There are two laws of gaming that I seem to always adhere to. Rule 1: No matter how much I enjoy playing a video game, I will only play to 95% completion, then completely abandon the game for months because I don’t want it to end. I still have not finished Final Fantasy X despite being right at the end of it, and try as I might, I just can’t seem to finish the Golden Deer play through of Fire Emblem Three Houses. Rule 2: No matter how excited I am to buy a game, it will always collect dust on the shelf for months before I actually get around to start playing it.
I grew up playing Kingdom Hearts I, so I was very excited to learn that Square Enix had released a compilation set called Kingdom Hearts – The Story So Far that contained (almost) every title in the series up until its release in 2018. I was even more excited to find it for $20 at the local used game store a few years ago. I remember quickly playing through the majority of the first title, fully enjoying all the nostalgia of revisiting a game from my childhood. Then Rule 1 of Michelle’s Gaming Tendencies kicked in, and I didn’t touch the game again for over a year. After much goading from my husband, I finally finished the first title early last year…and then waited about 10 months to load the next one.
The recommended game to play second in the series is Re: Chain of Memories. I don’t think I waited a long enough amount of time after playing the first title. The first third of this one was an utter slog. I strongly disliked revisiting the same worlds as Kingdom Hearts I just to replay a watered-down version of those plots. I remember asking my brothers over Christmas if they ever played Re: Chain of Memories (of course they both had), and if they actually liked it (which they did). At their encouragement, I pressed on and eventually started to enjoy it. After the plot shifted from “remember what we did last time” to “what is actually going on in Castle Oblivion,” I started picking up some steam and actually wanted to see what happened next. I think Re: Chain of Memories is the first title I fully completed in a reasonable time frame that wasn’t for a GiN review.
After completing Re: Chain of Memories, I immediately started Reverse/Rebirth and hated it. I really wanted to like it. My younger brother said he enjoyed it better than Chain of Memories, mostly because he didn’t have to worry about the deck building mechanic. Honestly, the deck building mechanic was the only thing that had got me through Chain of Memories. After I realized it was a deck building game, I had breezed right through using sleight after sleight. That was great. But Reverse/Rebirth hamstrung my ability to effectively combat enemies. The plot from Riku’s perspective was nice at first, but the worlds quickly became hollow imitations of Chain of Memories. Half the map cards were useless given the change in game mechanic, and there was no incentive to explore the levels. Combat can be mind-numbingly repetitive without the spice of deck building to liven things up. Also, I had to be missing something, because every time I tried to utilize the card break mechanic, the second card was always a nine, and I had nothing in my deck to break it. I’m tempted to go back and lower the difficulty setting just to breeze through the game to get to the cut scenes, but I had to step away before I went insane.
Next, I tried to play 358/2 Days. From day 1, I knew that this lovely compilation set was missing 2 titles, but I think I chose to live in ignorant bliss. Given my foreknowledge of this fact, I was way too salty to find out that 358/2 Days was just a 3 hour movie. After 20 minutes, I moved on to Kingdom Hearts II. Luckily, our local used game store happened to have a copy of 358/2 Days and Re: Coded, the other cut scene only title in the box set, available. After facing the harsh reality that playing the original DS games were the only way I was going to be able to enjoy these titles, I quickly rushed over to snag them both. I was able to get both for $55 in trade credit, which is about ¼ of the going price for both of them new through Amazon. It seems the only way to get these games for a decent price is through the online used game market, and I’ve been way too nervous to buy them from eBay or the used section of Amazon. I’ve read the excuses for why Square Enix didn’t include the actual titles in the box set, but I’m not buying it. Re: Chain of Memories was remastered from a DS game, so why not these two titles? Also, in this golden age of porting old games to the Nintendo Switch, I don’t see why they haven’t ever done that yet. Thank you for coming to my TED talk.
Anyway, back to the actual games themselves. I’m currently going back and forth between playing Kingdom Hearts II on the PlayStation and 358/2 Days on my 3DS. I don’t know if I’ve just hit the end of my hyper-fixation period for Kingdom Hearts, or if I really would rather crotchet than play video games at all, but my desire to play the series is flickering right now at best. Kingdom Hearts has been a series that people either love or hate, and I strangely find myself on the fence. I think a lot of people who enjoy playing Kingdom Hearts do so because of the Disney nostalgia. I, on the other hand, usually can’t wait to get through the Disney movie subplot and get back to what’s really going on. The gameplay itself in Kingdom Hearts II is mediocre at best. For some reason the button mashing combat just doesn’t hit the same as it did for Kingdom Hearts I. Maybe I did only like playing the first one because of the nostalgia factor, but now that I’m past that I find myself becoming disinterested. After getting the hang of the strange card mechanic in Chain of Memories, I’m finding the combat in Kingdom Hearts II and 358/2 Days lackluster.
I will say that my experience this time around is a lot better than playing Kingdom Hearts I and II as a kid. Going straight from Kingdom Hearts I to II is a trip, that’s for sure. I remember reading reviews saying that playing the side stories wasn’t essential, and that you’d be completely fine just playing the main titles. I could not disagree more. Playing Kingdom Hearts II this time around, I actually feel like I have some semblance of what’s going on. Am I still confused as all get out? Yes, but nowhere near as much as the first time around. After playing Re: Chain of Memories, I feel like I was at least able to offer a semi-coherent explanation to my husband about what was going on in Kingdom Hearts II. He still thinks it’s crazy, but I’m just happy to be actually tracking this rodeo of a story.
It seems that the main driving factor for me to continue playing games in the Kingdom Hearts series is to learn more about the overarching plot with Organization XIII. Despite the plot for Kingdom Hearts being known as one of the most convoluted and nonsensical plots in video game history, I’m hooked for some reason. To be honest, it’s probably because everyone says it doesn’t make sense, and I take that as some sort of personal challenge. Either way, I am excited to play Kingdom Hearts III and IV, whenever it actually is released. I’ll continue to update you on my thoughts going through the rest of the series.
Let me know in the comments what your favorite Kingdom Hearts game is, or if you never could get into the series. Until the next time, stay cool, be you. Bye!