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Kingdom Hearts Should Have Leaned Heavier Into Final Fantasy

When Kingdom Hearts first debuted, its unique concept of blending Disney worlds with Final Fantasy characters felt fresh and intriguing. The initial elevator pitch of “Disney meets Final Fantasy” was a dream come true for many. However, as the series progressed, the presence of Final Fantasy characters significantly diminished, to the point where they don’t even appear in the Kingdom Hearts III base game, and it’s a shame for the series as a whole.

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Elements like Moogles and other staples from the Final Fantasy series persist throughout the Kingdom Hearts games. However, their influence on the storyline has been minimal since the first few entries. One of the first allies Sora meets in the original game is Squall from Final Fantasy VIII, who goes by the name Leon. This encounter, with Leon’s older, more battle-worn design, set an exciting precedent for integrating fan-favorite Final Fantasy characters into this new Kingdom Hearts universe.

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Sadly, the cool design and a few lines of dialogue about his new name are all we ever get regarding him. Shortly after meeting Leon, Sora teams up with Donald and Goofy. From here he heads to various Disney worlds, and Final Fantasy characters are nowhere to be seen. This absence is explained in-universe by the rules that characters typically cannot travel between worlds. Nevertheless, this feels like a missed opportunity to blend the two franchises more deeply.

One notable exception to this trend is the Olympus Coliseum storyline. Here, Cloud from Final Fantasy VII is hired as a mercenary by Hades from Disney’s Hercules. This crossover was an organic and exciting melding of the two universes, showcasing the potential for similar interactions. Imagine every Disney world featuring a Final Fantasy character in a similar capacity. It would have allowed for plenty of narrative possibilities that, sadly, Square Enix chose not to explore.

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While Square Enix gave us a little more interaction with Final Fantasy characters in Kingdom Hearts II, it really doesn’t develop things much further. While it’s cool to see Cloud and Squall talk to each other, Square Enix barely follow up on this premise. Even when the storyline comes to Hollow Bastion, the plot is more happening around them, and not with them.

It is understandable that Disney, being the larger and more protective brand, most likely imposed limitations on the crossovers. However, the imbalance has become a huge talking point. It’s akin to Marvel vs. Capcom featuring tons of Marvel characters, then only a few from Capcom before gradually omitting Capcom characters entirely.

Fans love Kingdom Hearts for its complex, often convoluted and ultimately compelling storyline. However, leaning more heavily into the Final Fantasy aspect could have potentially elevated the series further. Sadly, the potential for exploring interactions with Disney characters remains largely untapped.

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As for antagonists, while Sephiroth is a classic bonus boss in earlier games, he’s also missing from Kingdom Hearts III. Other iconic Final Fantasy villains are also notably absent from the series. This deprives the series of potentially thrilling encounters and team-ups with Disney villains.

Kingdom Hearts could have really benefited from a stronger inclusion of Final Fantasy characters throughout the series. Their rich backstories and dynamic personalities could have added even more depth and diversity to the game’s narrative. Despite these missed opportunities, Kingdom Hearts remains a unique and beloved franchise. Guess we’ll just have to wonder about what could have been if it had fully embraced its Final Fantasy roots.

The Kingdom Hearts series released on Steam on June 15, 2024.

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Cory Dinkel
Cory Dinkel is a freelance writer for Siliconera since 2023. An award-winning digital journalist, he has worked for local and national news outlets for nearly a decade. His favorite genre is the JRPG and he will not be taking questions during his "There is Not a Love Triangle in Final Fantasy VII" speech.