Has Kingdom Hearts Lost Its Essence?



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Face My Fears

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This is something that I'm thinking about as I replay KH3. I love KH3 and have defended it on here (as some of you may know), but this isn't particularly about KH3, but more about the series after KH2. KH1 was about Sora trying to find his friends Riku and Kairi after their island is destroyed. KH2 was (basically) about Sora trying to deal with the current threat and find Riku, so that he could go back home to his island. KHCoM also reminds us of Destiny Islands and its importance to Sora (even using memories of Namine there to manipulate him). After KH2, the series sort of lost that sense of "boy trying to find his way home" and morphed into this epic that involves stories across different generations (BbS/KHUX) that seemingly culminated to KH3.

There's something different about the direction of the series after KH2 and I can't quite put my finger on it. I think it could be that there were several titles between KH2 and KH3 that just created another vibe for the series? KH1, CoM, and KH2 were adventures with Sora/Donald/Goofy, then we get a whole bunch of totally different stuff in between, and then another adventure with Sora/Donald/Goofy. It kind of makes you question WHAT a KH game is supposed to be. It also makes me question WHAT is Sora's goal. Up until KH2, it seemed like it was always to get his friends safely back home and that's it. Another threat came about and Sora/Riku left, but does that mean they will always be the ones to go fight? Is that what Sora wants to do? It just kind of feels like Sora is being pushed into drama caused by other people/events.

The basics of what I know a KH game to be are: Sora/Donald/Goofy, original worlds, Disney worlds, Riku/Kairi, and Final Fantasy characters. There was also the sadness knowing that when Sora finishes his task, he would go back to his island with Riku/Kairi, but not be able to see Donald/Goofy again. I feel like they kind of erased that now with the Gummiphone and being able to fly anywhere anytime.

I hope that Nomura finds some way to bring back the essence of KH1 and 2 into future installments. Maybe he should do like Star Wars and have a numbered title with Sora/Donald/Goofy, then have a side-game focused on some other plot that needs explanation that he can flesh out side characters, then a numbered title, so on and so on. I feel like what led KH to lose its essence was so many side games that you start to wonder whether the side games are setting the standard for what KH games should be. I always considered KH1 and KH2 the gold-standard in what a numbered title should strive to be, but KH3 came across heavily influenced by the way the side games were put together.
 

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The story has become "more mature" as the main characters. Sora is no longer the favorite Nomura character, and in general, characters like Sora (Naruto, Luffy) were popular in the early 2000s.
 

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Well, Birth by Sleep hasn't been called "The turning point" for no reason.

There absolutely was a "cycle" that connected KH1, CoM and KH II. After that, when you really think about it, all we got for a good while were games which introduced or rewrote stuff for the most part.

Days, while supposedly just an insight about the"missing year" between CoM and KH II, was mostly a retcon of answers KH II already kinda gave in order to write Xion into them.
BbS was the first of two times Nomura put a new beginning for the series, starting 10 years before KH1. Also it's the game most notorious for setting a new course with the Keyblade, the way some concepts worked and such.
Also side note, this is when the writing started fully changing into the formulaic "Get through the Disney world to get a moral lesson/important plot point at the very end", reiterating the same concept over and over et cetera.
These are also the games that put the beloved/hated "Friendship Overdrive" into the spotlight: SRK were friends who got tangled up into events happening, meanwhile it's BECAUSE TAV and RAX are friends that things happen to them and around them.

Then we got Re:Coded, which when you strip it to the core is a retelling of KH1 and CoM in another style, with Data worlds, a vague foreboding of pain and danger that doesn't really get solved, alternate versions of the characters with a twist added to them (Data Riku being essentially the vessel for the journal).
Interestingly enough, these will all become Nomura current writing style's calling cards.
DDD advanced stuff, but was also far different from the usual KH experience for sure. After that, it was all collections and Ux from there. 0.2 was hardly a game long enough to "set" some course for the series.

So yes, KH III dropped out after a good 7-8 years of this "new direction", and I'm sure this played a part in how or why people loved/hated it.
It makes sense for KH III to retain elements from the most recent titles, especially considering at least its premise was laid much more upon what BbS and DDD brought than KH1 or KH II. Then again, most people couldn't help comparing it to KH1 and KH II for a variety of reasons, especially those who embraced the philosophy that the handheld games were different due to them being just setups for the big game, and hoped KH III would've been a return to form.

Now, I think it's obvious by now where I stand on this. KH III TRIED to be a return to form, the next big Disney adventure starring SDG, but was too focused on setting future stuff up that it hardly felt like it.
It's also definitely harder to provide the classic experience with the direction the series took: it makes sense for it to be a SDG adventure, but of course we lamented the lack of other characters because by now we cared about them.

Honestly, maybe the misstep with KH III was trying to go for the classic route while having so much more at stake. I still think splitting the title into two might've been a better idea.
I would crave a return to the basics more than anyone else frankly, but I don't know. I don't think that's what they'll do, scrap the multiple elements in favor of a fresh start.
I'm not even 100% sure it's what I want. I LIKE many things and characters from the various titles, and I'd like to see them matter and being handled properly.

