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Is It Nomura's Fault: The Problem With Kingdom Hearts



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Henryp

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I don't think it's fair to say that the series is going downhill, or that it is losing its idendity game after game, as if every game that comes is somewhat worse than the previous entries. At worst, I can see the series being inconsistent except in the music and graphic deparment, each game presenting a series of higher highs and lower lows than the previous entries. For example, the use of FF characters went downhill after KH2, but DDD went and incorporated TWEWY characters in more a meaningful way, to then drop all type of direct crossover until ReMind (and only for fan-service). The lowest point in the series regarding exploration and world design was KH2, specially vanilla KH2 where it was practically non-existent, and bbs, DDD and KH3 at least tried to expand on the idea of exploration, one with better results than the others.

Regarding the storyline, is it a mess? Yeah, but it has been a mess since KH turned from a stand-alone game to a game series. In the first two entries after KH1 the storyline already played the concepts of doppelganger, "the other me", time travel (briefly), resurrection, idendity theft, deconstruction of binarism... Every game afterwards have mostly played again with those concepts or expand the importance of those. Is it Nomura fault? Mostly. He relies to much on complex tropes to generate a false sense of deep meaning to his storylines, explains the bare minimum for the player to barely understand the game's storyline through big exposition moments and then relies on deus ex machina to solve most of the conflicts because the ideas behind the conflicts requires an incredibly high level of world building that do not fit into a 20-30h main campaign game that needs to be kid-young friendly. The complexity of the concepts he uses also cuts short a lot of possibilities for character development, as the time required to move the main plot forward when the game can actually talk about its own thing is so much that character to character interactions and character insights are relegated to secondary importance.

On defense of Nomura though, I do think he has really cool ideas on paper for the concepts of the games and the characters he creates. I do like the idea behind the BbS trio conflict of trust, and the sea salt trio of mortality salience and self-awareness that their time together is limited. It is the way those plays out that feels messy most of the time. Also, even if the road from point A to point B both regarding characters and plot points leaves a lot to be desired, Nomura makes it in a way that almost everything, someday, will make sense, and he will present it in a way that will generate excitement or fells in most players. Taking Riku's return at the end of KH2 and Aqua's return in KH3 as examples, even if in the first case Riku was mostly non existent through the game and a big part of his character development happened off screen and the second one comes after the decision of turn Aqua "bad" because... she was keyblade-less threw into a pool of darkness, most players still cares about those moments and were moved by them. And we know they actually know how to showcase more sides of the characters and their interactions, taking RAX and SDG as an example of a believable friendship.

Regarding Disney, I just don't understand the big problem being discussed now. Amazing Disney incorporation into the main plot and the bigger picture only happened in KH1. Every game after that game was a step down. However, I do feel like some games have at least tried to implement Disney concepts in a better way than their precesors, specially KH3. Yes, Arandelle is horrible in those regards, there is almost 0 interaction even with Sora and Disney put a lot of restrictions... but all the other worlds mostly go from fine to really great? I mean judging by post-KH1 standards. Setting aside personal preferences about the games or the Disney movies, I cannot understand those who claim "objectively" that Disney is worse in each entry, as if BbS and KH3 worlds were less meaningful than those in KH2 to the overal experience. I actually believe the contrary? I have expent a lot of time during the quarentine diving again into KH lore and KH world building, and it actually reinforced that notion. And for those missing Disney boss figths, while some of them could have been amazing (Randall, he actually have a power), there is no one to blame but the entertainement industry that is changing, and villains such as Hans and Mother Gothel are no more powerfull wizards with dark magic, but humans with more realistic approach of their motivations and ways of obtaining them. And I actually don't think that's a bad thing.

As final note, I do think KH1 is overall the most cohesive experience. Is a simplier story, where original concepts mixed with Disney and FF blend perfectly in almost every aspect of the game (story, gameplay, exploration, minigames...), and something like that haven't been present since the original KH. However, I do understand that to go back to that model Nomura would have to complete reboot the series, go for a more stand-alone-ish approach, and put himself a lot of restriction in his creation of new characters and storylines to make them blend as well as they did in KH1. And while I don't think any game post-KH1 have achieved such a level of cohesion, I do think every game in the series has done something great or even better thats their precesors. Combat in KH2 appeals much more to the players than that of KH1 for a reason, and recently KH3 combat is for many better than that of KH2 or almost as good. Exploration and world design have been improved a lot, in how bigger, different from each other they have become, and how some of them feel more alive than ever. And while I love KH1 for what it is and it's still my favorite KH as a whole, I find some storyline concepts that came in later games fascinating. It misses most of the time in the development to feel like an amazing piece of fantasy storytelling, but the ideas are there and I still belive it captures most of the essence of what KH means.
 
