KHU Roundtable – Our Kingdom Hearts Experiences

KHU Community Members discuss their Kingdom Hearts Memories, Experiences & Thoughts

Sakuchan (Moderator): Welcome to the first ever Kingdom Hearts Ultimania Roundtable, where we invite a motley crew of KHU community members to an informal discussion of  Kingdom Hearts.

Without further ado, I’d like to introduce our two Roundtable guests: one of whom is Shay, who you might know from our Kingdom Hearts Forums as one of the global moderators; we are also very fortunate to have Darkandroid the UK Editor-in-Chief from
Thanks for dropping in, guys.

Being Drawn to Kingdom Hearts

Sakuchan (Moderator): So can you tell me how you came about getting into Kingdom Hearts? Which game did you start with?

“All it took was 20 seconds into the Planet B ~Remix~ and I tackled my sister to the floor for the controller.”
– Shay

“I loved Square Enix games and Final Fantasy in particular, and–combining that with my childhood Disney favorites–I couldn’t really say no.”
– Darkandroid

Shay: Well, there’s a funny story about how I got into the game. I had to be about 10 (oh god, 9 years ago..), and I was going through the whole, “I’m too old for dolls and cartoons! I’m almost a pre-teen!!!” stage, you guys will know the one if you can remember that far back. Anyway, the commercial for the first Kingdom Hearts game would come on the TV rarely–but that’s how I found out about it. Of course, I immediately thought this game was going to be “dumb” and “I’m too cool for this!” because there were Disney characters in it (who were, apparently, just not good enough for my dramatic flare~). My 8-year-old sister was into it though and rented it from Blockbuster after days of convincing our mother.

All it took was 20 seconds into the Planet B ~Remix~ and I tackled my sister to the floor for the controller. You couldn’t get me away from that thing. Guess I wasn’t too cool after all, heh.

Then again, when your gaming history consists of Spyro, Croc, Crash Bandicoot, and Bomberman, something like Kingdom Hearts is sensational.

Utada Hikaru, the voice behind the Kingdom Hearts theme songs.

Darkandroid: I was first aware of the series back when I saw a trailer in a Playstation Magazine (PSM) DVD in 2002 when I was 12 or 13 (around the time gaming magazines were still relevant in the industry). It was a bizarre concept to me, but at the same time intriguing. I loved Square Enix games and Final Fantasy in particular, and–combining that with my childhood Disney favorites–I couldn’t really say no. So that Christmas I received the game as a present. I played it non-stop. I know that because that New Year’s, my cousins commented on the fact that I played it so damn much. Other than the countdown to midnight, I did nothing else but play Kingdom Hearts. Fun Fact: I actually completed the game for the first time just under an hour before the New Year’s Eve countdown.

Now Kingdom Hearts is one of my favorite gaming franchises. Though my hype for the series did calm down after the second game, most of the spin-offs just haven’t interested me. But recently playing Birth by Sleep did bring back my love for the series.

Sakuchan (Moderator): I don’t remember wrestling people or spending Christmas and New Year’s on the original Kingdom Hearts, but I do remember eating dinner in 5 minutes just so I could get back to the game–my parents really thought I was being terrible.

The Key Demographic

Sakuchan (Moderator): Ok, so 10, 12 or 13, and 14 (for me) were our ages. Most other people I know who totally dig Kingdom Hearts were around the same age range, too. What is it about that time in our lives that makes us fall for this gaming concept? You both mentioned Disney–I believe that it has something to do with that. At that age, I was still very much entranced by anything Disney threw at me.

Disney popularity in the 1990’s, when most Kingdom Hearts fans grew up.

Darkandroid: Let’s be honest here, you never get too old for Disney. Those who deny it are lying. Everyone I know still loves the old classics and when we start having kids, we will be watching them again with them. If you weren’t shown Disney as a child then you had awfully ***** parents, there’s no way around that.