So yeah, while I agree KH III just hadn't the same charm and essence as KH1 and KH II, I think the most sensible thing to do would be to try and find a new medium to all things.
That and, y'know, giving Nomura supporting writers and people who can just say "no" to some of his ideas.
 

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I think along with BBS came the introduction into a lot of concepts that are hard to write on their own and nearly impossible together because they require a lot of precision, focus and a good overall idea. BBS introduced Amnesia as a real concept (Roxas did break out of this rather quickly), the possibility of containing a soul that doesn't match the body, followed by Time Travel with a ruleset no one can ever claim to properly understand, Sleeping Worlds, Parallel / Dream Worlds, a book that looks into the future, stories that take place a 100 years ago, the possibility of being revived, Replicas, wars and so on.
If you look at any of this concepts alone - parallel storytelling, time travel, revival stuff etc. - each one alone would be enough to fill a book. Instead of a sweet adventure game (like KH1) or a classic "save the world from the baddies" story like KH2 we now have this tangled, super convoluted mess where Nomura adds more broken ideas without ever resolving the previous ones.

We still don't really know how keyblades work (KH3 proved that painfully), how time travel exactly works, what the Power of Waking actually does, whatever happens in Ux, that list could go on and on. But it doesn't really matter - because Nomura drops concepts as quick as his underpants and so they either don't really matter for the plot, go unresolved or are just glossed over so fast that you can't grasp what just happened or why (Roxas appearing on the battlefield out of nowhere with the explanations of "cus friendship" or Lea's keyblade breaking and being fixed in the next scene are just two examples). Then Nomura kinda began to link everything to everything and everybody to everybody - which results in Ven coming from the Ux era, along with several other people, Ephemera randomly showing up in a demon wave, Braig actually also being another dude we have no connection to and characters reappearing we didn't even really know were gone (Foretellers). It's just such an overload of ideas that don't really go well with each other because Nomura never takes proper time to explain or explore them and he just wants us to believe the way he stuffs it all together because we can't even disprove it since we have no idea how it actually works (or he retcons it).

So, yes, I do think KH has lost its essence. I always felt it was about people and their connections and them driving the plot through that and BBS started the plot-driven concept where events just happen and the characters get caught up in them. I hate that kind of storytelling because it can be reduced to "everything was fate, you can't do jack shit against fate" which is basically everything Xehanort represents - he has the power of plot and if the heroes manage to beat him, it's not because they outsmarted him but they were just the more persistent ones. Kinda. I wish KH would go back to simpler stories and character-driven storytelling where each character has an arc and actually matters for the plot - and NOT in the passive plot device way - and at the end we have a satisfying ending with proper resolve.
 

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I think its obvious the story wasn't always going to revolve around a boy just simply trying to find his friends and get back home. Even if it was. They got home in kh2. Throughout the story sora and the rest of us have realized its all much bigger than he is. He sort of mentions it when xigbar in DDD tells him his power isn't his own and sora responds by saying he understands the keyboard didn't choose him and he doesn't care he's happy to be apart of something much bigger. The series hasn't lost anything its just evolving and giving real reason for this story to be happening. You just seem to not be liking it. Made this account just to comment. Also you say Nomura retcons the story. So far the only thing that did get retconned was maleficent letting herself be beaten by sora. Xigbar has intended across time with the series that he knew more than he lead on and that he had a much bigger play in things. So definitely not a retcon.
 

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Yes, Kingdom Hearts has lost its essence. Remember when the new games were coming out and we all were upset that the "magical" feeling the games had felt like it was gone? I think KH3 embodies that sentiment but it's made worse because it also rejects a lot of what people latched onto as a replacement for that "magical" feeling––the focus on developing beloved characters.

In lieu of that je ne sais quoi "magical" thing that once endeared us to the series, we all grew attached to the characters and their struggles. We hoped to see interactions between them and other characters, to see their "hurt" mended, to watch the mysteries of how they could be saved unfold. Instead, everything is rushed. Certain characters have lovely moments when they finally come back in KH3, but the various ways those moments come about are so...vapid that it cheapens the moments and often makes the scenes more confusing.

(I do want to make note that unlike previous games, KH3 didn't have a proper event planner. The person who had played that role in previous games was made an in-game scene director. Nomura was really left unrestrained, and I think that the story suffered without having one specific person come in and structure things a bit so events could have had better flow and impact.)

While the games after KH2 definitely changed how the series operated, they had their own charm. The "magic" was gone, but we had new things to latch onto. Regardless of how one feels about the post-KH2 games, I don't think anybody can deny that people definitely grew attached to the characters in those games and their stories.

KH3 reveals how bad the loss of the "magic" feel is because it tries to bring that feeling back. It succeeds to a degree because SDG are part of that "magical" feeling we all used to have. It's a delight to watch them interact. In the end, though, it utterly fails at maintaining the story and characters that were developed in the post-KH2 games, though, because it rushes its own end for the sake of trying to establish new plot points for the future. The new thing we all latched onto was tossed aside.

And I think that brings me to what the core issue is.

