(Plain text written by me, on May 18, 2001. Bold text taken verbatim from Gamespot, copyright 2001 CNet, included solely for satiric purposes. The original article was posted at http://gamespot.com/gamespot/stories/news/0,10870,2761861,00.html. The original article was an E3 preview.)

Square and Disney Interactive are teaming up to develop an RPG for the PlayStation 2.

Square, everyone’s favorite source of tragically dull, overproduced, excessively-hyped movie-games, announced, in a decision which will surprise few, Kingdom Hearts this morning, an RPG, which stands for Richly Profitable Game, for the easily lampooned PlayStation 2 that is being co-developed by Square and? and Disney Interactive What?!. The game will feature worlds are you serious? and created by both teams God, surely you’re joking? --including worlds tell me you’re joking dammit, it isn’t funny anymore! based on Tarzan, created by Edgar Rice Burroughs and now solely property of Disney, Aladdin, created by a rich Arabic culture and now solely property of Disney, and Peter Pan, created by J. M. Barrie and now solely property of Disney, Tinkerbell underwent a legal procedure to have that little trademark symbol added to her name--and will also feature new and old Disney characters, most having nothing in common besides their corporate sponsor.

The money sponge, sorry, I mean game will feature four new Disney characters because God knows there aren’t enough as it is, created by Tetsuya Nomura, bully for him, who worked on Final Fantasy VII and VIII and was responsible for FFVII's controversial casting of Popeye as lead. The four characters will, in a controversial move, be named Sora, Riku, Kairi, and the Heartless, I’m sure you’re thrilled. These characters will team up, forming the Ultra Mega Zord, with existing Disney characters, ca-ching!, and embark on what Square is calling a "dark, magical adventure." Which reminds me, I haven’t repeated “I hate Legend” my customary hundred times today. Sora, Riku, and Kairi are friends who live on an island, on which resides the mystic wormhole to the Disney Universe! A violent storm strikes the island, that wacky Prospero is at it again!, and whisks the three friends away to three different worlds, the Magic Kingdom, EPCOT and MGM Studios. Sora, that bastard, meets up with Court Wizard Donald cast against type and that noted military genius Captain Goofy, who are wandering the countryside near Disney Castle in their epic struggle against the evil land of Dreamworks, in search of the missing King Mickey. I suggest they check over at Concubine Minnie's. Their common search puts them up against the Heartless, what a distinctive moniker, a race of creatures seeking to enlist the help of Disney villains, always a wise career move, in their quest to steal the pure hearts and souls of others. At least everyone in the game will be safe.

Square will release Kingdom Hearts this year in Japan, where it might have a chance, and the game will come to North America next fall, where the streets will be filled with flopping asses, having all been laughed off the rear ends of thousands of gamers.

Be sure to watch your local bookstores for Captain Goofy’s new book: “How to Crush Your Enemies, See Them Driven Before You, and Hear the Lamentations of Their Women. Gawrsh!“

You might want to leave now. Here’s where it really gets ugly. “ I hate Legend. I hate Legend. I hate Legend. Tim Curry must die. I hate…”

Update (9/22/2003):

I wrote the above about a year before the release of Kingdom Hearts, which still strikes me as a massive travesty, an incredible act of hubris, and a partnership akin to a trainee Satan taking lessons from a senior Beelzebub in the firm. For a while I let the writeup stand on its own. It's garnered almost as many downvotes as upvotes by this time, but it's still in the black, and I still think that it's funny. Why so many downvotes for a silly press release MSTing? I have only one explanation. To a certain extent defending yourself against criticism lends credence to it, regardless of its source. Also, if you explain the jokes, as Johnny Carson observed, they aren't funny anymore.

But I'm writing more here, because Content_Salvage says the writeup is not copyright compliant because the quoted material must be less than 33% of the total. Right now I figure it's about half. The planets of WU Defense and Copyright Compliance have aligned, and they decree that I add more. Happy to oblige.

Here, then, are a set of good reasons to loathe Kingdom Hearts and everything it stands for, written from the perspective of one year after the release instead of one before.

First: Kingdom Hearts is a crossover game.

