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My Vicennial Journey

It’s finally time to properly share my sentiments for the Kingdom Hearts series. Since it’s my birthday, I feel it’s the perfect time to do so after a few months writing this down. Buckle up and have something to eat and drink because this is gonna be a bit long….and I mean LONG. I’ve put my heart and soul in this and I hope you can see that through what I say here. HERE WE GO! _________________ DISCOVERY _________________ I first discovered Kingdom Hearts back in 2006 I believe. My family and I visited a friend’s place for something I can’t recall. What I do recall quite fondly is me going downstairs to their entertainment room. There was a small pile of video games they had (from PS2 to XBOX I believe). One game in particular you can guess was Kingdom Hearts. But it was the first KH game. I’ll never forget seeing the cover for the first time. Seeing a unique dark atmosphere featuring Donald Duck and Goofy was certainly strange. It was clear that it was a Disney game, but it was mixed with something else, something I’ve never felt for before. Seeing the back cover also made me felt more excited seeing what is in the game. I’d like to add that I used to watch some House of Mouse. So, seeing the Disney villains interact in a video game and knowing I will fight them made it all more exciting. I also had no idea that Nightmare Before Christmas was Disney until I saw this game which was an instant win as to why I want to play the game. ______________ BEGINNINGS ______________ I will admit, my memories of my first gaming experience with KH had always been a bit fuzzy. But I will try my best to share as honest and clear as possible. I’ve always struggled to recall the location, was it my house or was it my friends? Which ever it was, it didn’t stop the fact the feeling I had was quite vivid. Hearing “Dearly Beloved” for the first time blew me away. The title screen alone with the song playing on loop gave me such a magical feeling that is so unique and unknown. I previously mentioned how It’s a Disney game so it gave me Disney magic. But it was also mixed with a different magic I’ve never felt before. The magic of Disney and Square Soft (now Square Enix) was truly unique and nostalgic that will stick with me for a long time. Moving on, I start playing the game and further given much more nostalgia with the opening sequence with Utada Hikaru’s “Hikari” English version “Simple and Clean” as a short opening remix. They’re music has always been incredible without fail it’s hard to really pick my favorite. Regardless, the song slapped and was taken straight to more nostalgia with the tutorial segment. The atmosphere of it was quite haunting. Meeting the common enemies I’ll encounter consistently in the series was intriguing considering their nature. Especially the tutorial boss that actually scared me. In fact, it took me awhile to eventually fight this boss on my own despite my fear and years later is kind of a nuisance level boss. But I’ll never forget my fear towards it. Then onto my first world which is the home world of 3 main kids. Being introduced to Sora (the main playable character), Riku, and Kairi are characters I felt close to for a long time, especially Sora. He had been a special figure in my life, probably more so than I thought. He was a pure example of kindness, empathy, and joy. He had his struggle, but he does his best to stick to his principles to help others and see the light within the darkness. Leaving their home world to explore other Disney and origins worlds was also bitter sweet. The home world was comforting and safe until events crash and separate you from your comfort zone. But it is thanks to this separation that I continue to grow as a player and for Sora as a character. The rest of the game is continuous nostalgia exploring Disney worlds, figuring out how to fight the Disney bosses over and over (because PS2 version had no “skip cutscene” option), and just desperate to know what happens next. The final segments of the game will always stick with me. Learning the puzzles of the last couple of worlds with a strange, dreading, mysterious lore-heavy atmosphere filled with revelations and difficult bosses through and through. As previously mentioned how the no “skip cutscene” was a thing on PS2. Well, if somehow fighting the Disney bosses wasn’t memorable enough, the final stages is even more so. As such, the final boss will always be inescapably memorable. This is also incredibly crucial for me because this game was the first game I completed on my own. Fighting that boss (which is a massive creepy lookin boss might I add) and defeating them had sealed the deal that this game was for me. I finally accomplished finishing a game without someone doing it for me. I will forever treasure this accomplishment since I finished the game around midnight at the time. That was my experience with KH1….now to KH2. I’ll never forget learning about KH2’s release. Getting the game was a bit overdue since launch, but I remember the first time KH1 had a sequel via posters at the entrance to one of my local Walmarts. I remembered how excited I was to learn of it’s existence. I took it upon myself to look up some clips on YouTube for awhile. It was a matter of time, about a year or two later, before my mother purchased KH2 for us (me and my sister). KH1 had a unique kind of nostalgia where it was magically unique and mysterious making me excited for the unknown to be unveiled. KH2 was nostalgic for the perfect comforting summer sunny day while eating ice cream, the enjoyment to embrace the new and exciting light-hearted