After KH2, the series focused on other characters and stories to try and build a grand epic, thus losing focus on what made fans love the series initially: the Disney worlds, the joy of seeing SDG interact with each other and with other Disney characters in various films, the simple story of Sora finding his friends. There wasn't anything wrong with that, per say, but it did overcomplicate things for a lot of fans.

KH3 then loses focus on that grand epic it was building because Nomura got bored of his story and/or felt like he had to rush to end the Xehanort saga and wanted to jump into a WHOLE NEW grand epic. They also try to bring back the old charm of the games while plowing through a lot of plot points and introducing a lot of stuff for future games, and thus lost focus on what made fans love the series in the interim.

This history of losing focus to move onto new things makes longtime fans worried that Nomura won't stay focused on his newest storyline because he'll jump to some new idea all over again, thus leaving behind a mess of rushed conclusions and poor development for characters and stories we endeared ourselves too.

I'm not sure I'm making any sense, but honestly I don't know how I feel about Kingdom Hearts anymore so my explanations will sound like nonsense until the day I can really figure out where I stand.
 
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Divine Past

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I think KH still has that "magic" if you play the game on a more basic level. Rather than questioning confusing parts of the plot you just play the game "normally" I think KH3 has a lot of the same aspect of seeing Sora interact with Disney people like in Monster Inc and you get cool looking boss fights and good music. And I think that is a great way to play the series if someone chooses to do it because it's a lot less of headache and you get to enjoy the cool visuals! There is no right or wrong to play a game.

To me, I have a couple of things that made me lose some of that magic. The first thing is there are just too many plot events type things for my liking. You got time travel, sleeping worlds, sleeping hearts, body snatching, replicas, dreams, chains of memories etc so to me it feels exhausting just trying to understand all of that fully. I know some people can but it's not for me.

The other thing is I feel a lot of ways that character are connected to each other just feel contrived rather than magical for a lack of a better phrase. The story has taken a turn where everyone is connected to Sora or Xehanort and it just feels like it was forced into the story. I totally get the magic of Ven's heart finding Sora's for shelter but Aqua and Terra randomly meeting S/R/K during their brief adventures? Eh. It feels Nomura wanted to make a connection between all the characters when they could have easily been isolated from each other barring their shared interest in stopping Xehanort.
 

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The other thing is I feel a lot of ways that character are connected to each other just feel contrived rather than magical for a lack of a better phrase. The story has taken a turn where everyone is connected to Sora or Xehanort and it just feels like it was forced into the story. I totally get the magic of Ven's heart finding Sora's for shelter but Aqua and Terra randomly meeting S/R/K during their brief adventures? Eh. It feels Nomura wanted to make a connection between all the characters when they could have easily been isolated from each other barring their shared interest in stopping Xehanort.
I want to piggyback in this and state that in the end there is no payoff for these connections, either. Like plotwise, they fulfill their duty. Riku gets the Keyblade and it reinforces his path. But when he finally sees Terra again after 10+ years, he doesn’t say anything to Terra or really interact with him except in the ending during the beach party.

For Aqua and Kairi, Aqua goes “you’re the little girl!” and that moment much ends with Kairi going “I don’t remember, sorry”

Ven and Sora’s relationship is interesting because they have a lot of good build-up then...nothing. Ven nods at Sora. That’s the whole thing.

Why invest time establishing a connection between them but then fail to give us a fulfilling interaction with them in the present?
 

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I think its obvious the story wasn't always going to revolve around a boy just simply trying to find his friends and get back home. Even if it was. They got home in kh2. Throughout the story sora and the rest of us have realized its all much bigger than he is. He sort of mentions it when xigbar in DDD tells him his power isn't his own and sora responds by saying he understands the keyboard didn't choose him and he doesn't care he's happy to be apart of something much bigger. The series hasn't lost anything its just evolving and giving real reason for this story to be happening. You just seem to not be liking it. Made this account just to comment. Also you say Nomura retcons the story. So far the only thing that did get retconned was maleficent letting herself be beaten by sora. Xigbar has intended across time with the series that he knew more than he lead on and that he had a much bigger play in things. So definitely not a retcon.
Okay, since you just made an account to take my post (at least I guess that) out of context, I will answer that. I never said the Braig thing was a retcon, just that it has no impact - we hardly know anything about Luxu except that he took the damn box - we don't really know his characters because he hardly has any lines, don't know how he looks, how his relationships are, nothing. How am I supposed to get excited about a "twist" that a character I know a lot about is actually a character I basically know nothing about? I don't really care.

