- Kingdom Hearts
The logo of Kingdom Hearts, the first game in the series. Subsequent titles use a similar logo.
Genres Action role-playing game Developers Disney Interactive Studios (Main)
h.a.n.d. (358/2 Days, Re:coded)
Publishers Square Enix (formerly Square and Square Electronic Arts)
Disney Interactive Studios (formerly Disney Interactive and Buena Vista Games)
Creators Tetsuya Nomura Platforms PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable, Game Boy Advance, Nintendo DS, Nintendo 3DS, Mobile phone First release Kingdom Hearts
Latest release Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep Final Mix
- JP January 20, 2011
Official website Kingdom Hearts Portal
Kingdom Hearts (Japanese: キングダム ハーツ Hepburn: Kingudamu Hātsu ) is a Japanese American video game series developed and published by Square Enix. It is a collaboration between Square Enix and Disney Interactive Studios, and is under the direction of Tetsuya Nomura, a longtime Square Enix character designer. Kingdom Hearts is a crossover of various Disney settings based in a universe made specifically for the series. The series features an all-star voice cast, which includes many of the Disney characters' official voice actors and well-known celebrities such as Haley Joel Osment, David Gallagher, Jesse McCartney, Hayden Panettiere, Christopher Lee, Willa Holland, Jason Dohring, Mark Hamill, and Leonard Nimoy. Characters from Square Enix's Final Fantasy series make appearances and interact with the player and the Disney characters. The series centers around the main character Sora's search for his friends and his encounters with Disney and Final Fantasy characters on their worlds, though the most recent games have centered around other characters central to the series' storyline.
The series currently consists of seven games including remakes across different video game platforms, and future titles are planned. Most of the games in the series have been both critically acclaimed and commercially successful, though each title has seen varying levels of success. As of August 2010, the Kingdom Hearts series has shipped over 14 million copies worldwide, with 2 million copies in PAL regions, 3.0 million copies in Japan, and 5.6 million copies in North America. A wide variety of related merchandise has been released along with the games, including soundtracks, figurines, companion books, and an ongoing manga series.
- 1 Titles
- 2 Common elements
- 3 Development
- 4 Audio
- 5 Reception
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 External links
The series consists of ten games—two main games developed by Square Enix, an enhanced version of Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II, a PlayStation 2 remake of the GBA game Chain of Memories titled Re:Chain of Memories and a V CAST mobile phone game developed by Superscape. Another mobile phone game was developed in-house by Square Enix while the last game, created for Nintendo DS, was developed in cooperation with h.a.n.d.. The second mobile phone game has only been released in Japan although there are plans to release it in other territories. The three main games were released in chronological order, with each new title following the events of the previous title, while the V CAST game was developed independently from the main series. The latest releases are Kingdom Hearts 358/2 days for Nintendo DS Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep for the PSP, along with a Nintendo DS remake of Coded titled Re:Coded.
Kingdom Hearts is the first game in the series, and was released on March 28, 2002 This was Nomura's first time in a directorial position. Kingdom Hearts introduced the main characters for the series and established the plot's framework involving hearts and the dark beings known as the Heartless. It also established the role of Disney characters in the series, with character cameos from the Final Fantasy series. Kingdom Hearts was released in North America on September 17, 2002, and featured additional content that was not in the original Japanese version. The game was later re-released exclusively in Japan as Kingdom Hearts Final Mix on December 26, 2002. Final Mix includes the content from the North American release and additional enemies, cut scenes, and weapons.
Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories is the second game in the series. It was released on the Game Boy Advance in Japan on November 11, 2004 and in North America on December 7, 2004. Chain of Memories was touted as a bridge between the two PlayStation 2 titles, introducing and previewing plot elements that would be explored in the next game. The gameplay is based on a card system; player-composed decks of cards, with each card allowing the player to perform an action in battle, such as attacking or using magic. It was remade into a PlayStation 2 game titled Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories, which was released in Japan as a second disc packaged with Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix on March 29, 2007. The remake was released as a standalone title in North America on December 2, 2008.
