by Blake Chapman
In preparation for the highly anticipated release of Kingdom Hearts 3 on December 29, Disney Parks has opened a pop-up shop in their lakefront shopping center Disney Springs.
The small store is located in the heart of Disney Springs and features plenty of memorabilia along with a 15-minute demo of the new installment in the franchise. I recently traveled to Orlando around Christmas to visit family and luckily got the chance to experience the store and all it had to offer.
The moment I stepped into the store’s lobby, I was greeted by large tapestries representing the different worlds you can visit including Arendelle from Frozen and San Fransokyo from Big Hero 6. The cover art for the game is also featured at the entrance allowing for a great photo opportunity. Appreciating the artwork of Kingdom Hearts is not the only activity to do while you wait to control Sora and his pals. The shop was also lined with glass cases filled to the brim with figurines and other memorabilia such as replica keyblades. Kiosks located throughout the store offered preorders of the statutes themselves along with a chance to pre-purchase the game.
I also sat down and enjoyed past trailers and reveals that played on multiple televisions before I hopped in line for my play session. The registration process was simple: All I had to do was enter my name and phone number along with the number of players in my party and a text would appear on my phone when our place in line was next up. Instead of waiting for around an hour in line I was able to explore the rest of the shopping center and enjoy the other merchandisers throughout Disney Springs.
When the long-awaited time came, I checked in, received my station number and began interacting with the game myself. Truth be told I was a little intimidated since I have not gotten the chance to play a Kingdom Hearts game before. The fast-paced combat and plethora of menus was slightly jarring at first, but I got used to it quickly. The hack-and-slash combat, magic and other rpg elements felt smooth, and everything from the music to the animation was impressive.
The best experience I had during my short time I had inside was witnessing the connection that fans of all ages made with this demo. Kingdom Hearts 2 released almost 13 years ago, and as fans have grown, so has the series itself, expanding to multiple platforms and releasing a handful of spin off titles. The joy I saw in people's eyes who had started their journey with Sora, Donald and Goofy when they were young now showing off the game to their own children was a testament to how far this series reaches over generational gaps. This shop shows that the Disney company realizes the profitability of this franchise and how the combination of Final Fantasy role-playing and a little Disney magic can bring anyone together.
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Source: Disney Wiki
Photos: Blake and Ben Chapman