For the retcons: There's a TON. Let's take 0.2. Mickey meets Aqua in the Realm of Darkness and receives the Kingdom Key D. He later leaves her behind and never even mentions her once until many, many games later and never bothers to look for her. The reason for this was proclaimed to be "we couldn't tell Riku / Sora because they would've gone there right away but it's too dangerous", but Mickey, along with Riku, was already in the Realm of Darkness during Re:Com and the events of KH1 / 0.2 just happened, so they could've just gone the extra mile to the shore where Mickey knew she was and get her.
In KH3 we even get to know that the Kingdom Key D, a keyblade of darkness, is able to open a door to the Realm of Darkness, so you can enter and leave it on free will. Hmm, that would've been pretty great to use in ReCom when they were stuck in the Realm of Darkness .. but Nomura didn't have that planned yet and later just gave the keyblade that power and ignored earlier games. This ignorance of earlier games is what bothers me here.
And we have a lot of these things: KH3 shows us that Repliku is in fact in Riku - which has never been even mentioned, let alone shown before. It just happens to be in KH3 and it doesn't serve any purpose because he sacrifices himself anyway and doesn't achieve anything, so we could've just skipped that and it wouldn't have made any difference.
Also, small things: Goofy and Donald don't recognize Yen Sid's tower because he "redecorated" - the tower looks the exact same as before. Goofy claiming Yen Sid ALWAYS said "may your heart be your guiding key" before important adventures - ah, well, KH1-DDD don't seem important at all, I guess.
I still don't get why Saix is so obsessed with getting to the top of the Organisation when supposedly all he wanted was to get to Subject X - it would've made MUCH more sense to go looking for Ansem the Wise then or search her or do anything else instead of shooting in the dark by trying to overthrow dangerous people.

Look, I don't say it doesn't make any sense anymore - but there was a different intention at the beginning and it's just kind of overwritten and pretended it always was aiming at the new reason which makes some things really fishy and hard to believe. It would've been much easier to come up with something that doesn't simply contradict the earlier statement instead of trying to force it into a way that makes it seem to work a little.
 

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I want to piggyback in this and state that in the end there is no payoff for these connections, either. Like plotwise, they fulfill their duty. Riku gets the Keyblade and it reinforces his path. But when he finally sees Terra again after 10+ years, he doesn’t say anything to Terra or really interact with him except in the ending during the beach party.

For Aqua and Kairi, Aqua goes “you’re the little girl!” and that moment much ends with Kairi going “I don’t remember, sorry”

Ven and Sora’s relationship is interesting because they have a lot of good build-up then...nothing. Ven nods at Sora. That’s the whole thing.

Why invest time establishing a connection between them but then fail to give us a fulfilling interaction with them in the present?
Right to me I just did not think Terra or Aqua really benefited much from those meetings with S/R/K in BBS in terms of character development. Aqua would have made the same decisions without meeting them and Terra would have f***** up anyways. I think Nomura did it because he was scared the fans will just treat Aqua and Terra as filler characters because they are not connected to the destiny island trio (Obviously my speculation there). Nomura could have easily given another reason why Riku was chosen first for a keyblade that did not involve the BBS gang.

In comparison, Ven/Sora feels more like kingdom heart magic where Ven needed someone to save him and baby sora did it. Then that plays a role later on when Ven helps save Sora. That is the type of connection I can buy in a silly series about keys. I have a harder time buying Terra and Aqua on their short journey meeting almost no kids except for the destiny island trio and then gifting them either the keyblade or in Kairi's case casting a magic spell on her. And if they are going to be forceful with those connections at the very least give a strong payoff to it rather than just play it down as you said above. If Aqua/Terra never met S/R/K their lack of interaction in KH3 would make more sense because I mean they are strangers with a common goal of stopping Xehanort. BBS attempts to tell us there is a special bond in place and then when they finally meet they act like it's no big deal.

It just feels there are few independent characters in the series who are not connected to Sora which takes away the charm of Kingdom Heart to me. It just becomes 7 versions of Sora versus 13 version of Xehanort and Sora solves everyone's problems for them. (On a side note it would have been nice if the BBS gang were able to save themselves and not need Sora for every step but I guess that is why Nomura wrote those connections in the first place, shrug. )
 

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I might have the weirdest connection with Kingdom Hearts of any member on this site... this franchise means a lot to me, but I'm not really into it as much as you guys; yes, I do like Square, the Final Fantasy characters and some of the original characters, but by CoM it was already hard for me to care. I had played KH1, loved it, but I was not expecting/desiring a weird replaying of the first game in the context of a weird side show as the next entry. I would go on to try BBS and it would feel like homework to me, so the spinoffs are definitely not for me.

So yeah, Disney has been the draw since day one for me (I mean, it is like 75% of the games), but even I could tell KH3 was a rush to wrap everything in some kind of bow just cause. I mean, I played the game, skipped the cutscenes I didn't care about (which was over half of them) because I couldn't listen to some character I never heard of (Ienzo) spew bullshit in a robe, but I still enjoyed it on the basic level that Divine Past is speaking of... we've come a long way from KH1.

I assume there is a crowd of people like me who don't really get involved online in forums like this (probably the unvocal majority tbh), but I just don't get why it has to be such convoluted fuckery. Why is a game with Winnie the Pooh in it incomprehensible? That's what weirds people out.

I think the moment Ansem wasn't actually Ansem was when they fucked up, but the seeds had already been planted. I don't like when games stray too far from reality and you have to study to understand them... like there's nothing weird about a talking duck fighting with a staff, but it's incomprehensible that there are 8 incarnations of one character, characters looking the same (Ven and Roxas), etc; it doesn't need to be that complicated, but maybe it wouldn't be as successful if it wasn't. Maybe this forum and the community wouldn't exist if it weren't.