Kingdom Hearts II is the third game in the series, and is set one year after Chain of Memories. It was released in Japan on December 22, 2005,in Europe on September 29, 2006 and North America on March 28, 2006 for the PlayStation 2. The game further explored the "heart" concept by involving the Nobodies and "bodies". The gameplay is similar to that of the first Kingdom Hearts game, with the addition of more options to attack enemies and the Reaction Command, which utilized the triangle button to perform context-sensitive actions in battle and interaction with characters and the environment. Kingdom Hearts II was revised into Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix, which contained more material than the original release, such as additional cut scenes and bosses. Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix was released with Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories, a remake of Chain of Memories for the PlayStation 2, containing polygon graphics instead of the sprites used in the original Game Boy Advance game. This collection is titled Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix+ and was released in Japan on March 29, 2007.
Kingdom Hearts coded is the fourth installment in the series. It is for Mobile Phones and was released in episodes with the first being released in Japan on November 18, 2008. The game picks up after the events of Kingdom Hearts II, focusing this time on King Mickey, Donald, Goofy and Jiminy Cricket, who discover a mysterious sentence in Jiminy's journal and subsequently digitize the journal's contents to find the one responsible. The game was released in episodes and as of January 2010, all eight episodes have been released. Though the game is a Japan-exclusive, Square Enix immediately stated that it had plans for releases in other territories, and Phil Snyder, the new voice actor for Jiminy Cricket since Eddie Carroll's passing, partially confirmed this by stating that he would be voicing Jiminy for a game titled Kingdom Hearts Re:coded which was presented in a trailer at E3 2010, and has been released on the Nintendo DS platform, making it the second Kingdom Hearts game to be released on that console (since it was released after 358/2 Days). Re:coded was released in Japan on October 7, 2010, January 11, 2011 in North America, and on January 14, 2011 in Europe.
Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days is the fifth title in the series for the Nintendo DS and was released in Japan on May 30, 2009, and in North America on September 29, 2009. It is set primarily between Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II, revolving around Roxas' time in Organization XIII and his motives for ultimately leaving the Organization to pursue the answers he seeks. It was first announced at the Tokyo Game Show 2007 with cooperative multiplayer on display, in addition to the traditional use of AI-controlled partners. It is the first game in the series to feature cooperative multiplayer with the most playable characters ever featured in a Kingdom Hearts title to date, at 19.
Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep is the sixth title in the series, released for the PlayStation Portable in Japan on January 9, 2010, and in North America on September 7, 2010. The game is set ten years before the events of the original Kingdom Hearts. The game consists of three scenarios with each focusing on one of the three protagonists: Terra, Ventus and Aqua who are apprentices of Master Eraqus. They set out in search of the missing Master Xehanort and protect the worlds by defeating creatures called the Unversed, while each travel their separate ways and encounter their own agenda along the way with the origins of Sora and Xehanort revealed. The game was re-released exclusively to Japan under the name Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep Final Mix on January 20, 2011, with the content from the English versions as well as brand new features, such as a playable Secret Episode.
A Kingdom Hearts game was developed exclusively for V CAST, Verizon Wireless's broadband service, and was released on October 1, 2004 in Japan and on February 4, 2005 in the United States. It was one of the launch games for the V CAST services. The game, developed by Superscape and published by Disney Mobile with no involvement from Square Enix, features gameplay akin to the original Kingdom Hearts game, modified for the input method of mobile phones. The game's storyline features Sora struggling to free himself from a nightmare induced by Maleficent's magic.
Kingdom Hearts Mobile is a Kingdom Hearts themed online game in which players can play mini-games together. Unlike Kingdom Hearts for the V Cast and Kingdom Hearts coded, Kingdom Hearts Mobile does not have a storyline and focuses more on socializing and mini-games as it is more of a service rather than a game. The service is in conjunction with Kingdom Hearts coded which unlocks new costumes for avatars in Kingdom Hearts Mobile whenever the player completes an episode of Kingdom Hearts coded. New Kingdom Hearts related merchandise such as wallpapers, ringtones, graphics and other items can be purchased and downloaded through the service for mobile phones.
Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance for the Nintendo 3DS will be the seventh installment of the series and the next major installment after Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep. It was previously known as Kingdom Hearts 3D until the official title was revealed. The game will focus on Sora and Riku Nomura has previously stated that the game would be connected to 358/2 Days, coded and Birth by Sleep, and would be more of a main game than a spin-off or sidestory. Chronologically, the game picks up after Kingdom Hearts coded, and it is set for a Spring 2012 release in Japan, North America and Europe.