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Damn such topics make me hurt and more and more bring closer the chance to leave this forum. One gets the feeling that people hate almost everything except KH1. It is especially painful to hear comments like the above that the TAV trio should not have existed. ((
And compare KH with the Game of Thrones....😓
People hike forget that KH is primarily a video game, not a book or movie. And the story there can also not be revealed in detail, as in book and cinema works.
Sorry, I try to remain silent and not flattery in such topics, but seriously, almost one in three is devoted to what kind of KH is bad today. And these are perhaps the only topics that get a lot of comments. In contrast to the posts on the plot.
Unfortunately, I have to agree. I don't post (or even come on) here much, basically for this reason, but when I do it seems I'm always finding posts that are complaining or being negative in some way about KH. I thought this was supposed to be a KH fansite. I totally understand not wanting to be "fanboy" all the time and I think posters are entitled to critique KH, I certainly have my fair share of critiques and things I'd do differently, but I seldom see positive things about KH on here. Which is baffling to me. There are lots of positives to the series. If you don't see them, why are you here?

To get back to the topic on hand though: The answer is it's shared responsibility between Nomura, Disney, Square Enix and the so-called "fans" that can just never be satisfied unless KH1 gets re-released for the 1872nd time. For us to blame "one" party solely would be, quite plainly, naive as a) we don't know what goes on behind the scenes and b) each game probably has different reasoning for not "living up to the expectations" set forth.
 

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Really? Going downhill? The series is FAR from it. I love how things have been developing over the years. It's that sense of anticipation and contemplation of what will happen next.

Dunno what you guys are talking about. I'm enjoying every minute of how the story is going.
 
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Damn such topics make me hurt and more and more bring closer the chance to leave this forum. One gets the feeling that people hate almost everything except KH1. It is especially painful to hear comments like the above that the TAV trio should not have existed. ((
And compare KH with the Game of Thrones....😓
People hike forget that KH is primarily a video game, not a book or movie. And the story there can also not be revealed in detail, as in book and cinema works.
Sorry, I try to remain silent and not flattery in such topics, but seriously, almost one in three is devoted to what kind of KH is bad today. And these are perhaps the only topics that get a lot of comments. In contrast to the posts on the plot.
"I wish Nomura were able to fully express himself and utilize his creativity to the fullest. KH on its own can't provide that because most (well, legally none) of the characters are his own."

That's what I managed to boil said discussions down to. It isn't that Nomura sucks. It's that he's trapped inside a box and KH's narrative reflects that. All he really needs is a game or two to himself.

And about TAV, look: Roxas is my favorite character by leaps and bounds. However, I believe he shouldn't have returned. Same for Xion and Namine. They have no purpose anymore and the cast is already bloated. Resurrecting a character just to ignore them is just like taking something off a shelf just to immediately put it back. The more main characters there are the harder it is to tell a story. That applies to every story in existence, not just KH. Am I hurt by my stance? Yes, considerably so. Do my feelings change reality? No, of course not. Thus my stance remains firm. Well..... some people feel that way about TAV because they were the last trio to be added thus they could also be used as examples of "there are too many characters".
 

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Well..... some people feel that way about TAV because they were the last trio to be added thus they could also be used as examples of "there are too many characters".
As someone who played everything post KH2 in the HD compilations I think that Days is more problematic narrative-wise than BBS (sorry that's really poorly worded). The events of BBS are hinted at in KH2 and TAV are key characters for the Dark Seeker saga (at least Terra and Ven) and Ventus/Vanitas look to be key to the next saga too. Plus it contextualises what came before and after, and sets up Xehanort and even Luxu.

Days is more the game which complicates the series for the sake of it, in my view. Even though Days came out before BBS, its events and Xion are not really hinted at in KH2 and I think you could hit most of the key plot points of the Dark Seeker saga without it.