The other thing is I feel a lot of ways that character are connected to each other just feel contrived rather than magical for a lack of a better phrase. The story has taken a turn where everyone is connected to Sora or Xehanort and it just feels like it was forced into the story. I totally get the magic of Ven's heart finding Sora's for shelter but Aqua and Terra randomly meeting S/R/K during their brief adventures? Eh. It feels Nomura wanted to make a connection between all the characters when they could have easily been isolated from each other barring their shared interest in stopping Xehanort.
This is also a problem with the games -- the universe feels small because everything has to be interconnected like that; it's kind of what they did to Star Wars. It makes it feel like the characters we know about are the only ones who exist. I don't know how you can make Kingdom Hearts feel like a living, breathing universe (which is what it should be) when Disney won't let you do anything other than retell their films though.

I've quoted this numerous times, but SomecallmeJohnny nailed it in his KH1 review when he said "Enough of this "meddling" shit and let's get a party of Aladdin, Tarzan, Ariel and Yuffie and get a real Disney/Square Enix crossover going on here." They make such a big deal of not being allowed to meddle in the affairs of other worlds and "world order", but all you do is interfere in the affairs of other worlds. The Heartless are a universal threat.
 
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This is also a problem with the games -- the universe feels small because everything has to be interconnected like that; it's kind of what they did to Star Wars. It makes it feel like the characters we know about are the only ones who exist. I don't know how you can make Kingdom Hearts feel like a living, breathing universe (which is what it should be) when Disney won't let you do anything other than retell their films though.
Yeah, it's frustrating. There is no sense of a "world" outside of the main crew and the Disney stuff. The lack of true world-building is distracting, especially when we get hints of it here and there, but then they back off. And it doesn't need to be complicated, intricate stuff either. Just having a world with characters unrelated to the main plot that we can converse with or talk to would alleviate the interconnected feeling the series has.

And I don't mean the NPCs they had in KH3 but like NPCs you find in like a simple game like Pokemon.

I've quoted this numerous times, but SomecallmeJohnny nailed it in his KH1 review when he said "Enough of this "meddling" shit and let's get a party of Aladdin, Tarzan, Ariel and Yuffie and get a real Disney/Square Enix crossover going on here." They make such a big deal of not being allowed to meddle in the affairs of other worlds and "world order", but all you do is interfere in the affairs of other worlds. The Heartless are a universal threat.
Which is where all of the fun would be, but Disney doesn't like fun 8D
 

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Everyone brings up a lot of great points. I think the one that really takes away the magic of the series is that Nomura went out of his way to connect things. I think BbS (regarding Ven) would have been way more impactful if they didn't go to Destiny Islands and at the end you see Ven's heart seeking help and it goes to Sora. Aqua didn't need to meet them and Terra didn't need to meet Riku. Terra/Riku's interaction seems solely to have been done to explain why Riku got a keyblade, but making such a big deal out of it, then having everyone get a keyblade later on just seems pointless... especially considering that Terra/Riku's relationship is never explored further.

I liked back in the day when the Organization was seemingly done and they were just this mysterious group of interesting characters that Sora happened to have encountered. I mean I kind of get having everything linked to Sora or Xehanort, but that ended up making the KH universe feel so much smaller. I rather have been curious about other Organization members' lives than get a rehash of the Organization in KH3. I loved the plot twist reveal of the true purpose of the Organization, but I was expecting only the true Xehanort clones to reappear in KH3 and then (hoping) for Disney/Final Fantasy characters to fill out the rest of the slots.

There's also so much lore in the series that is never really explained, even with the amount of side games. It kind of feels like the side games don't do much to explain, but rather introduce more and more concepts that I had hoped would stay in the side game. I will always go back to CoM. The whole card system and forgetting as you went up each level, that was cool for the GBA side game, but when we got to KH2 that was (rightfully so, even though there was a story reason) completely ignored and the adventure could continue as normal. KH3 suffered from all the stuff introduced in the side games being shoved into it. Sleeping Realm/Time Travel/Black Box/Aqua being trapped in Realm of Darkness/Power of Waking/Replicas/Xion, Roxas and Ven being in Sora's heart/Nobodies growing hearts/Foretellers/Datascape etc. are all ideas that were introduced in the side games and instead of being ideas/story resolved and contained to their side-game, it seemed as if they were planning to pack it all into KH3. I think it was doable, but the way that KH3 was approached (very minimalist) there was no way all of those plot points could have been resolved successfully. CoM at least wrapped up its story in that game and helped build intrigue over the Organization. All the other side games didn't really wrap up their stories and instead were building towards KH3 with a bunch of new ideas/concepts that were not even fleshed out in the game they were introduced in (Power of Waking/X-Blade/Time Travel, for example).

I'm just hoping that Nomura starts fresh and learns from the mistakes of the last "trilogy". Like time travel, I'm OK with never having a proper explanation for how it works if it's never brought up again. I won't really question the whole Nobodies growing hearts thing if Nobodies never come back. Nomura really needs to "reset" the franchise. I'm not angry with the series and I enjoyed KH3, but it feels like there's so much baggage that he has lingering that he should either dump it or actually use it. He needs to figure out what comes into KH4 and what doesn't, so that he can focus on recapturing and/or building a new essence to KH. It kind of feels like he's running on auto-pilot for what a numbered KH game should be, and not putting any real heart into it.
 

