As the decade ends, we look back at many of the biggest moments in the Kingdom Hearts series. From games to merchandise, there was something for every Kingdom Hearts fan to enjoy. Here is a recap of what has happened over the past 10 years in the Kingdom Hearts series.
Let The Games Begin!
It’s been an incredible decade for Kingdom Hearts in the realm of gaming, but that alone should be obvious. Between the releases of the HD remasters as well as the release of Kingdom Hearts III, this decade has introduced so many more fans to the series.
This decade kicked off with a fan favorite, Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep on the PSP. Releasing in Japan on January 9th, 2010 as well as North America and PAL regions on September 7th and September 10th, 2010, respectively, this title dove into the series’ past, 10 years before the first game in fact. Detailing the heartbreaking journeys of Terra, Aqua and Ventus, Birth by Sleep didn’t pull any punches and showed the world just how cruel the Kingdom Hearts franchise could be. This game was beloved during its initial release and while it has certainly picked up its fair share of criticism over the decade, it still remains a precious title in many fans’ hearts. This title introduced several key parts of the series such as the command deck and shotlocks. Also, with its Final Mix release on January 20th, 2011, it remains one of the Kingdom Hearts titles to have some of the most postgame content. The Mirage Arena, command board and the variety of minigames encouraged players to go beyond the realm of the main story. Some of this optional content has even grown somewhat infamous amongst the community with the Mysterious Figure being a prime example. Despite whatever mixed reception Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep may receive nowadays, there’s no doubt that it will remain a pivotal game in this franchise.
The next title to release for this decade is possibly the most underrated title in the series, Kingdom Hearts Re:Coded. This title is similar to Kingdom Hearts Chain of Memories in the sense that it is a remake of an older title, but the origins of Re:Coded are a bit more obscure. Originally called Kingdom Hearts Coded in Japan, this title released on mobile phones on November 18, 2008. It was divided up into eight episodes but the game was remade as Kingdom Hearts Re:Coded and released for the DS for the sake of accessibility. It would release on October 7th, 2010 in Japan and January 2011 for the rest of the world. What is rather astonishing is how this game came out in the west only 4 months after Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep! While this title flew under the radar, and is still one of the least played games in the franchise, it introduced a variety of mechanics that made it stand out from the rest of the series. Between the Matrix upgrade system reminiscent of Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy XIII, the return of the Command Deck and the constant shifts in game genres, Re:Coded was stark and bold with its gameplay decisions. On-rail shooting segments, turn based RPG battles, and stealth were some of the incredibly unprecedented genres used in this game. Unfortunately, Re:Coded’s narrative left much to be desired by the fans and it’s still overlooked for its relatively filler nature. However, it has picked up some appreciation over the years due to its unique gameplay. Some fans refer to it as a “comfort food” of sorts. Kingdom Hearts Re:Coded may lack the deep, emotional story that many fans are used to experiencing, but its lack of this can also be seen as a reprieve and rest from what the future of the series had to offer.
The next title is one of the more controversial games in the series. Releasing in Japan on March 9th, 2012, and in the United States on July 31st, 2012, Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance arrived on the 3DS. Clever naming convention aside, this game introduced several story concepts that shook the foundation of the series to core and it caused extreme divisiveness amongst the fanbase during its initial release. In fact, some of that contention and controversy still linger to this day. However, in spite of that, Dream Drop Distance is heralded for initializing the flowmotion mechanic which became a fan favorite. Its allowance of vast exploration was a facet that fans thought previous games lacked. The spirit system was also brand new and only remained in this game, but it found a soft spot in some players. The cast from The World Ends with You making their debut in the series was also a pleasant surprise for many. This game’s release being over 7 years ago is also somewhat mind boggling, considering that it began the true wait for Kingdom Hearts III which would release this year.
The next step into the franchise would take yet another bold direction. Kingdom Hearts χ[Chi] released in Japan on July 18th, 2013 on browsers, and to this day remains a Japanese exclusive title. While the game ended up concluding its service after a meager 2 years, it had a narrative that still ties directly to the future of Kingdom Hearts as a whole with certain plot threads still not fully delved into. However, Chi’s sequel/prequel, Kingdom Hearts Unchained χ [Chi] (now known as Kingdom Hearts Union Cross) released on September 2nd, 2015 on Android and iOS devices in Japan and then for the rest of the world on April 6th, 2016. While this title’s gacha mechanics and platform of choice still conflict with the desires of many in the fandom, there is no doubt that it united many together. Several fan community events and official ones prompted by Square brought many Kingdom Hearts fans closer in a way that would have been impossible before this game’s release. Despite the controversy this game brought and still brings to the table, the fandom has certainly grown from it.
