Kingdom Hearts Wii -- A Series Saviour?
I'm pretty tired of Kingdom Hearts.
The first game in the series was undoubtedly a revelation in gaming. It certainly was to me. Disney and Final Fantasy in a real-time battle adventure with turn based elements? All made by Square? Wow. I mean, the first few screenshots looked a little ridiculous, even crappy, but the game certainly turned into a Disney/Final Fantasy fans' dream, and managed to sell millions worldwide.
The game then spawned two sequels; Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories was a Game Boy Advance game. For this reason alone it sold less copies than the other two games in the series -- the Kingdom Hearts fanbase lies mostly with Sony's Playstation 2, and they weren't about to buy a Nintendo console for a single game. Despite its lacklustre sales, Chain of Memories was an interesting addition to the series, and was very fun to play. Most importantly, it was different. It featured a battle system that was a refreshing change from the "tap x to win" system in the PS2 games.
Kingdom Hearts II was more of the same from the original game. For me, it added some very nice things, but not enough. Animation when fighting was certainly a massive step up from the original, and the new "Reaction Commands" added an exciting and cinematic aspect to battles. There were also the all new "Drive Forms" -- transformations for Sora, the main character, to give him different fighting styles.
In another sense, while Kingdom Hearts II looked more polished, it was a step back in many ways. While the fighting (the bulk of the gameplay) was simple in the first, the second game eliminated almost any need to use Magic, Summon Monsters or any advanced skills at all -- most battle could be won simply by locking on and tapping X until the enemy's health is depleted.
Similarly, the number of Disney worlds included in the game was raised, but the choice the Square team had was clearly depleted -- the game has you revisit worlds from the first game to go through virtually the same plot as you did in the first game over again. Admittedly, this can't be blamed on the development team -- Disney is furiously protective of their Properties. They actually have a department who watches all films, cartoons, games and other Disney productions to ensure their characters aren't defiled or portrayed in the wrong way in them. Incidentally, this is why there is not and will be no Kingdom Hearts movie -- a test animation was made, and this team turned it down, unhappy to see Donald and Goofy doing anything violent. Why they are allowed to do such things in the game is beyond me.
Square's team has pretty much been outright told they are not allowed to tell new stories within the Disney worlds in Kingdom Hearts. Sora & Co. must be inserted into a story that already exists (in a movie or cartoon) rather than an all new one. This is why some worlds have become rather tiresome in Kingdom Hearts II -- Alladin's world has you going through the same setup and eventually fighting the same boss as in the original game, for example. Square needs new worlds.
Spoiler Warning: Skip this Paragraph if you have not completed Kingdom Hearts II.
Another issue I have with the series is the plot. I sometimes wonder what the series wants to be -- a happy, fun crossover between Disney and Final Fantasy or a dark, brooding story of good people turning evil and wars and magic. The biggest example I can give involves Kingdom Hearts III -- how are the Disney worlds and characters supposed to fit in with this "Keyblade War" made up of thousands of keyblade wielders. It was a ridiculous enough moment already when in Kingdom Hearts II an angry Mickey runs away to avenge Goofy, who he believes killed. It's the production values of Final Fantasy shining through, and while it works well in that series, it does come off as a little silly in Kingdom Hearts which is, essentially, a Disney game.
The fact that it's a Disney game is why this rumour carries so much clout -- Disney have just set up a studio devoted to just the Wii and nothing else, and Disney and Nintendo are of course companies with a similar aim and target audience -- Like Nintendo wants to create games to be played by the whole family, Disney wants to create children's films that everybody can watch -- the Lion King, for example, is loved by kids and adults alike for very different reasons, and is in my opinion the greatest animated movie of all time. The two companies are undoubtedly similar.
The rumour states that Disney has told Square that they want the next Kingdom Hearts game to be on the Wii -- something which is perfectly possible considering the excellent Disney/Nintendo relationship. From there, it's down to Square -- if they want to make another KH -- and frankly, it's too successful not to -- they will have to follow Disney's lead.
Despite all the problems I've listed above, I do enjoy the series. There's something satisfying about visiting those Disney worlds in the way you do and the trio of Donald, Goofy and Sora are a genuinely fun party to be running around the worlds with. No game is perfect, and I think what holds Kingdom Hearts up despite it's flaws is that it's truly charming, much like the Disney movies it copies.
