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Kingdom Hearts: How Disney and Square Enix Made it Work

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image courtesy of destinyislands.com

It all began in March 28, 2002, when the first game was released. We all thought that Disney characters looked cute, but wielding swords and chanting spells? There was also the proven thought that Square Enix characters kicked ass. Protagonists like Cloud and Zack Fair and Squall Leonheart were viewed as bad-asses, but what would one of them look like when found in a game Disney created? Wouldn?t that be weird?

Well, obviously, that didn?t stop Disney and Square Enix from teaming up. And as a result, that March 28, 2002, they released a game that has since never stopped going strong: the Kingdom Hearts series.

It began with a simple premise, and it also featured an enemy classic enough to face off against the different echelon of Disney characters. These enemies, call ?Heartless?, are people or creatures devoid of a feeling heart, which is corrupted by darkness. The story introduces a unique protagonist in Sora, a 14-year old boy who becomes the champion of the Keyblade. He is assisted by Goofy and Donald, who are quite different in this story. They are sent by King Mickey (Yes, the Mouse himself), who asks him for help in combating the Heartless. ?The Keyblade is a uniquely key-shaped weapon, meant to be used solely to close ?keyholes? in worlds which Sora, Goofy, and Donald Duck visit. Once this is done, that world is certainly protected from corruption by the darkness and the Heartless.

image courtesy of destinyislands.com

image courtesy of destinyislands.com

Ever since then, of course, it?s been history. Across the years, people have had mixed reactions when playing or encountering Kingdom Hearts, but everything?s arrived with a positive vibe. A lot of video game rating sites had given the game positive reviews, and so do players, who welcomed the game with some aplomb. While the mixture of Square Enix characters with Disney characters such as Hercules, Aladdin, Jack Skellington, and Pinocchio was viewed initially as ?weird?, it has since been a commercial success.

How does this work? What may have been the element of success that drove these games to succeed given that most of the characters wielding swords and shields here are not even built for that in the first place? The game?s popularity may be attributed to the fact that Mickey, Donald Duck, and Goofy are present, and they are some of the easily-identifiable characters in Disney. While Sora is a relative newcomer on the scene, as well as his friends Riku and Kairi, they are carried along for the ride by their more famous counterparts.

image courtesy of destinyislands.com

image courtesy of destinyislands.com

Another element may have been the ?fish out of water? element, something that Mickey, Donald, and Goofy had never been in. Sora and company may have been designed as RPG characters, but the Disney triumvirate clearly isn?t. Credit that to proper game design, where Goofy, Donald, and Mickey?s characters fitted into the story seamlessly, as if they are actors playing parts. Donald Duck?s mage character is as believable as Goofy is a shield-using knight and Mickey is king.

While a game like this may one way or another fade into the pages of gaming history, for now, that doesn?t seem to be the case. Expect Donald and Goofy to continue wielding magic and shield alongside Sora, in a game that is both whimsical and challenging at the same time.

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