Also, for me, the time travel in the series isn't as annoying and poorly handled as the use of amnesia as a plot device and Days, then how Xion is eventually remembered, is a an example of how clumsily it's used, though it's as bad with the UX stuff now too.
 

DizneyXBirds95

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And for those missing Disney boss fights, while some of them could have been amazing (Randall, he actually have a power), there is no one to blame but the entertainment industry that is changing, and villains such as Hans and Mother Gothel are no more powerful wizards with dark magic, but humans with the more realistic approach of their motivations and ways of obtaining them. And I actually don't think that's a bad thing.
Personally, I'm okay not battling Mother Gothel given that she isn't really much of a fighter in the original film only using her lies and deceit to her advantage and would've been an ineffective boss, I think she's the only Disney antagonist from the revival era I'm okay not fighting as a boss. Hans, same as Gothel even if he has his sword he would be a very weak boss unless they gave him a heartless to assist him (similar to Clayton and Barbossa) or super-powered darkness like Shan-Yu and Scar.

Randall not being a boss had to do with the guidelines and restrictions Pixar put on Nomura and it doesn't surprise, in fact when compared to Toy Box, Monstropolis had the most guidelines and restrictions put by Pixar according to Nomura in some interviews and in the ultimania, not to mention they were VERY protective of Randall and flat out didn't want him to be beaten up with a Keyblade.

Dream Drop Distance was frustrating, while I was alright not fighting Frollo cause it would not be a fair fight fighting an old man who flails his sword, I was disappointed we didn't fight the big bad himself: CLU. Sure Rinzler was a fun fight and glad he's a boss, it just baffles me that CLU wasn't even fought as a boss as he was the instigator for turning Tron into Rinzler and massacring the ISO's I don't know who made the decision on not making CLU a boss but I blame it on the development staff and Nomura.

It's a good thing that Davy Jones was a boss in Kingdom Hearts III and didn't suffer the same treatment as Randall and CLU, and that the number of Disney Bosses is on par with BBS Disney bosses and higher than the Disney bosses from Dream Drop Distance (which had 6), but it's far below the number of Disney Bosses from Kingdom Hearts and especially Kingdom Hearts II.

My biggest fear for future KH games is having Disney/Pixar and to an extent, Nomura and the development team pulling a "Randall" or "CLU" on those forthcoming villains either because of protectiveness or just laziness from the development team.

Disney antagonists in the KH series come down to three categories:
  1. Those that aren't really meant to be fighters (Frollo, Lady Tremaine, The Queen (Snow White), Gothel, and Beckett) and personally I'm alright not fighting these particular villains cause tbh they aren't meant to be fighters in their films of origin and they lack the sort of combat and abilities to be bosses, mainly the former 4
  2. Those that fans want to fight with and whack a keyblade in the game but ended up either not appearing or not becoming bosses due to Disney and/or Pixar being VERY protective with them and not allowing them to become a punching bag (e.g. Randall).
  3. Those that can fight in their film of origin but we're made a joke and not fightable in the game by Nomura and the Development staff either due to laziness or whatever it was they did during development (e.g. CLU, Gaston in χ)
I would like to have a boss fight against Dr. Facilier, King Candy, Tamatoa, and Te Ka as bosses as long as they don't get the CLU and Randall treatment. For Dr. Facilier even if he may not be a fighter but he does rely on using his Friends on the Other Side and also using his Voodoo to create illusions to deceive his foes so he could possibly work but it just will depend on Disney though and whether they will pull a "CLU" or "Randall" on him, mainly the former.

Interestingly enough Oogie Boogie from Nightmare Before Christmas wasn't even a fighter in the original movie as he only just tortures others, set booby traps to stop his enemies and flee like a pansy at the last resort when his foes manage to stop his traps but he did end up becoming a boss in the first game, Chain of Memories and Kingdom Hearts II.

Here's to hope in the next KH games we get to fight more Disney Bosses, I'd love to have a boss fight against Dr. Facilier, Tamatoa, Te Ka, and among others as long as Disney (including Pixar) and/or Nomura don't pull a "CLU" or "Randall" on them.
 
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As someone who played everything post KH2 in the HD compilations I think that Days is more problematic narrative-wise than BBS (sorry that's really poorly worded). The events of BBS are hinted at in KH2 and TAV are key characters for the Dark Seeker saga (at least Terra and Ven) and Ventus/Vanitas look to be key to the next saga too. Plus it contextualises what came before and after, and sets up Xehanort and even Luxu.

