Kingdom Hearts was the first collaboration between Squaresoft, the creators of Final Fantasy, and Disney, a beloved animation company. This game is an Action RPG, a game that uses RPG statistics and a real time battle system. Kingdom Hearts' popularity has spawned quite a few sequels; Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories for the Game Boy Advance, Kingdom Hearts II for the PlayStation 2, Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days and Kingdom Hearts Re:coded for the Nintendo DS, Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep for the PlayStation Portable, Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance for the Nintendo 3DS, and Kingdom Hearts III for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
Kingdom Hearts stars many Disney characters and Final Fantasy cameos. When Sora is teleported away from his island home, he battles through many worlds to fight the Heartless and be reunited with his friends, Riku and Kairi.
Kingdom Hearts was re-released under the name Kingdom Hearts Final Mix, which was released exclusively in Japan and added new content. This version was localized and remastered in the Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix, which also contains Re:Chain of Memories and 358/2 Days, and was released for PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4.
- The main character and only playable character of the game, from Destiny Islands, who is teleported away from his home. He meets and travels with Donald and Goofy, Disney characters, as well as several others that change depending on which world he is currently in. Sora is on a mission to find back his friends Kairi and Riku, and to save his home world, as well as stop Ansem and the heartless. His name means 'sky'.
- A Disney character that appears in the game as one of Sora's two main companions. He is head magician in the court of King Mickey, and casts mainly spells.
- A Disney character that appears in the game as one of Sora's two main companions. He is head soldier in the court of King Mickey, and his attacks are mostly physical, versus magical.
- One of Sora's friends from Destiny Islands, he shows great interest at the beginning of the game in the possibility of other worlds, and wanting to find them. He is later swallowed by darkness, but prevails at the end of the game.
- One of Sora's friends from Destiny Islands, she disappears with the world, and is later found, but having lost her heart. She is one of the seven princesses of heart.
- King Mickey
- King at Disney Castle, he is a very mysterious figure, who appears only briefly several times through the game. Possessing a keyblade and some other unknown powers, he and Riku shut the door to the darkness at the end of the game.
- Also known as Squall Leonheart(Final Fantasy VIII), he makes appearances throughout the game and it's PS2 sequel as a friendly character, whose past is shrouded in mystery.
- Aerith Gainsborough
- A character from Final Fantasy VII who makes appearances alongside Leon and Yuffie in Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II.
- A character from Final Fantasy VII, she fights alongside Leon and works with Aerith as a friendly companion to Sora. In the game, all three characters are said to have grown up in Hollow Bastion.
- The Witch pulling all the strings, from the Disney classic 'Sleeping Beauty'. And is the leader of the Disney Villains which are Maleficent, Hades, Jafar, Ursula, Oogie Boogie & Captain Hook.
- Ansem of the Darkness
- The game's antagonist, master of darkness, not much is known about him. He is fought several times at the end of the game, and believed to be dead.
- She appears only briefly in the game, not in her own world (from Disney's 'Beauty and the Beast') but in Hollow Bastion, and is one of the seven princesses of heart.
- From Disney's 'Sleeping Beauty', one of the seven princesses of heart, though she plays an extremely minor role in the game, appearing only in Hollow Bastion towards the end.
- Snow White
- From Disney's 'Snow White'. Though she doesn't appear in the game until the end, she is one of the seven princesses of heart.
- Sora and company meet her in Agrabah, the Disney world based on 'Aladdin'. She is at that time kidnapped by Jafar, and is one of the seven princesses of heart.
- From 'Alice in Wonderland', she appears in the Wonderland stage of the game, and again in Hollow Bastion as one of the seven princesses of heart.
- From Disney's 'Cinderella'. She does not appear in the game, but at Hollow Bastion she is revealed as one of the seven princesses of heart.
Worlds of Kingdom Hearts
- Destiny Islands
- The birth-world of Riku and Sora, a peaceful island, where players begin the game. Final Fantasy characters who make appearances there are Tidus, Cid (Final Fantasy VII version), Wakka, and Selphie. And where Kairi arrives from Hollow Bastion. A world that briefly appears in its sequel Kingdom Hearts II.