Speaking of the community growing, the release of Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMIX on the PlayStation 3 in Japan on March 14th 2013, and the rest of the world on September of the same year enticed a brand new generation of fans. This title would also mark the first ever time that Kingdom Hearts Final Mix would ever be localized! Featuring not only Kingdom Hearts Final Mix, but also Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories and cinematics of Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days, this rich package provided a mountain of content for prospective new fans and longtime ones.
Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMIX released on the PlayStation 3 just a year later and featured Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix and Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep Final Mix for the first time in west. Alongside those games were HD cinematics of Kingdom Hearts Re:Coded which featured a new secret ending that served to foreshadow to the next title. While this collection would be disdained by fans for its lackluster performance, it made Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix and Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep Final Mix more accessible for a wider audience which mattered greatly due to those two titles being particular fan favorites.
The final new unique collection of games that came out was Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue for the PlayStation 4 on January 12th, 2017 in Japan and January 24th across the world. While lacking gameplay content in comparison to the past two collections, 2.8 did feature some brand new content overall. Alongside the collection containing an HD port of Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance, there were also the releases of Kingdom Hearts χ Back Cover and Kingdom Hearts 0.2 A Fragmentary Passage. The former is an hour long cinematic covering some of the events in Kingdom Hearts χ [Chi] from the foretellers' perspective, while the latter served as a demo of sorts for Kingdom Hearts III. 0.2 also bridged the gap between Birth by Sleep and Kingdom Hearts I even more which help clarified some confusing elements of the timeline.
Afterwards, releasing in Japan on March 8th, 2017 was Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 +2.5 ReMIX on the PlayStation 4. This title combined both 1.5 and 2.5, and officially made every single Kingdom Hearts title available on the PS4. While this game’s release was littered with game breaking bugs, they got cleaned up over time and playing them on PlayStation 4 is now considered to be the definitive experience. Then, releasing on October 30th, 2018 only in the United States was Kingdom Hearts The Story so Far which was explicitly made in order to make catching up on the series even easier. Being priced at $39.99 also made this an incredible bargain for anyone who felt reluctant on buying two separate, fully priced collections.
On January 24th, 2019 for Japan and January 29th, 2019 for the rest of the world, Kingdom Hearts III was finally released! This was the game every fan was waiting for and despite some expected controversy and distaste, this title earned loving praise from many. The Disney worlds on a scale never before seen in the series before, incredible detail in environments and long awaited character resolutions coming to fruition made this game an incredibly emotional journey for many. Despite facing some criticism for its gameplay faults and story telling choices, Kingdom Hearts III is undeniably a beloved title that will be remembered fondly over the years to come. Over the course of 2019, this game has received a few updates to improve upon the experience and the release of the Re Mind DLC in January 2020 is still making fans’ eyes glued to the game.
An oddball of sorts, the Kingdom Hearts: VR Experience released in Japan on January 22nd, 2019 and on February 27th, 2019 for the rest of the world. This VR experience is not exactly bursting to the seams with content, but the fact that it was free and that it was going to receive continual updates mildly engaged some fans who owned VR devices. This title is meant for seeing certain characters and scenes in a different way thanks to VR technology and regardless of the brevity of this title, it still is a fun experience that many have had.
This decade saw plenty of incredible and major announcements for the Kingdom Hearts series, from the highly anticipated end of the saga to the beginning of many crossover events, and a series of accomplishments of all kinds. As the series prepares to continue growing into the next ten years, let’s take a moment to look back at some of our favorite announcements of this decade.
The Beginning of the End of the Dark Seeker Saga
The decade had just barely begun when Tetsuya Nomura announced the end of the ongoing series of Kingdom Hearts titles we now know as the Dark Seeker Saga. In the Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance Ultimania, released in 2012, the series director revealed that the story of Xehanort would finally come to a conclusion with the eventual release of Kingdom Hearts III. Nomura also announced that that while the long-running story would end soon, the story of Sora and the Keyblade would not end there, but continue forward.
