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Since the alphabet is the building block of our language, the Powet Alphabet is the building block of what makes us geeks.

The Kingdom Hearts franchise is a series of video games which varies in quality from amazing to barely playable. Let’s look at the series at it’s best and worst.

The concept was a weird one that didn’t seem to mesh at all. Take some Disney characters, throw them in with a bunch of Final Fantasy characters, toss in a few Keyblades and see what comes up. The result, it would seem, was something gamers really took to.

Kingdom Hearts - Sora and Bambi

Though the game was Japanese first, it included a ton of Disney characters. The concept in the first game on the PlayStation 2 was basically that each new world was based on a new Disney movie which brought it’s characters into the fold as well. Even amongst the Disney characters the range of types of movies varied greatly, but they still managed to coexist in the rich world that was created quite well.

The game’s Hero is accompanied by Donald Duck, Goofy and Jiminy Cricket. Disney themed worlds are based on Alice in Wonderland, Hercules, Tarzan, Winnie the Pooh, Aladdin, Pinnochio, The Little Mermaid, The Nightmare Before Christmas and Peter Pan. Beyond these worlds other characters from other Disney properties make appearances. We see Mickey, Minnie, the Brooms from Fantasia, Merlin, 101 Dalmatians, the Fairy Godmother and Cinderella, Aurora and Maleficent, Snow White, Belle and the Beast, Simba, Dumbo, Bambi, Mushu, Chip and Dale and Huey, Dewey and Louis.

Kingdom Hearts 2 - Sora as Simba from the Lion King

Despite not being the original language, the English dub was top notch and made an effort to secure the original voice actors of the respective properties whenever possible. This was sometimes difficult when dealing with some very old properties, but even in these cases when newer incarnations of these franchises existed those same actors were used.

Kingdom Hearts 2 - Sora as Simba from the Lion King

From the Final Fantasy side we didn’t have quite the same variety of characters but there were many from a lot of different games. Since these characters mostly came from only two of the worlds in the game, there were less of them and we are introduced to them early, making them integral to the story.

From a variety of Final Fantasy games we have the lovable Moogles. From final Fantasy VII we have Cid, Aerith, Yuffie, Cloud and Sephiroth. From Final Fantasy VIII we have Selphie and Squall who’s now going by the name Leon. Finally from Final Fantasy X we have Tidus and Wakka. The characters from these games coexist fairly naturally, and have done so easily in other games. Voices matched their game counterparts when applicable, though many of these games didn’t have much in the way of audio. The cast of Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children had many actors reprising their voices from this game.

Kingdom Hearts - Sora, Goofie and Donald fight Yuffie and Leon from Final Fantasy

As if the men of Final Fantasy weren’t the subject of enough fan girls’ slash fiction and anime music videos we get introduced to Sora and Riku, best friends who become enemies, then friends again, and who are linked sexually in the minds of lonely women everywhere. They, like the other original characters in the game, are somewhat similar to Final Fantasy characters only with bigger shoes and big keys instead of swords. Popular actors such as Haley Joel Osment (“I see dead people”), David Gallagher (7th Heaven), Hayden Panettiere (Heroes) and the great Billy Zane voiced this game’s original characters. The basic story of this game is of the friendship between Sora, Riku and Kairi as Sora goes around using a giant key to close big keyholes and saving the worlds.

The game mechanics were a mixed bag. A lot of RPG elements were included like leveling, items, money, spells and summons. While this would have worked well enough with a full turn based RPG type game it instead has an action element where you hack your enemies up with … giant keys. The level designs are fairly complex, sometimes playing out a bit like a platformer with hidden sections hiding specific items.

Kingdom Hearts

This being said the game’s story, visuals and music were it’s strong suit. With such a variety of characters they are put together to make a great story of it’s own. The graphics were solid for a PS2 game, with the prerendered cut scenes being top notch. The game’s soundtrack takes cues from all the movies it’s based on as well as including some new stuff and J Pop hits that went over great with fans of all things Japanese.

The game eventually have a solid sequel in Kingdom Hearts II but before that there was a kind of crappy Gameboy Advance game. Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, like many of the lesser Kingdom Hearts games was not developed by Square Enix who did the first game and it kind of shows. Gone are the original concepts but instead the characters and settings are just a rehash of the first game. The worlds visited are all the same, only they’re just floors in Castle Oblivion which is a kind of fake place that’s drawn by a girl who’s an alt of a real girl… The character fights with … cards. Card games are horrible and this game is a little less horrible than your average card based video game due to a somewhat unique way of putting cards together to form attacks. It’s actually more like Stratego but with cards. The graphics are not on any level comparable to the PS2 game. A few years later there was an upgraded version of this game, Re: Chain of Memories for the PS2 which had better graphics and game mechanics. It’s vastly superior to the GBA version but it’s still at it’s core a card fighting Stratego game.

Kingdom Hearts II is, as the name implies, the true sequel to the first game. Once again this one is developed by Square Enix and builds on the first game with a lot of new levels, characters and game mechanics. Some levels are repeated but new Disney themed levels include some based on Mulan, old Mickey Mouse cartoons, Pirates of the Caribean, the Lion King and Tron.

The changes to the gameplay weren’t the best. While the game does seem to have more polish to it the level designs seem to be less like puzzles and more straightforward leading the character from place to place. The addition of quick time events is never good in games. A new Drive system allows Sora to take on powers of his allies which adds an interesting new dimension to the game.

