In anticipation for Kingdom Hearts: 3DS, I thought that I would lament for a moment about how much I really want to play this game as well as how much I think it will be awesome. If you are new to the Kingdom Hearts franchise, it is worth picking up and playing.
Not only is it an action RPG, it is a game with a highly evolved story and rich character development. If you are unfamiliar with the story of the game, Sora, a small boy from a place called Destiny Island, is hurtled into a world of magic, adventure, and intrigue as he races to save his friends, Riku and Kairi. Using new allies, Donald Duck and Goofy, Sora traverses the universe and stops the forces of evil aptly named The Heartless.
That is more or less a quick synopsis of Kingdom Hearts I which was the first story released but is however not the first story in the timeline. That is what I love about Kingdom Hearts. The story and how it is told is very interesting and is told in a way that keeps you guessing within the game as well as from game to game. The second game was released a few years after KHI and was another big success. The early story of KHII focuses of a boy by the name of Roxas. Through well crafted story, you meet Roxas and begin to develop a sense of ownership to that character only to have him ripped away from you and replaced with Sora. Later in the game, you discover that no one remembers who Sora is. This is mainly because, spoiler alert, the existence of Roxas destroys the existence of Sora. The two cannot coexist and this is primarily because Roxas is Sora’s nobody. Nobodies are what is left behind when a person becomes a heartless.
During the course of the story, you quickly begin to realize this fact and begin to put it all together… that is until Square begins to release sequels and prequels for the hand held systems. That is when the whole story gets blown wide open and you begin to wonder what exactly is going on. It also immerses you into the vast mysteries that crop up during gameplay.
The story begins with the prequel, Birth by Sleep. This story follows the original keyblade wielders, Terra, Aqua, and Ventus. The three of them travel the universe to unravel a mystery and eventually succumb to the villain of the franchise, Xehanort. With Birth by Sleep, you learn why Sora and his pals are able to use the keyblade as well as many other cool secrets. You learn that Roxas is really a form of Ventus and, you learn that all of the villains come from the same source. It turns the whole world upside down and gives the story new depth. You also learn where Xehanort stole his new body from and where Castle Oblivion came from.
Birth by Sleep came out way after the first and gives us perspective. Several games were released to bridge gaps between several of the games. The first game to be released was called Chain of Memories. This was an interactive card game that was meant to buffer KHII and, it did for the most part. It provided a context for how Sora was taken out of existence and how Roxas was born put of Sora’s heart, which was inhabited by the spirit of Roxas. The story also introduced characters such as Namine and Diz. The game also introduces us to Organization XIII, the villains of KHII. The game itself was very flawed in terms of gameplay and design but kept with the quality of story telling present in the others.
The next game in the franchise is 358/2. This game follows Roxas’ journey in the Organization and details how he came to leave them. The game was much improved but still felt stiff and rigid. It was mission based and often repetitive.
358/2 was released after KHII but detailed events prior to KHII which made me go back and replay it immediately. Good plan Square. It filled in a few gaps from II and made me see the see the story differently.
The next game in the lineup is Coded. This game follows KHII sequentially and yet again changes the way we look at the story. The game was fun and did a lot to add to the story. In Coded we get closure on Namine and get a glimpse at what is to come. What’s to come? Dream Drop Distance.
Dream Drop Distance is a direct sequel to Coded and is the last game to bridge the gap between KHII and KHIII. This game will feature Riku and Sora becoming keyblade masters so that they may be able to defeat Master Xehanort when he finally returns from wherever he has ended up. There are a lot of things that I like already about KH: 3DS such as the battle system. It will be borrowing the same engine from Birth by Sleep in that it is a command deck system that allows you to attack and mix it up with all kinds of special abilities.
In addition to this, you will play as both characters as you unlock more and more worlds. The worlds that are said to be featured are far and wide. Some will be returning worlds such as Traverse Town and Radiant Garden whereas some will be entirely new worlds. The new worlds are said to be worlds that are asleep. My only guess is that part of the overall quest will be to wake them up. I do not know if this has anything to do with waking Ventus up or better yet, finding a way to free Aqua or Terra. I have a lot of questions coming into Dream Drop Distance and I hope that it answers a few of them. I hope that it explains why Aqua has been stuck in the dark realm for so long. I hope it also provides us with a look at the new and improved Xehanort or Ansem or Xemnas… depending on which name he chooses this time, we’ve seen all three.
The biggest question I have is whether or not Sora will remain a keyblade wielder with Ventus gone from him. I don’t know yet if they will wake him up at the end of 3DS or if they plan to hint at it or show it in a bonus cutscene. Who knows? What I do know is that when it finally does come out in the US, you can bet I’ll be playing it. 3DS is due out at the end of this month in Japan and late third quarter in the US.