This Happens When?
I have a love-hate relationship with Kingdom Hearts and I never thought that I would be writing a post that isn’t in favor of the series. The original captivated me with characters and stories that I became obsessed with, but the controls were terrible. The second game had great controls, but I was less invested in the story and characters, but only slightly. They were still pretty darn good. After that, Square Enix totally lost me. Actually, I should say before, in between and after as they have games that force themselves into each place.
Kingdom Hearts Dark Road is the epitome of what I mean. It seems like Square Enix is really good at finding ways to explore the crevices of nuanced story bits and expand upon them for money. This latest entry is a new mobile game that takes place sometime way before the first Kingdom Hearts game. Before Sora, the character we all grew up caring about, is even introduced. It re-uses the ‘kawaii’ or cute graphics of the mobile game that preceded it – Kingdom Hearts Union x, (pronounced Union Cross) that used to be called Unchained x (pronounced Unchained Key…spelled ‘chi’). Confused yet? That’s less than 1% of what I could try to explain, but I’ll spare you.
The Story So Far
Taking on a card game style combat mechanic said to rely on reflexes, like the Gameboy Advanced game Kingdom Hearts Chain of Memories (Yes, there was a ‘Re:make’ on the PS2), Dark Road will tell the story of Xehanort’s past. Who’s Xehanort, you ask? Me too. Without spoiling it for you, he’s someone’s nobody’s nobody…I think. I should point out that Xehanort is truly one of the core characters that much of the story across all of the games revolves around, so it’s good to get answers to his backstory, but that’s assuming we eventually do. You’ll see what I mean one day on some console.
Forgive me, but I’m being facetious on purpose. The point I’m trying to make is that Kingdom Hearts is one insanely confusing story with insanely confusing characters split across an insanely wide array of hardware consoles only occasionally being bundled together for your wallet. Erm, I mean for you to finally play through them all without buying a Gameboy Advanced, a Playstation 4 and everything in between. The problem with that is that you just bought the last bundle which included one less game and now you want them all together so you decide to buy it again, spending more money…for the same games. I have two collections of Kingdom Hearts games for the PS4 already and several for the previous console generations. One of them is called ‘The Story So Far’, which I found humorous. I feel like they should just sell you ‘Kingdom Hearts: The Story So Far’ as the only game and add each new entry into the series on top of your existing copy for a cost as DLC so they don’t have to continually come up with new names for the installments.
Shrouded In Mystery
The only reason I keep buying them is because I hope to, one day, understand the story I felt so connected to when I was twelve years old. In fact, as I scroll through the announcement post’s comments, the only people excited for this game are those who are obsessed with trying to understand the story, like me.
Even the Kingdom Hearts Dark Road announcement is shrouded in mystery. It’s like Square Enix took tips from the directors of LOST or something. In fact, the tweet says that we will receive more information this month, but for now, I can scantly find more than a few screenshots and lines of text HERE. It states that the title will be playable without Union x installed, but the top of the website says that Union x will combine the two titles. Again, it’s confusing.
I intentionally kept myself from looking up spoilers for the story for fifteen years (Yes, since before the invention of Youtube) until recently when I decided to buy Kingdom Hearts III, so I chose to watch this timeline video as I felt It would increase my enjoyment of the game instead of decreasing it to understand as much as I could, going in. I had a few ‘aha!’ moments throughout, but ultimately, I ended up remaining quite confused at the end. I feel like I didn’t spoil much for myself. You can watch it below if you wish, but it’s entirely your call.
“-But Don’t Be Afraid.”
Many fans on twitter have fear that Union x will stop being supported in favor of the new title. They are also worried that Dark Road will be riddled with gatcha mechanics. I pronounce them ‘GOTCHA!’. They’re game mechanics which are meant to mimic capsule toy vending machines in Asia that steal your money for little reward. Yes, I’m talking about loot boxes, or as EA likes to call them, ‘surprise mechanics’. My personal fear is that the series will continue its tradition of ‘in-between’ games that see our beloved Disney character’s stories and tropes recycled to death. I have little doubt that this will be the case here as with Union x. The mouse house offers little to no creative freedom for Square Enix to alter them. Kingdom Hearts was always a tricky boat to work in though as Disney must protect their brand and character images. While I don’t like it, it is understandable.
Regardless, in true Kingdom Hearts fashion, Dark Road has been delayed, only this time, it wasn’t Square’s fault. The pandemic has put many out of work and thrown off almost every release schedule this year, but we can hopefully hear more about the game this month. I’m itching to see how much of what I said comes true, but I doubt I will be surprised. Surprises with this series usually come with major installments. For those of you who love Kingdom Hearts as much as I do, you may want to wait for the next gen console release. If you do play Dark Road, just understand that it probably won’t be meant to do much for you unless you’re a Kingdom Hearts lore addict.
Will I try playing it? Of course I will. That is, if it plays on any of my Pixel devices. For over a year, Union x was unplayable on all of my devices until a few months ago. Despite all of my gripes, I still love Kingdom Hearts to my core which is why I have gripes to begin with. In fact, I think all true fans do.