adventure. All things considered that this game is famous for it’s introduction [for the west audience] of the Japanese favorite cold treat in Disney’s Tokyo Sea, Sea Salt Ice Cream. I recall so fondly trying to make some from time to time as a kid. The game itself is somewhat eerily similar to my first experience with KH1, just a bit more upbeat and light-hearted. There are slight differences of course. One being the introduction to a currently most popular KH a character in the series, Roxas. Going through his story as the prologue had stuck with me. Let me make it clear that he is actually not my favorite character, but I truly do love Roxas. What he went through and the music to accompany that story will always be a special experience despite it’s length (to which overtime I appreciated the length needed to progress his character enough for every single person in the fandom to love the character). If you’re new, please check it out yourselves. I feel it is a personal experience many should experience to relate to in a way. As previously mentioned, this game is somewhat no different from KH1 when it comes to my first experience. However, I find the bosses from the main antagonists, Organization XIII, to be the most memorable. From that point for me, the series gained it’s own identity. KH1 was experimental in a way that relies on the heavy Disney involvement such as fighting the classic Disney villains with a Final Fantasy twist. KH2 truly combined that by making Organization XIII the rogues gallery of the game. They are the Disney villains with the Final Fantasy twist. Aside from the comforting comfy inner feeling atmosphere and the easy Disney bosses with more fast and upbeat battle system, Organization XIII was the most memorable aspect in KH2, especially since they were the most difficult for me back in the day and it was incredibly satisfying when I defeated them one by one. _____________________________ MORE GAMES & NEW CONTENT _____________________________ Kingdom Hearts 2 was the game I replayed time and time again throughout middle and high school. It was also the only KH game we owned for awhile. The first KH game I had to borough from the friend I discovered the game from. Another friend had 2 copies of KH1 and gave one to us. So we had KH1 and KH2 for quite awhile. Eventually, we were gifted 2 other games like Re:Chain of Memories and 358/2 Days on DS. Sadly, those game were out of my comfort zone to learn the basics since it was drastically different from the main titles games. Dream Drop Distance was interesting too. I recall it’s release on the 3DS and trying out the demo at my local Walmart. But I never owned one and thus had to watch cutscenes online. Sadly, I wasn’t as involved in the series at the time so I had no full context of the story so far at the time. I vaguely recall my first time seeing the first trailer to KH3. I know I was pretty excited only to, for some reason, be disappointed and frustrated seeing this so called “1.5 collection” and “2.5 collection” since I just wanted KH3. Oh how naive I was since now I realized that it was an incredible collection to own after learning what content it had. This revelation occurred in the year 2015 after attending a comic-con in Texas as a Transformers fan meeting Peter Cullen and Frank Welker in which that experience was incredible in itself. I discovered a replica of the Keyblade and felt the magic again to replay the games again, but it became much stronger than before, more so than I could imagine. I neglected to mention that back in the old YouTube days, there was strange content of particularly secret bosses from OG KH games on PS2, but are only in Japanese. Even when I first played KH2, there was a segment of flashbacks which included a scene from KH1 I have not seen before. Only to learn they were Final Mixes exclusive in Japan. It took till around 2015 where I can experience new content [with a newly purchased PS3] I’ve never touched upon due to it’s exclusivity. After having that experience since 2015, this series had a full grip on me and I began my marathon to play all the games throughout 2016 and the 2.8 collection in 2017. I would go into detail on each experience of the games. But considering how long it is, I have a link to my gallery dedicated to each game in the form of posters I drew alongside a review. Please check them out. Speaking of old YouTube, it was also a time when I learned about these secret ending videos that are unlocked once you completed certain games 100%. The west only had one, while final mix versions had two. Because we didn’t have final mix editions in the west, much like the secret bosses I’ve seen on YouTube, the second secret videos of the final mix games were no different. One that stood out the most was titled “Birth By Sleep” (which was a in a way a preview to the KH prequel game of that same name). I’ll never forget how blown away I was watching the choreography of the battle that occurred that was atmospherically amplified by it’s beautiful animation and incredible music. Funny how we thought it was a preview to Kingdom Hearts 3 and the plethora of fan made game covers proves I was not the only one who thought as such. In fact, in regards to Kingdom Hearts 3… _____________________ KINGDOM HEARTS 3 _____________________ I made a review on KH3 and I’ll leave a link to the poster […]. But the wait for KH3 has all been worth it for me. If anything, this game has been the most emotionally attached I have ever been. Throughout the remaining months before it’s release, I was dealing in a toxic situation at work. I won’t go into detail of course, but it left me in dread and exhaustion from all