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I personally feel this way, to be frank. I feel after KH1, that Disney 'Magic' just dwindled more and more. I LOVED the idea of a crossover between characters and characters, Especially Disney villains combining together as a greater force. I just...feel that as someone said above the 'NEW' Organization would've been better off as a combination of Final Fantasy, Original, & Disney characters. Heck, I'd buy the idea of ORIGINAL Disney characters, and there's plenty to go by regarding Final Fantasy characters. I feel...that perhaps it's posts like these that make me believe that Kingdom Hearts would've been better off in separate stories like Final Fantasy or the Tales Of series. Not everything HAD to be connected to Sora and Xehanort or each game would connect to THE overall story.
 

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I don't think its the series so much a chain of questionable decisions. I don't know what's going on in Square Enix or Nomura's mind, so what else is there but to assume? I do agree there's a turning point because the series feel so different to me after 358/2 Days.
Its all about ideas and interesting scenarios that are not properly explored or executed. One mystery leads to four more and those four lead to countless many. Something new must be added, or something new must be retroactively added. What about the characters? Their experience? How do they interact and clash with the Disney worlds? That alone is a goldmine of opportunities.

I know I'm a broken record with this comparison but Nomura is exhibiting a lot of similarities to George Lucas. Both are creative geniuses that struck gold and don't know or remember how they got there. A lot of people worked on this series so knowing which of them played vital roles to the best parts can be tricky. Who do we praise for the good and who do we criticize for the bad?

I think the series can do so much better if new people are brought on board but knowing the drama that happened behind the scenes I wouldn't want Nomura to feel "replaced". Sometimes new leadership and experience can change everything.
ALSO-The idea of Ultimanias and interviews having key knowledge is ridiculous to me. Ultimanias should only be for behind the scenes work, concept art and some common game knowledge presented in a more accessible form.

Try explaining to another gamer that in your game series some events can be hard to fully understand so you have to buy a Japanese book that may or may not answer your questions.
 
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What makes KH3 so hard for me to swallow is that I actually loved where the side games (minus DDD) were taking the series, and I didn't feel like the magic had dwindled or been lost at all during that initial interim trilogy-- some of the execution was shakier, to be sure, but the heart of the story always felt intact, through and through. I thought there was a natural swelling in its character-based narrative as endgame material that everything was working towards, and while some of the simplistic and more accessible framing of the earlier games was reconstructed into a story with more scale to it, the overarching theme ultimately became about "connections" and how people self-actualize and humanize one another through their closest and most intimate connections with others. And I thought that was a perfectly valid framework through which to expand the story's scope while maintaining that key quality of personal investment: rather than one character's story, it resituated itself as a collective homeward journey in which every character aimed to reach each other through their own, interweaving points of origin.

KH3 saps away at that by focusing its energy (I hesitate to even use that term, as it insinuates some sense of momentum or focus, and KH3 has neither) in all the wrong places. The big war (which is neither big nor a war) was never the destination for this series-- until like the last ten minutes of DDD and then suddenly the entirety of KH3. It was always about the connections between these characters and how they were destined/driven to save one another, and to be saved in the process. That was the engine upon which the series was running and it only faltered when Nomura forgot about that and it became about connections between plot points.

The reason Sora feels as though he has no objective, despite ostensibly having a goal, is because there's no identifying feature between the journey he sets out on and the outcomes that he achieves. Anybody could have done what Sora did, or at least, anybody could have been depicted as doing what Sora did. It was only Sora who did it because he's the "main character" and there are some basic plot devices working in his favor. And it's the same for everyone else; they only show up in this game superficially, as a way of setting the groundwork for stories that aren't theirs-- and those stories which are, there's no interaction with them.
 

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What makes KH3 so hard for me to swallow is that I actually loved where the side games (minus DDD) were taking the series, and I didn't feel like the magic had dwindled or been lost at all during that initial interim trilogy-- some of the execution was shakier, to be sure, but the heart of the story always felt intact, through and through. I thought there was a natural swelling in its character-based narrative as endgame material that everything was working towards, and while some of the simplistic and more accessible framing of the earlier games was reconstructed into a story with more scale to it, the overarching theme ultimately became about "connections" and how people self-actualize and humanize one another through their closest and most intimate connections with others. And I thought that was a perfectly valid framework through which to expand the story's scope while maintaining that key quality of personal investment: rather than one character's story, it resituated itself as a collective homeward journey in which every character aimed to reach each other through their own, interweaving points of origin.

KH3 saps away at that by focusing its energy (I hesitate to even use that term, as it insinuates some sense of momentum or focus, and KH3 has neither) in all the wrong places. The big war (which is neither big nor a war) was never the destination for this series-- until like the last ten minutes of DDD and then suddenly the entirety of KH3. It was always about the connections between these characters and how they were destined/driven to save one another, and to be saved in the process. That was the engine upon which the series was running and it only faltered when Nomura forgot about that and it became about connections between plot points.