Being a crossover game, it buys into the longstanding comic book practice of allowing characters from different series to freely interact with each other.

Comic books are a bit of a special case, because now that there are extensive comic "universes," and even gigantic story arcs devoted to ensuring they don't melt down into twisted webs of continuity, most comic books are produced with an eye towards crossovers, and those are basically all issues of a larger meta-comic. That's a nifty idea I guess, though it doesn't salvage comic books in my mind, me still no like 'em.

Comic books get to do it these days because they're now written with it in mind. But Disney's animated movies and, to a lesser degree, their shorts were not created with the expectation that their characters would become part of a larger narrative outside themselves, and to use them as such is disrespectful of the creations. It's nowhere in the copyright code, but yes I feel that the characters themselves deserve some amount of respect. Donald Duck (best of the lot) deserves better than to be forced to play the role of moogle replacement, dammit! Characters are defined by their context, and thus when you change the context you change the character, regardless of considerations of "canon," and in a way that reverberates back across the character's previous body of work. There are people out there now that won't be able to think of the classic Duck cartoons, some of the better output of the Disney studios of around that time, without thinking of Final Fantasy. That's a real shame. I image that even Unca Walt, a sharp businessman in life, even he must be reaching 180 rpm in his cryogenic deep freeze by now.

Second: It's a further, and particularly telling, example of Disney's pillage of the public domain to produce their movies, all while they continue to lobby Congress to extend the copyright date to hinder others from doing the same.

Funny that copyright issues should place so prominently in this writeup, given the reason for expanding it, innit?

The great majority of Disney's animated films are retellings, expansions, bastardizations, etc., of ancient stories. Even many that aren't turn out to be novels, some of which not credited by Disney in their movies. There's no problem with drawing from the myths, except that Disney simultaneously lobbies the U.S. Congress, with great success, to get the copyright expiration date pushed back to prevent their own characters, most notably Mickey Mouse, from entering that same public domain. They take from the rich commons of humanity and give nothing back, even many decades after its creation.

Worse, the combination of the admitted quality of many of Disney's animated feature films with their remarkably rabid advertising department, operating in full manipulate-the-culture mode, means that Disney's renditions of our rich traditions come to displace the actual versions. Who can think of Snow White now without thinking about that particular cartoon version? Peter Pan has a rich life outside of the Disney cartoon, yet a lot of people now don't know about that, and as I said above, Tinker Bell has become one of MouseCo's many soulless corporate symbols. Disney has done this with many sources, and because it's all legal (the soul determinant of appropriate corporate behavior in the eyes of the corporations themselves, and even then...) they don't see a problem with it. Otherwise, why would they feel it respectable to proprietarily appropriate from so many of those rich, wonder-filled sources for their damn crossover Final Fantasy idiotic dumbass roleplaying game?!

Urg, where did that come from? Sorry, the bile rose, for just a moment. Perhaps I should move on.

Third: The Final Fantasy game dynamic is showing its age.

Let's move on to the technical side of things for a moment, shall we? Final Fantasy games have a certain play mechanic that, in a large part, hasn't changed since the series' origins on the NES. I'm not talking about combat, which despite its great focus on a game that's supposed to be about playing roles is considered almost the entire game by many, I'm talking about fighting random battles every couple of steps, finding better equipment, the endless cycle of weapon and armor trade-ups, level advancement, and save points. Also, starting with Final Fantasy VII, we got the wondrous new feature of blasted annoying damn load times before each of the thousands of random battles! (Argh, happened again.) Sure, Square elaborates on the different systems in clever ways, not *all* their games fit this template in all areas, and they are to be commended for that. But there's been ten games in the series now, and a good number of associated games. They're repeating themselves. We've seen the Job system, arguably the best of them all, several times to date. Active Time Battle was rightfully hailed as well and keen back in the early SNES days, but there are only so many ways the FF-style of fighting can be made interesting, and by now... urg.

Actually, the entire Japanese RPG industry is showing its age, and Square's failings in this area is merely a symptom of that. There is not a great deal of innovation happening there. Or, indeed, almost anywhere in the game industry that isn't produced by Nintendo, Sega, or a handful of others (but that's a rant for another day). It's still no excuse.

