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Sorrel’s Side Quests: The best way to play ‘Kingdom Hearts’ is to avoid playing ‘Kingdom Hearts’

Kingdom Hearts is a weird series. That’s not a novel observation. Calling Kingdom Hearts weird is like calling Red Dead Redemption 2 long or calling Dark Souls good. It’s a Japanese role-playing game in the style of Final Fantasy where nearly every character is from a Disney cartoon. Everyone already knows it’s a little bit of a mess. Those who love it don’t care, and those who hate it have learned to stay far away. But what about newcomers? Is there a good way to get into Kingdom Hearts in 2022? I recently learned the answer is no, not really.

After about two years of trying and failing to get my hands on a PlayStation 5, I finally managed to snag one at retail price (I know, I know, please hold your applause). Upon picking up that shiny new piece of hardware, though, I realized that I didn’t really have anything to play on it. Enter Kingdom Hearts: The Story So Far, a neat little two-disc package I snagged at GameStop for a little under $20. I played Chain of Memories, the Game Boy Advance Kingdom Hearts spinoff, religiously as a child. It’s the first game I remember playing (although, according to my mother, it was predated by Wii Sports’ Bowling), and its remake is available on the first disc in The Story So Far, so I was ready for a lovely hit of nostalgia.

Before playing Chain of Memories, though, I made a very bad decision. See, The Story So Far comes with nearly every Kingdom Hearts game ever made, including Kingdom Hearts Final Mix, the definitive version of the very first game. So, in the interest of finally actually getting into Kingdom Hearts, I decided to start there. It was kind of miserable.

There is a lot to love about Kingdom Hearts. A Square Enix JRPG where Donald Duck is a mage and Goofy is a valiant warrior will always be at least a little charming, and the staggeringly high-profile voice cast (including James Woods, Haley Joel Osment, Mandy Moore and David Boreanaz) lends the whole thing a lovably cinematic feel. Plus, the plot is entirely baffling, and anyone who knows me knows I’m a sucker for an incomprehensible JRPG plot. But in addition to being very lovable, it’s also not very fun.

Kingdom Hearts turns 20 years old this year, and it’s showing its age. The camera controls are incredibly sloppy, the combat, while initially novel, loses its sheen around the 50th random encounter, which arrives roughly 20 minutes in, and the game hits a frankly unfair difficulty spike towards the end. After a little bit, I just didn’t want to play it.

So I didn’t.

Kingdom Hearts Final Mix, blessedly, comes with a neat little Theater mode, where every cutscene can be witnessed in full without the incredibly annoying decades-old combat. It’s not ideal- Kingdom Hearts is a video game, not a movie, so watching it feels a little awkward at times- but it’s a better experience than trying to play the actual game. So really, this is a word of warning to prospective Kingdom Hearts players: don’t bother with Kingdom Hearts. Watch the cutscenes. Get the story, get out of there, and move on to Chain of Memories. Which, by the way, is exactly as good as it was when I was nine years old.

Sorrel Kerr-Jung is a sophomore studying virtual reality game development at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnist do not reflect those of The Post. Do you agree? Tell Sorrel by tweeting her at @sorrelkj.

Sorrel Kerr-Jung

Opinion Writer

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