I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with Kingdom Hearts. That is to say, I want to love it, but I think I hate it. I have written about this phenomenon before, and as Kingdom Hearts 4 is revealed, I find myself going back to it. My central annoyance with Kingdom Hearts is that it's a Disney game that is utterly rubbish at all things Disney. Kingdom Hearts fans unilaterally agree that Arendelle is the worst world in the series' history, despite it being one of the most layered kingdoms in the entire Disney Princess series. I have given up on ever understanding Kingdom Hearts' story, and while 4 may yet entice me with The Simpsons World, I'm ready to accept that despite it being a Disney Game and me being a Disney Adult, Kingdom Hearts is just not for me. So now I'm asking for a game that could be.
It feels like Disney owns everything in the world these days, from Marvel to Star Wars to the cheese in my fridge. After buying up Fox last year, it owns even more, but there are still other studios out there capable of making a Kingdom Hearts game – or at least the kind of Kingdom Hearts game I want to see.
First off, I should explain exactly what Kingdom Hearts is to me, as it can be difficult to reach an agreement on what a game as confusing as this is. Basically, Kingdom Hearts is a Disney game where you run around different Disney places meeting different Disney characters. Nothing else. No Final Fantasy, no Sora, no Mickey Mouse is a magic ghost or whatever any of that bullshit is, just good old Disney IP beamed straight into my eyeballs. While no other studio has the clout of Disney, there are still a few big players who could make an excellent Kingdom Hearts game, and could do it without the Final Fantasy waffle thrown in there.
The relationship between films and video games is a tricky one. I miss the days when movies were turned into video games, even if I'm aware that the long development cycle of video games makes these days impossible to return to. And while I see video games as art, it feels as though movies becoming video games is slumming it, in a way it does not when the situation is reversed and games like Sonic or Detective Pikachu get movies. A Kingdom Hearts-style game, especially, is much more about the essence of the characters and using them as you would plastic toys on a bedroom floor rather than elevating the storytelling of their original form. That's why, despite my chaotic desire to play an A24 Kingdom Hearts, I don't want to run around as Florence Pugh in a flower crown or as Mia Goth in a farmer's daughter outfit.
It needs to be a studio known for major blockbusters where the characters have already been saturated by merchandising that putting them in a video game blender would not be sacrilege. DreamWorks, whose most popular movie (Shrek) exists entirely to spite Disney feels like an obvious choice, but once you get past Shrek things sink quickly. The Croods? Turbo? Shark Tale? Boss Baby? Hardly on the level of Toy Story World, is it. You didn't even notice that I made Turbo up. What's that? You did notice? Too bad, sucker. It's real, and it's about a snail that wants to be a slightly faster snail. And that's why I don't want a DreamWorks Kingdom Hearts.
Warner Bros. wouldn't be a bad shout, given that it has already made moves to copy Smash Bros. through MultiVersus, due out later this year. However, the horse I'm backing here is Universal. It has the most recognisable titles after Disney, the best range of popular movies anywhere, and a whole host of iconic characters and locales that are ripe for a Kingdom Hearts game. Jurassic Park, Fast & Furious, King Kong (the 2005 one), Pacific Rim, ET, Jaws, and The Mummy are all Universal pictures. The studio owns several Hitchcock properties (though their inclusion may be too close to sacrilege), as well as Blumhouse, Halloween, and the Cornetto Trilogy. There are so many options here.
There are some complications, owing to the fact that several of the movies listed are parts of franchises where ownership may no longer reside with Universal, and the fact many of them are co-production pictures, a problem Disney, who makes most things in house and buys up the rest, does not have to contend with. But then I'm already asking for Universal to get into video games with a Kingdom Hearts riff, I think we can all see logic and reality have no hold over me. Go on, Universal. Make Universal Kingdom Hearts. That, or A24 Kingdom Hearts. I said it as a joke, but now I really want it, which I assume is how Kingdom Hearts came to be in the first place.
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