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In 2002, there had been no games where there was a mass assemblage of Disney characters all rolled into one title until Kingdom Hearts was released. When young Sora discovered his destiny after arriving in Traverse Town, a series was born unlike any other with some of the best storytelling ever in video game history. Kingdom Hearts’ combat system, Disney references, and the overall plot remain unparalleled as one of the finest family-friendly titles and a title everyone should experience at least once in their life. As the series continued, it had its dips and rises but remained unyielding in its replay-ability. These are the titles that performed and underperformed.
7. Kingdom Hearts Re: Chain of Memories
Taking place after Kingdom Hearts and a year before Kingdom Hearts II, Re: Chain of Memories stands by itself as the strangest of all the series, with its narrative and a combat system that failed miserably as it made combat incredibly difficult to maneuver by replacing skill with luck. While searching for King Mickey and Sora’s friend Riku, the young keyblade wielder, magician Donald, and royal knight Goofy traverse Castle Oblivion realizing, as they delve deeper, the more memories they lose along the way.
The game involves regaining the memories from the original title while battling the heartless with the card-based system. The card system requires players to choose their highest card and play it hoping to be a stronger card than the enemy’s. The process is as rough as it sounds. Although the game set up the events of Kingdom Hearts II, the overall gameplay experience was not gratifying in the slightest.
6. Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance
Occurring between games two and three, players are again introduced to a different battle setup than previous entries. Instead of two allies, like much of Sora’s journey, players can customize a monster called a Dream Eater to help guide players and aid in battle. Although the system isn’t ideal, it’s a tremendous step up from Re: Chain of Memories. Dream Drop Distance calls Riku and Sora to be put into various worlds, some seen in other entries previously while others are new, all part of a final assessment to prepare for Master Xehanort’s return, as Yen Sid foresaw. All the familiar battle setup returns with the Dream Eater being the fresh addition. Heartless are replaced with “nightmare” Dream Eaters as the worlds explored in this game are in a dream state caused by them being destroyed by the darkness. Sora and Riku are to restore the worlds to the light.
5. Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep
Birth by Sleep takes players back to where the keyblade masters first originated from. Aqua, Ventus, and Terra train under Master Eraqus at the Land of Departure, an academy of sorts where the three friends live and hone their skills. After the evil Master Xehanort sees the darkness in Terra’s heart, he manipulates the Mark of Mastery Exam, causing Aqua to win and Terra to lose. Later on, when Eraqus’ attempts to contact Xehanort fail, he tasks Terra to contact him whilst visiting and protecting the Princess of Hearts-the Disney princesses in mainstream culture Aurora, Belle, Cinderella, etc. Meanwhile, Ventus is paid a visit by Xehanort’s apprentice Vanitas who informs Ventus Terra will change into a different person. Thus, hinting a dark fate for Terra. Terra sets off to prove himself, and after young Ventus chases after Terra, Aqua sets chase soon after.
The combat, story, and villains presented in this prequel were done admirably. The worlds, including interactions with Snow White, Cinderella, and Prince Phillip, amongst others, expanded on the worlds following the release of Kingdom Hearts II. This showed fans what the creators were capable of at the time, merely to further develop in Kingdom Hearts III.
4. Kingdom Hearts
The game that started it all, Kingdom Hearts, follows Sora’s introduction. Sora, a young boy growing up on Destiny Islands, quickly finds himself sucked into an unfamiliar world, quite literally. With the help of King Mickey’s Donald Duck and Goofy, the trio battle the heartless, searching each world they explore for Sora’s two friends, Riku and Kairi, that disappeared on the islands. As well as, Mickey himself, who had left his throne.
There’s plenty to explore in this action-packed story of light and darkness entwining itself with classic Disney villains and heroes. There are many side quests, like finding the 101 Dalmatians to return to Pongo and Perdita and finding trinity marks, small colored marks that present the trio with health and money balls. As well as, fighting secret bosses after completing world missions. Making the series’ original title memorable.
3. Kingdom Hearts III
Although the ending suggests otherwise, it’s likely fans will see another entry to the series following this latest release. Kingdom Hearts III was more than satisfactory after a 14-year anxious wait. The game brings all the previous entries full circle, leaving nothing untouched in character and plot. After Master Xehanort returns, Yen Sid, who trained Mickey in the magical arts, brings all keyblade wielders together to prepare battle against Xehanort and Organization XIII as he has resurrected them.
The third entry featured new worlds, although mediocre, and the combat system resembles Kingdom Hearts II, but doesn’t flow as well during combat. Still maintaining the family-friendly atmosphere, this entry is the darkest out of the series, as all previous games have worked up to this ultimate battle of good vs. evil. There was a satisfying element seeing characters who previously remained on the sidelines are now joining the battlefield.
2. Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days
Released on the Nintendo DS alone in 2009, 358/2 Days stands as one of the series’s unique titles and promotes one of the strongest stories. After being discovered by Organization XIII leader Xemnas, Roxas joins the organization, hoping to find purpose in his existence as all nobodies do. The game has Roxas wielding the keyblade as Sora’s counterpart battles the heartless, either alongside one other organization member or alone. His friendship with Axel, a member with the ability to manipulate fire, is explored further in this title after introducing his character in Kingdom Hearts II. Although the graphics don’t hold up as the other titles, the gameplay continues to be one of the best, and the story itself is riveting.
1. Kingdom Hearts II
The series’ second oncoming remains the best entry in the franchise with its combat system, story, and expansion of Disney worlds. Following the events of Kingdom Hearts or Re: Chain of Memories–whichever you choose to play–the familiar trio finds themselves on another mission to save the world from the heartless, this time presenting an unfamiliar foe—the nobodies. The nobodies are white, malleable beings that are the heartless’ counterparts. With fresh faces like Jack Sparrow, Mulan, and Simba along with familiar faces Aladdin, Ariel, Maleficent, Hades, and more, there’s so much to love about Square Enix’s finest creation in the series.
Featured Image: Kingdom Hearts
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