Hello all! Last week, I wrote about a classic adventure title that still holds up-if you like somewhat odd puzzles and great stories. And who doesn’t like great stories?

This week, we’re going a little more mainstream here, to a game I didn’t really appreciate upon its (first) release.

Kingdom Hearts came out in 2002, and holy crap, I was still in high school back then. I’m sure we all know what this one’s about; basically, it’s a giant crossover between Squaresoft (now Square Enix) and Disney. Final Fantasy meets all your favorite Disney heroes and villains.

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In the case of this first game in the series, you play as Sora, a boy who wants to explore the world past the island he lives on with his friends Riku and Kairi live. Naturally, things go awry when the Heartless (the game’s main enemy, more or less) invade the island and wreak all sorts of havoc. Sora wakes up in Traverse Town, where you meet Donald Duck and Goofy, and your party is set. Turns out Mickey Mouse (the king of the Disney universe, natch) is missing, as is Riku and Kairi, and so you all set out traveling through various Disney worlds, closing Keyholes with your Keyblade.

I could go on all damn day about the story in Kingdom Hearts because it’s...pretty dense. There’s a lot going on, and this game sets the stage for even more complex goings-on in future installments.

But the main attraction here is the Square/Disney shared universe the game creates. Does it really work out? Well, yeah...generally.

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I’ll be honest. When Kingdom Hearts first came out thirteen years ago (again, holy crap), I didn’t think much of it. I didn’t really think this kind of crossover could work. I mean, serious, angst-y Square merged with, well, Disney? It’s something that shouldn’t work. At all. I mean, who even thinks of that? It’s almost random.

So, yeah, to me, it sounded dumb.

Even when I got a copy a couple years after it came out, I wasn’t really into it. Didn’t seem like it was really “my thing,” y’know? Looking back, I can’t quite figure out why I felt that way. Why I couldn’t enjoy something that so many of my friends were into.

A big part of it, I think, was the person I was back then. I think I felt, basically, that Kingdom Hearts was “childish;” that I, being an angry and obnoxious high-school student, shouldn’t be playing Disney stuff. I’d outgrown it, apparently. Or at least, that’s what I told myself.

I’d basically decided, more or less subconsciously, that I was “supposed” to play more “mature” games. That meant shooters, or stuff with zombies, or whatever. What the grown-ups were playing. Well, what the people who called themselves “adults” were playing. “Oh, you need to play Call of Duty or Resident Evil or Shoot Generic Dudes 8 or whatever.”

I didn’t really argue with this sentiment, back then. I was mostly depressed-like, 90% of the time-and at the time, I didn’t really know how to deal with those moods. I just let them happen. And that bled into my gaming habits as well; I didn’t want to deal with emotional experiences and what not. Really awesome, shallow experiences were the norm for me, Legend of Zelda aside (but how many of those come out in a year?) I covered my transition from this feeling here. But I still didn’t feel like playing a “happy” game (bear in mind, again, I was ignorant of Kingdom Hearts), because it really wasn’t how I felt. Does that make sense to you?

Now, this isn’t a story about how Kingdom Hearts saved me or anything. As I said, I didn’t care for it back then.

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But I really wish I had played it all those years ago. See...I didn’t really play through Kingdom Hearts all the way until recently, when I picked up Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMix. That only came out less than two years ago. That was the first time I really dove into the game. Might be hard to believe if you’ve been reading this article series for a long time-that, for all the different games I’ve written about, I haven’t played Kingdom Hearts until 2013.

I say I wish I’d played it back in the day, because I absolutely love it. Like I said up there, the story works. It shouldn’t. But it works really well, save for the occasional jarring feeling you get when the game goes from serious to funny to serious. Still, it’s a fantastic story, thanks to a unique combination of great character development and classic Disney nostalgia. Basically, there’s something here for Disney and Square Enix fans.

I think what I really love about the game is the...optimism of it all. The game is bright, colorful, funny, and brimming with Disney charm, sure. But most of this optimistic feel is due to Sora, who’s easily one of the most upbeat, cheerful characters ever. A far cry from Square’s usual brooding protagonists, Sora just never loses hope, no matter what. Frankly, it’s the way I wish I felt all the time.

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I think it’s pretty amazing how time can change how you feel about something-be it a game, a movie, anything. I still feel sorry that I missed Kingdom Hearts when it came out...but I’m happy I didn’t miss it entirely. I’m glad I (eventually) became more open-minded. Because missing out on this game...well, that would suck, right?

Anyway, play Kingdom Hearts! I’m currently playing through the 2nd HD ReMix, and it’s all new to me!

Thanks for reading my stuff! As always, leave comments, suggest future games to be featured as Game of the Week, and find me on Twitter! Also, catch up with my (currently on hiatus) other article series here!

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Next week, let’s look at a classic JRPG that isn’t Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, Chrono Trigger...happy guessing!