Kingdom Hearts III: In an interview with Tetsuya Nomura, he stated that his team is currently too busy with other projects such as Final Fantasy Versus XIII to work on Kingdom Hearts III. He also stated that his team was doing research concerning the high-definition graphics of the game, and depending on the technical requirements of the next generation consoles, Kingdom Hearts III may see a release on existing platforms. Story-wise, Nomura has revealed that it will pick up directly after the events of Dream Drop Distance and serve as the final chapter of the Xehanort Saga.
There are multiple versions of each of the main Kingdom Hearts games. They each had a release in Japan, North America, and the PAL region; the titles were also re-released in Japan with new content. Both Square Enix and Disney released numerous types of merchandise before and after the release of the games. Merchandise ranged from toys and figurines to clothing items and jewelry. Two of the games, Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II, had a soundtrack released to coincide with the video games. These were followed by a nine CD complete set which featured both soundtracks and unreleased tracks. Kingdom Hearts has been published as a trading card game by the Tomy corporation of Japan. An English version of the game was released in November 2007 by Fantasy Flight Games. The video games have also been adapted into a manga and novel series.
Like the Final Fantasy games, a series of Ultimania books were released in Japan for the three main games. There are six books which include game walkthroughs, interviews, and extra information from the developers. Released along with Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix+ was Kingdom Hearts -Another Report-, a hardback book which includes game information, visuals by Shiro Amano, and a director interview. In North America, Brady Games released strategy guides for each game. For Kingdom Hearts II, they released two versions, a standard version and a limited edition version. The limited edition was available in four different covers and included a copy of Jiminy's Journal along with 400 stickers.
A manga based on the Kingdom Hearts storyline has been released in Japan and the United States. The story and art are done by Shiro Amano, who is also known for his manga adaptation of the Legend of Mana video game. The story follows the events that took place in the video games with differences to account for the loss of interactivity a video game provides. The manga was originally serialized in Japan by Square Enix's Monthly Shōnen Gangan and eventually released in tankōbon format. The first tankōbon was released in Japan in October 2003. The manga was released in the USA by Tokyopop two years later in October 2005. It was divided into three manga series based on Kingdom Hearts, Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, and Kingdom Hearts II. The first series, Kingdom Hearts, was further divided into four volumes, while the second series, Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, was divided into two volumes. The third series, Kingdom Hearts II, has had five volumes published (the first two of which only are available translated in English) and is currently on hiatus. There is also a Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days novel being serialized. The first volume was released in Japan in December 2006 and was released in the US on July 3, 2007.
A novel series, written by Tomoco Kanemaki and illustrated by Shiro Amano, has been released. Like the manga series, it is divided into separate series based on the games. Kingdom Hearts is divided into two volumes; "The First Door" and "Darkness Within". Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories is divided into two volumes. Kingdom Hearts II is divided into four volumes; "Roxas—Seven Days", "The Destruction of Hollow Bastion", "Tears of Nobody", and "Anthem—Meet Again/Axel Last Stand".
Kingdom Hearts series chronology
Disney and Final Fantasy characters
Kingdom Hearts features a mixture of familiar Disney and Final Fantasy characters, as well as several new characters that functioned as opponents or allies created by Nomura. Though the series features locations unique to the Kingdom Hearts franchise, worlds from Disney films are heavily explored. Sora must visit these worlds and interact with popular Disney characters to protect them from enemies. Often, his actions in these worlds closely follow the storylines of their respective Disney films, and the player can sometimes choose to have one of the world's characters accompany him. The main characters try not to interfere with the affairs of other worlds, as it could negatively affect the universe's order. Moogles, small creatures from the Final Fantasy series, are another common element in the games. They provide the player with a synthesis shop in order to create and purchase items used in the game.
