Antilles58 Oct 6th, 2016 (edited) 319 Never
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- I finished Kingdom Hearts last night. My thoughts on the game are complicated and varied. I think I'll start with the negative and move towards the positive. In a lot of ways, that's pretty reflective of my experience of the game as a whole. (This is very long. Sorry)
- First, a bit of context. I've been a huge Final Fantasy fan for pretty much my whole gaming life. I missed playing Kingdom Hearts when it was first released since it came out when I was in late high school/early college and wasn't really getting that many new games. But the idea of Disney merged with Final Fantasy always intrigued me.
- Fast forward several years. I have four kids (2 boys, 2 girls), and they love watching me play video games. My oldest has been hooked from the beginning, and really enjoyed watching Super Mario RPG and Final Fantasy 4. The next two got much more interested when I played Mario Galaxy. So when my family planned a trip to Disneyland, it seemed like a really good opportunity to give Kingdom Hearts a try. I expected it to be a fun way to introduce a lot of characters to my kids to get them ready for that trip, and also to have the chance to play this game that I'd missed and so many others had raved about.
- At fist... I was pretty disappointed. I felt the movement to be awkward, the combat to be weird and sort of simplistic, and the characters to lack much depth. Deep Jungle was extremely frustrating for me and almost made me want to stop playing entirely. If it weren't for my kids (and my obsessive need to finish games on my list), I might have. They were already loving it, so I had to keep going.
- Combat felt like it couldn't decide if it wanted to be an action game or an RPG. I was playing Twilight Princess HD at the same time, and I kept wanting to try to use Zelda-style fighting in Kingdom Hearts. Targeting and actually getting hits to land on enemies just wasn't that simple. Magic felt pretty useless and extremely awkward to use. And the item system *really* bugged me. Ultimately I just ended up mashing X the whole time, and that was a bit irritating.
- I got stuck a lot, as what to do next wasn't always completely obvious. Somehow I managed to get through Deep Jungle and back to Traverse Town, but then I didn't realize I was supposed to use Fire on that door to get to Merlin. Being stuck, I decided to just watch the speedrun. I figured it would likely give me a hint on what to do next, and since I was playing the game with my kids (and hoped to finish before Disneyland), I wanted to have an idea what came next. Plus, since the run is in Japanese, I wouldn't really get spoiled on the plot. So I flipped on the AGDQ 2016 run by Zetris (ironically, I was at the donation station for the first half of this run, so I caught a good deal of it live - but had no idea what was going on).
- That was really the turning point for me. Seeing how smoothly he could move through the game (without too many major skips) helped me to have a little more appreciation for it. Seeing how exciting some of the worlds coming up were got me eager to get there. And I got a little better idea of how and when to use magic and items. But more than just that, the energy and passion that the community around the game brought to the table was infectious. Their love of the game literally came out of the computer screen and straight into my heart (ha! pun intended).
- So armed with new information on where to go, I moved on with a slightly better attitude. Agrabah was instantly fun for me. I loved the environment and was starting to get a better grasp on the combat. Before long I was spending each day looking forward to getting home and playing the game each night. I started thinking about which side quests I'd do, what my plan for moving through all the worlds was, and overall just really looking forward to getting to the next parts of the game.
- I loved Agrabah. Monstro was a bit frustrating, as was Atlantica, but I absolutely *loved* Halloween Town. I mean - super, super loved. It reminded me a lot of Mad Monster Mansion from Banjo-Kazooie, and that is one of my favorite areas in any video game, ever. Neverland was fun, and then Hollow Bastion was actually really cool. The music at that part was just so atmospheric and moody - it really made it feel like we were on the cusp of something really important.
- The best part of all of this was playing with my kids. Both of my boys were absolutely glued to the screen every time I did this. Even my 2-year old little girl would get very excited at the thought of playing this. She'd hear me mention it and then go on a rant "play Kigda Harts?!?!" for like 5 minutes each time. And then even she'd be glued to the screen. She loved pointing out Donald, or Goofy, or even Sora! During the final boss, when Sora falls off the screen, she said "Sora died!" and then immediately "there's Sora!" when he came back. It was just so dang cute. When we were finishing up Atlantica, it was right before bedtime and I ended up fighting Ursula's giant form by accident when I was looking for a Save Point. Every single one of us was on the edge of our seats as I tried to beat her in one go before bed. She's giant, massive, scary, and blasting all sorts of crap at you - so it was pretty intense. When I managed to do it, and my 5yo son said he was so proud of me for beating her - that was a pretty special moment. Just having them on this journey and cheering me on made it exceptionally memorable.
- I ended up doing almost everything in this game - I didn't beat any ultra bosses (Sephiroth wrecked me pretty hardcore) or grind any gear to synthesize - but did pretty much the rest. All the 100 Acre Wood stories, found all the Dalmatians, all the Coliseum fights. I was really surprised that I found myself looking forward to the Coliseum, especially considering combat was what bugged me so much about this game at first.
- So after almost 4 months (a few hours each week was about all the time we could find), the journey finally ended last night. After my son astutely pointed out that Ansem looks like Sephiroth (welcome to anime memes, son), we finished. And I was.... sad. Like, I was legitimately emotional (maybe it was the J-pop...). I don't know that I was attached enough to the characters to be emotional about anything going on in the story, and even to the end I never quite figured out the combat system fully - but I legitimately am going to miss this game. And I think that the way I felt when it was over is the highest praise I can give it.
- It isn't one of my top 10 games ever, maybe not even top 50 (definitely top 100, though - I'll be updating that list soon). But this will definitely be one of my best *gaming* memories. Getting to see the game through the eyes of my children, and ultimately having a ton of fun actually playing it along the way made it really rewarding. I understand why so many people love this game (I also understand why there are a lot of people who don't get it). I'm very excited to move on to Kingdom Hearts 2, now. So thank you to the speed run community, as always, for making things more fun! :)
- As the credits were rolling, my 2 year old daughter was walking around looking for a little heart that her brother had made for her out of perlers. She was saying "I lost my heart," over and over again. Well said, baby girl. What a perfect way to end it.
- *Footnote: We did manage to finish before Disneyland - leaving this Saturday! :)
- **Footnote 2: I hate the gummi missions. I think they're a total waste of time and are completely out of place in this game.
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