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Kingdom Hearts (キングダムハーツ, Kingudamu Hātsu) is a series of action role-playing games (RPG) developed and published by Square Enix. It is the result of a collaboration between Square and Disney Interactive Studios and is under the direction of Tetsuya Nomura, a longtime Square character designer. Kingdom Hearts is a crossover of various Disney settings based in a universe made specifically for the series. In addition, it has an all-star voice cast which includes many of the Disney characters' official voice actors. Characters from Square Enix's Final Fantasy series make appearances and interact with the player and Disney characters. The series centers around the main character, Sora's, search for his friends and his encounters with Disney and Final Fantasy characters on their worlds.
The Kingdom Hearts series currently consists of six games across different video game platforms, with three remakes, and three spin-off games. Future titles are planned. Most of the games in the series have been both critically acclaimed and commercially successful, though each installment has seen varying levels of success. As of December 2006, the Kingdom Hearts series has shipped over ten million copies worldwide, with 2.0 million copies in PAL regions, 3.0 million copies in Japan, and 5.6 million copies in North America. There have been several types of merchandise released along with the games, such as soundtracks, figurines, and companion books. In addition, the games have also been adapted into a manga series and novels. In the U.S., the manga stopped production after Kingdom Hearts II Vol. 2 because of company issues. Japan has already moved onto Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days manga and the novels of all the games are only available there.
- Further information: Characters of Kingdom Hearts
Kingdom Hearts features a mixture of familiar Disney and Final Fantasy characters, as well as several new characters designed and created by Nomura. Though the series features locations unique to the Kingdom Hearts franchise, worlds from Disney films are heavily explored. Sora must visit these worlds and interact with popular Disney characters to protect them from enemies. Often, Sora's actions in these worlds follow closely to the storylines featured in their accompanying Disney films. In one of the dialogues, Donald Duck tells Sora not to interfere with the worlds too much, since such interference would cause problems. Moogles, small creatures from the Final Fantasy series, are another common element in the games. They provide the player with synthesis shops in order to create items for use in the game.
Creation and Influence
The Kingdom Hearts series is directed by Tetsuya Nomura, who also works as the character designer of the games. Nomura has stated that unlike working with Final Fantasy characters, keeping the main character Sora alive and interesting over multiple games is a challenge. He has also stated that though many of the Disney characters are not normally dark and serious, there were not many challenges making them so for the story, and despite this, their personalities shine because they maintain their own characteristics. Though Disney gave Nomura freedom in the characters and worlds used for the games, he and his staff tried to stay within the established roles of characters and boundaries of the worlds. When deciding which worlds to include in the game, the development staff tried to take into account worlds with Disney characters that would be interesting.
The inclusion of specific Final Fantasy characters was based on the opinions of fans and the development staff. Another criteria for inclusion was whether the staff felt the characters would fit into the storyline and in the Kingdom Hearts universe. Initially, Nomura was hesitant to use characters he did not design, because he was unfamiliar with the background work of such characters. For Kingdom Hearts II, he changed his mind after receiving pressure from his staff. Throughout the development of the games, Nomura has often left certain events and connections between characters unexplained until the release of future games. Nomura did this because he feels that games should have room for fans to speculate and use their imagination. He stated that with speculation, even though a game gets old, people can still be happy with it.
The Kingdom Hearts series contains both 3rd-person fighting and role-playing game elements. The games are driven by a linear progression to the next story event, usually told in the form of a cutscene, though there are numerous side quests available that provide bonus benefits to the characters. Furthermore, there are allies to aid the main character, Sora. The allies in play rely fully on A.I. controls, though players could later modify and customize their ability usage frequency. The combat system takes on real-time, meaning Sora could engage the enemy directly; various actions, such as attack and magic, are executable, during or after the battle.
In Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories and Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories the combat system was altered as Sora is no longer aided by his friends, and all of his combat commands are only executable via Cards. The real-time combat system was also taken away, where the scene flashes whenever Sora engages an enemy, taking them to a wider combat field. This changed as the only successful way to attack was to have cards of a higher value as well as abilities taken out for Sleights instead.
