As a kid, I was taken by the last commercial on the Mickey's House of Villains VHS - none other than Kingdom Hearts. I knew nothing about it, but it seemed epic and had a bunch of Disney characters. Unfortunately, I only had a PS1 at the time, and I wouldn't get a PS2 until years later, and by then I'd mostly forgotten my desire to get KH1. I would see ads and commercials for it here and there.
In 2007, I was in a Lion King craze (my favorite movie of all-time), and I learned that not only was it in Kingdom Hearts, but so was Chernabog, my all-time favorite Disney Villain besides Scar. That fall, I had the option to buy either 1 or 2. Though I learned Lion King was only in 2, I figured it'd be best to start from the beginning. So I bought 1, began to play it.
Maybe it was my overactive kid imagination, but I always got so wrapped up in universes in a movie or show or game. Whenever I start a game I usually feel like I'm on the verge of something big. Whether it was collecting the crystals in Crash Bandicoot: Warped; collecting the Time Gem in Bugs Bunny & Taz: Time Busters, or even skating through the Elephant Graveyard in Disney's Skate Adventure, I would get hooked and get emotionally involved in it. When I read the manual for Kingdom Hearts, I knew, then more than ever, that this was going to be big. How serious this game apparently was, even just from the lyrics to Simple and Clean in the back of it, with the image of Sora looking into the distance on the beach. And even from the commercial on the House of Villains VHS.
Then I started the game, and read the opening letter from Kairi on the opening cinematic. Wow, I thought, this is deep. Then the rest of the cinematic played with that epic orchestral version of Hikari. I was speechless. I thought, "How did I find this game?" Then I began. The Dive to the Heart was haunting, moreso than any game I'd ever played. I'd spent my childhood till then playing silly games or fun games with moments of gravity. This one, I quickly realized, was not my typical kind of game. I grew fearful of the Heartless almost immediately. The attack on Destiny Islands, Sora being separated from his family and friends, and the glow of the Heartless' eyes as you struggled in vain to attack them really shook me up. Then going to Traverse Town, and learning this was happening to the entire universe, and my beloved Disney characters. And the paranoia that came from being attacked at any time, and the even worse paranoia from when a special Heartless would spawn and I wouldn't be attacked by generics.
I had to save the worlds, I thought. I had to stop the darkness and Maleficent. And so I went to each world, haunted by the threat of the darkness in every world except Olympus (likely because there were no Heartless there). But every single world, from Agrabah to Halloweentown, I felt like time was of the essence. I had to save the worlds, and I had to survive countless Heartless attacks. Agrabah, Wonderland, and Deep Jungle were the scariest Disney worlds to me, for whatever reason. Hundred Acre Wood also haunted me because there were thankfully no Heartless there, and it was so quiet despite being so whimsical and cheerful. I wished I could stay forever in the blissful storybook, but I had to keep going, otherwise Pooh and friends would find themselves attacked by Heartless one day.
Then space got more ominous as I got to Hollow Bastion. I felt betrayed by Donald and Goofy, and was floored when Ansem revealed himself, and then horrified when Sora sacrificed himself. With the final keyhole unlocked, the second visit to Traverse Town and then visiting Wonderland and the cards made it clear how bad things were getting, as well as that last meeting with the princesses.
After defeating the Behemoth, then came the descent to End of the World, the bright berg shining through the almost complete darkness. I didn't feel comforted by EOTW's light, though, since I knew I'd just entered the place of nightmares, the heart of darkness. I went through the place, worn down by the Invisibles and Angel Stars, knowing I could be walking in the remnants of Pride Rock or Bambi's thicket. Fragments of Sorrow did nothing to alleviate my fears. And the place was just nightmarish. The quiet of the colorful canyon, and of Gate to the Dark before you stepped outside. And the darkness outside the World Terminus pillars. The pillar of fire that led to the Heartless machine, and then that ominous message which name dropped Kingdom Hearts. I had never felt so, well, scared, of a game.
Then came the brutal battle with Chernabog, who was the surefire sign that I was in the absolute deepest pit of the Kingdom Hearts universe. And the long, desperate fight in Linked Worlds, and that oh-so scary Final Rest. I didn't know what awaited me - the black text box even spooked me, for crying out loud - but I braced myself and found Destiny Islands. And then the battle with Ansem, to save everyone, began.
And I was cast into the Realm of Darkness, and separated from Donald and Goofy. Guardando nel Buio really hammered it home how epic of a battle I was in, for the fate of everything and everyone. Saving Donald and Goofy from the pits of darkness was relieving. Then came the glimpse of what really awaited beyond the door to Kingdom Hearts - those blueish neon gray things still stick with me today. And then seeing King Mickey and Riku sacrifice themselves, jeez. And finally being separated by Kairi as Simple and Clean played, making it truly feel like a tragic ending despite my victory over Ansem.
The lyrics of Simple and Clean were like nothing I'd ever listened to. "Hold me, whatever lies beyond this morning is a little later on. Regardless of warning the future doesn't scare me at all. Nothing's like before." Wow. Just wow. And it was absolutely right.
At that time, when I finished Kingdom Hearts, I was starting middle school and entering a new, more mature phase of my life. And Simple and Clean was right. "Nothing's like before", and I had to face the future. And what a way to do it, with a haunting, but beautiful and epic battle with the forces of darkness.
So yeah. I was definitely hyped for whatever came next. However, I'd only end up getting II next, and watching Sora's story from Re:COM on YouTube. Then playing it in the fall of 2008 when it came to America.
Long story short; I was hooked because of the epic scope of the first game from the very first commercials, and it came at a time of great change in my life, so it's always stuck with me ever since, and I can't wait for what's next. Even if III won't come out till 2030.