Has Kingdom Hearts become too complicated?
Is Kingdom Hearts becoming too complicated? Fans seem to be divided over whether the series’ ever increasing complexity is smart, or actually dumb.
Looking to the fandom for an answer, you’ll see the word “convoluted” being thrown around Kingdom Hearts boards frequently nowadays. Some have even gone as far to suggest that the story of Kingdom Hearts has become as convoluted as, or even exceeded, such infamously complicated series as Metal Gear Solid. But is this the case? If so, should us fans be worried?
Back to Square One
To get some perspective on the issue, let’s start back at square one. With the release of the first Kingdom Hearts, I think we’d all agree that the plot was fairly straightforward. A boy goes on a quest to save his friends with a magical weapon, the Keyblade, all while felling dark creatures called Heartless. Simple enough. Then through Chain of Memories and Kingdom Hearts II, the mythos was expanded to include such plot devices as false memories and a new enemy, the Nobodies.
The latest entry in the series, Birth by Sleep, continues this pattern, as it naturally should, with the introduction of the Unversed, and some surprising revelations. What is at issue here isn’t the fact that the mythos is being expanded, but how it’s being expanded. If we were to take the principle of Occam’s Razor, in which the simplest explanation is regarded as the best, and held it up to Kingdom Hearts… let’s just say that there would certainly be quite a bit of fat that razor would have to trim.
Take a look at the most egregious violations of that principle- the series’ protagonist, Sora, and the antagonist, Xehanort.
[Warning: Birth by Sleep spoilers!]
Timeline of Sora
- Sora (KH1): So there’s this boy
- Sora (KH2): who splits into this other boy
- Sora (Days): that spends his time with a clone of the original boy who looks like the girl the boy likes.
- Sora (BbS): But wait! The other boy looks just like a boy from ten years ago who has another half who looks like the original boy.
Timeline of Xehanort
- Xehanort (KH1): Some guy who possesses a young guy, who ends up looking just like the guy.
- Xehanort (KH2): But this guy is actually part of another guy who is the apprentice of an old guy that goes by the same name. Oh, and the other half of the guy is running around too.
- Xehanort (Birth by Sleep): When those two halves of the guy were one guy, though, even the original guy was actually made from yet another old guy possessing yet another young guy.
What’s wrong with this? Well, when you need a flow chart just to keep track of all the derivatives of your two main characters, something’s not right. Note here that I’m not arguing, like some have, that Kingdom Hearts “doesn’t make sense.” But it feels as though the series is becoming more and more complex just for the sake of being complex, which doesn’t add any real depth, only a superficial semblance of it. In other words, the series is trying too hard to be smart, but ends up looking dumb.
Even worse than that, the convolusion is making it harder for new fans to hop on to the series’ bandwagon. Any diehard fan of the series should have no problem differentiating Ven from Roxas, or Master Xehanort from Xehanort the Apprentice.
But someone who’s looking into Kingdom Hearts now has to digest all of this information at once, which, going back to the examples of Sora and Xehanort, can be both daunting and unappealing. It’s becoming a series that isn’t even remotely easy to jump into.
Kingdom Hearts 4: Revenge of the Spleen
And you have to ask: Where do we draw the line? If it isn’t already too intricate, then what is? What if we found out in KH3 that Master Xehanort was actually the roommate of the real Xehanort? What if in KH4 we found out that the roommate of Xehanort was actually made from the spleen of another man?
Also bear in mind that this is not an attack on any of the characters. For instance, I loved Ven as a character, but as a plot device? Eh. Simple enough to understand his role within Birth by Sleep, but when examining the larger context of the series, he just makes things that more complicated.
And that’s not even taking into account all of the smaller plot holes. When you have a story that grows this complex, there’s bound to be some holes that pop up out of negligence or some other reason.
For example, how come Donald and Goofy don’t recognize Yen Sid’s tower in KH2 when they were there in BbS? Or, Why does Ienzo appear to age so much when the apprentices were supposed to have given up their hearts a year after BbS (knowing that Nomura said Nobodies don’t age)? Don’t even get me started on Roxas and Naminè’s births..
These are negligible, to be sure, and taken by themselves, they’re no big deal whatsoever. But what these holes lack in scope, they make up for in number. Kingdom Hearts is in danger of creating a Kudzu Plot. The more you think about the series, the more of these dangling plot threads you find.
It’s like if Grandma made you a sweater for Christmas. At first, you think it’s perfect. But then you notice a dangling thread here, a dangling thread there, and before you know it, the sweater is unraveling at the seams! Goddammit, Grandma!
So what’s a Kingdom Hearts fan to do?
Well, if you’ve made it this far with the series, there’s some merit in that. Clearly, the complexity hasn’t become so much of an issue that fans are dropping like flies. Kingdom Heart’s strong fan base is a testament to the fact that it is, indeed, a great series, despite its faults.
And there’s hope for us yet! Even Nomura has admitted, in a recent Famitsu interview, that “the story thus far has extended too much” and that in Kingdom Hearts 3D it would “be good to bring it together plainly for a moment.” By no means, then, has the complexity gone past the point of no return.
Going back to the comparison to the Metal Gear Solid series, Metal Gear Solid 4, while universally acclaimed, was also lambasted for its complexity. The latest in the series, Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, returned to a simpler style of storytelling.Maybe KH3D will be our Peace Walker, with Kingdom Hearts returning to its roots: A story that isn’t so simple that it’s dumb, yet also a story that doesn’t blanket itself in a veil of “smart.”
Whether or not Tetsuya Nomura continues on the route of complexity, one thing is certain: From that complexity one universal axiom has emerged.
Do you think KH has became too complex?
What say you, reader? Has Kingdom Hearts become too complex for its own good? If so, what game did you get ‘lost’ at? Or do you still think the storyline is still quite clear and enjoyable?
Has Kingdom Hearts become too complicated?
- Not really, but it’s close. I’ve had my fill of Xehanort's (51%, 138 Votes)
- Heck no! I want more Sora-Offspring! (31%, 84 Votes)
- Yeah, and it’s too late. I’ve drowned in a sea of Sora's. (18%, 46 Votes)
Total Voters: 268
“Has Kingdom Hearts become too complicted?” was written by Grassy, moderator on our Kingdom Hearts Forums. Each Monday, we publish a Guest Blog from a member of the Kingdom Hearts or Gaming Community.