Days is more the game which complicates the series for the sake of it, in my view. Even though Days came out before BBS, its events and Xion are not really hinted at in KH2 and I think you could hit most of the key plot points of the Dark Seeker saga without it.

Also, for me, the time travel in the series isn't as annoying and poorly handled as the use of amnesia as a plot device and Days, then how Xion is eventually remembered, is a an example of how clumsily it's used, though it's as bad with the UX stuff now too.
As someone who has tried and failed twice to watch the Days movie but has played the game constantly for 8 years, I really disagree. There are so many great hints within Days that are foreshadowing for BBS, such as Xigbar seeing Ventus in Xion. But to be honest you aren't alone with that opinion, it's rather popular to tear Days to the ground and back within the fandom, which I suppose I don't mind so much because I can see people's issues and everyone needs to sometimes let out their frustrations in a charged way to feel better. (btw this isn't targeted at you at all)

Personally I find the dialogue and character interactions in Days to be of a significantly higher quality than much of the series, but I'm rather alone in that I feel. But I do agree with your point on the amnesia, as much as I love xion, I detested the way she was brought back, and Remind didn't really help with the recusants sigil business. I'm not angry about it though, mostly because I can't feel any significant strong emotions when the move made in that cutscene was just *so* bad. It's laughable to me.

On topic, look, Without Nomura, and Hashimoto, KH1 would not be regarded as one of the best rpgs or even games, of all time. Even in the 00s it took balls to stand up to Disney and flat out say "No, I'm doing this my way" and walk away from that and still have your project intact. Nomura should always have respect for that.

But a lot of the moves he's made after has left bad tastes in mine and other fans' mouths. I think there are two significant points in the KH series that still colour opinions on KH as a franchise, 2009 and 2012.

I would say Days being released wasn't divisive, it was more of a 70/30 split in favour of "this is awful". Plus, it started the "KH titles" meme, and was just generally seen as a dip in quality across the board and it definitely had a lot of easy shots you could take at it and was a pretty good vessel to take KH into laughing stock territory. But at least it never had a significant impact on the overall plot.

But 3D on the other hand, I can't remember a single person actively defending the game at the time. And what's worse is that it directly set up KH3 too, so really, I only have myself to blame for thinking KH3 would be better than this in the writing department.

I feel like both of these games have something in common, that being that Nomura's personal oversight of the plot was much greater, but also correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't these both the only KH games that don't credit Daisuke Watanabe as a writer? I don't claim to know anything at all about the behind the scenes of KH Development, but I think there is something to be said about having a writer who probably knows these characters as well as or better than Nomura, than the team that wrote 3D and KH3.

Another thing I feel is worth noting (which is probably in direct contrast to what I've already written) is that, to me at least, It felt like Yasue had a lot more of a proactive role in the development of KH3 than Nomura did - which I guess is to be expected when your other project is the company's magnum opus. I felt a noticeable drop in quality when comparing Olympus and 0.2 and maybe Toy Box to almost anything that came after it, and I mean in the holistic sense, as I feel these two "worlds" had a perfect balance of original plot, dialogue, level design, etc etc. Sure, later worlds provided high points in certain aspects, like the caribbean with exploration, and Tangled with those small interactions with Rapunzel, and Yeetus Vanitas for those that like that type of stuff. But none of them felt like they were the real deal and all of them felt like they were stalling for time to get to when Nomura was free enough to tell the staff the direction the rest of the story should take, which is probably where a writer experienced with the characters and plot in almost every game could have come in handy.

So, I guess tl;dr, Nomura just needs to be both not as proactive with the plot but more proactive in the game dev. Yes, it makes sense.
 

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As someone who has tried and failed twice to watch the Days movie but has played the game constantly for 8 years, I really disagree. There are so many great hints within Days that are foreshadowing for BBS, such as Xigbar seeing Ventus in Xion.
This still baffles me. Of ALL people Xigbar would see Xion as...where the hell did Ven even come from? Like...of it was Sora or Roxas, understandable, but...he sees XION in Ven? I get that she's comprised of Sora's memories, but...it legit doesn't make ANY sense to me.
 

