How Destiny Islands are used as a design structure in Kingdom Hears



REGISTER TO REMOVE ADS

MerelyP

New member
Joined
Sep 19, 2017
Messages
3
Age
27
Location
London, UK
Website
merelygamefulplayers.wordpress.com
Hi there guys and girls,

I'm a game blogger looking to engage more with the fandoms of the games I write about.

A little while back I started a series of articles on how islands are used as settings in games, largely because I was born and raised on an island. For the second article I examined how islands are used as the introductions to games, and so focussed heavily on Destiny Islands (as well as a few islands from Super Mario World, Zelda: Wind Waker and Skyward Sword).

Here's a link to the article: https://merelygamefulplayers.wordpress.com/2017/09/01/little-worlds-within-themselves-part-2/

I'd love to hear thoughts from you genuine fans of the series, as well as any ideas about the sorts of things from Kingdom Hearts I could write about in the future.

Below's the image my partner made for the articles, featuring Link from Breath of the Wild being chased by an Octorok whilst K.K. Slider from Animal Crossing lounges in the sun.



I hope you guys enjoy reading. Feel free to comment with your thoughts and criticism :)
 

catcake

eien no chikai
Joined
Mar 3, 2015
Messages
1,448
Location
Finland
  • The Gambler of Fate
  • Melodious Nocturne
  • Flurry of Dancing Flames
  • Luna Diviner
  • Cloaked Schemer
  • Chilly Academic
Islands make great starting worlds for rpgs, because the stories often have that "man I wish I could explore the world" theme in them. It's a very clear transition from a safe, relatively small home that's isolated from the rest of the world, to the big scary unknown when the heroes leave it and go on their adventure. I personally love it when games have a slow start and some light fun exploring in the beginning to get familiar with the character(s) a bit and get a feel of the controls and all that. Destiny Island does all this really well. Lots of cool places to explore, jumping around, hidden stuff you might miss, optional practice fights, introducing the "main trio" (secondary main trio really). It's such a comfy place to return to everytime and a perfect starting point for the story.
 

lusca_bueno

New member
Joined
Sep 16, 2017
Messages
44
Age
23
To be honest, I kinda felt like Destiny Islands initial purpose was a bit "overwritten" over time. In KH1 it was very expressive to me its design as a home base of some sort, a comfortable way back to the original lives of the main cast, and it was clearly intended to be a place of great interest in later entries. In KH:CoM its story was relived, but no new layers were actually put in it, much like in KH2, aside from the place being close to not being shown at all. I'm not gonna enter the merits of realism or what about Sora's family and other friends cause it'll really take us nowhere, but even as a landmark it became kinda forgotten to me the more I played these series.

After KH2 came the spin-off trio, BBS, Days and Coded, all of them tried some kind of formula in connecting the new characters to Sora through Destiny Islands. Ven, Roxas and Xion all had appearances there, so after all is said and done, the feeling I get out of Destiny Islands is not anymore of a "home base" as initially, but that of "origins". The island is a clear representation of their origins and also their major goal, because it's intimately tied to the main concept of friendship between these characters, so if there's one thing you can bet on for KH3 ending for example, is the whole original cast that outlived this war to be reunited in these islands, probably a lot of original XIII members + trios + Donald, Gooffy and Mickey.

Still, it is a very interesting place, specially considering how it's gonna be developed in the future. Until today, Destiny Islands was always limited to a very small piece of exploration, and also very few inhabitants, which is nothing new compared to other worlds representation also. But come to think of it, it's unlikely Destiny Islands is gonna be a central stage of conflict again after KH1 since the shock value is already gone, so it might as well assume a new form, that is yet to be seen in the KH franchise. Maybe a lively mood full of NPCs, who knows?

But so far, objetively speaking, the use of Destiny Islands as a design structure has been purely narrative, and very limited. It has a big presence, sure, after all a lot of games will go back there and relive the same events in different fashion, in different times chronologically, but reminding the player that the place is still the goal. Although, it's not something that is building too many layers aside from the fond memories that the main cast has of it, as a symbol of good times past.
 

catcake

eien no chikai
Joined
Mar 3, 2015
Messages
1,448
Location
Finland
  • The Gambler of Fate
  • Melodious Nocturne
  • Flurry of Dancing Flames
  • Luna Diviner
  • Cloaked Schemer
  • Chilly Academic
That's actually a good point. I'm not a fan of how so many characters now have connections to Destiny Islands. I really would have preferred it to just stay as a simple place where we started. I don't mind Terra and Aqua visiting there, but everything else was just... meh. This is just opinions but. Yeah. Especially Xehanort originating from DI was very much unnecessary, but not surprising at all since we all know how much Nomura likes to connect everything to everything...
 

