Like many other people, I grew up watching Disney movies. The characters always resonated with me, and so did the stories. I was lucky enough to be only three years old when the original Kingdom Hearts game was released, and it changed my life without me even realizing it.
When I first heard of the game, I was watching Disney Channel and I saw this kid with a giant key, Donald and Goofy, and a bunch of my favorite Disney characters. I was hooked immediately. Over time I would finally start to get better at the game, after all a three year old can only be so good at action RPGs.
It was around middle school when things really started to pick up. At that point Kingdom Hearts 2 and Chain of Memories had been released, and of course I played those a lot as well. But in middle school, while all of my friends were busy playing Call of Duty or Battlefield, I was playing this fantasy game with Disney characters. Suffice it to say, I kept it hidden at that point in my life. I still loved the franchise, but the worries of bullies and the like kept me from truly embracing my love of the game outside the comfort of my room. However, with the release of Birth By Sleep, 358/2 Days, and Re:Chain of Memories, I decided I would replay all of the games again. This play-through is probably my favorite time playing to this day. Of course I was all bundled up in blankets in a dark room with the TV serving as my only light source, but I really started to read into the story. The game became more than just a joyride through Disney movies, it became a story about friendship, the struggle between light and dark, redemption, the game became my courage, and it taught me things I certainly never would have learned from Call of Duty (well besides knowing how to actually play an FPS game).
At that age, my favorite character of course was Sora, the kindhearted, bright young boy from Destiny Islands who was willing to do anything for his friends. It was admirable to me, I dreamt of waking up one day with a keyblade in my hand ready for adventure! Of course that would never happen, but 12 year-old me can dream, right? By the time I was in 8th grade, I had finally gotten around to beating Chain of Memories (at the time my least favorite in the series, now right up there with KH2, time definitely gives perspective I guess) and I realized the game didn't finish with Sora's story, Riku also had his perspective in the form of Reverse Rebirth. Through playing this version of the game, I learned more about the character of Riku, and his inner struggles with the darkness and light.
His story would really resonate with me, especially at a time when my whole life was turning upside down, what with moving across the country and leaving everything I knew, only to restart in a new town with new people. Riku taught me that it's okay to mess up, he taught me that sometimes the best people have a bad history, and that's okay. One line of his, which he says after the end of his story in CoM always stuck with me. DiZ is standing on the pathway, and the path branches into three directions, and he gives Riku two options, the path to darkness, and the path to light. Riku walks past him and says that he will take the middle road, to which DiZ responds "The road to dusk?" and Riku replies, "No, I walk the road to dawn." That line always stuck with me. Even now, when I'm looking at colleges and figuring out what to do with my life, that line remains in my head. It reminds me that it's okay to make mistakes, as long as I accept them and try to better myself.
Now 16, almost 17, Kingdom Hearts pretty much raised me. Now with the third installment almost upon us I can honestly say I've waited my whole life for it. The series may not be perfect, after all the story has been one of the most complicated and difficult to grasp scenarios I've ever encountered in my life, but in a way it's what inspired me to be a writer. It's what drove me to create ideas and worlds and characters with their own struggles.
Well, now that you know how the game affected my life, has it impacted your life? If so, let me know in the comments!