do plan to play Unchained when it comes to American phones and I have watched the three hours of Coded cutscenes in the 2.5 Remix. (Please don’t ever make me do that again, Square-Enix.) Speaking of which, I also own every game, including the remixes and the original GameBoy Advance version of Chain of Memories. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve played the first game, I have favorite lines, characters, and ships, I’ve read some really good fanfiction, I adore the manga adaptation, and I’ve obsessively checked Kingdom Hearts websites and blogs for any new information about Kingdom Hearts 3. I can tell Ventus apart from Roxas, Ansem apart from Xehanort, and understand why there’s a fourteenth member of Organization XIII who looks like Kairi. I know all about Sora and Riku’s Mark of Mastery test and what a Mark of Mastery test is supposed to be.
The point I’m trying to make is that I love these games and feel confident that I know just as much about them as any other passionate fan. So, with all of that in mind, I have a question to ask the fanbase:
Could we please tone down the negative attitude towards gamers who have only played Kingdom Hearts 1 and 2?
I understand why we all feel frustrated, because if you’ve played Birth by Sleep and Dream Drop Distance, you know that they contain extremely important information that leads to the plot of Kingdom Hearts 3, and that it’ll be next to impossible for anyone to understand KH3 if they haven’t at least played those two games. So when we hear or see people saying, “Yeah, I haven’t played any of those spinoffs, but I’ll be okay!” of course we want to roll our eyes and give them our most derisive, Vanitas-style laugh.
“Who the heck’s Vanitas?” say the casual fans.
“Exactly,” we answer.
But here’s the thing about Kingdom Hearts: it’s a video game. I’ve heard fans compare the situation to starting the Harry Potter series with Book 7, but HP isn’t a good comparison to make. Anyone can go to the library and check out all seven Harry Potter books for free, or the first four seasons of Game of Thrones. You do not need different kinds of DVD players to watch each season of a show. Any DVD or Blu Ray player will do. Nor do you need a separate eReader for each installment in the Harry Potter series. Heck, you don’t even need any special equipment for Harry; you can just get the paperback book and you’re all set!
In comparison, video games are much less accessible. You can only play games that correspond with the systems that you own. While some are backwards compatible with older games, many others are not. Gaming is a very expensive hobby to maintain even when you’re not dealing with a series as involved as Kingdom Hearts expects you to be. When the “side games” first came out, we didn’t know that they would eventually be re-released on the Playstation 3 and Playstation 4. We had to get a PS2, a PSP, a Nintendo DS, and a Nintendo 3DS just to keep up with everything. That’s hundred and hundreds of dollars, compared to being able to check out all seven Harry Potter books from your nearest library for free.
Then there’s also the fact that a lot of popular video game franchises do not require the level of commitment that Kingdom Hearts requires. Each Legend of Zelda and Final Fantasy game has a new story and a new set of characters. A gamer could start anywhere in either series and still follow along with it. Even story-heavy games like Ace Attorney are pretty easy to follow. You could play Trials and Tribulations, the last game in the original trilogy, and easily grasp who every character is and how they relate to each other. You would get spoiled on a few things from the first game, but it’s not the end of the world.
So, can we really, truly blame casual Kingdom Hearts fans for not keeping up with the series? Why would anyone think they need to play every single game in the series to understand what’s happening if that hasn’t been necessary for them before? If anything, I have to tip my Sorcerer Mickey hat to casual fans because they’re not addicted to this series like I am, and good for them. I love Kingdom Hearts so much, but I don’t expect other people to share my level of passion. (My level of passion is very unhealthy anyways.) They shouldn’t have to do that just to enjoy playing a game. Yet this series has become anything but “simple and clean.”
Instead of mocking the casual fans, maybe we could imitate Sora and offer some help to them, if they want it. See if people know about the HD Remix collections for the PS3 that include most of the side games. For 358/2 Days, there’s also the excellent manga series that would be a very cheap way for people to get caught up on that game.
Of course, at the end of the day there will still be casual fans who just don’t want to be bothered with “the side games.” That’s okay. They have the right to feel that way. If I hadn’t stayed caught up for all these years, I’d feel overwhelmed too. Besides, we don’t know for certain that Kingdom Hearts 3 will be extremely confusing to anyone who hasn’t played the game since KH2. It’s very, very likely. I don’t know how Square-Enix could make it comprehensible to newcomers with everything they’ve added so far. But until we actually play Kingdom Hearts 3, we can’t say for sure what it’s going to be like. Hopefully, it’s a game that every fan can enjoy to some degree. If not, maybe it will at least be good enough to persuade some people to go back and play Birth by Sleep or Dream Drop Distance.
For now, let’s just have fun getting excited together over the development of Kingdom Hearts 3, by watching the latest trailer for the three hundred and fifty-eighth time: