Thursday, 2 June 2011

Kingdom Hearts: Galvatron

Yes, it has come to my attention that Leonard Nimoy played the main antagonist in Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep. This pleases me. Maybe it shouldn't be surprising, because these games have always had excellent casting. The pinnacle for me being Christopher Lee in the second game. He helped give a functionally retarded plot some much needed dignity.

Now, Nimoy's no Christopher Lee, but I've always had a fondness for his collective body of work, and not just Star Trek either. I especially like the odd voice acting roles he's done, like that old asshole from "The Halloween Tree". And who could forget the narration from "Seaman"? I'm even considering seeing the third Transformers movie because of his presence there as the voice of "Sentinel Prime". Even though I am well aware of how hellish an evening like that sounds.

And that's not the only surprise with Birth By Sleep. I knew that they had based a wise, old mentor character off of Hironobu Sakaguchi, former big-wig at the developer "Square-Enix". He pulled that company out of near-bankruptcy in the 80's and his flagship franchise is one of the few things keeping this shambling corpse of a company upright. And they named his tribute character "Eraqus", an anagram of "Square".

I knew that.

What I didn't know was that they got Mark Hamill to do his voice(1:05 in.)

I've always liked the Kingdom Hearts games. Any product that can make me honestly, no-fooling care about fucking GOOFY on an emotional level has to be doing something right. Keeping up with the series today is tricky for me though. I don't own a PSP, which is the only video game console "Birth By Sleep" is available for. And even if I wanted to, I get the feeling pirating it would be such a pain in the ass that it wouldn't be worth the trouble(I may or may not have learned this the hard way). So I've been watching walkthroughs on youtube.

These games have been through some hard times. Their stories are this tangled mess, oblivious to its own failings and resorting to cheap narrative trickery and flash in lieu of something coherent. The second game in the series was this beautiful, exciting, well-acted, finely-tuned product, but the story was putrid. It jerked the audience around with a narrative out of order, and hinted at big things that never showed up. It's like reading a book with only a first and third acts. Birth By Sleep is a prequel, a 0th act. But there's still so many pages missing, and it feels like instead of building up to the climax we've already seen, it's just going to be more typical Japanese meandering bullshit.

"Simple and Clean", MY ASS!

For a brief time, these games were about the clashing of not just art-styles between Disney and Square-Enix, but of western and eastern storytelling. But on a much more primal level, they're about what happens when a safe, colourful, family-friendly atmosphere meets a more serious, and more dangerous set of rules. It's not just about humanoid anime figures teaming up with cartoon animals, it's about the battle between reality and fantasy, and how the two irreversibly affect the other. Once the two philosophies have made contact, there's no going back. The gritty realism will become too soft for its own good, and the warm confidence of "Happily Ever After" is threatened. It'll never be the same again.

THAT'S what the appeal of this series is. It took stories and situations that would never be taken seriously and gave them a sense of fleeting urgency. As if, they could one day be... gone.

Notice how the "human" characters like Sora noticeably age, but Mickey and Donald are the same. The creeping things in the night are only growing more terrible and vicious, and the heroes are getting older, but the happy cartoon places aren't evolving to meet this. It's like Kingdom Hearts is, in some small way, the impending death toll for the childhoods of a lot of its fans.

This is not why the franchise is in such a shambles lately. The problem was that this certainly valid point has not been communicated well at all in a long time. It works when there is a balance of Disney and Square-Enix characters and settings involved, when there is contrast in ideals. One side filled with absolute confidence that everything will work out, and a more complicated, realistic mindset trying to make sense of it all. But it loses its way when it tips the balance mainly to the second category. It gets up its own ass about Light and Dark and a few other words I never want to hear spoken again after playing this series. It has the audacity to believe it can be taken seriously on its own merits right after the Winnie the Pooh honey-hunt mini-game.

I think the potential has always been to see how the "normal" characters, your Soras and Rikus and such evolve with this sudden influence from the simplistic nature of the new faces they encounter. Even more interesting would be how an adult, jaded with reason and experience would react to something like Snow White or Cinderella. From what I've seen, the character "Terra" gives exactly what I've been looking for in this series: 

A Grown Man. An adult with adult sensibilities and problems outside the scope of a family film, a human being with too much weighing on him. Who does not have any easy answers or fairy godmothers waiting to make everything all better for him. Who is not healed, but finds some small peace and betterment from his brief time in happier places.

I doubt they'll keep this up for long. I've only watched maybe 20% of the game's cutscenes. But I can give credit where it's due: Kingdom Hearts tends to hit its mark more often than not when it aims in this direction.

And your reward for making it this far: Leonard Nimoy's hot, gooey Seaman. Or should I say, First Officer Spunk?

(See what I mean about a sudden 180 in tone?)



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