The first game shows how Sora is separated from his friends when their world, Destiny Islands, is invaded by creatures known as the Heartless. During the invasion, Sora obtains a weapon to be able to fight off the Heartless, known as the Keyblade. Soon after finding himself in Traverse Town, Sora meets Donald Duck and Goofy, two emissaries from Disney Castle sent by King Mickey to find the wielder of the mysterious weapon, the Keyblade. The three band together and travel to different Disney-themed worlds, sealing the hearts of the worlds to prevent more Heartless invasions. Along the way, they encounter a group of Disney villains, led by Maleficent, who are controlling the Heartless. Though they eventually defeat Maleficent, the three discover that a man named Ansem is the true antagonist. Ansem's plan is to open the door to "Kingdom Hearts" in the hopes of attaining eternal darkness. Sora, Donald, and Goofy defeat Ansem, and seal the door with the help of Riku and King Mickey on the other side of the door.
After sealing the door to Kingdom Hearts, the three begin searching for Riku and King Mickey, finding themselves heading towards a mysterious fortress called Castle Oblivion. Upon entering the fortress, they begin to lose their memories. The three encounter a group of dark hooded villains, part of a mysterious Organization. In the castle, Sora learns his memories have been manipulated by a girl named Naminé who was being held captive by the Organization. To allow them to regain their memories, Naminé puts Sora, Donald, and Goofy to sleep for a year; in the process, they must lose the memories of their experience in Castle Oblivion. At the same time, Riku finds himself in the basement of the castle and begins traveling to the first floor with the aid of King Mickey. Riku fights both the Organization's members and the darkness in his heart, learning to accept his dual nature between light and dark. Allying himself with the mysterious DiZ, Riku aids him in keeping Sora and Naminé safe until the former is awoken. However, a snag in the plan over the year forces Riku to go after a young man named Roxas, the thirteenth member of the Organization, to enable Sora's reawakening.
Seven days after Riku's success, Sora, Donald, and Goofy awake in Twilight Town, with no memory of their time at Castle Oblivion, and resume their search for Riku and King Mickey. They learn of the Nobodies and are re-familiarized with their leaders, Organization XIII. Afterwards, Maleficent is resurrected and joins with Pete, another Disney villain, to find a new base of operations before resuming her quest for power and revenge on Sora. Sora once again travels to many Disney-themed worlds and resolves the troubles caused by not just Maleficent and Pete, but also Organization XIII whose members refer to him as Roxas. Meanwhile, Kairi is kidnapped by the Organization. They meet King Mickey, who reveals that the "Ansem" Sora defeated was actually the Heartless of Xehanort, a student of the real Ansem the Wise. Xemnas, the leader of Organization XIII, reveals himself to be the Nobody of Xehanort. The three arrive at the headquarters of Organization XIII, with Kingdom Hearts looming overhead, and Sora is finally reunited with Kairi and Riku while fighting the remaining Organization members. Roxas is also revealed as Sora's Nobody, whom Riku had captured by willingly assuming the false Ansem's form, in order that Roxas may be integrated back into Sora. As these events are unfolding, Mickey encounters DiZ, revealed as Ansem the Wise, who is arming a device that would digitize all of Kingdom Hearts' power. However, it backfires, with the machine to exploding, with Ansem consumed in the blast and Riku restored to his original state. At the top of the castle, Sora and his friends battle Xemnas, who uses the remnants of Kingdom Hearts to fight them. Refusing to accept defeat, Xemnas separates Sora and Riku from the others to face them in a final battle that ends with his demise. Though initially trapped in Xemnas' realm, Sora and Riku are able to return to their world after reading a letter from Kairi that reveals the door to light.
However, sometime later, Sora, Riku and Kairi receive a message from King Mickey that was not revealed in Kingdom Hearts II, the contents of which detail his findings in Kingdom Hearts coded: it turns out Sora is destined as the "Key that Connects Everything" to save three Keyblade users who played role in both his life and his friends' lives in the past: Terra (whose body was taken by the rogue Keyblade Master, Master Xehanort, and became the young incarnation of Xehanort that Sora faced in the forms of "Ansem" and Xemnas), Ventus (whose heart, damaged following a victorious struggle against his dark half, Vanitas, ended up within Sora while his comatose body was placed within the Chamber of Wakening in Castle Oblivion), and Aqua (who ended up trapped in the realm of darkness after sacrificing herself to save Terra's body, now without access to her Keyblade and now instead uses the Keyblade of Master Eraqus, and is with Ansem the Wise after the blast from the Kingdom Hearts Encoder sent him there). Sora prepares to set out on a new journey to find and rescue his predecessors. Around the same time, King Mickey himself receives the shocking news from Yen Sid that the destruction of "Ansem" and Xemnas has led to Xehanort's restoration, and not just "a single one of him". Learning of this, Yen Sid orders Mickey to summon Sora and Riku to him to have them undergo the test of the "Mark of Mastery" in preparations for their imminent clash with Master Xehanort.
