Kingdom Hearts and the Harm of Hype
This article was requested by Laura, also known as imanevilrubberduckie
Kingdom Hearts II was released in North America in March of 2006. This was met with much fanfare. Following this were rumors of Kingdom Hearts III and the lead director, Tetsuya Nomura, stating that he would like to continue the franchise to III, but had priorities, namely Final Fantasy XV. Come E3 2013, the first official trailer for Kingdom Hearts III had been released. Come E3 2017 and KH3 has been slated for a 2018 release, maybe. There is not exact release date, leaving much room delays and cancellations. So, is this the KH game everyone has been clamoring for since 2006? Maybe.
Kingdom Heart 3’s biggest strength and weakness is the hype surrounding it. Hype for the third, or rather tenth, entry in the series keeps fans buying the prequels and interquels leading up to the final entry of the Xehanort Saga. Twelve years of waiting builds hype that the third entry will be an amazing game as Square Enix has had time to perfect both the gameplay and story. The plot has built up to the ultimate confrontation between light and dark with Kingdom Hearts on the line. Twelve years of hype also builds potential for disappointment. A major example from the same company would be Final Fantasy XV.
FFXV was far from a perfect or complete game on release. The game felt hobbled together. Gameplay was simplified, characters changed or underutilized, and the game had an identity crisis. The game was decent, but did not live up to the hype surrounding the original Final Fantasy Versus XIII. It’s not a bad game, per se, but fails to live up to expectations. And, if this were to happen to Kingdom Hearts, it would be heartbreaking, but not surprising. Kingdom Hearts as a franchise has lost much of the mainstream hype it had before, leaving only the hardcore and dedicated fans.
Another example of hype harming a franchise is Watch_Dogs by Ubisoft. The first game had so many people excited as a new IP. The critical reception however lead many people to not buy Watch_Dogs 2 regardless of its critical reception as a pretty good game. The fact that the first game failed to live up to hype neutered any chance of a Watch_Dogs 3.
Before the ultimate compilation was released, Kingdom Hearts I.5+II.5 HD Re:MIX, one needed at least three consoles to play each game in the series up until that point. Before, one needed at least a PS3, a 3DS, and a smartphone. Before this, playing each game in the series was even more nerve wracking as one would need a PSP, PS2, 3DS, a smart phone, and a PC. Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories being remade for PS2 and the 3DS being backwards compatible eliminated the need for a Gameboy Advance and a Nintendo DS respectively. This removed many old fans who either didn’t have the money to keep up with these games being released on different consoles or viewed them as irrelevant, spin-off cash grabs. This also alienated any potential new fans for several reasons. Some didn’t know where to begin, as the release of the games did not follow chronological order, a common complaint about other series such as Bakemonogatari. Potential new fans also were discouraged by nine canon games on different consoles all needing to be played in order understand III.
Nowadays, hype sells games. When half of a fanbase doesn’t care anymore and the potential other half are simply lost and opt out of getting interested, the game will have trouble succeeding. The game could potentially succeed on name recognition alone, due to many people wanting a KHIII since they were in middle school. However, Square Enix and Tetsuya Nomura have the odds stacked against them.
Will Kingdom Hearts live up to years of waiting? Well, Kingdom Hearts 0.2: Birth by Sleep — A Fragmentary Passage acts as a demo for the game, and from a gameplay and story perspective, it’s great. It’s fun, fluid, and looks beautiful. It also answers some questions that were left in the dark as the series went on. If Kingdom Hearts III follows suit, it will be a stunning conclusion. If the game is more akin to Kingdom Hearts Re:coded, it will be a hobbling disappointment. And, finally, if the game is like Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, it will just be a confusing mess, but not necessarily bad game. With so many games in the series with differing styles and combat systems as well as story qualities, it’s hard to say if KHIII will live up to the hype it has set for itself. However, the previews look promising and much bigger than any game in the series before it. As a fan of the series, all I have to say is “I did my waiting. Twelve years of it. In Azkaban.”