The reason Sora feels as though he has no objective, despite ostensibly having a goal, is because there's no identifying feature between the journey he sets out on and the outcomes that he achieves. Anybody could have done what Sora did, or at least, anybody could have been depicted as doing what Sora did. It was only Sora who did it because he's the "main character" and there are some basic plot devices working in his favor. And it's the same for everyone else; they only show up in this game superficially, as a way of setting the groundwork for stories that aren't theirs-- and those stories which are, there's no interaction with them.
I can't remember which game it was revealed that the 7 Princesses of Heart and Organization XIII were meant to summon Kingdom Hearts (it was probably KH3D). But you are definitely right about the build up to the keyblade war. Even in its limited size and capabilities, KHX made their keyblade war feel grander than the one in KH3. Maybe it's because KHX was thousands of keyblade wielders, while KH3 was about 20 people (including multiple clones).

Now that you bring up that point, I feel like the "keyblade war" shouldn't have been used in KH3. I feel like KH3 should have truly been more focused on Master Xehanort and his impact on all of these characters that we've known for years. That was what made me truly despise Xehanort, whenever I think about just what he did to these young people. I think the whole concept of doing another "keyblade war" only came up because of KHUX. KH3 should have been built upon the final confrontation between Xehanort and the guardians of light, where Xehanort wants to summon the X-Blade. The end could have shown the foretellers and Luxu talking about engaging a new keyblade war or something and it would make sense with them having keyblades and - now - all the keyblade wielders on the good side are free/their own person, so you could build up to an actual war.
 

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Granted not all of what we're talking about has to do strictly with Nomura, but I'd like to point out how I kept feeling for a while that he has a... juvenile approach sometimes.
Like, a lot of what he's doing reminds me when I started writing stories. I made almost a dozen what if and AUs that got chopped because I had a good idea for just the incipit and nothing else. Or perhaps I did have something for the ending or the big climax, but then I had to get there, and wasn't good at building up the necessary steps. Or maybe I could've kept going, but got distracted by the newest idea that popped into my mind that I absolutely had to dedicate myself to.
Once I finished a good story which was moderately successful (a high-school comedy AU with the Nobodies), and I should've just left it there.
Instead, I stubbornly insisted in wanting to make a "second season", and so I did. It escalated REALLY quickly, the stakes became too high for what the core of the story was, and the result was a cringe-inducing mess.

I see a lot of this in how Nomura does and writes (or abstains from) some parts and even entire games. Now, Kingdom Hearts is definitely the most ambitious crossover in gaming and drew multiple types of fans for a plethora of reasons, but having this eccentric MO on top of everything didn't smooth things over, I think.

Nomura spent so much time building up the Keyblade War, trying so hard to turn KH into Star Wars, but then had too many years passing between his set-ups and the climax, and in the meantime he got hooked with Union X stuff. And thus, the Keyblade War, which was already a big and ambitious scenario with many characters just thrown in there (I still think Ansem the Wise got pulled back into a series that got over his character and themes long ago), became more of a chore than the culmination of his plans.

I know I'm a broken record with this comparison but Nomura is exhibiting a lot of similarities to George Lucas. Both are creative geniuses that struck gold and don't know or remember how they got there. A lot of people worked on this series so knowing which of them played vital roles to the best parts can be tricky. Who do we praise for the good and who do we criticize for the bad?
This is true, and it can go all sorts of ways.
Everytime a KH title or even just a single thing doesn't work a lot of people are ready for a manhunt towards Nomura, simply because he's the big name attached to the series.
While he definitely has to be involved in many aspects of the series, that's not how it should work. The most notable example is when people took it up with him for showcasing KH III wayyyy too soon or other marketing-related decisions: Nomura was the first one back in 2013 to state that he felt like it was a bit early to start putting KH III through the hype mill.

That being said, while still aware I can't and probably won't ever know who or what went through most of what's in the KH games, I do have to look at the facts.
KH is nothing but a descending graph when it comes to what I like about it. KH1 is by far my favourite title, and a lot of the elements that made it, CoM and KH II so good to play and experience started gradually (or abruptly) disappearing from the series, at the infamous "turning point" we're all describing.
And it coincides with Nomura's himself stating he was starting to take more factors into his hands.

It might be too presumptuos to just outright state that what I liked wasn't even Nomura's handiwork but someone else's, but it is a fact I was much more of a fan of whatever was present in the early stages in the series.
Whether it was still Nomura who has changed his mind/lost his touch, or someone else who did it.


ALSO-The idea of Ultimanias and interviews having key knowledge is ridiculous to me. Ultimanias should only be for behind the scenes work, concept art and some common game knowledge presented in a more accessible form.

Try explaining to another gamer that in your game series some events can be hard to fully understand so you have to buy a Japanese book that may or may not answer your questions.
Explaining story and character stuff with Ultimanias and interviews needs to be gone and never come back.
I know and understand the appeal of handing out some "lost chronicle" about your work, but either they manage to only put optional lore stuff in there or they stop doing it altogether.
The fact that the Ultimanias needed to fill literal holes in the narrative more than once is so frustrating, it gives you essentially "homeworks" to keep on with just to understand what's going on, and it absolutely enforces gatekeeping mentality, from both fans who'll pester you about having to watch 7-hours lore summaries and outsiders who see all of that and decide KH is some absurd cult to get away from.