The Kingdom Hearts series games contain elements from both action and role-playing games. The games are driven by a linear progression from one story event to the next, usually shown in the form of a cut scene, though there are numerous side quests available that provide bonus benefits to the characters. The player primarily controls the principal protagonist of the series, Sora. Sora is usually accompanied by Donald Duck and Goofy, who are non-playable characters that aid Sora in battle. While visiting certain worlds, Donald or Goofy can be swapped out for that world's protagonist (e.g. Jack Skellington while visiting Halloween Town or Aladdin while visiting Agrabah) In the first and third game, their behavior can be altered to suit different combat objectives. The games feature real-time combat that incorporates physical attacks, magic, and summonings, though each game handles battles differently.
Gummi Ships are another common element of the series, though they are not featured in the second title. The Gummi Ships serve as the main mode of transportation between worlds in the games. The gameplay for the Gummi Ships sections is more akin to a rail shooter. Because it received negative criticism in the first game, it was modified in the third title. All three games also feature a journal which is accessible from the main menu. The journal keeps track of information regarding the story, characters, enemies, and locations. In the first three games, the journal is kept by Jiminy Cricket, who was appointed by Queen Minnie as the royal chronicler, while in Birth by Sleep and 358/2 Days, a journal/report is personally written and kept by each main character.
The games are influenced by their parent franchise, Final Fantasy, and carry its gameplay elements over into their own action-based, hack-and-slash system. Like many traditional role-playing games, Kingdom Hearts features an experience point system which determines character development. As enemies are defeated, the player gains experience which culminates in a "level-up", where the characters grow stronger and gain access to new abilities. The amount of experience is shared with all party members and each character grows stronger as experience is gained.
The first Kingdom Hearts game began development in February 2000. It was directed by Tetsuya Nomura and produced by Shinji Hashimoto, who had conceived the idea when he met with a Disney executive by chance in an elevator; Square and Disney had previously worked in the same building in Japan. While Nomura had done previous work in the Final Fantasy series as monster designer and graphic director, he did not gain widespread recognition until he was the lead character designer for Final Fantasy VII. Kingdom Hearts marked his transition into a directorial position, though he also served as the game's character designer. Scenarios were provided by Kazushige Nojima who was a scenario writer for Square from Final Fantasy VII until he left in 2003. Originally the development focused on the gameplay with a simple story to appeal to Disney's target age range. After Kingdom Hearts executive producer Hironobu Sakaguchi told Nomura the game would be a failure if it did not aim for the same level as the Final Fantasy series, he began to develop the story further.
Nomura placed a secret trailer in Kingdom Hearts in hopes that fans would want a sequel. He was unsure if fans would want a sequel and felt that if they did not, then it would be best to leave certain events in the first game unexplained. After Kingdom Hearts Final Mix was completed, development for Kingdom Hearts II began. There were several obstacles to clear before development could begin on a sequel. One was the development team's desire to showcase Mickey Mouse more; Mickey's inclusion in the first game was restricted to a very small role. Nomura had planned for the sequel to take place a year after the first and originally intended for the events of that year to be left unexplained. To bridge the gap between the two games, Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories was developed. Nomura was hesitant about releasing a game on the Game Boy Advance because he felt the 3D graphics of the original game would not translate well into 2D. He changed his position after hearing that children wanted to play Kingdom Hearts on the handheld system.
Creation and design
Though Disney gave Nomura freedom in the characters and worlds used for the games, he and his staff tried to stay within the established roles of characters and boundaries of the worlds. Nomura has stated that though many of the Disney characters are not normally dark and serious, there were not many challenges making them so for the story, and despite this, their personalities shine because they maintain their own characteristics. He also felt managing and keeping multiple worlds was problematic. When deciding which worlds to include in the game, the development staff tried to take into account worlds with Disney characters that would be interesting and made an effort to minimize any overlap in the overall look and feel of each world.