- Disney Castle
- The world ruled over by King Mickey, birth-place of Donald and Goofy. A world not playable but a world that is playable in its sequel Kingdom Hearts II.
- Traverse Town
- A town divided into three districts, it is where Sora, Donald, Goofy, and Pluto meet. It is also where Sora learns to fight Heartless, as well as where he encounters Aerith, Yuffie, and Leon. This world does not appear in its sequel Kingdom Hearts II.
- A Disney world, based on the plot of Alice in Wonderland, where Sora and friends meet Alice, The Cheshire Cat, and The Queen of Hearts. Home of one of the seven princesses of heart, Alice. This world does not appear in its sequel Kingdom Hearts II.
- Based on the story of Aladdin, it is a desert-like Disney world where Sora and companions fight with Aladdin and Genie. Home of one of the seven princesses of heart, Jasmine. A world appearing in its sequel Kingdom Hearts II
- The underwater Disney world based on The Little Mermaid, while Ariel aids Sora in this world. She is not one of the seven princesses of heart, probably due to the difficulty of creating a plot in which she could be taken out of her underwater home setting. One of the costume worlds, in this world Sora, Donald and Goofy all don fish-themed costumes. A world appearing in its sequel Kingdom Hearts II.
- Deep Jungle
- A Disney world based on the cartoon version of Tarzan, home to no princess, the only world from Kingdom Hearts that does not appear in Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories. It also does not appear in Kingdom Hearts II.
- A Disney world based on Peter Pan. This world does not appear in its sequel Kingdom Hearts II.
- Olympus Coliseum
- Based on the Disney cartoon version of 'Hercules', in this world Sora, Donald, and Goofy are given the titles of heroes in training. Also, Cloud from Final Fantasy VII makes an appearance here, as an enemy working for Hades, and Sephiroth appears as a hidden superboss. A world appearing in its sequel Kingdom Hearts II including the Underworld.
- A world stumbled upon while flying the gummi ship, it is inside of a whale (yes, the animal), and revolves around the characters from Disney's Pinocchio. Riku reappears in this world, kidnapping Pinocchio. This world does not appear in its sequel Kingdom Hearts II.
- Halloween Town
- A world based on Tim Burton's 'The Nightmare Before Christmas' and is the home of Jack Skellington. One of the costume worlds, in this world Sora, Donald and Goofy all don Halloween-themed costumes. A World appearing in its sequel Kingdom Hearts II including Christmas Town where in the sequel's final mix+ Sora changes into Black Santa clothes.
- Hollow Bastion
- A world based on 'Final Fantasy' and is where Maleficent resides with the Disney Villains. Riku reappears in this world with the Brown-colored hooded man reappearing from Destiny Islands in the 'Secret Place' area, who turns out to be Ansem using Riku. He then opens the gateway to the final world called 'End of the World'.
- End of the World
- The Final world of Kingdom Hearts and is where Chernabog resides and Ansem and is where the player finishes the game and can't save it after (rrgh!). A world NOT appearing in its sequel Kingdom Hearts II
This is a story about Sora, a boy who lived on an island with his friends Riku and Kairi. The three are curious about new worlds, and Kairi sends Sora around the island to find stuff for the raft they're working on so they could venture out to new places. It is seen in Kingdom Hearts II that the island is close to a city. While looking for supplies, Sora walks back into the cave in between the trees. It was here when Kairi and Sora drew pictures of each other on the wall when they were kids. Sora had learned from Riku about a star shaped fruit that could keep Kairi and Sora's destinies intertwined forever. So he drew on the wall that he was sharing the fruit with Kairi. When out of nowhere, a hooded figure tells Sora that his world has been tied to darkness. Sora figures this guy isn't from the island, and is determined to learn what the hooded figure says he could never know about. The figure disappears, leaving Sora looking a wooden door, where Riku as a kid, saw that this was their world's keyhole (or where the heart of their world was).
