Exclusive: Kingdom Hearts Ultimania interviews ‘The Speedgamers’ on their Kingdom Hearts Marathon

We speak with The Speedgames about their recent Kingdom Hearts Marathon

This week for our guest blog, our very own Sakuchan interviews the organizers of the latest Kingdom Hearts speed-run featured by the Speedgamers. Over the holidays, this ambitiously motivated group of talented gamers spent 72 hours tackling all of the Kingdom Hearts games (that’s 7 in total) that had been released as of December. Hear about their experiences and learn more about the game series they have planned for the next speed-run!

The Speedgamers, based in Texas, is a group of 23 dedicated young people who come together in the name of gaming glory to raise money for charity by quickly finishing all games of a selected series in a very short amount of time. They have been immensely successful with their charitable ventures, which have included speedruns of series such as Zelda, Pokémon, Resident Evil and Kingdom Hearts.

Kingdom Hearts’ Popularity

Sakuchan: What was the basis for doing Kingdom Hearts this time? Was it by vote? Do you have a lot of staff who are fans or who are otherwise quite familiar with the series?

Sora in a special Christmas wallpaper

Sora in a special Christmas wallpaper. There's definitely a "holiday" feeling to the Kingdom Hearts series. I suppose The Nightmare Before Christmas may have something to do with it.

Britt: We have a topic in our forums for Kingdom Hearts, and it was one of the most highly requested series for us to play. We fit it in around the holidays, just because I felt like the series meshed well with that time of the year. We do have a couple staff members like Ruju and Baltes who are big fans. Overall, as a community, Kingdom Hearts is a huge favorite.

Ruju: Yes, from the point of view of our community, Kingdom Hearts was asked for a lot. The community was really excited for the marathon to finally happen. A lot of players were forum members, which made it even more special.

Sakuchan: I can definitely imagine. There must have been quite the momentum, considering there was a build-up of news items for Kingdom Hearts what with the release of the latest Final Mix and all those new trailers about Re:Coded that surfaced from Square Enix.

Setting Up the Speedrun

Sakuchan: I followed a lot of the videos of the run on Youtube, and there was quite a large group–about four were in view at a time, with five or more in the background playing board games and various miscellaneous things. Is this a typical run? Or was this something special done for Kingdom Hearts?

Britt: During our December marathons, we typically have quite a few people fly down. We were roasting marshmallows in the back, had tents set up–it was a lot of fun. Each night there was a group of us playing different board games. The trailers and new Kingdom Hearts announcements definitely helped to build-up interest, I believe. It was also a good refresher for fans of the games, as well as an easy way to get back into the series.

One thing we are really set on is theming our marathons. We like to have each of our marathons dedicated to a specific series. It helps with the vibe, I think. It gives the chat a lot to talk about, and it’s a great way to celebrate the games.

Sakuchan: I completely agree. I’m glad it’s been so successful for you.

A question for Ruju: since you and Baltes are the big fans, did you have dibs on the Kingdom Hearts game for speed-running? And did you get to choose lesser favorites to leave for your teammates…?

Ruju: Haha, I wish! But I know that one of the big attractions for gaming marathons is to see speed runs. If I had my choice, I would have played Kingdom Hearts II. It’s my favorite of the series, but another player could play the game better, so I gave in on that one. Besides that, I did stay away from the ones I didn’t like as much, such as Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories and Re:Chain of Memories. I ended up playing Aqua’s story in Birth by Sleep, which isn’t bad at all.

It was really fun just to listen to the other players and their plans for the run. It was nice hearing other people being excited about the game and hoping that they could raise some good money for charity.

Sakuchan: The viewers can definitely enjoy both watching and feeling like they’re making a socially-beneficial contribution in turn. It really works out great for everyone.

Challenges of the Kingdom Hearts Speed-run

Sakuchan: Speaking of Aqua, I’m playing her story right now–I ended up skipping the ending and starting a new game with Terra because it was getting too difficult. How does everyone manage to beat the final bosses with minimum grinding and skipping item collection? Can you guys describe your own most challenging moments?