The inclusion of specific Final Fantasy characters was based on the opinions of both fans and staff. Another criterion for inclusion was whether the staff felt the characters would fit into the storyline and in the Kingdom Hearts universe. Initially, Nomura was hesitant to use characters he did not design, because he was unfamiliar with the backstory of such characters. For Kingdom Hearts II, he changed his mind after receiving pressure from his staff. Throughout the development of the games, Nomura has often left certain events and connections between characters unexplained until the release of future games. Nomura does this because he feels that games should have room for fans to speculate and use their imagination. He has stated that with speculation, even though a game gets old, people can still be happy with it.
The first Kingdom Hearts was announced at E3 in May 2001. Initial details were that it would be a collaboration between Square and Disney Interactive, and would feature worlds developed by both companies and Disney characters. New characters were designed by Nomura and include Sora, Riku, Kairi, and the Heartless. On May 14, 2002, a press release announced a list of the English voice actors. The list included Haley Joel Osment, David Gallagher, and Hayden Panettiere as the three new characters introduced in the game. It was also announced that many of the Disney characters would be voiced by the official voice actors from their respective Disney films.
A secret trailer in the first Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts Final Mix hinted at the possibility of a sequel. Rumors for a sequel on the PlayStation 2 were spurred in Japan when a Japanese video game site, Quiter, stated that "an internal (and anonymous) source at Square Japan" confirmed that development of Kingdom Hearts II had begun. It was not until Kingdom Hearts II was announced, along with Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, at the Tokyo Game Show in September 2003 that rumors were confirmed. Initial details were that it would take place some time after Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, which takes place directly after the first game. Other details included the return of Sora, Donald, and Goofy, as well as new costumes. At the 2004 Square Enix E3 press conference, the producer, Shinji Hashimoto, stated that many mysteries of the first game would be answered.
To help market the games, websites were set up for each game and demos were on display at gaming events. Each game in the main series was also re-released in Japan with additional content and served as canonical updates to the series. The additional content foreshadowed later plot elements in the series. The rereleases of the main series games had the term "Final Mix" added after the title, while Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories and Kingdom Hearts coded were re-released as Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories and Kingdom Hearts Re:coded and released on the PlayStation 2 and Nintendo DS, respectively, with 3D graphics, voice overs during some cutscenes, and new game content.
The music for the video game series was primarily composed by Yoko Shimomura. Kaoru Wada works as the arranger for orchestral music in the Kingdom Hearts series, including orchestral renditions of the main vocal themes and the ending themes. The orchestral music was performed by the New Japan Philharmonic Orchestra and the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra. Soundtracks were released for the first and third installments following the release of their respective games. A compilation soundtrack was later released that included soundtracks for the entire series, including reworked tracks for the re-released Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories.
While the themes for some of the Disney-based worlds are taken directly from their Disney film counterparts, most of them are given entirely original musical scores. In addition to each world having unique background music, each is given its own battle theme rather than having a common theme to cover all fights. Several of the Disney villains get themes based on the film from which they originated, and the final boss of each game has several themes played in the various phases of those fights. The fights with Sephiroth feature a modified version of Nobuo Uematsu's "One-Winged Angel" from Final Fantasy VII.
The main theme songs for the Kingdom Hearts games were written and performed by Japanese pop star, Utada Hikaru. The two main themes are "Hikari", from Kingdom Hearts and Chain of Memories, and "Passion", from Kingdom Hearts II. Each song has an English counterpart, "Simple and Clean" and "Sanctuary" respectively, for the North American and European releases. Utada was the only singer Tetsuya Nomura had in mind for the first Kingdom Hearts theme song. This marked the first time Utada had produced a song for a video game. Both theme songs reached notable popularity in Japan. On weekly Oricon charts, "Hikari" reached #1 in 2002 and "Passion" reached #4 in 2005.
