Twenty years ago we bore witness to the birth of one of the most unique and fascinating video game series of all time, Kingdom Hearts. A series that combines the wonderful world of Disney (and Pixar) and mixes them with the worlds of Final Fantasy (and other Square Enix properties).
So how did this all start?
SquareSoft (before they became Square Enix) were impressed with Super Mario 64 for the Nintendo 64. They wanted to try and do a 3D action game in that same style but needed a character that was as popular as Mario to fill the role. At the time SquareSoft and Disney Japan worked out of the same office building and while riding an elevator Square producer Shinji Hashimoto pitched the concept of combining Disney characters with Final Fantasy to a Disney executive during an elevator ride.
Disney, a company who is very protective of their IPs, was surprisingly open to the concept. Hundreds of pro-gamers, designers and artists from both Square and Disney Interactive assembled to work on the project. Artist Tetsuya Nomura, who had been the charter designer for Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy VIII and Final Fantasy X, was chosen to be the game’s director.
Nomura originally wanted to stay more kid friendly with the Disney esthetic but was told to try and give it more mature storyline, which he did. He decided to have an original characters serve as the game’s protagonist, that being Sora. Sora (voiced by Haley Jole Osment) teamed up with Goofy and Donald to save the multiverse of Disney and Final Fantasy worlds from destruction.
Despite Disney usually being involved with oversight in such a project then president Michael Eisner had faith in the project and allowed Nomura free reign. The only condition was that Mickey Mouse was to have limited screen time.
Kingdom Hearts released in March of 2002 and despite people being skeptical at first the game became a huge success. Nomura had already planned a sequel in case the game did well, and eventually the series evolved into a massive franchise.
Kingdom Hearts II released by in Late 2005 in Japan, and Early 2006 everywhere else, to massive success. But the story was a little odd due to the fact that you needed to play a spinoff game on GameBoy Advanced to understand what’s going on.
Despite being one of the most beloved JRPG franchises of all time it is notorious for having one of the most confusing and convoluted continuities of all time with tons of spinoffs, prequels, remakes and compilations/collections.
Kingdom Hearts III was announced in 2013 but didn’t release until 2019. The main reason was due to Nomura having major development issues with the game “Final Fantasy Versus XIII” which later became Final Fantasy XV after he left the project; But that’s a story for another time.
Now with the series recently celebrating its 20th Anniversary Square Enix has announced that Kingdom Hearts IV is now in development. Hopefully it won’t take 13 years in between sequels this time.
Kingdom Hearts is one of the biggest JRPG franchises of all time and with a ever increasing fanbase. The character Sora is one of Square Enix’s most popular characters and is so popular that he became the final DLC character for Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. Ultimate in Late 2021.
With timeless characters like Mickey Mouse and Cloud Strife these games have a multi-generational fanbase that is sure to grow with each new installment.
What were your experiences with the Kingdom Hearts games? Did you ever play them? What were some of your favorite memories playing them? Do you think Kingdom Hearts should be adapted into an Anime series for Disney+?
Pirates & Princesses (PNP) is an independent, opinionated fan-powered news blog that covers Disney and Universal Theme Parks, Themed Entertainment and related Pop Culture from a consumer's point of view. Opinions expressed by our contributors do not necessarily reflect the views of PNP, its editors, affiliates, sponsors or advertisers. PNP is an unofficial news source and has no connection to The Walt Disney Company, NBCUniversal or any other company that we may cover.