The time has come, for the final stop on my Kingdom Hearts marathon before Kingdom Hearts 3’s release, and what better game to end on than the one that started it all. The original Disney x Final Fantasy crossover game, Kingdom Hearts. The reason why I’ve waited until now to talk about the first game is because I had just finished playing it on my own time before I had even come up with the idea for Al Unlocked, so I just decided to stay the course and start the site with Kingdom Hearts 2. If you’ve made it this far and are wondering why I haven’t touched on Chain of Memories and the Nintendo DS games, or if you’ve just found this site for the first time and are curious, first of all thank you! Secondly, early on into my time playing KH2 I came to the realization that I wouldn’t be able to play all the games and had to sacrifice a few, so it made sense to not play the DS games that I don’t own (358/2 Days and Coded) and my least favourite out of the series (Chain of Memories). I’ll get to them eventually, don’t worry, but for now let’s talk about KH1! Kingdom Hearts 1 was released on the PS2 originally, eventually being remastered for the PS3 and, later, the PS4 in the Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix.
Kingdom Hearts 1 is the first we see of our protagonist, Sora, living and playing on the Destiny Islands with his best friends Riku and Kairi. On a dark and stormy night Sora wakes up, worried about the safety of the raft the three friends have been building to explore the world outside their home. Upon his arrival, Sora finds that a door to the darkness has been opened, unleashing monsters called the Heartless upon his home and putting it on the path to destruction. At the same time, a mysterious weapon known as the Keyblade appears in his hand as his only weapon against the Heartless. After his world is destroyed, Sora wakes up in a new world known as Traverse Town, meets up with Donald Duck and Goofy, and their adventure to save every world from the Heartless begins.
The PS4 version (the version I played) of KH1 is very similar to the rest of the PS4 remastered titles when it comes to looks, running at 1080p resolution and 60fps. However, as this was the first game in the series, there isn’t as much detail in the character models and textures. On top of that, just like the rest of the games prior to Kingdom Hearts 0.2, some of the faces just look horrifying. It was all pretty stable though; I didn’t really have any issues with framerate which was really nice. The music is, of course, amazing, with lots of orchestral scores and music based on the Disney films featured in the game.
Kingdom Hearts saw the debut of the combat system we know and love today: a real-time action RPG with a command menu that takes care of all your needs. That’s attacking, magic, item usage, and summoning. Not only do you have your own abilities, but you also have two party members (mostly Donald and Goofy) to support you with their own. Sadly, they don’t do a good job of this, as Goofy doesn’t seem to contribute much and Donald was perpetually dead throughout my whole playthrough. Sora’s got some combat chops on the other hand, being able to combo both physical attacks and magic, and being able to summon certain Disney characters like Simba or Tinkerbell for a helping hand. Fighting in KH1 is simpler than other games in the series, but it’s tight, responsive, and it ages well. You can also use passive abilities learned through levelling up to augment the fighting styles of Sora and pals, ranging from abilities unlocking powerful Limit Break skills to combo modifiers.
Since it’s the first game in the series, and of course a Kingdom Hearts game, KH1 has a host of mini-games you can play to break up the pace of the regular gameplay. And they all suck. Most of the mini-games are fortunately grouped up in 100-Acre Wood, which is a 100% optional world. The Gummi Ship, on the other hand, is required to access any world. If you read my review of Kingdom Hearts 2, you might remember me raving about the Gummi Ship sequences in that game. I have the opposite sentiment for the Gummi Ship in KH1. It’s slow, uninspired, and uneventful. What makes it worse still, is that for a short while at the beginning of the game you have to replay full Gummi Ship levels if you want to backtrack at all. You eventually gain the ability to warp to any level you’ve been to on the world map, but that doesn’t do much to excuse the pointless backtracking.
Overall, the original Kingdom Hearts stands the test of time despite simpler combat and some questionable design choices. This crazy crossover is just crazy enough to work, and it’s little surprise that it’s spawned the franchise and fanbase that it has. If you ever get the opportunity to play this original entry in any capacity I recommend it wholeheartedly. It doesn’t matter if it’s on the PS2, PS3, or PS4, just play it.