Kingdom Hearts 2

The story is again top notch, though a bit confusing at times. While the first game focuses on creatures named Heartless this one focuses on Nobodies. They are meant to be kinds of opposites to each other, but don’t really seem to be opposites or compliments in many ways. New characters in this story include Roxas and Namine, who have special ties to the games main characters, as well as the often Cosplayed Organization XIII. The character stories are compelling and keep player exited about the 3rd installment which … might just never come.

Kingdom Hearts II - Namine

Instead of making a 3rd game, which is hyped up with a special movie at the end of the game, we have instead gotten nothing but Kingdom Hearts games on handhelds which range from shitty to amazing. My thoughts on these games aren’t always going to be terribly profound since I couldn’t quite get myself to get through them all.

The Nintendo DS is not a proper platform for a Kingdom Hearts game and Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days demonstrates this greatly. This game was partly developed by Square Enix but also by h. a. n. d. Instead of moving forward this game goes back to the story before Kingdom Hearts II. The game mechanics are really this game’s main failing. How do you make a 3D game that controls with a single d-pad? You don’t. You don’t make a good one at least. Just getting your character to go in a straight line in a chore and controlling the camera with the L and R buttons is painful. Of course as a Nintendo DS game the graphics are total shit.

In the standard sub par Nintendo handheld Kingdom Hearts game fashion there are no new levels in this game. Instead we revisit levels featured in Kingdom Hearts I and II. We similarly see very little in the way of new characters. To be honest I did not get very far in this game at all and was just turned off by how poor it was. This should be avoided more than Chain of Memories.

Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days

Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep for the PlayStation Portable is in every way a completely solid game. Square Enix was the developer of this game and it is completely up to snuff with Kingdom Hearts I and II. The game mechanics are somewhat similar to the real Kingdom Hearts games using the analog stick to control and lacking a second stick needing the L and R buttons to do some awkward camera control. These camera controls are actually how the first game controlled so it’s not terribly unfamiliar. This game features a mix of familiar levels and new ones unique to this game. New Disney themed levels are based on Cinderella, an original Disney theme park, Lilo and Stitch, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty.

As a way to draw out the gaming experience the game is played through 3 times by 3 different characters who each experience the events differently so that parts of the levels can be recycled while still making it seem fresh with each play through. Game mechanics are made more interesting by a new Deck Command system which is actually nothing like the annoying card shit in Chain of Memories. Basically abilities are leveled up and merged to make better abilities using a complex system which requires some thought and planning to ensure the best abilities are unlocked.

Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep Aqua

The game’s story is also top notch. It’s a prequel story that features 3 new characters. Terra struggles with his dark side. Aqua becomes a powerful magic user and is generally hot. Ventus wines a lot and bears a striking resemblance to Roxas, though that similarity didn’t go where I was expecting it. At times the story seems like a bit of a retcon, but ties in with the events of the earlier games quite well and seems more relevant than the other handheld games. Hints to events from this game appear in both Re: Chain of Memories and Kingdom Hearts II, lending some legitimacy to the idea that this story is part of a wider reaching story and not completely tacked on. Because the PSP is a superior system to the DS in every way the graphics are superior and the cut scenes are able to include actual spoken dialog at all times.

Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep Terra

This is a really amazing game that many fans may pass up due to the relative horribleness of the other Kingdom Hearts games on handhelds that aren’t part of the numbered series. I would go so far to say that any Kingdom Hearts fan would do themselves a great service by getting a PSP just to be able to play this game. Seriously, PSPs are really cheap now. Just don’t get a PSP Go since this game is UMD only and can’t be downloaded.

Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep Aqua

Unfortunately we have to go back to sucky games for sucky systems. Kingdom Hearts Coded was developed by Square Enix for mobile phones and ported to the DS as Kingdom Hearts Re:coded. I have only played the DS version of this game since I’m not Japanese and I don’t own a cell phone.

This one sucks. The game is of course bad because it’s on the DS suffering the same graphical and control limitations of 358/2 Days. The main mechanics are actually decent using an ability system somewhat similar to that of Birth By Sleep and a very interesting leveling and stat increasing system is used. The problem is that at many times during the game the player is taken out of the standard game mechanics and put into a level which uses completely different rules. This is more than just the Gummi Ship type of stuff from the real games. I’m talking about side scrollers, rails shooters, an RPG level and … I don’t know what else. I got frustrated with the RPG level and tossed my DS across the room swearing never to play this game again. Throwing in these little things is fine for a bit of silly flavour, but when their difficulty eclipses the rest of the game and leveling up doesn’t reflect in an advantage in them, you’ll get quickly frustrated.

Kingdom Hearts Re:coded

Once again, like with other shitty games, no new levels appear. This game just rehashes those of other games. The story is so completely irrelevant. A virtual Sora is fighting bugs in Jiminy’s journal to stop … memory corruption? It’s just so stupid… On top of this, the game has almost no spoken dialog and even has many “cut scenes” that are just still 2D images with word bubbles. This shit was fine in the Super Nintendo days but it’s 2011 damnit!

So let’s sum up here… Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II on the PlayStation 2 are great games. Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep is an incredible game worthy of the series that many have passed up because no one has a PSP and the series had a bad track record on handhelds. Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days and Kingdom Hearts Coded are all shit games that are an insult to the better games in the franchise and should be avoided no matter the cost.

Kingdom Hearts Sitting on the Beach

The chasm between the 3 good games and 3 bad games is just to wide it boggles the mind. Such a meddling of both irrelevant repetitive story and level design and horrible game mechanics are so complete that there is no risk of needing to put up with something bad just to get something good out of the bad games in this series.

Kingdom Hearts II Kairi

A new Kingdom Hearts game is slated for the already technically obsolete 3DS system. If history is any indicator this game will suck, but I guess I’ll probably give it a shot…

Kingdom Hearts Snow White