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As someone who has tried and failed twice to watch the Days movie but has played the game constantly for 8 years, I really disagree. There are so many great hints within Days that are foreshadowing for BBS, such as Xigbar seeing Ventus in Xion. But to be honest you aren't alone with that opinion, it's rather popular to tear Days to the ground and back within the fandom, which I suppose I don't mind so much because I can see people's issues and everyone needs to sometimes let out their frustrations in a charged way to feel better. (btw this isn't targeted at you at all)
Thank you for being so polite and I really don't hate Days and I believe people when they say the actual game is well written. My point was that BBS is hinted at KH2, then that game and 3D build the Dark Seeker saga for KH3 (Nomura has said he envisioned the Dark Seeker saga while working on KH2). Days takes the story in a different direction, one it seems Nomura was never that interested in pursuing but still half-heartedly added to the later games, the core plots of which stem from BBS.

I think a lot of people would argue that the Dark Seeker saga just wasn't very good and shouldn't have happened and that's fine. But looking at the saga, I think Days and Xion complicate the narrative without really advancing it.
 

cakito123

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Thank you for being so polite and I really don't hate Days and I believe people when they say the actual game is well written. My point was that BBS is hinted at KH2, then that game and 3D build the Dark Seeker saga for KH3 (Nomura has said he envisioned the Dark Seeker saga while working on KH2). Days takes the story in a different direction, one it seems Nomura was never that interested in pursuing but still half-heartedly added to the later games, the core plots of which stem from BBS.

I think a lot of people would argue that the Dark Seeker saga just wasn't very good and shouldn't have happened and that's fine. But looking at the saga, I think Days and Xion complicate the narrative without really advancing it.
Not really disagreeing with you (maybe a little), but what exactly would count as necessary or unecessary to advance the main plot?
I mean, what exactly does the story of a universe/game needs to tell in order 'advance the plot'?
Because when you pit it that way, I could like say that Roxas isn't important either to advance the story. But I just cant imagine Kingdom Hearts without Roxas. He is such an important char to the series that I'd rather have him with an unecessary plot than not having his story and arc.

I know you mean like, how every game on the series should build up to KH3 so it can pay off the story, but... There is just so much quality in the so deemed 'unecessary' plots too. Storytelling doesnt always need to have special events to build something. Sometimes all they wanted to do is set a tone and create some melodrama. Nomura though it would be worth to make Days's plot and game, (and therefore Xion) and the game exists now and it probably made us all cry in that xion's death scene lol we'll remember it forever

So how do we evaluate, exactly, what is necessary or not in a videogame franchise created to be entertaining?
 
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Dast

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Not really disagreeing with you (maybe a little), but what exactly would count as necessary or unecessary to advance the main plot?
I mean, what exacrly foes the story of a universe/game needs to tell in order 'afvancr the plot'?
Because when you pit it that way, I could like say that Roxas isn't important either to advance the story. But I just cant imagine Kingdom Hearts without Roxas. He is such an important char to the series that I'd rather have him with an unecessary plot than not having his story and arc.

I know you mean like, how every game on the series should build up to KH3 so it can pay off the story, but... There is just so much quality in the so deemed 'unecessary' plots too. Storytelling doesnt always need to have special events to build something. Sometimes all they wanted to do is set a tone and create some melodrana. Nomura though it would be worth to make Days's plot and game, (and therefore Xion) and the game exists now and it probably made us all cry in that xion's death scene lol we'll remember it forever

So how do we evaluate, exactly, what is necessary or not in a videogame franchise created to be entertaining?
Yeah I think that's reasonable to ask and I wouldn't want to erase Days from existence because clearly people like the game and its characters very much. My point was just that I think you could still have the essential Dark Seeker saga plot without Days and Xion, but not without BBS and TAV. It might be terrible, though.
 
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As someone who played everything post KH2 in the HD compilations I think that Days is more problematic narrative-wise than BBS (sorry that's really poorly worded). The events of BBS are hinted at in KH2 and TAV are key characters for the Dark Seeker saga (at least Terra and Ven) and Ventus/Vanitas look to be key to the next saga too. Plus it contextualises what came before and after, and sets up Xehanort and even Luxu.

Days is more the game which complicates the series for the sake of it, in my view. Even though Days came out before BBS, its events and Xion are not really hinted at in KH2 and I think you could hit most of the key plot points of the Dark Seeker saga without it.