The following year, Nomura would go on to announce the highly anticipated conclusion, the Kingdom Hearts title of the decade, Kingdom Hearts III. The announcement, made during PlayStation’s E3 conference at E3 2013 on June 11, 2013, featured a short teaser that highlighted the entire series up to that point, before revealing the incredible new graphics that the game was being developed in. The wonder continued with a series first: the game would be released on both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles, making it the first title to release simultaneously on two consoles, and the first to release on one of Microsoft’s Xbox consoles. The short teaser captivated fans, new and old, and has led to a flurry of epic announcements throughout the game’s development cycle.
During D23 Expo 2015, Square Enix and Disney announced the first new world for Kingdom Hearts III, a world based upon the 2014 movie Big Hero 6. Concept artwork from series director Tetsuya Nomura of Sora riding Baymax facing Dark Baymax was also shown during the event.
One of our favorite announcements came at D23 Expo 2017, when Square Enix revealed a brand new trailer for Kingdom Hearts III. The trailer, which began with a montage of gameplay featuring the worlds of Olympus and Twilight Town, announced what would later be known as Toy Box, a world based on Disney/Pixar’s acclaimed animated film franchise, Toy Story. The trailer featured a large chunk of the world’s opening scenes, and was the first time a film from Pixar, which had been fully-acquired by Disney in 2006, was included in the series. Toy Story was also one of the most-requested films to be featured in the Kingdom Hearts series by fans, and even Nomura later revealed that he had pushed early on for the film’s inclusion in the game before moving forward.
During E3 2018 is when Square Enix really stole the show, showing not one, but two new trailers during both Xbox's and PlayStation's conferences. The Xbox conference revealed that Frozen would indeed be featured in Kingdom Hearts III as a world. During the PlayStation conference, Sora, Donald, and Goofy returned to the Caribbean for more adventures with Captain Jack Sparrow during Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest and At World's End.
In August 2018, several fans found that Square Enix was intending to feature a new theme song for Kingdom Hearts III that was to be performed by both Utada Hikaru and Skrillex. Square Enix later announced at Tokyo Game Show 2018 in September that the song was in fact coming, the first theme song with two artists in series’ history, making Kingdom Hearts III the first title in the series with two different new theme songs. When the song was finally featured in a trailer showcasing parts of the game’s opening movie on December 9, 2018VERIFY, that trailer became the number 1 trending video on YouTube for most of the remainder of the day.
Crossovers and Collaborations
The decade also saw the beginning of several different crossovers and collaborations with other Disney and Square Enix games.
During D23 Expo 2015, Disney announced the Keyblade would be the Ultimate Unlock for Disney Infinity 3.0. Special medals featuring a code for Kingdom Hearts attire Mickey Mouse were also given out to attendees of the event.
The series regularly collaborated with several of Square Enix’s own mobile games. On October 27, 2016, Square Enix announced that Sora would be arriving in World of Final Fantasy as a free downloadable content add-on for the game. It released on January 12, 2017, in commemoration of the release of Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue. On December 2, 2018, Square Enix announced that Sora would be joining the mobile game Final Fantasy Brave Exvius as part of that game’s third anniversary. When Sora finally released in the mobile game, he was accompanied by the Kingdom Hearts version of Cloud. As part of D23 Japan 2018, on February 13, 2018, Square Enix announced a crossover between Kingdom Hearts Union χ and Final Fantasy Record Keeper. Sora and Riku would be arriving in the Final Fantasy mobile title, while medals with the Record Keeper appearances of Cloud and Sephiroth would arrive in Union χ, along with several challenges, battles, and avatar parts.
On March 29, 2017, the Square Enix announced that Sora and Riku would be joining Disney’s LINE Tsum Tsum mobile game. At the same time, there would be special Tsum Tsum-themed events within Square Enix’s own Kingdom Hearts Union χ. Later on, Square Enix and Disney would announce additional crossovers with the LINE Tsum Tsum title, including characters like Aqua and Kairi.
The Kingdom Hearts series also saw the announcement of several major accomplishments as it continued to grow and particularly following the release of Kingdom Hearts III.