The Gummi Ship is another common theme in the series, where it serves as a means of transportation for Sora and company to travel towards other worlds. Players can modify and customize these ships via blueprints and selected parts. In the release of Kingdom Hearts Final Mix, the first game contained Gummi Ship side quests. However, due to the criticism regarding the complexity of the Gummi Ship customization, the third game's Gummi Ship was toned down, providing easier and wider modifications, allowing players to customize it into either a small classed battle ship, or a grand carrier.
Another recurring element of the Kingdom Hearts series is Jiminy's Journal, which functions as a bestiary and provides hints and simple character information. The journal also records Sora's mini-game results, as well as unfinished side quests, allowing players to have easier resolutions to track the game.
In Kingdom Hearts II, the battle system introduced a new gameplay element: Drive Forms, which allow Sora to gain access to new abilities via his combat garment, and wielding two Keyblades for a limited time (however, not every form possess this ability). Magic is simpler to execute, and Sora's MP gauge will recharge automatically once it is used up. Another gameplay element introduced is the Reaction Command, various actions only executable in several specific situations. These actions vary from talking to a character to performing combat abilities in battle.
Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep introduced several new features to the series, such as Deck Commands, which allow you to use several unique attacks as well as items and magic, and the Dimension Link, which gives you access to several deck commands otherwise unavailable to the player. There is also the Shot Lock, which allows you to attack a multitude of enemies with many attacks, and the Focus Gauge, which is what allows you to use the Shot Lock feature. It also introduces Command Styles where the player gains the use of a different and more powerful combo. By filling up the command gauge with either attacks or deck commands, the player will be able to execute a powerful finish command. Which command you use is different depending on if the player is using a D-link or a command style.
The games are influenced by their parent franchise, Final Fantasy, and carry its gameplay elements over into their own action-based, hack-and-slash system. Like many traditional role-playing games, Kingdom Hearts features an experience point system which determines character development. As enemies are defeated, the player gains experience which culminate in a "level-up", where the characters grow stronger and gain access to new abilities. The amount of experience is shared with all party members and each character grows stronger as experience is gained.
Another recurring feature is the World music; all worlds have at least one normal field song and most have at least one battle theme.
The three main games in the Kingdom Hearts series focus on the adventures of Sora and his friends, Kairi and Riku. The first game shows how Sora is separated from his friends when their world, Destiny Islands, is invaded by creatures known as the Heartless. During the invasion, Sora obtains a weapon to be able to fight off the Heartless, known as the Keyblade. Soon after finding himself in Traverse Town, Sora meets Donald Duck and Goofy, two emissaries from Disney Castle searching for the "key" per instructions from King Mickey. The three band together and travel to different Disney-themed worlds, sealing the Keyholes to the hearts of the worlds to prevent more Heartless invasions. Along the way, they encounter a group of Disney villains, led by Maleficent, who is controlling the Heartless. Though they eventually defeat Maleficent, the three discover that a man named Ansem is the true antagonist. Ansem's plan is to open the door to "Kingdom Hearts", a door which holds the hearts of all worlds, in the hopes of attaining eternal darkness. Sora, Donald, and Goofy defeat Ansem, and seal the door with the help of Riku and King Mickey on the other side of the door.
After sealing the door to Kingdom Hearts, Sora, Donald, and Goofy begin searching for Riku and King Mickey, finding themselves heading towards a mysterious fortress called Castle Oblivion. Upon entering the fortress, they begin to lose their memories. The three encounter a group of dark hooded villains, part of a mysterious Organization. In the castle, Sora learns his memories have been manipulated by a girl named Naminé who was being held captive by the Organization.
