Kingdom Hearts, Harry Potter, and Toy Story

What do these all have a common? They target children, yet can be appreciated and even enjoyed by adults. For years I’ve heard that Kingdom Hearts was an excellent role playing game. Now that my eldest son is 10 and ready to add some RPG elements to his Zelda, I decided this was a good time to pick it up and play along with him (I typically explore, and he battles the bosses).

Annoying camera aside, this is truly a fun game with quite a bit of depth. Yet, I can’t imagine ever sitting down to play this game on my own. The characters don’t appeal to me (after all, they’re angst-ridden teens) and the story, while cute in a cartoon or disney sort of, isn’t remotely interesting.

True, shooters like, say, Half-Life and Doom have decidedly less depth and gameplay and essentially no real story (other than to shoot stuff). But I see them as the Stephen King of video games. Certainly not great literature, but great entertainment that appeals to adults.

That is all.

KH is definitely Square Enix’s new cash cow and sales in Japan for KH2 has pretty much proven that. Given how the RPG giant has been struggling aside from their FF and DQ franchises, I think it’s likely that we’ll see a new KH game every 2-3 years from now on.

I wonder how long Nomura will stick with the series. He hates working under Disney’s restrictions.

For years I’ve heard it was a pretty crappy role playing game. That is never all.

Probably because it’s an action RPG with about an 85/15 split on the action/RPG ratio.

The point I was really trying to make with this post (not effectively upon review) is I don’t understand how this game appeals to an adult except as seen through the eyes of a child. I’d much rather be reading “The Song of Ice and Fire” series than “Harry Potter”. And I’d rather be watching Syriana than “Toy Story”. But if I want to spend time with my children, I find I can enjoy these things with them; I just have to change my mindset.

That’s because you’re a cold harted bastard. Serioulsy though there are some childish things that gel with me and some that don’t. For example I can rarely sit through cartoons anymore (with rare exceptions). Movies like Ice Age and A Series of Unfortunate Events hold me no appeal.

Kingdom Hearts has a strong nostalga value though. The Characters like Donald and Goofy are iconic, and watching them stroll around with Final Fantasy characters is enough to at least get my attention. I’ll never forget when this game was announced at E3 some years back it took me a while to get over the fact that I had just witnessed a Dumbo summon. I like it when worlds collide though. I got a big kick out of the Jetsonts meet the Flintstones back in the day.

Add with that characters which I grew up with like Aladdin, Peter Pan, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King… all with (and this is important) amazing modeling, animation, voice acting and you’ve got something that I’ll enjoy playing with. I also enjoyed Nomura’s Final Fantasies, So watching Cloud and Yufie and battling Sephroth one more time was pretty darn cool.

Combine this with a gameplay that I like (ARPG) and you’ve got me hooked. Yes there are flaws, some pretty significant. The controls are bad, the gummy ship is dull, it’s easy to get lost in repetative respawns, but they didn’t outweigh the overall quality that KH brought to the table.

The story getts a little better IMO as you progress. I was pleasantly surprised as I approached the ending. Also the Deep Dive trailer at the end alone is almost worth all the negatives previously mentioned. Make sure to find all the puppies before you beat the game. (or find the trailer online somewhere).

Sources say that KH2 fixes all the problems of the original so I’m very excited.

KH left me pretty cold, for all the reasons Jazar seems to have liked it.

You’ve got Goofy as a knight, but he doesn’t actually act like Goofy–the Goofy I remember is, well, pretty goofy, a bumbler. You’ve got Donald as a wizard, but, again, he doesn’t do anything like the Donald I’ve actually seen in the shows–getting absurdly ticked off over stupid things, spluttering, and so on. The Queen of Hearts wasn’t as absurd as she should be. And so on.

So instead of giving me a sense of nostalgia, I kept getting a sense of “hey, this is wrong!”

I’ve never played a FF game, so I have no idea what that part was like.

(My kids liked the game, though, but they were bored by the end–we got to the big fight near the end, and never finished).


First off, I think it needs to be said that you’ve chosen a relatively bad example. Kingdom Hearts, both as a game and in its story, has some serious problems. But I think the bottom-line with your comments about Steven King and the Song of Ice and Fire vs. Harry Potter really comes down to what you’re looking for in your entertainment. I like books and games with character-driven stories that are well written, regardless of the content.

J.K. Rowling is a much better writer than Stephen King, which is why I would always choose one of her books over anything that King wrote. Seriously, next time you are in a book store, pick up a Harry Potter book and read two or three random paragraphs. Next, do the same thing with a King book. It should be pretty apparent just how much better Rowling is at the craft of writing just from this random example.

Again it’s all in how well something is told, as much as what is being told. I haven’t read Martin, so I can’t comment on the Song of Ice and Fire, but I tried to read Tolkein after the LotR movies came out and put it down after 50 pages because his writing is so stiff and his dialog is so forced that it became unintentionally funny. Similarly, I tried reading Stephen R. Donaldson’s book a few weeks ago and found the writing to be so pompous and self-important that I couldn’t take it any more, even though I think he had some interesting ideas.

It’s the same with games for me. A good story with an interesting art style immediately gets my attention. Although I’m just as turned off with some of the teen angst elements in JRPGs, I’d much rather play something like Final Fantasy IX than KOTOR. FFIX had a main character that changed throughout the course of the story, while KOTOR’s cartoony villains and the over-the-top evil dialog choices struck me as just as silly as some of the stuff in the worst Japanese RPGs.

Two of my favorite games in 2004 were Chronicles of Riddick and Paper Mario 2: The Thousand Year Door. On the surface, they don’t have anything in common. One is based on a violent ‘R’ rated movie and the other is, well, a magic mushroom game. The reason I liked them both so much is that they both had interesting art styles with good writing and solid game play.

I LOVED Kingdom Hearts. It hit all the right notes for me. I am neither a huge Disney fan nor a Huge FF fan, but I do like both. This game has very little to do with Final Fantasy though, other than the characters. But the atmosphere in KH just really drew me in. I even liked the fighting. Something about the game just grabbed me. The music, the feel of the game…very immersive. Even the annoying parts (Tarzan’s jungle, mermaid swimming) weren’t that bad to me.

And I prefer Harry Potter to Martin’s work, and it’s not because I can’t appreciate good serious novels (I really enjoyed reading Crime and Punishment, for example). But in my fantasy, I like the fantasy. I like the childishness of it all, as long as that childishness isn’t demeaning in some way.