I Don't Know How Kingdom Hearts Works, And At This Stage, I'm Afraid To Ask
As a gaming journalist, there are certain things that are expected of you. You're supposed to at least be good at the video games you're covering (I'm not), to have some kind of industry pull (I don't), and have at least a vague idea of every big gaming franchise still moving.
There's a lot to keep up with, but we make do - especially as many of them are just as compelling as ever as we wade into the new generation of technological advances in the video game world. Everything is moving forward, and many classic series are moving to meet it. But there's one that I just don't get, no matter how hard I try. What the hell is going on in Kingdom Hearts?
What Actually Is Kingdom Hearts?
It's genuinely quite hard to discern what exactly Kingdom Hearts is from the outside. The series is famously a strange smoothie that blends to family-friendly worlds of Disney and the emo-boy edginess of Final Fantasy - telling the story of combatant Sora on his journey across… the multiverse?
To outsiders, it's pretty unclear, and it grows more and more so by the minute. Jumping into the series is like starting the MCU with Eternals - it just doesn't make any sense. With so much story to catch up on in terms of the series itself and the complicated lore of Final Fantasy, it grows less appealing to start Kingdom Hearts with every instalment.
The titles are tough to get into, making each new game follow on directly and never really offering a break in its narrative. Plus, even as it's intimidating on the front of being two wildly different pop culture entities blended together in a very weeb-y way, it becomes less and less easy to find a starting point. It's interesting, then, to see the franchise's prosperity.
I Can't Find My Way Into Kingdom Hearts
There's nothing inherently wrong with Kingdom Hearts in theory - in fact, it sounds like a brilliant idea. The idea of bringing these two worlds together is completely bizarre to such a degree that it absolutely should work - and to Square Enix's credit, it has. But even watching playthroughs of the series yields nothing that can actually stick in my mind, nor can reading up on the game's narrative actually provide any light on the story I just can't keep up with. Are we all pretending to know what's going on, or am I a completely lost cause?
Maybe it's just me. Maybe I'm simply failing to adjust to a story about thousands of worlds crashing into each other without fistfuls of previous instalments to make sense of it all, a la the MCU. I've been conditioned to think that everything is to be explained, and everything exists within the parameters of the human mind's capabilities. Sometimes Mickey Mouse fights Sephiroth, and I've done myself a disservice by trying to explain it to myself. Perhaps it's time to embrace the chaos - and embrace that I'll never truly get it.
Kingdom Hearts Is An Enigma I'll Never Crack
With Kingdom Hearts being so difficult to understand without working through the whole franchise, the baffling titling choices muddying the series' chronology, and with so many explored worlds that we've now breached the real world with the trailer for Kingdom Hearts 4, maybe it's time to reconcile with the fact that I just won't ever understand.
The continued success of the franchise relies at least a little bit on the nostalgia carried by having played the first games on the original PlayStation, and an inherent love of the JRPG x Disney chaos that the series has come to embody. For all that I love about both of those things, Kingdom Hearts may have to go on without me. And for those of you who have been able to follow it all - I'm sincerely jealous of you. Have fun.