To allow them to regain their memories, Naminé puts Sora, Donald, and Goofy to sleep for a year; in the process, they must lose the memories of their experience in Castle Oblivion. At the same time, Riku finds himself in the basement of the castle and begins traveling to the first floor with the aid of King Mickey. Riku fights both the Organization's members and the darkness in his heart, learning to accept his dual nature between light and dark. Allying himself with the mysterious DiZ, Riku aids him in keeping Sora and Naminé until the former is awaken. However a snag in the plan over the year forces Riku to go after a young man named Roxas, the thirteenth member of the Organization to enable Sora's reawakening.
Seven days after Riku's success, Sora, Donald, and Goofy awaken in Twilight Town, with no memory of their time at Castle Oblivion, and resume their search for Riku and King Mickey. They learn of the Nobodies and are re-familiarized with their leaders, Organization XIII. Afterwards, Maleficent is resurrected and joins with Pete, another Disney villain, to find a new base of operations before resuming her quest for power and revenge on Sora. Sora once again travels to many Disney-themed worlds and resolves the troubles caused by not just Maleficent and Pete, but also Organization XIII whose members refer to him as Roxas. Meanwhile, Kairi is kidnapped by the Organization. They meet King Mickey, who reveals that the Ansem Sora defeated was actually the Heartless of Xehanort, a student of the real Ansem the Wise.
Xemnas, the leader of Organization XIII, reveals himself to be the Nobody of Xehanort. The three arrive at the headquarters of Organization XIII, with their own Kingdom Hearts looming overhead, crafted from all the Heartless Sora has defeated, with Sora defeating all the Organization members as he is finally reunited with Kairi and Riku, who reveals Roxas as Sora's Nobody whom he captured by willingly assuming Xehanort's form so Roxas would be integrated back into Sora. While this occurred, Mickey finds DiZ, revealed as Ansem the Wise, with a device to digitize some of Kingdom Hearts' power; as the others arrive, a system overload causes the machine to explode with Ansem consumed in the blast sending him to the Realm of Darkness, with Riku restored to his original state. At the top of the castle, Sora and his friends battle Xemnas, who uses the remnants of Kingdom Hearts to fight them. Refusing to accept defeat, Xemnas separates Sora and Riku from the others to fight them in a final battle that ends with his demise. Though trapped on the other side, Sora and Riku are able to return to their world, via the Door to Light, which was mysteriously triggered from Sora's heart.
Back in the Realm of Darkness, Ansem the Wise encounters Aqua as they now wait. Sometime later, Sora, Riku and Kairi receive a message from King Mickey, the contents of which detail his findings in Kingdom Hearts coded: Sora is destined as the "Key that connects everything" to save Terra, Aqua, and Ventus, as well as Roxas, Axel, Xion, and Naminé. Sora prepares to set out on a journey to find and rescue them.
Sometime afterwards, Mickey talks to Yen Sid about the location of Ventus' heart. Yen Sid also reveals to Mickey that, since Ansem and Xemnas have been destroyed, Master Xehanort will be revived. He then instructs Mickey to bring both Sora and Riku to him in order to undertake the Mark of Mastery exam and become full-fledged Keyblade Masters in order to properly combat Master Xehanort.
The Kingdom Hearts franchise also keeps most content "Child Friendly". This includes leaving out curse words and revealing female outfits as well as sexual references. Though these are common throughout the Final Fantasy series, the series prides on Disney's classic values.
There are only four instances where these rules are broken. In Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories Axel briefly mentions the word 'Hell', and in the beginning he cries out 'Damn'. Two more times in Kingdom Hearts II, one instance has a brief suggestive content moment when Sora says "You two play nice" in the Land of Dragons much to the embarrassment of Mulan. The main controversy that caused Kingdom Hearts II's rating to go from E to E10+ was in Port Royal, as this world contains brief scenes of blood as well as a moment where Barbossa drinks alcohol. Though there are some instances of mild censorship breaks, overall the Kingdom Hearts series stays a child-friendly game.