The reason Sora feels as though he has no objective, despite ostensibly having a goal, is because there's no identifying feature between the journey he sets out on and the outcomes that he achieves. Anybody could have done what Sora did, or at least, anybody could have been depicted as doing what Sora did. It was only Sora who did it because he's the "main character" and there are some basic plot devices working in his favor. And it's the same for everyone else; they only show up in this game superficially, as a way of setting the groundwork for stories that aren't theirs-- and those stories which are, there's no interaction with them.
This point in particular made me realize I don't even have an opinion about Sora in KH III.
I have opinions on all characters in all games: CoM Axel was best Axel, DDD Sora was worst Sora and so on.

I can't bring myself to rank KH III Sora anywhere on my list simply because... he hardly feels like a character. Or rather, he IS a character, but reduced to the simplest, rawest concepts of the tropes he embodies. He's a character like the ones in ancient Greek comedies were-- a bunch of fixed archetypes that did the same things everytime that were expected from their archetype to do and say. They didn't call them "masks" for no reason.

Sora truly feels like he's there because people told him so and that's it. Even when he has "moments", they feel formulaic and artificial.
"They name-dropped Roxas -> sad face, serious tone." "Donald started a joke in my direction -> initiate retort."
It's not that these things are bad on their own, but they're what you expect out of Sora and nothing more. And it's not like a character has to always subvert expectations or something, but once I have to accept Sora doesn't feel part of the main conflict and has plotlines that lead nowhere, I'll at least look for something in his character to stimulate me. And I didn't find it. Nothing about KH III Sora made me love or hate him.


Sleep is starting to kick in so hopefully not all of what I wrote was a contorted mess.
 

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On others topics to me, there are harmless speculation plot points and ones that are just impossible to ignore (once again I can't think of better phrasing her) Then I also like to connect that point to why I think theorizing/speculating has gotten less fun for me throughout the years.

An example I always come to is the voice that talks to Sora during his dive to the heart. There was little harm in speculating whether it's Mickey/ven/MoM or even Kairi grandma because at the end of the day it does not matter too much. It did not hamper my enjoyment of the game and it's a fun discussion point with friends because we can debate speculating this harmless thing.

Compare that to whatever the hell occurred at the Keyblade Graveyard/Heaven thingy in KH3 where even now I am not 100% sure what happened. I am pretty confident after that the majority of people's first playthrough of the KG/Heaven stuff left them confused on what actually happens. I don't find that the good kind of confusion because this is supposed to be a major plot/turning point in the game and I don't have a clue what is going on. Why did Aqua and Ven walk up to Terra-nort again while some character acknowledges they came back from the dead. It just personally took me out of the moment of playing the game.

Yes that can lead to some speculation/debate and I have participated in that but it just feels less fun to me. There are just so many rules and idea/plot points that I have to memorize at this point of the series that it feels like writing a research paper. I have seen people create great theories on these boards but it looks like a college essay with how detail they have to be in terms of sourcing info. To me, part of the fun of KH in the past was you can speculate and discuss in-game unanswered questions without having to do a lot of research but now I can speculate something and someone can rightly point out Nomura invalidates the theory because of this 1 quote in this one ultimania that I will never read and I can only say ok. I totally can see though why people will enjoy this newer level of speculation more given the depth of info there is avaliable to parse through.

Once again I am not saying it's impossible to theorize nowadays but it feels more like homework to do it for me and I always value wild theories as a cornerstone of my enjoyment of the series. And to all you people who do retain the information of KH so well, I can only salute because it's not easy work.
 

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I enjoyed the speculation parts of KH and enjoyed the massive amounts of lore. It bothered me somewhat when - over the years - Nomura would go out of his way to answer things or spend time in a game to explain, when the mystery was acceptable as is and was more impactful as a mystery because the answer wasn't that great (or maybe any answer would be met with a dull reaction because the mystery/speculation would have always trumped a definitive answer). I feel like Nomura felt like he was obligated to explain all these things, which is somewhat true for big plot points, but to design Ven looking like Roxas then put Ven's heart into Sora to explain why Roxas looks the way he does is just too much.

Another issue is that I think Disney is a big part to blame. Back when KH1 and KH2 came out, Disney wasn't the giant it is today. Disney also didn't really care what KH did with the properties besides Mickey. Now that Disney is DISNEY, they want to conquer everything and realized that KH3 was an easy hype machine/cash cow for them. They became more involved, but I feel TOO involved. They didn't care that we could beat up the Queen of Hearts, but don't want Mother Gothel or Randall to fight? They didn't want "Simba" to be in different Disney worlds, so he had to be renamed to something else... but it's still Simba? Sora, Donald, and Goofy are clearly kept away from the Arendelle plotline, all while "Let It Go" and "Do You Want To Build A Snowman" are included with no real effect ("I See The Light" would have actually been more impactful in Corona than any song in Arendelle). If Disney thinks that what Frozen fans was to see a cheap re-telling while you run around a snow mountain with no real memorable locations from the film... then Disney really needs to cut back on their involvement in KH because they're taking away their own magic.
 
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