Why Final Fantasy doesn’t matter to Kingdom Hearts

Conversely, Final Fantasy doesn’t need Kingdom Hearts
There’s no reason lend any credence to rumors you’ve heard about Square and Disney being on the rocks (they recently announced an overseas publishing deal) but we all know that the relationship between developer and license is just as difficult as it is fleeting and flimsy. And when you’re dealing with two monolithic companies beholden to legacy content of unprecedented magnitude, you’re looking at a legal nightmare of red tape and paper work multiplied a billionfold.

Above: Capcom long ago lost the retail, physical disc rights to MvC2, so a DLC release was a very lucky loophole

The sales figures for the Kingdom Hearts series are certainly nothing to sneeze at, but they were still outsold individually by Final Fantasy X and XII by a considerable margin. Whether that’s due to the bazillion special editions or rereleases is irrelevant, since you don’t need a consumer analyst to tell you that no matter how it breaks down, that’s a giant pot that Square doesn’t have to split with Mickey. And since the Final Fantasy IP doesn’t require the permission of another empire to spin-off, sequelize, and remake at will, you could argue that Square’s resources are better put to use in an environment where it can operate autonomously and without mouse-eared lawyers breathing down their necks.

Could the crossover bring about the end to Kingdom Hearts?
After 358/2 Days, Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, a PSP prequel set ten years before the original Kingdom Hearts, is the only other Kingdom Hearts game with any confirmation of existence. Both portable games were announced in 2007, however, they were hinted at as far back as 2006 in Kingdom Hearts II (Dec 2005 in Japan.) And since games don’t spontaneously create themselves the day they hit retail, it should go without saying that the framework was being laid for both games several years before that.

Above: KHII’s “secret ending” was basically an introduction to the teen stars of 2009’s Birth by Sleep?!

So, where’s our high-def, next-gen Kingdom Hearts III? KHI came out in 2002 and Kingdom Hearts II followed roughly three and a half years later… yet here we stand at the precipice of 2010 with not so much as an announcement.

Hope runs epic…

Yes, we believe it’s over for Kingdom Hearts following the release of Birth by Sleep… but all is not lost. Neither Disney nor Square “need” each other in the strictest business sense, but they’ve still had a profound influence on one another. Disney had been irrelevant to gamers for nearly a decade before the reigns were handed Square, who immediately adapted Mickey and Co into a masterfully woven world of depth and density in a manner no one would’ve previously thought possible.

Above: The last Disney masterpiece to come out before Kingdom Hearts

Borrowing Final Fantasy’s tone and template, the Disney characters not only proved that they needn’t be confined to by-the-numbers kiddie shovelware, but that they could once again appeal to people of all ages. Is there any reason another development studio couldn’t infuse some personality into the Disney family? Could the Kingdom Hearts torch be passed?! And then these pics hit the net:

Referred to by the code name “Epic Mickey,” a portfolio of concept art by someone purportedly working on a Wii game leaked onto the interwebs depicting all manner of Disney dystopia, the very kind no one would’ve had the balls to attempt had it not been for Kingdom Hearts. So, given that we know Warren Spector, creator of the super-adult Dues Ex series, confirmed he’s collaborating on a project with Disney, one could speculate… Oh, what the hell? Game Informer basically confirmed Epic Mickey’s existence with a tease in their latest issue.

Above: For ambiguity’s sake there’s even a visible Disney copyright logo right on the cover

So it looks as if Disney is creating direct, in-house competition to its own Kingdom Hearts, making future games in that series all the more unlikely. Which is shame… especially now that Disney owns Marvel and The Goddamn Muppets!

Above: Mickey and Ariel too expensive? Bring in the sexy, sexy stars of Disney’s B Squad!

Epic Mickey’s vision looks positively astounding, and it gives us hope that there could still be a universe where our favorite Disney characters can mingle, continuity be damned! But it’d still be a tragedy if Square didn’t get the chance to give Kingdom Hearts a fitting close.