Within a month of the release of Kingdom Hearts III, the title became the fastest selling title in Kingdom Hearts history. It sold over 5 million copies just in the first week. On April 24, the SPD group announced that sales of Kingdom Hearts III had exceeded those of any other title in the series in North America, making it the best-selling Kingdom Hearts game in North America. The title would hold on to the best-selling game of the year for most of the first half of 2019, and as of November 2019, is still among the top ten best-selling titles of the year.
On August 10, 2019, Guinness World Records announced it would be featuring Sora in its Guinness World Record: Gamer’s Edition 2020 book. Sora had won at the time the record for most appearances as the hero in a Square Enix role-playing game, the number being 6.
Events were far in between during the past decade, but each one brought their own special joy of Kingdom Hearts. Kingdom Hearts Re:Coded and Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance had launch events as well as Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMIX and Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMIX. Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMIX also had a casting call for North America and Europe fans to be part of for the launch events.
For Kingdom Hearts III, a special invitational premiere was held in California in 2018 to showcase a demo featuring Olympus and Toy Box to all that were invited to the event. In addition, a special Kingdom Hearts Pop-Up Experience was held at Disney Springs to celebrate the release of Kingdom Hearts III as well as a Light and Darkness event at the Tokyo Skytree.
In 2016, Square Enix announced a orchestra tour to showcase the music of the Kingdom Hearts series. The first tour -First Breath- was held in 2017 exclusively for Japan. The second tour, -World Tour-, began in June of 2018 and made 18 stops across North America, Europe, and Australia. A third tour, -World of Tres- began in April of 2019 and featured 17 stops across United States, Canada, South America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. Many of the performances included a performance with Kingdom Hearts composer Yoko Shimomura along with a meet and greet with her. A few of the shows also had a special appearance by Tetsuya Nomura.
A special Dandelion Meeting was held in California in 2018 to celebrate Kingdom Hearts Union χ[Cross]. The event featured new games from the new Classic Kingdom feature for Kingdom Hearts III and began the "Make Your Mark" campaign where 300 fans were chosen to be a part of a sequence in Kingdom Hearts III.
Some events were done not by Square Enix or Disney, but fans of the series itself. Both Disney World and Disneyland have seen special Kingdom Hearts fan-organized events over the past couple of years. Disneyland of Departure (now known as the Keybearers' Alliance) has been holding their annual Gatherings at Disneyland since 2013. Disney World has had a few gatherings as well through Project Magic: Kingdom Hearts in 2013 and 2014 with a return in 2019. These gatherings usually happen during Mickey's Not-So-Scary-Halloween, which allows park goes to wear costumes in the parks so fans that attend the gatherings can wear their favorite Kingdom Hearts cosplay.
KH13.com has also held some events during the past decade. KH13 Meetups have been held during Kingdom Hearts -World Tour- concerts in Los Angeles, California (2018, 2019), Chicago, Illinois (2018), New York City, New York (2018), and in London, England (2018, 2019). All of these events, with the exception of the Chicago meetup, attendees got a chance to sign a card for Yoko Shimomura as each card was presented by one of KH13.com's staff members.
During this past decade, Kingdom Hearts has celebrated its 10th year anniversary in 2012 and its 15th year in 2017. In addition, KH13.com has celebrated its 5th year anniversary in 2013 and its 10th year in 2018.
While the Kingdom Hearts series has thrived on gameplay and story, the games wouldn't be the same without the talented voice actors that give their voice to the characters. Sadly, we have lost many of these voice over the past 10 years. Let us remember the ones that have fallen.
