Surprisingly enough Kingdom Hearts was actually one of my first console games. I had heard about it, and watched a friend play, and fell in love. I like many people grew up with Disney and so the idea of it appealed to me instantly. I struggled with the game at first, it was different from anything I had played on PC. However, I largely credit Kingdom Hearts with my move from PC gamer to console lover. It opened a whole world to me of different types of games, and I was hooked. It was also the game that I credit for turning gaming from a casual hobby to a full blown passion.
Over the years I returned to Kingdom Hearts many times. I did finally reach a stage where it went on the shelf and wasn’t touched for a long time. I recently got to go back and play it again, and once again discover it is nostalgia that keeps me saying it’s a favorite, or the game itself.
Now I played the original PlayStation 2 version, not any of the updated ones. This was mostly a good thing as it was the experience I most remembered. I can safely say the game has actually aged fairly well. Some of the more “touching” moments were a little cheesy to me through my adult eyes, but for the most part everything was awesome.
The story was as I remembered. A bit corny at times but overall pretty awesome. I, unlike many people, actually prefer the story in Kingdom Hearts, and actually feel the series has suffered greatly with each new entry. The plot in Kingdom Hearts is simple, straight forward, but still compelling. The more convoluted the series has gotten the less I have enjoyed it, to the point that I would even say I dislike the series overall. Focusing on Kingdom Hearts though, the story is not going to win any awards or change your life. It’s a good excuse to move forward, but not deep enough to truly grab you. The reality is it doesn’t need to be however. Because each level has it’s own little story keeping things basic, yet entertaining, is really enough.
What drives the game is of course the levels. Visiting Disney worlds is a great experience for a lot of people. It grabs at your nostalgia while adding something new to the experience. I don’t get to just watch Alice In Wonderland, but actually explore it. This is something that a lot of people enjoyed, and I am certainly one of those people. It’s also where the game has weakened the most with age however. I still greatly enjoyed the worlds, but I was hit by how small they were when going back. Part of me truly did remember them being slightly larger in scale, and modern me felt a little disappointed that that wasn’t the case.
Gameplay is still solid. The problems it suffered from in the past are still there. The camera can fight you, some of the platforming can be frustrating. Overall the game is an enjoyable action RPG however, and that hasn’t changed. Even with time the game has remained fun. There are challenges to be sure, but it’s still a solid game.
There is also some good attempts at variety. Some work very well, like the super enjoyable boss battle with Oogie Boogie. Some fall a bit more flat, such as the swimming mechanics. The effort made to ensure the game does not feel like you are doing the same thing over and over is appreciated and adds to the enjoyment of the experience.
Having seen the updated versions there is something to be said for the graphical updates. However, I maintain that Kingdom Hearts looks good for it’s age. It embraced the colorful animation of Disney, and it helped make the game look great overall. Worlds each have their own impact and look. It makes it truly enjoyable to spend your time playing the game. The soundtrack also remains a high point for the experience.
In the end there was some degree of nostalgia blindness. Mostly however, Kingdom Hearts is just a well developed game, and that helps to make it fairly timeless. Has it aged perfectly? Of course not. There are a few complaints to be had. In the end what is good far out weighs what is lacking, and it leaves you with a great experience. I am so happy to have gone back, and honestly I am excited to do it again.