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The Next Level In Gaming

After the initial release and success of Kingdom Hearts, it has been a rapidly growing franchise – initially followed by the fairly quiet GBA title Chain of Memories, it wasn’t quite so apparent how successful the series was until it was followed up by the equally amazing sequel, Kingdom Hearts II. A master at annoyingly tantalising cliffhangers, Tetsuya Nomura and his band of miscreants have never failed to want me aching for more – each game feeling so complete before ending with some enigmatic video that opens up a whole set of new questions. As such, KHII ended with a special ending that opened up a ton of possibilities, and four years later I still don’t know the meaning of some of the events that unfolded. We have since had 358/2 Days, which helped to develop things further and fill in some blank spots between games, but yet there are still unanswered questions just waiting to be resolved. Although we still have no official news of Kingdom Hearts 3 (the production team mainly focusing on Final Fantasy Versus XIII), there are not one, not two, but three new hand held titles on the horizon to keep us hooked until then.

Birth by Sleep

Although the Japanese have annoyingly had this game for five months already (…sigh…), the next title to be released is the first PSP title to date, Birth by Sleep. A prequel referred to as “Episode 0″ by Nomura, it is supposedly as important to the overall plot as the two main titles of the series so far released. Starring Terra, Aqua and Ventus, (mystery characters introduced in the secret ending of KHII) the game focuses on the search for “Master Xehanort”, an evil ‘Keyblade Master’ whom they wish to defeat in their struggle to become Masters themselves. Featuring a totally rehauled battle system, more Disney worlds and characters, and even a cameo appearance by FFVII: Crisis Core’s Zack Fair, the game is split into three scenarios, with the player controlling each of the characters individually for their own side of the plot. Ventus bears an uncanny resemblence to Roxas – so it will be interesting to see what unfolds. Birth by Sleep will be released this September – and I cannot wait.

Re:coded

As far as I can tell, no official word has been given on exactly what Re:coded is, but general consensus is that it will be a DS version of Japanese-only mobile phone release Kingdom Hearts: Coded. Coded was set after the events of KHII, following Sora as he enters a virtual world based on Jiminy’s journal in order to understand a mysterious message discovered within it – “We must return to free them from their torment.” It seems to be a less important aspect to the main story than BBS, but it’s nice to see that the international market is being considered – mobile phones aren’t as technologically advanced as in the East, but that doesn’t mean we really wanted to miss out on games such as Final Fantasy: Before Crisis, and God of War: Betrayal. No real information or idea of a release on this one, but hopefully it’ll show itself sooner or later.

Kingdom Hearts 3D

Nintendo had a pretty impressive line-up at E3 this year, but the thing that (suprisingly) caught my attention most of all is the newly announced Nintendo 3DS. It wasn’t actually the console itself that interested me, more the line up of exclusive game titles that have been announced. It’s a pretty strong line up – with the likes of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and Metal Gear Solid 3, but nothing sounds quite as exciting as the currently dubbed ‘Kingdom Hearts 3D’. Not a lot is known about the plot – and it’s hard to see where it’s going to fit in – it seems Sora and Riku are in their younger KHI forms, and Traverse Town is back – yet introductions have shown the likes of Nobodies in the game. I’m not sure there’s really a place that these scenes make sense – but I’m sure we’ll find out in time. My guess is some kind of “virtual” version of worlds in the style of Chain of Memories, but there’s no way to know for now. Anyway – what we do know is that it’s Kingdom Hearts, it’s a completely new story, it’s looking fantastic – and it seems both Sora and Riku will be playable. The game is looking up to the same standard as the original PS2 in graphics, so as long as they keep up the gameplay and plot I think we’re in for something good.

Kingdom Hearts 3…?

So where does that leave us? With a prequel, a sequel and something unknown – but it looks like we’ll be seeing a lot of expansion on the KH world over the next couple of years. However, Nomura has stated that Kingdom Hearts III is in the conceptual stages – and it seems it’s more or less confirmed to be in the pipeline. He has confirmed a couple of things that are good to know – Sora will always be the lead protagonist, and III won’t necessarily be the end of the series – only the “Xehanort saga”.

So – we’ve got at least four more KH games to come, and possibly more. And that’s a whole lot of Kingdom Hearts…

-Leon

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Leon On June - 21 - 2010

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