the emotional damage I had to deal with daily at work. KH3’s release was getting closer and luck begins to shift to my side. The day of it’s release, it was not only the best day, it was equally one of the worst at work. I had to finish work by myself to prepare for the upcoming Polar Vortex that was hitting my town for a couple days which requires many people to stay at home due to it’s lower than subzero temperature. As such, after finally being off work to have the involuntary [but absolutely necessary] days off, I got a chance to play KH3 all to myself. After installing the game, the moment I hear the game’s rendition of “Dearly Beloved”, I was immediately crying and shedding tears. That sudden feeling of nostalgia, comfort, and relief washed upon me like waves to the sea shore. I will speak on my sentiments on music at another segment of this post because it does play a big part for me growing up. But hearing this rendition has been my favorite version in the series just for giving me a big massive gentle hug after dealing with such dark times at work. It took me 4 days to finish the game. Through and through, it was an incredible time to embrace the new content I’ve waited so long for since 2006. It’s also, in a way, the the beginning of my independence. Since I finished the game, a lot of changes occurred for me that made me a bit more independent and having a different job. You could say that discovering life for myself truly began after finishing KH3. I guess the best way to put it is my childhood has finally concluded and my adult life begins anew. _____________________ JOINING THE FANDOM _____________________ I mentioned that after Texas Comicon 2015, I got to Kingdom Hearts full-heartedly this time. It became more than playing games. It also became a journey of joining a union of others who love the games as much as I do. It started with my discovery of a group of people called the X-Keepers (pronounced “key keepers”). Before getting the collections, I watched a YouTube SkywardWing post his gameplay of the series he did so far at the time. It further expanded to TheGamersJoint who did a few top 10 lists and news sources for KH (and he happens to be my favorite). When I wanted to look up any tips and how-to’s on KH content (bosses, treasure locations, keyblades, etc.), Soraalam1 was the guy for the job. The biggest well-known theorist and enthusiast of the KH series was on HMK. It even expanded further with more content creators I discovered that loved Kingdom Hearts as much as I do. To further name I recommend you check out: SuperButterBuns, SarahKey, Clemps, and the previously mentioned X-Keepers of their individual channels (both YouTube and Twitch). I was also more active on Twitter to watch the fandom thrive in watching out for news updates, fan art, interactions (take it or leave it depending how you interact). It’s thanks to to my lookout on Twitter and YouTube (and eventually Twitch) that made the anticipation for KH3 far more fun and exciting. This is especially more so post KH3 with the upcoming new content to come in the series. It’s also thanks to Kingdom Hearts that I got to meet some friends through Tik Tok (which I have an account here if you wish to check it out ___). I’ll admit, it is saddening to not find many fans to connect with on deviantART due to my shift from Transformers to KH. So it is really nice to actually be more involved in a fandom than I’ve ever been for any other fandom. Transformers was somewhat close, but KH was a bit stronger on that regard. Not saying I’m done with Transformers, I’m just currently more emotionally invested in a series that has been the MVP consistently throughout since I first discovered it. I’ve been obsessed with Star Wars, Transformers, and some anime. However, Kingdom Hearts has always been around when I need it. I would sometimes insert the game to my console year after year because I loved it so much. Now I think about it, it had been my core inspiration for most of my artwork I’ve done over the years, especially from it’s music. Before I go in-depth with the music, I want to point out that I managed to get myself into 2 Kingdom Hearts concerts. Both experiences were so incredible in person: the choir, the brass, violins, presentation of the screen above the orchestra, even just the scale of the theater making it all the more powerful. Even more so it reminded me due to the amount of fans in the crowd how much the series meant to every person in the audience. The second KH concert had me meet with a couple of my party members from Union across (when it was active at the time). Again, the series has brought so many connections, especially through the music. ____________ MUSIC ____________ Please remember the name Yoko Shimomura! Out of all soundtracks I’ve heard throughout my life, the Kingdom Hearts soundtrack is my favorite of all time. It was what swayed me further into my first experience when hearing “Dearly Beloved” the first time. As mentioned already, It’s the music I used as inspirations for most of my artwork. I listen to it consistently for so many years and never got bored of it. I can name some favorites if you’re curious: - Dearly Beloved (KH1, KH2, Birth by Sleep, χ Back Cover, Unxhained χ, KH3, and Melody of Memory) - Dive into the Hearts - Destati (Third Revival) - Kairi theme - Fate of the Unknown - Vector to the Heavens - The Other Promise - Naminé theme - Darkness of the Unknown - Limpeto Oscuro - L’Oscurita Dell’ignot - Forza Finale (personal favorite) - Daybreak Town - Ventus’s theme - Aqua Dark Dive - Sacred Moon + Sacred Distance - Rise of the Union - Edge of Existence - Scala Ad Caelum theme - Hallow