I’m a bit late to the party, but it's quite exciting to see the new Kingdom Hearts 4 trailer. I’m feeling a mixture of intrigue, disappointment, and excitement at all the same time. As an old fan of the series, this new trailer has left me with both wonder and disappointment.
The first thing that stood out to me in this trailer is the look. I’m not just talking about Sora, but more about the sleek new look of the environment. Skyscrapers, smartphones, and cars — it looks like Sora was teleported from Kingdom Hearts straight into a completely brand new series. I know that the metropolis feel has slowly been introduced in Kingdom Hearts 3 with the Big Hero 6 world, but it's strange to see Sora in this environment.
It's nice to see the new change of pace for this series, but it's also a bit jarring. Seeing modern-day technology in a Kingdom Hearts game is so bizarre. But this also brings up the real question of the series: what is the setting of the Kingdom Hearts series?
Star Wars is all about Sci-Fi, and Lord of the Rings is High Fantasy, but I feel that Kingdom Hearts sorta struggled with its setting. I mean, I think that a part of that struggle is the fact that the games always bounce from one Disney world to another, each setting being extremely different than the other one.
I don’t quite think it's possible to nail down the exact setting that the Kingdom Hearts Universe sits down. They have large computers, but not laptops. It had trains, but not cars. They have phones, but not anything that looks like smartphones. That’s sorta been the setting of the series.
But now with KH 4 — there are skyscrapers, smartphones, and modern-day cars. It's a complete turnaround from the established setting that the series has kinda established.
And… I kinda both like it and hate it. I love that the series is taking a new approach by introducing a completely brand setting, and maybe thematically, also introducing the next chapter of the series. However, it’s also annoying that the series is again taking a dramatic shift in the setting.
There’s a chance I might be thinking too deeply about this, but trying to explore the maddening mind of Nomura is half the fun.
I talked to a friend about the introduction of Strelitzia in Kingdom Hearts 4, it brought up a concern of mine. Neither myself nor my friend knew who she was, but apparently, a lot of hardcore Kingdom Hearts fans did. The frustration is not that she exists, but that she was a character in the mobile game. The mobile game, and now will be a major character in Kingdom Hearts 4. This is the same frustration that I have with Memory of Melody and the topic of the “Realm of Fiction.” It came completely out of the left-field but was talked about immensely in the mobile game.
Nomura has this strange ability to include super important plot threads in games that seemingly do not matter. I don’t see anything wrong with introducing certain lore elements in the mobile game, but putting the heavy amount of storytelling and character development regarding super important characters is nothing more than frustrating.
However, considering how the DLC of Kingdom Hearts 3 ended and the story of Memory of Melody, Kingdom Hearts 4 is a new start to the series. I think it is kind of poetic to completely change the character design of Sora to showcase the new start. I only hope that in this new start, the series starts on the right foot with good dialogue.