With the obnoxiously titled, Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8: Final Chapter Prologue, being released tomorrow, and with the 1.5 & 2.5 HD remix collection being ported to the PlayStation 4 in March, I thought now would be the best time to talk about my experience with the series. Kingdoms Hearts is a video game series that has been special to me for over a lustrum (no, that isn’t a made up Kingdom Hearts word, it means half of a decade), and there are plenty of reasons why.
Right at the beginning of my Junior year of high school, my father died of Myeloma, a type of cancer that affects bone marrow. Even though I had a rather conflicted relationship with him, his passing still impacted me greatly, although I didn’t realize it at the time. After his passing, I wrote an article for the daily school newspaper about him and how it’s best to appreciate people in your life, so you can speak highly of them when they are no longer around. From my point of view, I had been trying to put a positive spin on a rather somber moment in my life. There were plenty of teachers and friends who understood this and commented on how well the message was conveyed, but not everyone felt this way. Some other students were more ignorant, telling me it sounded like a plea for attention, when really that was the last thing I wanted. It really showed they didn’t understand the point of the article at all, but I shrugged it off and accepted that they just didn’t get it. Unfortunately, this was the start of an unexpected downward spiral which led to me being unknowingly depressed, being harshly bullied by other students not just during that year, but for a year or so after as well, and not wanting to go to that school anymore due to friends I had made outside of it, but feeling there was no point since I was so close to finishing high school anyway.
That summer, I had grown tired of all the negativity from the past school year, as well as dealing with Xbox live and being terrible at games like Call of Duty, which I never even liked much and only played because my friends did. Having a crappy internet connection didn’t help either, and I decided to give my older consoles more attention. One day, I went down to the local retro game store, Luna Video Games, and bought Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts 2 for the PlayStation 2. I had heard about the games from some girls at school and remembered when I was younger my dad was willing to get them for me, himself a huge fan of The Nightmare Before Christmas and Disney movies in general, but for some reason I never had any interest in them before. I had decided it was time to finally try these games out for myself.
Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts 2 provided a great escape for me during that summer, and I had no idea how much fun I would have playing them. I played these games everyday for hours after finishing up work at my first job, and it was an enjoyable way for me to decompress. I still remember how awestruck I was when I got to tree surf like Tarzan in Deep Jungle, albeit briefly, and when I got to enjoy Timon & Puumba’s Oasis in the Pridelands. I also remember how shocked I was at the graphical leap between Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts 2.
Due to my enjoyment of the games, I tried to get my friends into it, but it just wasn’t for them. The only people I had met who liked the games were those girls I previously mentioned, but I had a conflicted relationship with them due to the previously mentioned bullying and the rumors spread about me. Because of this, I felt pretty alone in my appreciation of the series until my freshman year of college.
I didn’t know what to expect during my first year of college, but it went a lot better than I could have expected. Around the end of the first week of freshman year, which was an orientation week, I was discussing a variety of stuff with my roommate and other dorm mates, getting to know each other better. At one point, we started talking about video games we liked. I mentioned I liked Kingdom Hearts, in a rather ashamed manner due to my experience with friends not liking it. As it turned out, we had all played and enjoyed the games, with some having more experience with them than I did, telling me about the various spin-offs I should try. That summer, Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, was released for the Nintendo 3DS, I had my fun with it, and it was the first Kingdom Hearts game I was able to finish without struggling at the end. That summer was also when Kingdom Hearts 3 was first announced to be in development. My roommate had texted me as soon as he found out, while I texted our other friends who were fans of the series. We were all so excited, despite the fact we all knew the game wouldn’t be out for years, although we had no idea it would take this long.
After Dream Drop Distance, I decided to play the other games as well, which started with the Nintendo DS game, Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days (Pronounce three five eight days over two), which to this day is still one of my favorites in the series, for the story and the multiplayer features, not so much for the gameplay. I bought the game right before my sophomore year of college started, and I was the most excited I had ever been to go back to school. The group of friends that had come together during my freshman year was the first time I felt like I fully fit in. It was my first solid group of friends I had at school since sixth grade, and we would all still be living in the same dorm again enjoying each other’s company. I still remember being excited to see my friends again and listening to the orchestral version of Simple and Clean (the track used for the cinematic opening for Dream Drop Distance) on the way back to school.
I was enjoying life and having such a good time with my friends during those first few weeks of school I related it to Axel, Roxas, and Xion ending their days by eating sea salt ice cream on top of the clock tower, without a care in the world. To me,this scene is the image of pure friendship and life enjoyment, despite all of the problems that come with it. Three of us also got keychains of the weapons held by some of the members of Organization XIII. We thought about getting the robes for Halloween as well, but that plan fell through as they were a bit expensive for broke college students.
The story really ends there, my friends all eventually went their separate ways, our keychains either broken, lost, or both, however, we are still all friends and we all still have a great appreciation for Kingdom Hearts.
Have YOU been inspired by Kingdom Hearts or is there a video game series that helped you during a hard time in your life? Let me know in the comments! Don’t forget to like and subscribe!