It’s that combination of childhood nostalgia and your obsession of the moment. 9 years ago, Square Enix didn’t have the same amount of backslash it does now. So, for many gamers, there was a lot of love for any sort of RPG Square threw their way and J-RPG’s were still praised rather well at the time. The idea of combining 2 completely different entities wasn’t such a bad idea. Bringing that childhood nostalgia to my favorite medium–the gaming genre–was a great concept.

Thankfully, Kingdom Hearts came just before the fall of the J-RPG. If the game had been made today, I don’t think it would have been as successful as it is now–and it’s showing. Gamers as a whole have lost interest in the series. Now, I don’t think that is down to the concept losing steam, but rather the lack of a full console release. But that’s a discussion for another time.

Does Kingdom Hearts Cross Age Boundaries?

“I think, however, there was something very specific about our generation that was interested in these kinds of games so much, that may be lost on other generations.”
– Shay

ShayYou know, the age rating for Kingdom Hearts is 12+, but it’s been previously stated somewhere that Kingdom Hearts doesn’t actually have a target age range (which may be why the game has gone from something very simple to very complex). So why did it attract that age range? Well, I don’t think it’s nearly as much about Disney as everyone thinks. Disney is, of course, one aspect of it. I think, however, there was something very specific about our generation that was interested in these kinds of games so much, that may be lost on other generations. It also may be because the main characters were around that age, but I think it’s more than thatand I couldn’t tell you what exactly about it that attracted our demographic. But I don’t think it’s any coincidence that there’s been a fall of J-RPGs, as Darkandroid has mentioned.

I also don’t think it’s something we’ll be able to pass onto our kids–just like our parents couldn’t get us into General Hospital or Jag or whatever it was they appreciated. What Disney they like, and what games they like, is going to greatly depend on what media trends are happening when they’re at a specific age that we won’t exactly be able to influence. Try as we might.

Kingdom Hearts isn’t exactly “the greatest hits,” because that spot is already reserved for Final Fantasy. And God bless our hearts trying to enforce the one hit wonders on our children…

Sakuchan (Moderator): I like what Darkandroid said about the element of J-RPG, and how a number of people must have latched on to that back in the day. It’s part of the reason why Kingdom Hearts keeps its fans, because it’s one thing to attract players to the title, and it’s quite another to keep the series popular sequel after prequel after spinoff. To be honest, I was never much of a fan of the J-RPG–the mechanics are too slow for me. I like to be more involved and get up close and personal in the action. I’m also a sucker for customization, so Kingdom Hearts really fit my bill. Would that be accurate in describing the demographic? Those who like the nostalgia but are also open to something innovative?

Darkandroid: I would agree that the J-RPG elements are what got some people into the series in the first place, but now it’s all based on your interest in the story and dedication to the franchise. Those who want to play Kingdom Hearts would have done so by now. Many people probably played the series out of curiosity more than anything, so it ended up widespread among RPG fans. Now that the series has grown, we can really see how the demographic has spread.

Keeping the Games Popular

“It’s one thing to attract players to the title, and it’s quite another to keep the series popular sequel after prequel after spinoff.”
– SakuChan

Sakuchan (Moderator): It would be fun to see the age distribution of the players over the years (because I’m science-geeky that way). I bet Square Enix has those stats and that’s how they track and possibly cater to their target audience. When I was working at Gamestop half a year ago, there were only ever a couple of used copies of Kingdom Hearts, Kingdom Hearts 2 and Re:CoM at any one time–there was a continual trade-in and purchase cycle. Most of the customers were aged 16+. So at the release of Re:CoM, I wondered if this was a trend, that the major audience consists of previous fans growing up. I can see that this would be a potential challenge for Square Enix as they plan Kingdom Hearts 3–it’d be very hard to continue targeting 13-15 year olds with a continuing story because you first have to hook them to the previous installments. They’re going to have a smaller audience by then, that consists of a bunch of 20-something year olds who were dedicated enough to wait xxx years for number 3.

In other words, I predict a funnel effect. As the years go by and spin-offs come and go, the target demographic narrows until you get down to people who are still on the forums.

