It’s always so interesting to me to view a highly beloved video game series from the outside looking in around a new release. Seeing people express their excitement and admiration is refreshing in an industry that is often volatile and filled with negativity. I see this with the upcoming release of Final Fantasy XVI. Some of my best gamer friends are constantly expressing their anticipation for this game. That said, even though I have never played more than a few hours of any Final Fantasy game, I feel I am in an odd position looking at this series because of my history with Kingdom Hearts.
Is all of this for real or not?
While I have never been a Final Fantasy fan, I, like many others, have been a huge Disney fan for as long as I can remember. Therefore, I was highly interested in playing a game that heavily featured Donald, Goofy, and many other Disney characters I grew up with. Kingdom Hearts featuring a The Nightmare Before Christmas world, my favorite movie of all time, was icing on the cake.
I was 10 years old when the first Kingdom Hearts was released. At that point, I had never considered playing Final Fantasy. While I had a PlayStation 2 at my dad’s, Spyro the Dragon was essentially all I played on it. At my mom’s, I was so focused on my Nintendo 64 and GameCube that the Final Fantasy games never registered with me.
From Press Space to Jump:
Final Fantasy XVI has the best demo I’ve ever played
My first experience with Kingdom Hearts came from my cousin. While I had wanted to play the game before this, it would be a couple of years before I’d get a chance to own it myself. I remember exploring Destiny Island and being drawn into Sora and his friends’ world. Once I got to Traverse Town and met up with Donald and Goofy, I knew I was in love. While I didn’t know it quite yet, I had also made my first contact with Final Fantasy characters.
From one dearly beloved series to another
The problem with taking all of your knowledge about one series from another is the differences between the original and that spinoff. One thing that has always thrown me off with the relationship between Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy is the changes Square Enix made between characters. To this day, I still refer to the Final Fantasy VIII protagonist as Leon instead of his original name, Squall Leonheart. Plenty of arguments were started by Final Fantasy VII “purists” who thought my referring to Aeris as Aerith was wrong. Knowing today that Aerith is the correct spelling has given me a smile. I also always thought Cloud’s demon wing design was much better than the original look from his game.
Even with no prior exposure to them, I could see why so many people loved these characters. Cloud was as cool as any character I had ever seen. His mannerisms totally encapsulated what I thought a dark and mysterious character to be. Yuffie stood out because she was a cheery ninja. That’s a unique combination you don’t expect to see. Even without playing Final Fantasy VII, I knew Sephiroth was a terrifying and dangerous force based on his boss fight at Olympus Coliseum. When I finally defeated him for the first time many years later, that was one of the most satisfying moments of my gaming career. While I never felt compelled to play these characters’ original games all the way through, that was more a matter of my focus being on other games rather than not being willing to put the time investment into a large RPG. That said, I totally adore what I know these characters to be.
This crossover adventure should never have worked, but it was one of the most charming and endearing games I have ever played. To this day, I haven’t given any Final Fantasy game a true chance to win me over. That doesn’t mean I don’t highly respect the franchise and its characters. Kingdom Hearts III essentially wiped away the Final Fantasy portion of its crossover, and I feel the experience was weaker for it. With Final Fantasy XVI about to come out, I don’t expect to give the game a try. To some, that may seem like an odd choice, but I feel my relationship with the series is at a spot where I am completely comfortable enjoying the admiration fans give it from afar. I can still experience the aspects of it I am interested in through that Kingdom Hearts crossover form.