Aqua from the Final Episode. The battle with Terranort is a toughie. Even moreso if you never take the time to level up.

Britt: We had some technical problems that were preventing our viewers from donating with credit cards for the first 48 hours of our marathon, actually. That was probably the most challenging thing for me personally, haha.

Ruju: For me, I actually agreed to play Aqua’s story before I had played it. I started with Terra and was halfway through Ventus when I agreed to play, and right after that, my PSP died. So I was stuck running around looking for another one to continue practicing with. I like collecting everything on my first run-through of games, and usually I have a strategy guide to show me where everything is.

As you can imagine, yes, speed-runs are difficult for me. What I did is I looked at the items I used and the ones I didn’t use. From there, I just tried to practice not opening chests and other things that weren’t essential. As far as enemies go, I asked other forum members what good strategies there were for certain battles and other things like that.

Sakuchan: That must have been quite the challenge for you. Skipping treasure chest feels sort of non-intuitive to some gamers.

Triumphant Moments for the Kingdom Hearts Speed-run

Sakuchan: How about the most triumphant moment you had during the run? (Other than fixing the credit card problem, though I’m sure that was a high point of the day.)

Britt: Mine was definitely the auction we had at the end. I didn’t think we had a shot of reaching our set goal after the technical issues that occurred, but we ended up surpassing it after the auction. It really shows what a great community of gamers and viewers that we have.

The second battle with Vexen in Re:Chain of Memories. Vexen has never been a hugely popular character for some reason. Could the annoying battle have something to do with it?

Ruju: I really didn’t have many problems myself. So, yeah, I was really proud that we ended up reaching our goal, and a lot of people doubted we would. I know another player ended up having a lot of trouble with the second Vexen battle in Re:Chain of Memories. They spent like two hours just on that battle, so when he finally won at three in the morning, we were all ecstatic. Haha. There were a lot of little triumphant moments along the way, that just made the whole experience one of my favorite marathons so far.

Sakuchan: Those are some impressive milestones to have overcome.

Would you tell me what the final contribution total came out to be?

Britt: Approximately $10,700. (The exact amount was $10,624)

Sakuchan: Amazing.

Later on, there’ll be yet another arsenal of Kingdom Hearts games: Dream Drop Distance, Re:Coded, Birth by Sleep Final Mix, Kingdom Hearts 3… I think a lot of people are wondering if there’s any chance that we would get to see those games in one of your speed-runs in the future?

Britt: Most definitely. I think that after the new batch of games finally come out, and especially after the long wait for Kingdom Hearts 3 is over, we will make a return to the franchise.

Ruju: Haha. That makes me excited already!

Britt: Yeah, me, too.

The Next Game Series to be Speed-run

Sakuchan: Well, this is a good time to ask about your next speed-run! Pokémon is up next, right? How’s the planning for that going so far?

The Speed Gamers next run will be with the Pokemon series! The focus will be on the original games, Yellow, Red, Blue, Gold, and Silver. Brings back memories, doesn't it?

Britt: Oh, it’s been great. We’ve got a team of five players set already. I love the Pokémon series, especially the original 251 monsters. This marathon is more focused on the originals.

We’ll be playing: Red, Blue, Yellow, Gold and Silver.

72 hours to catch ‘em all!

Ruju: Yeah, we’re doing a lot of things to help promote this marathon, and really get the community behind it. I think it’ll turn out great!

Sakuchan: I’m sure it’ll be fantastic. We here at Kingdom Hearts Ultimania will give our support to the marathon, too.

The Pokémon marathon is to take place March 11th through the 14th–Spring Vacation week for all you students! See their site for details.

Well, those are all the questions I had. Is there anything you two would like to add?

Britt: Thanks so much for the interview and the support!

Give Us Your Thoughts

So, what have you got to say? Did you see the latest Kingdom Hearts speed-run? Did you enjoy it? Would you like to see another run of Kingdom Hearts in the future?  Are you looking forward to the speed-run of Pokémon? Let us know!

If you missed them the first time around, you can catch the videos of their Kingdom Hearts speedrun on youtube. Please support their cause and check out the Speedgamers official website.