Darkandroid: What I’ve noticed is that the age demographic has sort of stayed the same over the past 9 years. I would say the average Kingdom Hearts user was around 13-17 when it first came out and it’s no different now. Oddly, the series is especially popular in the Hot Topic sort of crowd. We’re seeing that the store has been offering quite a bit of Kingdom Hearts merchandise over the past year. 9 years ago those people must’ve been around the ages of 4-8, an age I would consider too young to really appreciate the series–especially with how confusing the main narrative became with the second game. Many fans came into the series with the first game, but I think there was just as large an influx of new fans with Kingdom Hearts 2’s release.

“Kingdom Hearts 2 didn’t draw in nearly as many fans as Kingdom Hearts did. I think this might be because, going back to Disney, Disney today is a lot different than it was.”
– Shay

ShayYou know, I’d have to disagree on that point. Kingdom Hearts 2 didn’t draw in nearly as many fans as Kingdom Hearts did. I think this might be because, going back to Disney, Disney today is a lot different than it was. When I was a little girl, my favorite Disney movies were things like Oliver & Company, Cinderella, etc… but the little girls today all like Hannah Montana and High School Musical–which aren’t exactly things that are going to be included in the next Kingdom Hearts game (at least all of us oldies hope not). And the Final Fantasy elements Sakuchan was talking about… Well, the glory of Final Fantasy hasn’t exactly been demonstrated in the last 4 games or so, and that side of Kingdom Hearts is being lost on newer gamers.

In total, I’d have to say that the Kingdom Hearts games are going to appeal less and less to the newer generations–until finally the game franchise is at an end. Most of the fans today are just old fans of the first game reappearing.

The Unending Debate: Disney or Final Fantasy?

Sakuchan (Moderator): Shay, you are officially one of the few people I know who wasn’t drawn to Kingdom Hearts because of Disney to begin with. Did you fall for the Final Fantasy flair?

ShayIt wasn’t Final Fantasy that got me into the game. It was the theme song, hook line and sinker. It also didn’t help that I had a total crush on Riku.

Playing off the silver-haired hot guy anime cliché, Riku is unsurprisingly popular with most players of the Kingdom Hearts series.

I had no idea what Final Fantasy was at the time, and only gave it a shot because it was a little like Kingdom Hearts… hahaha, how naïve I was!! I like the Disney, and the Final Fantasy–but that’s not why I like Kingdom Hearts. It’s a thing of it’s own.

Darkandroid: That’s where I sort of disagree. While I do like it for that reason, I also love it because of the charm the Disney brings. The reason Kingdom Hearts 2 felt a little disappointing to me was because that charm was almost completely absent.

Many people started to play the series based on curiosity, but now they stay because of the on-going story. The focus on, “OMG it’s a mixture of Final Fantasy and Disney,” has faded and the series is now its own entity. This was obvious during Kingdom Hearts 2, when the main plot was completely centered upon these new villains (the Organization) and the Disney aspect was mostly pushed to the side, like side missions.

Sakuchan (Moderator): That Disney charm made a comeback in Birth by Sleep–which I was very happy about. Sure, Disney was never really part of the main plot (except the first Kingdom Hearts, where the princesses were used as a plot device), but it’s important that the Disney characters are given enough involvement. That was a problem in 2. For example, the Land of Dragons had a load of characters that cropped up from the movie, but all that Mulan’s soldier friends did was pay lip service. Compare that to Birth by Sleep’s Cinderella world, where most of the side characters–mice, the Prince, the Prince’s foot servant, the Godmother–all either said or did something of relevance. To me, throwing those extra lines in there for minor characters had a profound effect.

It’s funny how we came back to Disney and Final Fantasy, again. It looks like that’s always going to be a primary way to split up fan preferences of the series.

Sakuchan (Moderator): I think that’s all the time we have here. Thanks for coming in, Shay and Darkandroid–it’s been a pleasure! I think I’ve learned some things that I never really thought about before. Thank you again–that’s a wrap!

Tell us your Kingdom Hearts Experiences

How did you get into Kingdom Hearts? Why do you think Kingdom Hearts was so successful?
Or what age were you when you got into Kingdom Hearts?