Kingdom Hearts

   Fandom may already be scoffing at the concept, but there's no denying that Square's "Disney RPG," entitled Kingdom Hearts, will be one of the company's biggest next-generation projects. Combining over 100 staff members from Square and Disney, the amibitious project will attempt to meld original Tetsuya Nomura-designed Disney characters, existing Disney characters and movies, and RPG gameplay.

Because you are ... a cartoon.

   Kingdom Hearts centers around a 15-year old boy named Sora, whose life is turned upside-down when a violent storm wreaks havoc on his home, Destiny Island, and separates him from two of his friends, Riku and Kairi. Meanwhile, Court Wizard Donald and Captain Goofy set out to find King Mickey, who has disappeared from Disney Castle. While out searching for King Mickey, they run into Sora and decide to team up in their quest to find their friends after hearing some disturbing information about new monsters in the region.

   The three heroes are told of a group of dark, ominous creatures called the Heartless, which are responsible for the storm at Sora's island home. The Heartless come from another dimension, and as their name would imply, they don't have hearts. Their master plan is to persuade old Disney villains to join them and steal the hearts of the pure and innocent. Confirmed villains include Jafar (Aladdin), Clayton (Tarzan), and Ursula (The Little Mermaid).

Hand in Glove

   In order to stop the Heartless, Sora, Donald, and Goofy set off a dimension-spanning journey that takes them to both the settings of classic Disney movies and "new Disney worlds." Worlds announced so far include those of Aladdin, Tarzan, Peter Pan, Pinocchio, and the Little Mermaid, as well as Disney Castle. Donald and Goofy will change their appearance to match each world, sometimes even "morphing into different versions of themselves."

   Despite its unconventional aesthetics, Kingdom Hearts seems to feature fairly traditional RPG gameplay. The characters possess hit point and magic point statistics, albeit ones so far see only as gauges, not as numbers. Battle commands include the standard Fight, Magic, and Item. Interestingly, Sora wields spells from the Final Fantasy series: Fire, Blizzard, Thunder and the like.

   The sheer implausibility of Kingdom Hearts' premise may make it easy to write off as a goofy experiment, but what's been revealed so far indicates that Square is holding nothing back in the game's making. Square has allocated many of its top developers to the title, including renowed composer Yoko Shimomura, Final Fantasy VIII artist Tetsuya Nomura as both director and character designer, and other key staff members from the Final Fantasy and Parasite Eve series. Unfortunately, the fruits of their efforts are still some time off: Kingdom Hearts is due out March 28, 2002 in Japan, and not until the fall of 2002 in North America.

Preview by Fritz Fraundorf and Alex Annis, GIA.
Kingdom Hearts
Developer Square / Disney
Publisher Square EA
Genre Traditional RPG
Medium DVD (1)
Platform PlayStation 2
Release Date  03.28.02
 Fall '02
E3: First screens, artwork, and information on Kingdom Hearts
85 introduction screenshots and 180 Destiny Island and Traverse Town screenshots
No artwork yet
6 North American toy and packaging shots / 7 Japanese toys