Also, for me, the time travel in the series isn't as annoying and poorly handled as the use of amnesia as a plot device and Days, then how Xion is eventually remembered, is a an example of how clumsily it's used, though it's as bad with the UX stuff now too.
Without days, Roxas' and Axel's friendship, the thing we were supposed to care so much about in KH2, would've been 100% tell, don't show. That's bad storytelling. "Care about these character interactions we never bothered to show or develop." "Care that they'll never be together again!" And say what you want about Xion, but you can't tell me that Roxas' and Axel's dynamic got all the time it needed in KH2.
 

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One of my bigger gripes at the newer games: more and more Cutscene Incompetence / Cutscene Power To The Max (TV Tropes) moments.
You can’t just say these words but not explain what situations they come into play in lol

But yeah, there is a lot of this and it is very inconsistent.
 

SweetYetSalty

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Not really disagreeing with you (maybe a little), but what exactly would count as necessary or unecessary to advance the main plot?
I mean, what exacrly foes the story of a universe/game needs to tell in order 'afvancr the plot'?
Because when you pit it that way, I could like say that Roxas isn't important either to advance the story. But I just cant imagine Kingdom Hearts without Roxas. He is such an important char to the series that I'd rather have him with an unecessary plot than not having his story and arc.

I know you mean like, how every game on the series should build up to KH3 so it can pay off the story, but... There is just so much quality in the so deemed 'unecessary' plots too. Storytelling doesnt always need to have special events to build something. Sometimes all they wanted to do is set a tone and create some melodrana. Nomura though it would be worth to make Days's plot and game, (and therefore Xion) and the game exists now and it probably made us all cry in that xion's death scene lol we'll remember it forever

So how do we evaluate, exactly, what is necessary or not in a videogame franchise created to be entertaining?
As a Roxas fan (fave character) I actually agree he is not important to advance the overall story. You could take him out of KH2 and Sora's story would largely go unchanged because Sora having a Nobody did not soften his stance on the Organization in KH2 anyway. Obviously I'm glad they made him, again fave character. But it makes me curious if he wasn't a fan favorite if he would get called out on that more the way Xion constantly is.

Without days, Roxas' and Axel's friendship, the thing we were supposed to care so much about in KH2, would've been 100% tell, don't show. That's bad storytelling. "Care about these character interactions we never bothered to show or develop." "Care that they'll never be together again!" And say what you want about Xion, but you can't tell me that Roxas' and Axel's dynamic got all the time it needed in KH2.
This. I didn't even care for Axel and Roxas's relationship in KH2. It felt too one sided for me. I personally needed a game like Days to care about them, and it has nothing to do with Xion. My favorite Roxas/Axel moments were their adventures in Neverland, Roxas constantly asking Axel questions that he had to makeup answers for, and I love the 'sunsets red' scene. All of these came from Days.

If Days had been skipped and we went straight to BBS to DDD to KH3, I would not have been invested at all in reviving Roxas and reuniting him with Axel. Why would I? I always liked Axel but Days made me fall in love with Roxas, a character I was previous lukewarm for.

I don't think any KH game was a waste to be honest. Even Re:Coded has elements I think helped the series, it's just KH3 ignored those elements. So for me the series is as good as is. Not perfect or the best written, but I wouldn't sacrifice any of the games or characters this series has brought me. So in a way, for all his flaws, I also applaud Nomura for giving me this beautiful mess of a series that I love.
 

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With the remix included - the game-play side of the the Kingdom Hearts series is really solid and pretty satisfying... Not unlike FF7R, actually. The gameplay isn't perfect or the best its ever been, but recent Nomura projects at least seem to be able to hit a 8/10 for the combat systems.

Nomura just can't seem to give a story lately that doesn't resort to notoriously easy/sloppy writing tropes that lets him get away with anything he, and his somewhat disjointed web of individuals like a scenario writer for example that get to make story decisions, want to have: time-travel, alternate dimensions, etc. Its not that having these tropes immediately makes stories bad... buts it challenging to do them in a way that feels satisfying and with clearly disclosed limits that readers can expect the story to keep itself in (KH has notoriously been creating rules just to seemingly introduce situations that almost immediately to break those rules, or make how we understood them previously to be thrown completely into question... and not always in an understandable way, with the new rules being clear).
 
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