Saturday, January 10, 2015

#82: Kingdom Hearts 2: The Worlds At Large

Lately, I have been replaying Kingdom Hearts 2 via the Final Mix in Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMIX. As many of you are probably aware, I am a very big fan of the franchise. To that end, especially now that I am replaying the core games in the franchise, I have been thinking a lot about the franchise. When reflecting on many of the plots and central premises of the series, I began to notice some issues. Though I do have a love for the franchise, I must acknowledge the gripes I have with it. It is one of these gripes that I wish to more closely analyze this week.

Specially, what we will to examine are merely a few of the game's premises. They are as follows:
  • All worlds were all once part of a larger, united world.
  • Events in the past separated and segregated the worlds, with impassable walls of light.
  • “Special help” is required to bypass these walls and travel between worlds.
The more I think about it, the more I realize that many scenes in the mini-plots of the various levels call these central tenets into question. Some of the small details in these scenarios call into question, if not outright contradict, these three central tenets.

As an example, let us examine the scenario for Beast's Castle in Kingdom Hearts 2. This level comes from the classic Disney film “Beauty and the Beast”, and, as one would expect, takes place in the castle, owned by the Beast, from the movie. The castle serves as the entire location for the world, as indicated by the title. It is also home to not just the Beast, but Belle and the servants that were transformed into furniture as well. At a specific point in the scenario, the Beast asks Belle to leave the castle because he feels that he no longer deserves her.
For the purpose of this article, we will not be discussing character motivations or anything of the like. Instead, our discussion will mostly stick to the logistical issues regarding this request. Primarily, the issue at hand is that even if Belle wanted to acquiesce, leaving the castle, she has nowhere to go. The entire world she lives in begins and ends with the castle. Without some form of outside assistance, she has no way of leaving to another world. The only way she would be able to go to another world is if she hitched a ride on Sora's Gummi Ship. Since Sora and company are not allowed to “meddle in the affairs of other worlds”, this is not an option.
The other way to approach is to assume that there is a second part to this world that we never see in the game. Though I suppose it is certainly possible, it seems extremely unlikely. After all, the title of “Beast's Castle” implies that there is nothing else to this world. If there was, then the title would logically be a bit more broad, describing an entire town or village. Again, this is not to criticize the notion of Beast asking Belle to leave. This is merely exploring the fact that this request implies, in the best case, a whole different element to the level that likely does not exist.

Atlantica is also another problem spot that opens up this type of conversation. This world, like how Beast's Castle draws from “Beauty and the Beast”, takes inspiration from “The Little Mermaid”. In Kingdom Hearts 2, Ariel falls in love with a surface-dweller named Prince Eric, just as she does in the movie. Like the case of Beast's Castle, this raises some logistical problems with the base premises regarding the worlds and how they are separated.
Chief among them being that Prince Eric seems to come from nowhere in particular. Here, we encounter the opposite problem that we encountered in the Beast's Castle scenario. Instead of trying to explain how somebody leaves the world, we are trying to understand how someone could have entered it. Like before, it has been established that one cannot travel to other worlds without special help. Though it was possible in the original Kingdom Hearts, since the darkness destroyed walls between worlds, this is no longer the case. At the time of Kingdom Hearts 2, the impassable walls are present once more. Even with the ship Prince Eric sails on, he would not be able to travel to Atlantica from an outside world.
The other possibility, similar to the case with Beast's Castle, is that he hails from a location in the world not known to the player. Again, this is technically possible, but unlikely. Were it the case, there are additional questions raised. It would call into question Sora and companies need to transform themselves into sea creatures to blend in with the locals. After all, were there to be a whole area of surface-dwellers, one would just land there instead. Furthermore, the title, like in Beast's Castle, implies that the sole domain of this world is King Triton's undersea kingdom. Therefore, I would logically have to conclude that this hypothetical location that Prince Eric comes from is unlikely to exist.

Now, the existence of the contradictions does not necessarily mean that the storytelling, or even the plot itself, is invalid. What it does indicate is that the developers at Square-Enix had difficulty either in keeping track of their lore, or adequately explaining it to the writer(s) of these scenarios. This has been an issue for Square-Enix for quite a while. For better or worse, Square-Enix, and particularly Tetsuya Nomura, has now become infamous for convoluted plots and writing. While I do appreciate the desire to make intellectually stimulating stories that cause fans to audiences to think about them, the plot to Kingdom Hearts is frequently criticized for the many elements that can be astoundingly hard to keep track of without assistance. Still, the games are extremely fun to play. As for the 2.5 ReMIX, the added content makes it easy to recommend to anyone who has an interest in the franchise, regardless of whether or not one has played these games before.

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