The Casual Fan’s Guide to Navigating Kingdom Hearts (Part 2)

Okay, we have now arrived at the point where many casual fans stopped: post-Kingdom Hearts 2.  This part’s specifically meant for people who skipped all of the “side games” released in-between Kingdom Hearts 2 and Kingdom Hearts 3.  But newcomers will want to read it too, if only to prepare themselves.

Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days

Available On: Nintendo DS; about two hours worth of cutscenes can be viewed on Kingdom Hearts 1.5, but the game itself isn’t playable on the PS3 or the PS4

Status: A midquel that takes place in-between Chain of Memories and KH2

Do I Need to Play It?

Honestly, it’s hard to say right now, but I’ll go with “no, you don’t.” This game takes place from Roxas’ point of view, instead of Sora’s, and everything you really need to know about his character gets explained in Kingdom Hearts 2. This was meant to provide some backstory for him.

However, the game also introduced a new character, Xion, who has a big influence on Roxas, and she may or may not have some influence on the plot of Kingdom Hearts 3.  That’s about as much as I can say about her without spoiling anything.  As of right now, I’m thinking it’ll be as important to understanding the plot of KH3 as Chain of Memories was to understanding KH2– you may be confused about a few things, but you can easily read up on what you missed.

Is it worth playing?  If you have a Nintendo DS or backwards compatible 3DS and you’d like to check it out, by all means, do so!  If you’re trying to decide whether to watch the cutscenes on the PS3/PS4 or play the game, I’d like to present a third option:

READ THE MANGA.

The manga surpasses both versions of the game.  One of the complaints about the original game is that it drags- there are a lot of levels that just consist of Roxas fighting a variety of Heartless in Disney worlds, having ice cream with his friends after work, and that’s it.  Every so often, something plot relevant happens, and it isn’t until the third act when things start to pick up.  The problem with 1.5 is that it’s not really a movie, even though the fans refer to it as “the Days movie.”  It’s two hours of cutscenes that start and stop, start and stop.

The manga has much better pacing.  It covers all of the essential parts of the story while also adding scenes that flesh out the characters who work for Organization XIII.  The Disney characters get more chances to interact with the main characters too, which is always good in my book.  It’s the most entertaining way to catch up on at least one of the side games.  Not to mention, it’s cheaper if your library owns a copy and you can read it for free.  Do yourself a favor and read the book instead of watching “the movie.”

Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep

Available On: PlayStation Portable, PS3, and PS4

Status: A prequel that takes place ten years before the first Kingdom Hearts game

Do I Need to Play It?

Yes.  Yes.  Yes.  Also, YES.

This game introduces several new characters who are almost guaranteed to be important to the plot of Kingdom Hearts 3.  It explains Xehanort’s backstory and gives some insight into the Keyblade War.  Considering that the official summary of Kingdom Hearts 3 mentions both Xehanort and the Keyblade War, I’d say that makes it pretty important.

Again, if you have the option, go with the PS3/PS4 version.  It’s got a whole extra level you can play after you’ve beaten the game, but it’s not crucial to the plot.  Unfortunately, there’s no manga adaptation to read.  There are novels, and Yen Press plans to translate them, but no release date has been announced yet.

Kingdom Hearts: Re:Coded

Available On: Nintendo DS, with cutscenes available to watch on Kingdom Hearts 2.5 Remix

Status: A follow-up to Kingdom Hearts 2 that takes place inside Jiminy Cricket’s journal

Do I Need to Play It?

Nope.  There is ONE very important scene that you can only watch if you unlock the Secret Ending- or watch it on the PS3/PS4 remix.  The important points are addressed again in Dream Drop Distance.  But Coded has a passionate fanbase and it’s supposed to be a really fun game, even though the plot doesn’t make much sense.  I haven’t finished it, but I should give it another chance sometime.

That said, I watched the 2.5 “movie” and I do not recommend it, at least not all at once.  Unfortunately, Coded hasn’t gotten the manga treatment that Days did, and Shiro Amano has said that he’s ending his series with KH2, so it probably never will.

Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance

Available On: Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation 4 as part of Kingdom Hearts 2.8 Remix

Status: A follow-up to Kingdom Hearts 2 that takes place immediately after Coded and acts as a prequel to Kingdom Hearts 3

Do I Need to Play It?

As I said, it acts as a prequel to Kingdom Hearts 3, so, yes.  Definitely play it.  The story gets really weird towards the end, but it’s a lot of fun to play.  If you have the ability to choose, go with the PlayStation 4 version so that you can play all of the games on one system.

Kingdom Hearts: Union Cross

Available On: iOS and Android devices, aka smartphones

Status: The prequel to EVERYTHING; it takes place centuries, if not eons, before the actual series starts.  It’s set before the Keyblade War and you get to create your own character.

Do I Need to Play It?

Yes and no.  Union Cross is weird.  Originally, it was meant to be the only non-canon game in the series, but now it’s not.  There’s something called the Book of Prophecies that plays a role in this game, and Maleficent mentions it in a new scene added to Re:Coded.  A mini-film was produced to explain the story of the Foretellers as part of the Kingdom Hearts 2.8 collection.

At the same time, it’s still a phone game where the protagonist is just an avatar that you create.  His/her actions presumably won’t have much direct impact on the actual story.  I’m hoping that the story-relevant content introduced in Union Cross will get explained again in Kingdom Hearts 3, since Sora and his friends do not get involved in this adventure.  It’s not like Dream Drop Distance where they’re the main characters.

That said, it’s a lot of fun to play and it’s a free app, so if you have a smartphone, I wholeheartedly recommend it!  If nothing else, it’s a fun way to pass the time while waiting for Kingdom Hearts 3.

Kingdom Hearts 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue

No, I did not make that title up.

Available On: PlayStation 4

Status: A collection including a remake of Dream Drop Distance, a movie about the Foretellers from Union Cross, and A Fragmentary Passage, which is a short game about Aqua’s time in the Realm of Darkness before Kingdom Hearts 3

Do I Need to Play It?

I’m leaning towards “no.”  It does lay out everyone’s missions at the start of Kingdom Hearts 3, but I get the feeling it’ll be like Chain of Memories where you’ll be able to figure things out soon enough in KH3.

Now, if you don’t own a Nintendo 3DS and/or you never played Dream Drop Distance, then I would definitely recommend getting the PS4 version for the extra content.  Otherwise, skip it.  Aqua’s story is a lot of fun, and it does lead directly into Kingdom Hearts 3 by showing what Sora, Riku, and Kairi have set out to do.  But A Fragmentary Passage is only a few hours long.  Back Cover, the movie about the Foretellers, doesn’t reveal anything substantial at all.  We just find out that they’re fighting, and their friendship’s falling apart, and the Master of Masters is up to something sneaky with a black suitcase, but we never find out what’s in that suitcase.  It’s just not worth $60, especially if you’re on a tight budget.

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Okay, there you have it!  Are you even more confused now than you were before?  Welcome to the Kingdom Hearts Fandom.

If you have any questions, complaints, or whatnot, please leave a comment and I’ll be happy to respond!

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