The series is mostly in sequential order. The first game in the timeline is Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep, which tells the story of three Keyblade wielders (Terra, Ventus, and Aqua) after the Keyblade War. Ten years later is where the first Kingdom Hearts picks up, revolving around the first adventure of Sora. Next are Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories and Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days which take place around the same time as each other. Kingdom Hearts II follows Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories & Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days, and takes place one year after Kingdom Hearts though it is more so a sequel to Kingdom Hearts rather than the Gameboy Advance game. Kingdom Hearts coded takes place briefly after Kingdom Hearts II but before the latter's final ending, seen after the end credits. Following Kingdom Hearts coded will be Kingdom Hearts 3D, and the game's ending will fairly lead directly into Kingdom Hearts III. 
This is the chronological order of the games released within the series:
- Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep (begun)
- Kingdom Hearts (begun)
- Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days (begun)
- Kingdom Hearts (ended)
- Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories
- Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days (ended)
- Kingdom Hearts II (begun)
- Kingdom Hearts coded
- Kingdom Hearts II (ended)
- Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep (ended)
Final Mixes and Remakes
Two games in the series have been re-released with bonus content, and two games were remade completely.
- Kingdom Hearts Final Mix (Japanese release only)
- Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix (Japanese release only)
- Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories remake of Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories (Japanese and US releases)
- Kingdom Hearts Re:coded 3D remake of Kingdom Hearts coded (Japanese, US and European releases)
- Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep Final Mix (Japanese release only)
- Kingdom Hearts 3D (currently unknown areas of release)
- The number thirteen is a recurring number throughout the series:
- It is primarily associated with Organization XIII (and by extension, Mushroom XIII, Finest Fantasy 13, the thirteen floors of Castle Oblivion).
- Riku's Limit "Session" includes an ability named "XIII Blades".
- There are thirteen letters in "Kingdom Hearts".
- The ability that Sora uses in the first Kingdom Hearts, "Ars Arcanum", consists of thirteen attacks if you select the follow-up attack.
- In Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep, not counting the additional matches in the Final Mix version, the Mirage Arena has thirteen matches.
- The Ultima Weapon in Kingdom Hearts II requires 13 Orichalcum+ for item synthesis.
- The sum of all the letters in the names Sora, Riku, and Kairi is thirteen.
- The same is true for Roxas, Sora, and Xion, and Roxas, Axel and Xion.
- In the opening movie of Kingdom Hearts the letter "M" in the word "Kingdom" surges towards the screen distinctly, with "M" being the 13th letter in the alphabet.
- In each major installment of the series, the final world is the thirteenth: in Kingdom Hearts, End of the World is the 13th world to be seen (counting Disney Castle); in Kingdom Hearts II, The World That Never Was is the 13th world; and in Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, it is the Keyblade Graveyard (counting Destiny Islands).
|Kingdom Hearts • Chain of Memories • Kingdom Hearts II • coded • 358/2 Days • Birth by Sleep • 3D: Dream Drop Distance • χ [chi] • Union χ • 0.2 Birth by Sleep • Back Cover • Kingdom Hearts III|
|Remakes and Remasters|
|Re:Chain of Memories • Re:coded • Unchained χ • Dream Drop Distance HD|
|Trinity Master Pieces • II Final Mix+ • HD 1.5 ReMix • HD 2.5 ReMix • HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue • 1.5 + 2.5 ReMIX • The Story So Far|
|Final Mix • II Final Mix • Birth by Sleep Final Mix|
|Non Canon Titles|
|V CAST • Mobile • Magical Puzzle Clash • Gummiship Studio|
|Characters | Heartless | Nobodies | Unversed | Dream Eaters | Replicas | Heart | Soul | Body | Memory | Keyhole | Gate | Keyblade | Light | Darkness|
|Mark of Mastery | Book of Prophecies | χ-blade | Foreteller|
|HP | AP | Munny | Magic | Heart Points | Save Point | Gummi Ship | Cards | Medal | Level | Flowmotion | Jiminy's Journal | Point of No Return|