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Pop CultureJune 12, 2018

A play-by-play reaction to the E3 Kingdom Hearts 3 trailer


The new trailer for the much-anticipated latest entry in the Final Fantasy/Disney crossover series Kingdom Hearts premiered at E3 today. Sam Brooks tries to make sense of it.

If you’re not familiar with Kingdom Hearts, good god, why are you starting now? You’re sixteen years too late. Trying to understand this series at this point is like trying to understand hieroglyphics through the senses of taste and scent alone. It’s possible, but why on earth would you try and do it this way?

But if you’re not familiar and intend to read on, this is a brief round-up: Kingdom Hearts is a series that started sixteen years ago as a crossover between Final Fantasy and Disney. It combined the anime-inspired storylines of a Final Fantasy with the world of Disney. You played an original character, Sora, who is joined on his journey by Donald and Goofy. You then platform through worlds of various Disney films (the first game included Tarzan, Alice in Wonderland, Aladdin, Pinnochio, The Little Mermaid) in an attempt to rescue the Princesses of Heart from the forces of Darkness. Things get nuts. Like, proper David Lynch and sometimes even David Cronenberg nuts.

The series has become increasingly complex (read: completely nonsensical) in the sixteen years since, and now includes time-travel, more protagonists that you can count, more original characters than Disney characters, and definitely more Disney characters than Final Fantasy characters. Each entry only serves to raise more questions, with seemingly no intention of resolving anything.

Despite this, the series is still wildly popular, and the debut of a new trailer (and confirmation of a release date: January 29, 2019 y’all!) is a big deal for the fans of the series.

Those fans include me. These are my reactions.

0:04 – Oh yes, I am incredibly here for this! This is Kingdom Hearts indulging fully in the mad-libs noun and adjective nonsense that made it famous.

How are you meant to read this? Is it mad-libs? Right-to-left, down-to-up, diagonally, in a spiral? How does light gather something together, let alone hearts? This is the most Kingdom Hearts sentence possible, and I am here for this bullshit.

0:13 – Elsa! From Frozen! Holy shit. Does she sing ‘Let It Go’? Why not? Because it’d cost a lot to license it, probably? Even though Disney owns half of Kingdom Hearts? But does it own Idina Menzel’s voice? Would they have to pay her more? Why not just use the Demi Lovato voice? Disney executive reading this, please response to me.

0:24 – Go away, Olaf. Unpopular opinion: Olaf sucks. I want him and his dumb marketable face to go away.

0:35 – Elsa uses ice magic, and Sora is impressed. This is despite Sora having seen many, many people use many, many different kinds of magic throughout the entire Kingdom Hearts series. Including himself! Sora, you’re dumb.

0:45 – “Control it? No, all I ever do is hurt people.” Classic Elsa, well done Kingdom Hearts for nailing the fact that outside her one big song that Elsa is a total killjoy.

0:52 – Here for this snowboarding crap.

0:59 – He’s summoning Simba in the world of Frozen, which I think is technically our own world but with ice magic, the weird trolls that everybody forgets and catchy little pop songs! This is Kingdom Hearts fanfiction at its finest. What other mash-ups are possible? Answer: A lot. Kingdom Hearts is fanfiction if fanfiction had a multi-multi-multi-million dollar budget.

1:03 – Sora begins his descent into alcoholism, with the help of kitchen rat Ratatouille of the criminally underrated Pixar film Ratatouille. Seriously, it’s one of their best, and it’s insane that it isn’t regarded alongside Toy StoryUp or The Incredibles. 

1:11 – Wreck-It Ralph. This is where the world of Kingdom Hearts gets confusing, if you decide to start thinking about it with any sense of logic.

Let me explain: The world of Wreck-It Ralph is essentially a big huge crossover thing of all video games, including cameos from Sonic, Mario, Street Fighter, Pac-Man, PaperBoy, and dozens of others. The world of Wreck-It Ralph is now a part of the Kingdom Hearts world but does this mean that Kingdom Hearts, the video game, exists in Wreck-It Ralph, the world, and therefore there’s a weird existential loop that means that one does not exist without the other. We do not have a Kingdom Hearts world without a Wreck-It Ralph world, and do not have a Wreck-It Ralph world without the insane and canon-crossing world of Kingdom Hearts?

Which came first? Kingdom Hearts or Wreck-It RalphKingdom Hearts did, obviously. It was made in 2002, whereas Wreck-It Ralph came out a full ten years later. But it makes you (me) think.

Anyway, Wreck-It Ralph the character is in this game. Rejoice.

