Kingdom Hearts [re]trospective

“He [Tetsuya Nomura] gave the hero a more cartoonish appearance, inspired by Mickey Mouse, particularly in the color scheme: the baggy pants were red and the shoes were yellow. In addition, he purposely exaggerated the size of the shoes to accentuate the resemblance to Mickey. Then, he redid the last animal features, finished off the hairstyle and the accessories, including giving him a belt. He kept the giant key, which became the Keyblade. Thus, Sora was born, and with him, a defining feature of Kingdom Hearts, even though at that point the project had a different title…” — The Legends of Kingdom Hearts Volume 1: Creation. Genesis of Hearts by Georges “Jay” Grouard

“Beauty and sadness are woven together; even Frankenstein gets lonely.” — Shampoo Planet by Douglas Coupland

I’m not sure how to start this retrospective without being too personal. What’s really essential is that you understand that I’m a GenXer in the core years of the generation (a Douglas Coupland Xer). I read Shampoo Planet in my formative years and love this quote (and have shared it with those I love):

“I cry because the future has once again found its sparkle and has grown a million times larger. And I cry because I am ashamed of how badly I have treated the people I love–of how badly I behaved during my own personal Dark Ages–back before I had a future and someone who cared for me from above. It is like today the sky opened up and only now am I allowed to enter.”

It’s a theme in this long post I’ll come back to in the end and it’s linked to Kingdom Hearts. I love the beginning of The Legends of Kingdom Hearts because Grouard highlights all of these keywords that make Tetsuya Nomura who he is. I think we all do that kind of introspection at some point in our lives (or maybe at many points).

“They are two very interesting protagonists because they establish plot devices that Nomura, the writer, loves to use: solitude, tragedy, depression, individualism, freedom, escape, and blurred the lines between good and evil.”

Who are you? Who are you? I’m a walrus.
One of my favorite posts is A Gen Xers Top 20 Video Game List which I wrote in 2015. I list Ultima IV and 2400 A.D. as my favorite titles (although Kingdom Hearts is my favorite series). I’m re-reading the post and amazingly Birth By Sleep and Dream Drop Distance didn’t break the Top 20. I also read The Art of Atari since writing that post and one factor for early gamers (Gen Xers) was HOW important the role of art and design was in those early games.

“At a time when on-screen graphics were much less sophisticated, Atari needed artwork and graphic design capable of stirring the imagination.”

Generation Z has grown up mostly digital but Gen Xers were raised in an analog world. You had to use your imagination in those early video games and culturally we were just barely removed from a world of dungeons and dragons (pen and paper). Ultima IV and 2400 A.D. rank so highly on my list because of the analog components. I still have the metal robots from 2400 A.D. and the ankh and cloth map from Ultima IV (the manuals for the latter are amazing). When Ultima IX: Ascension was released in 1999 all those analog components were included in the box. It’s funny to even type “box” because games today are downloaded via Steam or streamed via Google Stadia.

The soft glow of electric sex gleaming in the window…
I don’t think Generation Y and Z understand the influence the arcade had on Xers. One of my favorite scenes in Tron: Legacy is when Sam turns on the arcade machines at Flynn’s. There’s also an arcade scene in War Games and where else does Ronald Miller find Kenneth in Can’t Buy Me Love but in an arcade.

All of this seems pretty far from Kingdom Hearts and those quotes from Shampoo Planet but I promise there’s a connection.

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