Backlog Slog – Kingdom Hearts

Today’s Backlog Slog is very special. Personally, I’ve played the Square-Enix 2002 classic, Kingdom Hearts, a number of times. Both through the original release and the updated 1.5 re-release. It’s a favourite, and a game that a young me was in awe of, driving me to then delve deeper into JRPG’s. An important part of my gaming development.

This past week, I’ve been spending time with my brother and his family. My nephew, whom we’ll call CJ for this article, is an almost 9 year old boy who also happens to love video games. We’re a nerdy family. He typically spends his time playing Pokemon and Minecraft or watching Youtube videos of people playing Pokemon or Minecraft. Apparently this is a common thing for kids to do now! It’s honestly fascinating but I think that’s an entirely different subject of discussion.

So, back to Kingdom Hearts. We’re at a shopping center one day when I think to ask him about if he’d like this kind of game. His ‘yes’ is a little uncertain, but enthusiastic enough that I decide to take a chance on the Kingdom Hearts 1.5+2.5 compilation on PS4. Something I’ve spent a bit of time with and I know is a solid release. He’s happy to receive the gift and as soon as we get home, he pops it in the PS4 and off we go.

I’m out of the room too long to encourage him to choose easy mode. He chooses normal as I come back and I know it’s not going to end well, but we sit down and watch the opening movie. Kingdom Hearts opening cinematic are notoriously obtuse, but we sit there, we watch it, he keeps asking me what’s going on and I say I don’t know. It’s just like that.

We start the game proper, going through the initial tutorial. He learns all the basic movement and picks up on it fairly quickly. He initially tells me it kind of reminds him of Knack, and I figure that’s probably as close as he’s really gotten to action games and the like.

Soon enough, he’s reached the first boss of the tutorial section and he’s in awe of the size but soon gets to work, downing it rather quickly and feeling proud of himself. Then we reach Destiny Islands and the fetch quest opening portion. He tells me so far he’s having a lot of fun. Reminding me of the fun he’s having comes up pretty regularly, among other questions about the world and the like.

And here, we come to the first hurdle. He encounters the Wakka fight on Destiny Islands and soon finds, no matter how hard he tries, he can’t beat him. Even I had trouble, I’m a little rusty. I remind him this is why it’s important to choose easy, because things are going to get a lot harder. He agrees, and we restart. I speed him through the opening section and plop him back down where he was. Wakka goes down easily and he’s ecstatic, triumphantly telling me he’s owning these noobs or something to that effect. It’s nice trash talk in gaming hasn’t changed all that much from when I was younger.

As we’re playing, another regular question is about the graphics. He comments on the fact that they’re quite old looking and doesn’t understand why the game can’t look as good as the opening cutscene. I explain to him, this actually looks a lot better than it did when it first came out, and that as he keeps playing the games, they’ll start looking better. That the game is older than he is. He gets it, but there’s still occasional comments about the graphics and whatnot.

Eventually, we get off the starting area and into Traverse Town, and then the area as a whole. I have to help him out here and there with a few basics (I had to win the race to name the ship, for example. He named it Pikaship), but generally, he picks it all up pretty quick and I’m feeling very proud. He encounters the Final Fantasy characters and I have to explain those are a separate series of games, and that might be something to introduce him to next time. When he’s a little older, perhaps. But the friendly Moogles alone are enough to peak his interest.

It’s not long from here until he’s onto Wonderland through to¬† The Colosseum and Deep Jungle, managing to make his way through the worlds without too much help. But when he does need it, it reminds me how clunky the original game is in terms of movement, whether it’s platforming or moving around fast enough in battle before the dodge roll becomes available. And it makes me appreciate later entries that little bit more.

By the time I left him, he was Googling Kingdom Hearts characters and proudly telling me of his achievements. I’d wake up to see him playing it every morning. Whether he sticks with it or not, I have no idea. I hope he does, and, like me, I hope it broadens his horizons a little bit.

He does, however, want to be a basic Heartless for book week.

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