MerelyP

New member
Joined
Sep 19, 2017
Messages
3
Age
27
Location
London, UK
Website
merelygamefulplayers.wordpress.com
Islands make great starting worlds for rpgs, because the stories often have that "man I wish I could explore the world" theme in them. It's a very clear transition from a safe, relatively small home that's isolated from the rest of the world, to the big scary unknown when the heroes leave it and go on their adventure. I personally love it when games have a slow start and some light fun exploring in the beginning to get familiar with the character(s) a bit and get a feel of the controls and all that.
Hi Catcake,

I also feel that’s pretty much the gist of the trope, and it usually works quite well as it ties aspects of game-structure and gameplay (tutorials, introducing basic concepts to the player, allowing for safe exploration) with elements of narrative (introducing characters before the plot really gets underway, drawing that contrast between peaceful life of routine and dangerous adventure into the unknown). I too am fond of a slow-burning beginning, especially if it allows for interesting exploration. On the other hand, some games – such as Kingdom Hearts 2 – pace their intros far too slowly for my liking. What’s more, introductions such as the beginning of Zelda: A Link to the Past – which thrust you straight into the action – can be very effective in engaging the player as well.


To be honest, I kinda felt like Destiny Islands initial purpose was a bit "overwritten" over time. In KH1 it was very expressive to me its design as a home base of some sort, a comfortable way back to the original lives of the main cast, and it was clearly intended to be a place of great interest in later entries. In KH:CoM its story was relived, but no new layers were actually put in it, much like in KH2 … even as a landmark it became kinda forgotten to me the more I played these series.
Hey Lusca,

I completely agree. In fact, I feel the significance of Destiny Islands even throughout KH1 somewhat shifts and dwindles. What’s more, I feel this is emblematic of various qualities that were diluted as the series went forward: there’s a charm and cohesiveness I feel when I play the first game that I felt was largely lost in the progressively convoluted sequels, prequels, paraquels…

…after all is said and done, the feeling I get out of Destiny Islands is not anymore of a "home base" as initially, but that of "origins". The island is a clear representation of their origins and also their major goal, because it's intimately tied to the main concept of friendship between these characters, so if there's one thing you can bet on for KH3 ending for example, is the whole original cast that outlived this war to be reunited in these islands…
Very convincing line of argument, I feel that’s quite likely too.

Until today, Destiny Islands was always limited to a very small piece of exploration, and also very few inhabitants, which is nothing new compared to other worlds representation also. But come to think of it, it's unlikely Destiny Islands is gonna be a central stage of conflict again after KH1 since the shock value is already gone, so it might as well assume a new form, that is yet to be seen in the KH franchise. Maybe a lively mood full of NPCs, who knows?
Given the increase in the scale of the worlds in KHIII, it would be interesting to repurpose the setting and make it feel like a settlement from a more up-to-date JRPG.

But so far, objetively speaking, the use of Destiny Islands as a design structure has been purely narrative, and very limited.
I disagree that it’s purely narrative – in KH1 it fills a pretty traditional game-design role of acting as a tutorialised opening stage, as I outline in my article.

I'm not a fan of how so many characters now have connections to Destiny Islands. I really would have preferred it to just stay as a simple place where we started. I don't mind Terra and Aqua visiting there, but everything else was just... Especially Xehanort originating from DI was very much unnecessary, but not surprising at all since we all know how much Nomura likes to connect everything to everything...
Again, I feel this is symbolic of the changes to the series in general: too many convoluted connections leading back conveniently to things we’ve already been introduced too. Perhaps the narrative payoff in KHIII will be worth it…
 

Veevee

Member
Joined
Aug 1, 2017
Messages
665
Location
darkness within darkness
  • Red Travels the Farthest
  • Savage Nymph
  • The Gambler of Fate
  • 15th Anniversary
  • Flurry of Dancing Flames
  • Luna Diviner
I think one additional purpose of Destiny Islands is Nostalgia. As a kid, I often imagined how it would be to run away from home with just a stick and some bread in a cloth tied to the stick and have some "adventures". I imagined the wildest things to be out there in the world back then and asked myself why I lived where I lived and how it would have been to live elsewhere. Even though I had left that age and dream behind me when I first played KH, I could really relate to Riku's questions what would be out there and his feelings of living in a small world. The thought that you could cross an ocean with just a small raft reminded me of my stick and cloth *grin*
While I do mind a lot of the Xehanort stuff, I actually found it pretty interesting that he was from DI. If I remember correctly, KH1 already hinted that someone who had once lived on the island found a way to escape to the outside world and YX bears some similarities in character to Riku, so that one was actually grounded and mentioned early and not made up for shock value and retconned later.

An island offers a reason to wanting to leave practically by default because you are so obviously limited in space. If you live in, say, a city you would theoretically have the opportunity to leave home every instant since you could just go out and buy a bus ticket - if you have no money, you can just go until you tire. Theoretically possible so not as good a reason to leave as living on an island. Many, many RPGs use the destruction of the hometown as a reason for the main hero to leave home - which was also the case in KH, but there was a reason before that, so the cliché didn't hit too hard. They would've left anyway (probably without success, but so what) and the destruction just sped up the process instead of making the process inevitable from the start.