The charm and wonder of being able to visit all your favourite Disney characters in one game helps people to overlook its very simple gameplay and at times a headache of a plot. There's also the fan factor -- huge fans of Final Fantasy will buy this game regardless, just to see Cloud and Sephiroth face off one last time. However, this greatest asset of the series is beginning to fail -- they are running out of worlds to visit, and revisiting them can be tiresome and boring, as KHII proved. But how can being on Wii help this series?
Well, let's stop for a second. Nintendo. What's their greatest asset? Their properties. We all know they're also not afraid to lend their properties out to other companies, with a Mario edition of Dance Dance Revolution, and Mario appearing in EA games for the Gamecube.
That's right, I'm going there. How's that for some interesting new worlds to visit? With the allegiance that Square has shown Nintendo recently, it wouldn't surprise me to see Nintendo lend them some of their IP's for a new Kingdom Hearts with Super Smash Bros levels of joy - Sora, Donald and Goofy can land in Hyrule, the Mushroom Kingdom, Planet Zebes or travel across the Lylat System with Fox McCloud.
Of course, I'm not saying the game should lose it's Disney worlds -- there's several interesting Disney worlds left unvisited, and some movies not covered -- the straight-to-video sequels to The Lion King and Peter Pan, for example, have remained untouched. Similarly, Jafar wasn't always the villain in every episode of the Aladdin cartoon -- so episodes of that could be taken and turned into exciting and different episodes in the Kingdom Hearts story.
Instantly, my interest in Kingdom Hearts III is raising at the mere thought of seeing Heartless invade Hyrule Castle Town -- Some people will call it fanboyism or call it fanwank, but the entire Kingdom Hearts series is one big Disney/Final Fantasy fanwank -- why not add Nintendo into the mix?
How would the controls work on the Wii? Personally, I imagine it controlling similar to Twilight Princess. Swinging the Wii remote around will be the equivalent of pressing X to attack. The D-Pad would be used to browse the Final Fantasy-style menu used to select Magic Attacks and so on, with the B-Trigger on the back of the Wii Remote used to activate whatever is highlighted. The Nunchuk Control stick controls Sora's movement, while the Z-Button locks onto enemies. The A button on the front of the Wii Remote would be used to activate reaction commands. As you can see, the current controls fit on the Remote/Nunchuk perfectly with plenty of buttons to spare. Motion control could be used sparingly, as it was in Zelda -- for example, in Twilight Princess Link's spin attack is performed by shaking the Nunchuk. Special Keyblade moves could be activated with certain motions in either one of the controllers.
The one major advantage the PS3 has over the Wii is of course graphics. For me, for Kingdom Hearts, this isn't all too much of a big deal. If this were Final Fantasy we're talking about than hell, I'd be in favour of the PS3 or 360 -- while I have no doubt the Wii can do epic, beautiful worlds, as demonstrated well by Twilight Princess which barely uses any of the system's power. The Final Fantasy series is an established graphical powerhouse. In comparison, Kingdom Hearts requires little in the area of graphics -- its cartoon worlds can be easily rendered with the Wii's power. The only world from the games that would've benefited directly from being on a more powerful system is Pirates of the Caribbean.
There are those who'll say the problems I have with the series - particularly the gameplay ones - could be fixed on the PS3. I don't deny that - the game could easily be released on PS3 with a slightly more complex engine to reduce the button bashing, but the Wii control scheme just interests me far more.
Does the series really need saving? The fact remains that both Kingdom Hearts games have sold millions and the series is far from in a ditch in the most important area - sales. Despite that, the games aren't perfect, and I feel the best path for the series to evolve would be one on Nintendo's Wii, least of all because the younger audience of the Kingdom Hearts series cannot afford a console that is $500 in it's cheapest form. The gameplay of the series is very simple, and the series needs to evolve rapidly to remain interesting in it's third version.
Of course, this is all mere speculation based on a rumour that has no real source. While the rumour is a more believable one, thanks to Disney's love of Nintendo and the Wii, the lack of a real source means there's little I can truly say about it all. What I can say with certainty is that to me being on the Wii would give Kingdom Hearts a whole new lease of life. Here's hoping.