Sora and Riku race over names. Riku wants the raft to be named Highwind, but Sora wants his own say. So the two of them race. If Sora wins, Riku and Sora stare at each other and Riku says, "So what? It's just a name." And Sora pouts. If Sora loses, Riku says, "Alright, we're naming the raft Highwind." And then Sora pouts. But you don't get to use the raft either way. Anyway, at sunset, Riku, Sora, and Kairi look out onto the sea. Riku talks about how since this world is so small, they easily could have ended up somewhere else. Riku thanks Kairi and states that if it wasn't for her, he would've never thought of that. The next day, Kairi and Sora look out onto the sea by themselves. Kairi says that Riku's changed. Then she tries to get Sora to jump into the raft with her so the two of them would go. But then only laughs and says she was kidding. Sora openly has stated Kairi never started out on the islands like Sora and Riku. But Kairi can't remember where she came from. Kairi gets up and says gently, "Sora, don't ever change."
Then it switches to Sora in his bed thinking of what Kairi said to him. Then he hears howling outside and thinks it's a storm. He looks up to see a black ball in the sky. He is then attack by Heartless, and all he can defend himself with is a wooden sword, which can't damage them. You have to get to a smaller island extremely close to the main one. He finds Riku say that the door has opened, and thus, the journey begins.
During the development of Final Fantasy VII, Square developer Tetsuya Nomura was greatly impacted by the full, three-dimensional freedom Nintendo presented to the player in Super Mario 64. However, Nomura's colleagues reminded him that Mario was a popular icon, and such a game like Super Mario 64 would need characters that are also iconic. Sometime later, Shinji Hashimoto and Hironobu Sackaguchi were discussing a collaboration with Disney, and Nomura volunteered to direct the project. Because Square was housed in the same building as Walt Disney Japan at the time, a chance encounter between Hashimoto and a Disney executive in an elevator in the building gave him the opportunity to pitch the idea, and Disney was on board. The name of the game was a combination of "Kingdom" (in reference to Disney Parks) and "Hearts" (a core theme of the game.
Developement began in February 2000, after a year of planning by Tetsuya Nomura. Initially, Kingdom Hearts was planned to have a simple story where Maleficent was the main antagonist, but this was changed after Sackaguhi told Nomura the game would be a failure if the story wasn't developed with the same scope as Final Fantasy. Worlds were chosen based on how interesting the characters and settings were to the staff. The team wanted to stay true to the style of the original Disney films. The team was mostly free of restrictions, but Mickey's appearance in Kingdom Hearts was limited to one scene. Nomura designed all of the new characters, including the Heartless. At first, Square wanted to use Mickey Mouse as the playable protagonist, while Disney wanted to use Donald Duck, before Nomura decided to use an original character, Sora. Sora's original design featured him as a lion-human hybrid and wielding a chainsaw for a weapon.
Kingdom Hearts was announced at E3 2001. The game was then showcased at Tokyo Game Show 2001, where a demo was premiered in October. Kingdom Hearts was released in Japan on March 28, 2002.
Following the release of the Japanese title, and to promote its international release, Square held a “Name-in-Game” sweepstakes. The winner had his name added somewhere in the game. The winner was Kurt Zisa; his name was given to an optional boss in Agrabah. The game was also promoted at E3 2002, before its North American release on September 17, 2002, European release on November 15, and Australian release on November 17.
The international releases of the game included additional content from the original Japanese release. Kingdom Hearts Final Mix was released in Japan on December 26, 2002 with this content and more. Spoken dialogue is English, with Japanese subtitles. New scenes clarified plot points and foreshadowed Kingdom Hearts II. The combat was also tweaked to play more like Kingdom Hearts II. A gamplay option is added to allow the player to skip cutscenes and a boss fight against an "Unknown" figure was added. Final Mix was released for North America, Europe, and Australia for the first time in the Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix for PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4.