1:14 – Tangled is in this game! I love TangledTangled is better than Frozen, funnier, and has better songs. I will not enter into debate on this subject.

1:19 – Sora has weird animal claw feet, which I’m sure will make the furries that inevitably and maybe obviously love this series happy. Also, Monsters Inc is in this game.

1:20 – Gummi Ship crap, which they insist on putting into this series for no good reason. In case you wanted to play an on-rails arcade shooter in your Final Fantasy/Disney crossover series. Man, remember when there used to be Final Fantasy characters in these games? How lucky we all were.

1:29 – “Still Sora, that doesn’t mean you should change. Accept the power you’re given. Find the hearts joined to yours.”

Gibberish. Absolute beautiful anime gibberish.

1:35 – The obligatory Utada Hikaru song starts up.

Now, this is my favourite insane part of the numbered Kingdom Hearts games (of which there are two, soon to be three, and there’s about eight non-numbered games, unless you count the games which are numbered like 358/2 Days, but not part of the main series). For each of these main numbered games, Utada Hikaru has provided an adult contemporary ballad about a relationship. This does not relate to the theme, content or style of the Kingdom Hearts series at all.

You know how Celine Dion did that kind of beautiful and actually great song for Deadpool 2 as a joke? Like that, except deadly serious.

So at this point of the trailer, Utada Hikaru’s song for this game, ‘Don’t Think Twice’ starts up. I like the song. I will buy it on iTunes. I will cry when the orchestral version plays over the end credits of Kingdom Hearts 3. We all have our curses, and our burdens.

1:40 – Mickey everloving Mouse.

1:57 – Hercules! From the film Hercules. Because if there’s anything the Kingdom Hearts series loves more than Utada Hikaru films, it is stretching the fairly loose canon of the Disney Hercules out for multiple films while avoiding branching out into, you know, actual Greek mythology.

2:03 – The pig from Toy Story 3, you guys!!!!!

2:14 – Someone from Organisation XIII.

What is Organisation XIII, nobody asked?

Organisation XIII is a group of thirteen powerful Nobodies who seek to reclaim their hearts and become whole again

What is a Nobody, also nobody asked?

A Nobody is what remains of those who have lost their hearts to the Darkness.

Wait, ‘Darkness’, as in, capitalised?

Yes! In the Kingdom Hearts series, Darkness is not just a concept but a real thing, which causes the loss of people’s hearts if they are consumed too much by it. They then become Heartless.

What is a Heartless, I hear a third Nobody (get it?) ask?

A Heartless is a physical, living manifestation of the Darkness within someone’s heart.

The Kingdom Hearts series is very, very stupid and I love it like I love a bad boyfriend.

2:20 – Just gonna transcribe the dialogue, such as it is, directly. They’re from different scenes, but I can guarantee you they probably make even less sense in context:

“Roxas does exist, his heart’s inside my heart.”

“For the virtual world to be completely realised, Ansem the Wise would’ve included Roxas’ full data in the construction.”

Those are definitely all words, but I don’t necessarily understand them in that order or that context.


To explain:

Xehanort is the main villain of the Kingdom Hearts franchise. His entire plan is to start a war between the forces of Light (the good people, unsurprisingly) and the forces of Darkness. Aqua is one of the three protagonists of Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, a prequel to the Kingdom Hearts series and a key part of the plot, but still not a numbered sequel. This is the game in which we find out the background behind Xehanort’s plan. Birth by Sleep ends with Aqua sacrificing herself for her friends, Ventus and Terra, and trapping herself in the Dark Realm.

(You can play this story in Kingdom Hearts 0.2: Birth by Sleep – A Fragmentary Passage, which you can only play if you bought the compilation game Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue. I am making none of this up, and I fear for the person whose brain did have to make all this up.)

The term ‘norted’ was coined by fans to describe the process in which Xehanort separates himself to put into each member of the forces of Darkness. So like horcruxes, essentially. In order to achieve this, he uses time travel, he hijacks people’s bodies, or does any number of things that I just… can’t explain here because my brain can only take so much.

In any case, a key way to tell if someone has been ‘norted’ is they have white hair and yellow eyes.

In this scene, we see that Aqua has white hair and yellow eyes.

She has been norted. This is a big deal.


Axel is a Nobody, but also he killed his Heartless, so he found his Heart, but so now he’s a real person again.

Kairi is just a person who can use a keyblade. What’s a keyblade? A sword with a key.

I’m going to play the shit out of this dumb game and I will understand exactly none of it.

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