Fourth: It's damn ridiculous.

Come on guys! Donald Duck casting magic! There's a certain MM/DD cartoon that successfully addressed this, more definitively, over sixty years ago! If Goofy were portrayed in any way accurately all of his attacks would be critical fumbles! And how about how so many of Disney's cartoons were piled together into one game, willy-nilly, with respect towards none of them greater than the Almighty Bottom Line? This is a work of childhood ruining-caliber above and beyond anything some guy with too much free time could do with a digital copy of Transformers: The Movie and a 70's porn soundtrack. This is the point I made hamburger with in the original, above-listed writeup. It's why I resisted expanding this WU for so long. And it's still the greatest reason Kingdom Hearts is absolutely laughable in the minds of anyone with a sufficiently-wide worldview. Which, I firmly believe, is most of the people playing it now, in a few years. (If they don't, my opinion of humanity will drop another notch.) Age gives you better perspective on these things, and most gamers are quite young.

Hey, I wonder why that is?

That concludes my lecture. And, as an aside, I'd just like to add, in response to one of the wags below:

Cut-and-paste writeup, indeed. Bah.

CST Approved

Title: Kingdom Hearts
Developer: Square/Disney
Publisher: Square
Date Published: September, 2002
Platforms: Playstation 2
ESRB Rating: Kids to adults 6+

Square... Disney... Together? WTF?

Indeed, Kingdom Hearts is an action RPG combining the characters and worlds of both Square's long winded Final Fantasy series and various Disney works. There was quite a bit of controversy when this collaborative game was announced. Concerns by hardcore gamers such as "What the hell is Square thinking, letting riffraff like Goofy and Mickey Mouse address the most holy (and living) Aeris by name?" and "This is a stupid move by Square! They're blinded by the money! Capitalist pigs! Viva la revolucion!!11" were voiced in forums across the internet. Disney fans were also skeptical, but not as blatantly opposed.

However, the two companies must have anticipated the backlash, as their effort create something special is obvious in the game. In some aspects, they succeeded; Kingdom Hearts is rock solid and a great deal of fun. The amount of effort and quality put forth is readily apparent. It is far from a masterpiece, though, as there are many faults. There was also an embarrassingly horrendous excuse for a mini game known as the Gummi Ship. That was just wrong. I'll rant in more detail momentarily.

There's also the issue that the entire game is a gratuitous self promotion for Square and Disney. I found it to be annoyance, but a non issue concerning the overall game. However, if your moral standards on commercialism and consumerism affect your enjoyment of a gaming, then shying away from Kingdom Hearts is understandable.

The Basics

The game revolves around a young boy named Sora, who looks like a combination between a very childish Crono and Tidus. Sora and his friends Riku (not to be confused with another Square character, Rikku) and Kairi live on a happy island wasting their days away dreaming of adventures.

Suddenly, their tropical utopia is attacked by all these crazy little shadow creatures called The Heartless. The three friends are separated and Sora gets booted off to Disneyland.

That was the Square half of things. On the Disney half... Donald Duck and Goofy discover King Mickey Mouse is missing. Thus, they set off on a quest spanning multiple Disney worlds to find him. Sora joins up with them, hoping to find his friends, almost right away.

Game play

Sora is controlled by the player through a directly behind third person view. At the start of the game Sora can do basic heroic things, like swing a sword, jump, and run. As the game progresses, he learns more abilities and attacks either through the story or by leveling.

There is a intriguing split path of leveling up Sora. At the phenomenal introduction sequence to the game, the player is offer to chose a shield, a sword, or a wand. Immediately afterwards, a choice must be made to reject one of the two remaining armaments. Depending on the choices, Sora will intrinsically learn skills relative to the piece of equipment. For example, if the wand is chosen, Sora will have more max magic points for spell casting; the sword helps him learn combos faster; the shield teaches all around useful skills early on.