The Kingdom Hearts games featured well-known voice actors for the Japanese and English versions. The Japanese version featured Miyu Irino as Sora, Risa Uchida as Kairi, and Mamoru Miyano as Riku. The third game introduced Kōki Uchiyama as Roxas, Iku Nakahara as Naminé, and Genzō Wakayama as DiZ. Other notable voice actors included Kōichi Yamadera, Hideo Ishikawa, Maaya Sakamoto, Takahiro Sakurai, Akio Ōtsuka, Takashi Aoyagi, Yū Shimaka and Shinichirō Miki.
The English release of the Kingdom Hearts games featured an all-star voice cast which included many of the Disney characters' official voice actors. Wayne Allwine, Tony Anselmo, and Bill Farmer voiced Mickey Mouse (Bret Iwan now voices Mickey after Allwine died of diabetes on May 18, 2009, with his final performance being for the series' DS game), Donald Duck, and Goofy. Several high profile actors provided the voice acting of the main characters. The first game featured Haley Joel Osment as Sora, David Gallagher as Riku, Hayden Panettiere as Kairi, and Billy Zane as Ansem. The third game, Kingdom Hearts II, saw the return of the main character voice actors (except for Billy Zane, who left for unknown reasons and was subsequently replaced by Richard Epcar) and added Jesse McCartney as Roxas, Brittany Snow as Naminé, and Christopher Lee as DiZ. Other notable actors included Sean Astin, Steve Burton, Will Friedle, Mandy Moore, Lance Bass, Ming-Na, David Boreanaz, James Woods, and most recently, Jason Dohring, Willa Holland, Leonard Nimoy, and Mark Hamill.
Aggregate review scores
As of January 2, 2011.
Game GameRankings Metacritic Kingdom Hearts 86.56% 85 Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories 77.54% 76 Kingdom Hearts II 87.46% 87 Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories 71.12% 68 Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days 76.74% 75 Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep 82.50% 82 Kingdom Hearts Re:coded 69.93% 66
The Kingdom Hearts series has been critically and commercially successful, though each title has seen different levels of success. By December 2005, the Kingdom Hearts series had shipped more than 8.5 million copies worldwide. As of September 2008, the series has shipped over twelve million copies worldwide, with 2.0 million copies in PAL regions, 3.0 million copies in Japan, and 5.6 million copies in North America. The three main games in the series all met with positive sales at the time of their releases. In first two months since the North American release of Kingdom Hearts, it was one of the top three highest-selling video games. Chain of Memories sold 104,000 units in 48 hours in Japan, a record for a Game Boy Advance title at the time. Its positive debut sales placed it in the top spot of sales charts in Japan. In the first month of its North American release, it was ranked 1st on GameSpot's ChartSpot for portable systems and 6th for all consoles. Within a week of the Kingdom Hearts II release in Japan, it shipped 1 million copies, selling almost 730,000 copies. By the end of March 2006, the NPD Group reported that Kingdom Hearts II was the highest-selling console game in North America, with 614,000 copies. In the month after its release in North America, Kingdom Hearts II sold an estimated 1 million copies.
The games have also received high ratings and positive comments from reviewers. The three main games have scored a 36 out of 40 or higher from the Japanese gaming magazine Famitsu, known for its extremely harsh grading. All six games have been praised for their visuals. Game Informer considers the series the eleventh "must-play PlayStation 2" series. The individual games have also won several awards. GameSpot commented that the concept of mixing the serious elements of Final Fantasy with the lighter elements of Disney seemed impossible, but was pulled off quite well. Because of that they awarded Kingdom Hearts "Best Crossover Since Capcom vs. SNK" in their 2002 Best and Worst of the Year awards. IGN named Kingdom Hearts "Best Art Style/Direction" in their 2003 list of "Best Looking Games on PS2". G4 awarded it "Best Story" at their 2003 G-Phoria awards show. Electronic Gaming Monthly awarded Kingdom Hearts II "Best Sequel" of 2006. It tied with Resident Evil 4 as Famitsu's Game of the Year 2005. The manga series has also been well received. Several of the manga volumes were listed on USA Today's "Top 150 best sellers". The highest ranked volume was Kingdom Hearts volume 4 at #73. Every volume listed stayed on the list for at least two weeks; Kingdom Hearts volume 4 stayed the longest at four weeks.
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