What always irrititated me about DI was that Riku and Sora gave of the impression that said island was their origin in KH1 which was later corrected in KH2 and BBS where we learned that Sora's unseen father just brought them out there to play and that they actually lived on a bigger island that had a school and buildings and stuff. So if there were at least two islands, there might have been more, maybe it would've closer to inspect those first and after that take on the world but they avoided having that argument by mentioning Kairi came from another world which is way more interesting for kids than the island next door. Concerning that, it still confuses me that Young Xehanort is also supposed to originate from DI - it would be quite interesting to know if Destiny Islands is the name of that particular island or a chain of islands. What do the other islands look like? Where do they all actually live? We will probably never know.
 

lusca_bueno

New member
Joined
Sep 16, 2017
Messages
44
Age
23
I disagree that it’s purely narrative – in KH1 it fills a pretty traditional game-design role of acting as a tutorialised opening stage, as I outline in my article.
Yeah, there's actually also this point! Surely it was a role that other places like Twilight Town and Traverse Town filled later on, but it definitely will be remembered for this purpose on early entries.
 

MerelyP

New member
Joined
Sep 19, 2017
Messages
3
Age
27
Location
London, UK
Website
merelygamefulplayers.wordpress.com
I think one additional purpose of Destiny Islands is Nostalgia. As a kid, I often imagined how it would be to run away from home with just a stick and some bread in a cloth tied to the stick and have some "adventures". I imagined the wildest things to be out there in the world back then and asked myself why I lived where I lived and how it would have been to live elsewhere. Even though I had left that age and dream behind me when I first played KH, I could really relate to Riku's questions what would be out there and his feelings of living in a small world. The thought that you could cross an ocean with just a small raft reminded me of my stick and cloth *grin*
As an island child myself who spent most of my teenage life at boarding school, I constantly questioned why my parents had chosen to settle in such a small and remote place (I can appreciate their decision these days, but 15 year old me was constantly frustrated that I had to spend most of my holidays away from my friends). Tapping into this impulse to experience/be part of a bigger world is undoubtedly at the heart of many uses of island settings in fiction. Whether it’s explicitly related to nostalgia in regards to Destiny Islands seems uncertain: bear in mind that when the original game released, the majority of people who played it would have been children, and by definition most children are unable to experience nostalgia.

While I do mind a lot of the Xehanort stuff, I actually found it pretty interesting that he was from DI. If I remember correctly, KH1 already hinted that someone who had once lived on the island found a way to escape to the outside world and YX bears some similarities in character to Riku, so that one was actually grounded and mentioned early and not made up for shock value and retconned later.
All valid points, though I’m pretty sure there was some retconning involved. I think Nomura simply left himself the opportunity to make this change through use of an ambiguous reference to someone once leaving the islands.

An island offers a reason to wanting to leave practically by default because you are so obviously limited in space. If you live in, say, a city you would theoretically have the opportunity to leave home every instant since you could just go out and buy a bus ticket - if you have no money, you can just go until you tire. Theoretically possible so not as good a reason to leave as living on an island. Many, many RPGs use the destruction of the hometown as a reason for the main hero to leave home - which was also the case in KH, but there was a reason before that, so the cliché didn't hit too hard. They would've left anyway (probably without success, but so what) and the destruction just sped up the process instead of making the process inevitable from the start.
Good observation. I particularly like how that trope is subverted in Final Fantasy IV, when potential spoiler the player as Cecil is partly responsible for the destruction of the hometown of Rydia, one of your party members end spoiler. As I note in my article, an outside force intruding on the island helps to catalyse the hero’s journey in both Link and Sora’s cases.

What always irrititated me about DI was that Riku and Sora gave of the impression that said island was their origin in KH1 which was later corrected in KH2 and BBS where we learned that Sora's unseen father just brought them out there to play and that they actually lived on a bigger island that had a school and buildings and stuff. So if there were at least two islands, there might have been more, maybe it would've closer to inspect those first and after that take on the world but they avoided having that argument by mentioning Kairi came from another world which is way more interesting for kids than the island next door. Concerning that, it still confuses me that Young Xehanort is also supposed to originate from DI - it would be quite interesting to know if Destiny Islands is the name of that particular island or a chain of islands. What do the other islands look like? Where do they all actually live? We will probably never know.
I always got the impression in KH1 - from the cutscene in which you hear Sora’s mum calling for him, and a few other things - that the island the kids play on was just one part of the larger islands. Admittedly it would have been better if you could actually see the other islands in game, but level-design in KH has always been a bit lazy in some regards. As lusca_bueno intimated, perhaps we’ll return to a more expansive form of Destiny Islands in a future game.

Yeah, there's actually also this point! Surely it was a role that other places like Twilight Town and Traverse Town filled later on, but it definitely will be remembered for this purpose on early entries.
Indeed. Again, this is further evidence to the argument that the roles Destiny Islands once filled have been warped and diluted, but still they were of great gameplay significance in the first game. For many fans of the series, Destiny Islands were the first proper subworld we ever moved around in as Sora, and the very first place we ever wielded the Keyblade! Besides, returning to the same starter world for successive games can be very tiresome (off the top of my head, numerous 2D Sonic games are guilty of this).
 
Top