Donald Duck and Goofy join up with Sora relatively early in the game to form the strangest RPG party I've ever seen. Donald is essentially the dedicated magic user whereas Goofy is essentially the dedicated fighter. Occasionally, a third Disney character is available to be used in your party, but only for a short while. The computer autonomously controls Goofy and Donald. There are settings that change the computer's behavior of the two characters, like "use more magic", "use more special attacks", or "only use normal attacks". I found it highly reminiscent of Secret of Mana. Unfortunately, one of the biggest drawbacks is that there is no two or three player option.

Fighting The Heartless and the other Disney minions is arguably the best part of the game. Basically, Sora pulls out the Keyblade, a magic sword that looks like key, and the player gets down to the tune of hack and slash. There are protective moves like rolls and guarding as there are offensive combos that gradually build upon each other throughout the game. Bosses usually have some weak point that is revealed in patience.

Near the end, an incredible skill is learned: glide. You basically get to fly around with Sora. The way the controls, animation, and response come together makes gliding and flying amazingly fun. You can fly to previously unreachable areas, hover over swarms of enemies, and pretty much get around ten times faster.

After the first few introductory hours, the game doesn't quite fall into this over simplified pattern: The three heroes go to a new world in search of Mickey/Riku/Kairi, only to find some evil plot being hatched by a Disney villain. The heroes foil the plot, get some better equipment, and move on to the next world.

Music + Voice Acting

The game's menu screen has a great melancholy piano piece tune playing not unlike Final Fantasy X's opening piano song, To Zanarkand. While starting a new game, Japanese pop star Utada Hikaru begins singing the only video game music single to date, Simple and Clean, as the high quality opening CG sequence rolls by. Each Disney world has music appropriate to its respective movie that it came from.

The Voice Acting in Kingdom Hearts was arguably the best in console gaming for its time. It's a giant step up from the "OHNOGODZILLA!!" mouth to voice synchronization problems with other PS2 games.

Sixth Sense star, Haley Joel Osment, does the voice of Sora very well. I was hoping the entire game Sora would fit in a "I see dead people", but alas... The Halloween Town level from The Nightmare Before Christmas would have been a perfect place to slip that in.

Many of the other voices are authentic. Some of the characters from archaic Disney films like Pinocchio have radically unfamiliar voices, but for the most part, nothing was terribly too far off. The Square voice acting surprisingly well done. Cloud Strife, Leon (Squall with a new name), and Sephiroth's voices were perfect.

All the Square and Disney voice actors in both English and Japanese can be found at the Kingdom Hearts section of www.gamefaqs.com.

The Good, The Bad, and The Gummi Ship

Kingdom Hearts excelled in the freedom of the characters in their environments as well as the battling. The voice acting was superb for the most part and the whole game felt like it spared no expense.

I felt the beginning of the game was much better than the rest, however. There is an interesting love triangle between Sora, Riku, and their object of affection Kairi. However, that dissipates as the game progresses and turns into a cliche Pokemon-like rivalry between Sora and Riku. Regardless, all of the character interaction between the three original characters is the best part of the plot. The random, scattered Disney plots for each respective world were horrendous. They were all basically ground down versions of the movies that spawned the level and its characters. I didn't find the ending sequence of events and the ending itself particularly moving. Most of the late game fun was building up Sora's skills and getting his ultimate weapon.

And finally, there was the Gummi Ship. While traveling between worlds, Sora and his friends get in a blocky set of mashed polygons and go through a terrible imitation Star Fox mini level. There is no point or reward for doing well in the Gummi Ship; the idea is you have to survive to the next planet. If you die, you just start the mini level over. The biggest problem, however, is that you never die. I actually set my controller down and let the ship fly through the mini levels while I grabbed some food or something. Thus, the Gummi Ship and all of its upgrades are useless beyond belief.

To make matters worse, many of the rewards for side quests end up being the undesireable Gummi Ship pieces. It's quite aggravating to get a handful of worthless small Gummi lasers when expecting a new sword or shield. All in all, the Gummi Ship and all of its scattered components could have been removed with 99% of the game still intact while being much less annoying. Damn you, Gummi Ship.

This write-up complies with the E2 FAQ: Video Games standards. Sources: Playing the game www.gamefaqs.com

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