As the summer heats up so do the theme park wars. Disney, Universal, Six Flags and the other players are all expanding and looking to give visitors more reasons to return. Our family looks forward to visiting Disneyland and Disney California Adventure and join many MiceChatters this summer. We also are eager to see what other experiences are waiting in the other parks and resorts. No matter what the season, elements or family budget dictates there is one thing that Disney fans can always look forward to. In fact it is a secret weapon that none of the other parks can compete with. I’m talking abut a video game franchise featuring the Disney characters. Kingdom Hearts, a series by Square-Enix has been a best selling title for over 15 years, having moved over 20 million copies. At roughly $50 a game you can imagine how profitable this series has been for Disney and Square-Enix. The next installment, Kingdom Hearts III, was first teased at the Sony press conference during the E3 game expo 2013. Development footage was shown on the international convention circuit but no hands-on demos had been made available. The studio has not revealed an official release date but audiences hope to learn more at the 2017 E3 game expo in Los Angeles if not the Tokyo Game Show later this year.
The Kingdom Hearts series has over a dozen different titles under its belt. Some of the games are prequels, others are HD remakes, and some are called remixes. In case you are not familiar with the series it is a role-playing game that mixes in various Disney animated and live-action franchises, with the worlds created by Square-Enix and their various Final Fantasy games. The game often features the actual Disney voice actors reprising their famous roles. What makes the game so popular among the gaming community is the attention to detail. It isn’t enough to have a cameo of Alice from Alice in Wonderland or Ariel from The Little Mermaid. These characters have a reason for being involved in the plot and the heroes have to help them out. The stages based on the animated features are more than just colorful backdrops. Audiences can explore these worlds, jump in , around and through the locations and feel a real connection to the source material. Whether its the Grid from TRON or the 100 Acre Wood, each world is unique and immersive.
Where Square-Enix goes above and beyond is in incorporating theme park elements as well. For example, the heroes of the series, Donald, Goofy and Sora (a Square original character) have the ability to use magical summons. In traditional role playing games these summons could be dragons or giants that stomp down opponents. In Kingdom Hearts the summons are a creative mix of attractions. The characters can open portals between dimensions and temporarily make physical object appear. For example the the Big Magic Mountain summon is an Electrical Parade version of the Big Thunder Mountain train running on a track made of light. It can mow down smaller opponents or chip away at massive opponents, like the Titans from the Hercules film. It’s actually pretty wild when you see it in action. There is also the Shooting Ride summon which is like the Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters attraction, only this time the cannons actually shoot down opponents. Expect to learn more as Square-Enix releases more details, possibly during the D23. Do you have a favorite game in the series? I’d like to read about it in the comments.