Bastion (KH1 and KH2) Just so many to name because it’s incredibly memorable for me. If anything, I may stretch this saying that is far more memorable than any Disney soundtrack in existence. I neglected to mention another person responsible for making the games wonderful is the opening and closing vocal themes done by Utada Hikaru. They have created themes for the series that timeless. In fact, it’s truly hard to pick which one is a favorite because of how said timeless and incredible they are. If you are new and read it this far in, here are the names of the songs they did for the series: - Hikari/Simple and Clean (remixes titled with PlanitB and Rays of Hope) - Passion/Sanctuary - Face my Fears - Oath/Don’t Think Twice If I were to pick a favorite that stood out to me it would be Face my Fears. This is the theme used for KH3. It resonates with me and, in a way, comes full circle. It is thanks to facing my fear against the challenges of learning my failures and facing scary looking creatures that got me this far into the series. There are also instrumental renditions of the themes and one that is consistent and (by all means practically the theme of the series) is Hikari. It is the most magical and most Disney feeling song I’ve heard in Disney history. And it my favorite instrumental piece of the themes. I can’t stress enough to say without the music it contains, I don’t think anyone would’ve connected with the series the way we do now. I myself probably wouldn’t have been been as emotionally invested or be as inspired for my artwork had it not been for the music. ___________ ARTWORK ___________ I’m kinda rambling at this point but I want to stress upon another form or inspiration that is indeed a core inspiration for my artwork and that is the artwork of the series director and character designer, Tetsuya Nomura. As mentioned in my first discovery that the cover work is what drew me to play the game in the first place. Back then, I was getting to love anime (the closest and first were titles like Pokémon, Digimon movies, and Studio Ghibli movies) and seeing that style mixed with Disney characters is overall intriguing. Since then, from all the covers I’ve seen for each game and promotional material, Nomura became my absolute artist and director. He pursued this project despite how absurd it sounded to combine Final Fantasy and Disney together and he managed to keep it moving for 20 years. I find him an incredibly inspiring person to me. He had shown me and the fans to embrace our creativity regardless how strange they may be. Might be stretching it to say he lived up to Disney’s motto so strongly that dreams can come true. I personally love crossovers, Disney, good music, and emotional connection. Kingdom Hearts gave me that and Nomura made it happen. Seeing his beautiful artwork over the years made me want to improve my own artwork. I am nowhere near as good as he is, but I am prouder and prouder of every new price I do that took time and effort to make it as good as possible. __________________________ THE LESSONS IT TAUGHT ME __________________________ Time for the more mushy sentimental burst here. Any form of media you love can teach you important lessons to help you reflect and grow as a person. Kingdom Hearts certainly gave me quite a few to name: Courage, Patience, Kindness, Forgiveness, & Self-Worthiness. - COURAGE The biggest for me was certainly courage. I grew up watching my mom playing video games. One game in particular is a game I love and a perfect example of how I viewed games prior to discovering Kingdom Hearts. Not only will this reflect how I feel about how I face games, but in my life in general. The game I speak of is Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. I always loved watching my mom play the game and I always wanted to attempt that adventure for myself. However, my fear of facing bosses that felt too big for me, including the first level boss, always takes it’s toll and I have my mom finish the game for me. Then I discovered Kingdom Hearts. Admittedly, even on my first experience, like Ocarina of Time, I was terrified of it’s tutorial boss. But this time, despite the many tries, I finally got through it. As such, I was also able to not only finish KH as the first game I’ve ever completed, but I was able to finally finish through Ocarina of Time on my own. I was also to embrace some video games I never thought I would get a chance to try out. Courage is a crucial thing I needed to continue to improve and I’m still not the best at it. This doesn’t apply to just video games. I have a fear of massive challenges and failure. I hope as I continue to grow, I’ll be able to accomplish bigger trials despite my fear. - PATIENCE This series gave me a boost of patience in many forms. For one, if you’re someone who likes a challenging secret boss or two, you understand that it takes a lot of memorizing move sets and learning how to counter them. It requires patience whenever you need to find the right moves to strike and it takes many game overs to keep learning and learning. In the end, you feel rewarded for your patience in battle despite the many defeats. This also applies to when I waited for KH3. I’ve wanted KH3 since KH2. Square began their development around 2013-2014 when they released the remix collections. I think the range of years truly was a test of my patience. But as I grew a little, I finally accepted that games really needed time to make them as good as they can be. I think gaining that patience really applied to me outside of gaming. I never thought I consider myself to be patient. But after hearing a few people say to me otherwise, I can’t help but