It’s pretty cool to see Kingdom Hearts 4 announced and confirmed. In my opinion, between its second and third entries, the KH series has spent far too much time meandering through spin-off adventures of varying importance and quality – knowing that the next numbered game is in development and so far away horizon is great news for both series fans and KH-curious people who might not want to start with a side story.
Sure, KH4 may be a long way off, but it’s exciting. Not just because it’s not a spin-off — but because it’s a fresh start for the series. All games leading up to this point have been part of the Dark Seeker Arc, a massive story that comes to a head in KH3. Much of that arc ends in this game, and so KH4 is an opportunity to get a relatively clean break. This is even reflected in the logo, which breaks with multiple style traditions in every KH series logo to date.
This opportunity to break free from some of the existing stories is crucial. But to be honest, I’m concerned that even if Tetsuya Nomura and the KH4 development team pull through, they might miss an even bigger, more important opportunity to film and re-direct this series.
Here’s what I mean and how I see it. The original Kingdom Hearts was a wild, wacky crossover between the worlds of Disney and game design from Square’s classic JRPG playbook. Final Fantasy characters appeared in KH almost to legitimize it as a Japanese RPG – but it was a Disney game first and foremost. It had its own lore – the story of Sora, Riku, and Kairi – but it was a relatively loose story that really existed as a framework to justify world-hopping between Disney universes and experiencing recreations of classic scenes from movies.
As Kingdom Hearts grew in popularity, the paradigm began to shift. It’s silly to quantify something so qualitative, but let’s try anyway: if the first KH was 70% Disney and 30% Original in terms of focus, KH2 has probably made that ratio 50/50. KH3 and some spin-offs push hard in the other direction, the reverse of the original game – the majority focusing on the original storylines and characters, with the Disney stuff relegated and taking a backseat.
It’s not that KH3 has less actual Disney content or characters, but it’s about how that content is delivered. When you visit the world of Toy Story, you devote more time to stuff about ‘Verum Rex’, a creation of the KH universe, and similar franchise story developments than to cool nostalgic times hanging out with Buzz and Woody. At one point, the Kingdom Hearts narrative was a means to an end – the goals being cool RPG mini-adventures set in Disney worlds, strung together by some likable original characters. With KH3, the original “epic” story was the ending, and the journey through the Disney worlds was just the means, just a vehicle, to tell that story.
If you think the Kingdom Hearts story is a masterpiece or a muddled mess, that’s irrelevant; the point is, it’s become the focus. For some folks who are knee-deep in this mind-blowing lore, this could be great. For me… not so much.
I really don’t know. I love Japanese RPGs and find that cute games of this genre with hearts on their sleeves are quite expensive. As do titles that take you on a terrified journey exploring light and darkness. What drew me to Kingdom Hearts at the time was the Disney aspect; something that I believe has receded significantly as the series has progressed.
What I really want is for Kingdom Hearts 4 to feel more like the first game, with a less heavy main story, so the focus can shift back to a fun rollercoaster ride through a series of exciting Disney worlds. That’s still the thrill for me; Even more so given all the exciting IP Disney owns now that it didn’t then. I would love to see Sora fight Darth Vader or ally with the Avengers. Who wouldn’t? But that love will quickly fade when most of the time is spent listening to Tony Stark talk about the power of awakening and Luke Skywalker asking questions about the Keyblade War. Basically, I long for a simpler time. As an arc reset, KH4 has the ability to give us that.
But I don’t really think it will. I think the overwhelming likelihood is that Tetsuya Nomura and the other creative leads of the KH series are interested in starting a new epic arc that will be as involved as KH3 from the start. A lengthy announcement trailer that only gave very brief glimpses of what Disney really feels is setting the tone.
Fans are already posting parts of this trailer with interesting results. Many are sure they got their first glimpse of Star Warts in KH – what could be the base of an AT-ST in a wooded area that could very well be the moon of Endor. That’s exciting if it’s true – but how much I really enjoy that depends on how that level is presented and whether it’s allowed to shine and be the star of its section of the game. To really do that takes a tonal shift and a willingness to focus a little less on KH’s lore. I’m not convinced that’s going to happen, although I really hope that I’ll be proven otherwise.
https://www.vg247.com/kingdom-hearts-4-disney-lore To hit a streak high, Kingdom Hearts 4 only has to do one thing – but I’m afraid it won’t