Kingdom Hearts Part 1
This time my daughter, Mae, and I tackle the largest game we have yet to face together. I want to include all of our reactions from start to finish, so I have decided to break this one into two parts. At the time of writing this piece we are about thirteen hours into Kingdom Hearts and I feel like we have only scratched the surface of all there is to see and collect. As anyone who knows me or who has been following this series may know, I have a short attention span. I love gaming with my daughter, but with our busy schedule, I find it hard to justify playing anything for an extended period unless it truly blows us away. Kingdom Hearts is an unusual game and I think that is part of what makes it so great. The decision to combine characters from the Final Fantasy series with Disney classics sounds like something that was dreamed up over a few too many late night bottles of sake, but was actually was considered by the top brass over at Square. They thought the only way to dethrone Mario as the king of 3D action platformers was with by teaming up with other well known IPs like Disney. After a chance run in with Disney execs in an elevator, Square pitched directly to the Mouse himself and thus Kingdom Hearts was born.
Kingdom Hearts has been at the top of my list of games to play with Mae since even before Raising a Gamer was a twinkle in my eye. This game has provided me with countless hours of fun when I was younger and I still enjoy the games immensely to this day. As with all Square-Enix games, this is polished. Not one detail is overlooked, the voice acting is well scripted and delivered with cinema-like quality. The combat in Kingdom Hearts is a near perfect evolution of the hack and slash formula with simple, yet intricate RPG elements thrown in for good measure. But enough of how awesome I think this game is, what about Mae? How does Kingdom Hearts stack up in the eyes of a 4 year old?
No big surprises here, she loves it. From the moment we saw the stained glass floors of Disney princesses in the opening tutorial, Mae was intrigued. While she didn’t have a controller in her hands, Mae still wanted to participate and told me which attribute to choose (Defense) and which to give up (Magic). The lighthearted music and fun scavenger hunt in the Destiny Islands was a great way to have Mae participate. I would run around the island and she would point out mushrooms or logs to collect. Once enough items for a raft are collected the story starts to progress and Mae’s jaw properly hit the floor. Cut scenes with Donald Duck and Goofy searching for King Mickey Mouse??
Although Kingdom Hearts has an amazing voice cast, not all cut scenes include voice over and thus a lot of reading is required. Mae seemed too involved in the story to skip over the text only scenes, so we made a little game out of it. She would try to read the sentences to the best of her ability, and I would fill in the gaps.
At first glance Mae thought our next world, Traverse Town, seemed a little boring. Truthfully, with all of the awesome Final Fantasy cameos, it did seem like something that would appeal to me more than it would to Mae. But the more we explored the city, the more Mae enjoyed it, especially when we found The 101 Dalmatians house and Merlin’s Study. Within Merlin’s Study lies probably the best thing so far, the One Hundred Acre Wood story book with everyone’s favorite poorly named bear. We haven’t found many pages but I can tell that Mae will want to revisit the Study to check out this book again and again.
Next to the Tarzan and Alice and Wonderland themed worlds. These were good fun but sort of minor on our list of must see Disney destinations in Kingdom Hearts. The Coliseum really appealed to me, the fight with Cloud has got to be one of my most favorite moments in any game. Mae was interested in Phil and Hercules when he showed up, but she was easily bored of the marathon style matches.
I am excited to keep playing this with Mae. Up next we have the Nightmare before Christmas and Little Mermaid worlds to visit. I am totally prepared for Mae to flip out when we start playing through the Little Mermaid world. She listens to that damn soundtrack at least six times a day. Stay tuned for more Disney cuteness and Square weirdness through the eyes of a 4 year old.