feel proud of this accomplishment. This especially helps with finances as well, buying stuff I want carefully and learning to handle my money a little better. Not perfect at it, but it’s thanks to some of my patience that I have some restraint in what I spend. - KINDNESS Another thing that I noticed since I got into playing the series was kindness. Admittedly, when I was into Transformers, I don’t think I was as kind as I could be. Of course, I was pretty young and still had a lot of growing to do. Optimus Prime was the only character to be an example to distribute kindness. It is thanks to that motivation to meet the very person who was also very kindhearted that connects to wanting to play the games. It further showed me more example of kindness of not one character, but many more in a series. It is thanks to KH that got me to stop me in my tracks and actually given myself a chance to think about what words to say and what boundaries I shouldn’t cross. It is thanks to my growth for kindness that I feel like I’m in a much better place for my friends, my family, and others around me. - FORGIVENESS This trait is tricky. It’s difficult to really speak of forgiveness because many view it very differently on how you approach forgiveness. My take on forgiveness is you have to learn to let go of the hate of the person that harmed you. You don’t have to be friends nor do you need to be near them. But you have to accept that it happened and try to heal yourself more so than focus on hatred. The main villain of the series certainly is viewed [by some] to be the person you should not like. Of course, that’s exactly what a villain is supposed to do. However, after learning of his motivations and in-depth look on his view (still wrong it may be), I personally couldn’t bring myself to be angry at him. Mind you, it’s not easily replicated to forgive someone outright. It takes work to really gain the strength of not allowing hatred to consume your mind and heart. But to me, the message of forgiveness certainly helped me strengthen mine towards those that hurt me. - SELF-WORTHINESS I feel out of all things, the message of self-worthiness I feel resonates to many fans. So you ever feel like you want to make a difference to not only to the world but to yourself, except you feel like you’re not worthy or confident in yourself to make a difference? I honestly feel this way constantly. Lack of confidence in myself to do well for me and anyone in the world. There’s quite a lot of work instances from many characters in the story that are told that they’re useless, worthless, cowardice, weak, broken, helpless, etc. Often from the villains to our heroes that they are nothing but tools and (a couple of cases) are not meant to exist. Kingdom Hearts reminds me that even a smallest ounce of self-worth does make a difference more so than you think. Knowing that there are people cheering you on to keep moving and that you are not alone helps boost that worthiness, no matter who you are or where you come from. - LIGHT & DARKNESS This is a no-brainer. The conflict between light and darkness have always and forever be universal. Many media tamper with this trope often leaning the idea that light is good and darkness is bad. In my opinion, I agree with this statement, but there’s more to it. Kingdom Hearts shares all kinds of perspectives of this classic conflict. Here is my take. Yes, light is good and darkness is bad. However, the world is built with light and darkness. Same goes for us. The light represents good, comfort, warm, and strength. But step too close to it, you could blind yourself and not see the growing shadow behind you. The darkness represents sadness, pain, fear, hatred, cold, and weakness - one of which should not drown ourselves in. But with the courage to face that darkness to gain the light needed to see the way, the darkness will not be able to bring you down. We all have strengths and weakness equivalent to light and darkness. It’s a matter of being able to learn if your weaknesses and be able to grow to strengthen ourselves from that weakness. You need shade to not burn yourself from the light of the sun. But you also need light to see the path in the darkest night. The stars even show that it’s not fully dark. The sunsets and sunrises create a perfect harmony of light and darkness. Of course, it’s just my perspective. But I truly stand to my belief that understanding both light and darkness can help us grow to who we want to be. I mostly side with light, but I acknowledge that darkness is a necessary entity that I should face to not drown from. ————————— CONCLUSION ————————— So, if this long post of me rambling about this silly game with a heart of gold isn’t obvious enough, I really love Kingdom Hearts. It is a series I think quite fondly of for inspiration during my obsessive stages with Star Wars and Transformers, and even some certain anime I enjoy. I never get tired of replaying the games I love in the series, especially KH2. The concept, design, characters, music, gameplay, and moments have always been something I will treasure. ———————————— ARTISTS NOTES ———————————— This piece obviously shows the time period of me growing up. If you can see in the background, the art I chose are the ones that stood out to me. This was a personal growth of improving my drawing skills and the media that impacted me the most. The poses I chose were based on Sora from the KH tire screen menus. I tried to make it as sentimental as possible. And if my words here are still too much, I hope the drawing here at least was enough.

Photo Information for My Vicennial Journey

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