- Eddie Carroll - Jiminy Cricket [English] (Sept 5, 1933 – Apr 6, 2010)
- Nachi Nozawa -Vexen [Japanese] (Jan 13, 1938 – Oct 30, 2010)
- Kenneth Mars - King Triton [English] (Apr 4, 1935 – Feb 12, 2011)
- Ken Sansom - Rabbit [English] (Apr 2, 1927 – Oct 8, 2012)
- Chikao Ohtsuka - Master Xehanort [Japanese] (July 5, 1929 – Jan 15, 2015)
- Leonard Nimoy - Master Xehanort [English] (Mar 26, 1931 – Feb 27, 2015)
- Christopher Lee - Ansem the Wise, DiZ [English] (May 27, 1922 – June 7, 2015)
- Tôru Ôhira - Pete [Japanese] (Sept 24, 1929 – Apr 12, 2016)
- Yuko Mizutani - Minnie [Japanese] (Nov 4, 1964 – May 17, 2016)
- Alan Young - Scrooge McDuck [English] Nov 19, 1919 – May 19, 2016)
- Kaneta Kimotsuki - Jiminy Cricket [Japanese] (Nov 15, 1935 – Oct 20, 2016)
- Robert Guillaume - Rafiki [English] (Nov 30, 1927 – Oct 24, 2017)
- David Ogden Stiers - Cogsworth, Doc, Dr. Jumba Jookiba [English] (Oct 31, 1942 – Mar 3, 2018)
- Rutger Hauer - Master Xehanort (KHIII) [English] (Jan 23, 1944 –July 19, 2019)
- Russi Taylor - Minnie, Huey, Dewey, Louie [English] (May 4, 1944 – July 26, 2019)
- Yuu Shimaka - Goofy [Japanese] (May 6, 1949 – July 28, 2019)
- Makio Inoue - Master Eraqus [Japanese] (Nov 30, 1938 – Nov 29, 2019)
Besides the games themselves, Square Enix and Disney really went after our hearts (and wallets) with all kinds of merchandise. We can't mention them all here or this article would take a decade to finish reading, so here are some of the hottest ones.
One of the things that Kingdom Hearts fans would love to have is a Play Arts Kai or a Bring Arts figure of their favorite character. From Roxas and Riku to Aqua and Sora and more in between, these figurines have given us so much flair for our every growing collections (and even some ideas for Snapchat adventures).
There are cheaper alternatives for the Play Art/Bring Arts figures. One of the bigger ones was the Diamond Select Toys selection. While these figures didn't have the detail, they did have more of a selection. Vinimates figures were also available from DST as well.
One of the biggest toy lines for Kingdom Hearts was of course the Funko Pop!. Each one gave us a chance to collect our favorite character and keep adding when needed. There are dozens of Pop!s to choose from, including almost 13 different versions of Sora alone, along with store exclusive Pop!s like Dark Aqua and Final Form Sora.
Looking for something cuter than the Pop!s? Well, Good Smile had you covered with their small line of Sora and Riku Nendoroids figurines. These adorable figures could put a smile upon any face. Maybe in the future we will get more of them?
Enough talking about the figurines, let's talk about fashion. Over the past couple of years, new clothing have appeared in many stores like Hot Topic and GameStop. 2018 alone had over 100 different pieces of clothing from hats and shirts to bed spreads and even backpacks. If there is something you want to wear to show off your Kingdom Hearts pride, there is probably clothing for that. One of the biggest pieces of clothing announced were the SuperGroupies. This clothing line gave some flair for Sora, Roxas, Riku, Kairi, and Axel. If these characters were in our world, then they would be rocking with these outfits.
Need a Keyblade for your outfit? Bandai released a Kingdom Key Keyblade Proplica back in 2017. This Proplica could look like something you can buy for a couple of dollars at your local comic con, but the main difference is it can light up when you swing it and has sound as well as showing a keyhole by pointing it at the wall.
One of the most expensive Kingdom Hearts-related items to be available was the Limited Edition Kingdom Hearts III PlayStation 4 Pro. The console was announced during the Sony Showcase at E3 2018. This console was a must have for fans and was included in a special Kingdom Hearts III bundle set and sold out quickly.
Lastly, let's talk about some books. Light Novels have been appearing recently for our favorite games, giving their own take of the structure of events taking place in the series. So far, every major game in the series has a light novel with a Kingdom Hearts III version on the way in 2020. Speaking of Kingdom Hearts III, Shiro Amano announced his return to the Kingdom Hearts manga series in early 2019 and has begun on the Kingdom Hearts III manga series on Gangan Online and Yen Press.
The End of this Saga and the Beginning of the Next
This marks the end of the decade. 2010 through 2019 gave us some memories, difficult times, and lots of waiting, but this video game series has thrived and has become a big part of our lives. We patiently wait for what's in store in the next decade, including the upcoming story updates in Union χ [Cross], the release of Kingdom Hearts III Re Mind, and the next saga of games. What has been your favorite moment(s) over the past decade? Let us know in the comments below!
From all of us at KH13.com, we wish you a Happy New Year and may your heart be you guiding key.