The Kingdom Hearts franchise has been gaining massive popularity amongst fans of Disney, Final Fantasy and gamers in general since the series was first launched in 2002. Made as a joint effort from both Disney and gaming giants Square Enix, these crossover games have sold over 20,000,000 copies worldwide (statistics taken from October 2013) and have brought many people together, united in a common interest. The popularity of these games – along with the ever-advancing technology – has given Square Enix a chance to combine, improve and remaster these games into collections, starting with Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMix in 2013. Of course, there was only so much that could be crammed into the initial remix, so it was only natural that there would be a second release. Hence, Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMix was born; a collection which includes Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix, Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep Final Mix and Kingdom Hearts Re:coded.
With a UK release date for Kingdom Hearts 2.5 ReMix of Friday 5th December 2014, Square Enix wanted to do something special for their fans. A special community launch event was announced via social media, giving fans the opportunity to get their hands on a limited number of tickets. Needless to say, said free tickets went like hot cakes! Fortunately, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to go to this rather intimate event as a V.I.P.
Located at The Vaults, Old Billingsgate, London, fans were lining up outside the venue at least an hour beforehand. Despite the cold weather – not helped by the chill factor from the wind – fans were not put off and seemed both jovial and excited for what lay in store for them once the doors opened at 6pm, marking the start of the 4hour long event. Once the doors opened, the lucky fans were led down festively-lit stairs and into the reception area where a huge logo of the latest Kingdom Hearts game adorned a wall. Gold and silver marker pens were handed out by Square Enix staff for the fans to write their messages on said logo for all to see. The interior of The Vaults was spectacular – although phone reception was not as great – as it blended historical architecture with modern colours and shapes. Kingdom Hearts 2.5 ReMix banners adorned the walls and the venue was decorated with artificial candles. Guests were treated to complimentary water, soft drinks and juices and were later on treated to a free meal from the pie company Pieminister (which was rather yummy!).
Shortly after the event opened, the lucky guests were ushered to the lower part of the venue and invited to take a seat for a presentation by Dan from Square Enix, who kept the audience both vocal and amused. A special launch trailer for the game was shown; featuring winners of a Square Enix competition who were interviewed about their love for the fandom. It was rather heart-warming to see how so many people from different parts of the world were united in their love for the Kingdom Hearts series. If you are interested in viewing this special video, watch it here:
There was also another rather special and unique experience for the audience: Visiting London for the first time were producer Rie Nishi and co-director Tai Yasue. Dan conducted an interview with the guests, giving the audience an insight into themselves and their work, which was extremely insightful. For example, both Nishi-san and Yasue-san’s favourite games from the HD franchise are Birth by Sleep and Kingdom Hearts II, and whilst Nishi-san prefers to immerse herself in the storyline of the games, Yasue-san favours the actual battle play of the games – in which one of his favourite moments of Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMix is the elevator fight. Also mentioned in the interview were important things taken into consideration when developing a Kingdom Hearts game. These aspects include the speed of the battle gameplay, surprising fans with new things with each new game launched and developing a game that also keeps respect and does not damage the image of the Disney characters used. Both Nishi-san and Yasue-san thanked the community for their support and expressed that without the fans, they would not have been able to make their trip to London to meet them. They also expressed how big and exciting this opportunity had been for them.
After the interview panel, there was the chance for guests to win exclusive goodies from a raffle. Prizes included unique framed artworks (of which 50 copies were made worldwide), unreleased Play Arts action figures, signed Kingdom Hearts exclusive manga (of which only 20 copies were made) and a special Kingdom Hearts PlayStation 3, signed by both Nishi-san and Yasue-san. A good handful of people definitely went home happy that night!
Towards the end of the presentation, the audience was given an extremely special treat: An insight into the concept arts and a few teaser cutscenes from Square Enix’s up and coming project: Kingdom Hearts III. Unfortunately, photography and filming was prohibited during the entirety of the presentation but let me just say that the new Heartless look amazing and the graphics are absolutely stunning. The audience was cheering and calling for more, but alas, there was no more to be had. I guess we will have to be patient and keep an eye out for more delightful teasers from Square Enix in the future!
Once the presentation had concluded, guests were free to roam the venue and take part in many things. These included being able to purchase merchandise from the Square Enix shop (including figurines, CDs and a cuddly toy), having your photo taken on the Twilight Town Tower balcony – just like that memorable scene in Kingdom Hearts II, and even having a photo flipbook made of you with a choice of three Kingdom Hearts related backdrops via green screen technology. Guests were also given the opportunity to indulge in some early gameplay for Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMix, as well as having either a photo or obtaining an autograph from both Rie Nishi and Tai Yasue. For the fans that were still feeling a little peckish, there was also a home-made Kingdom Hearts-themed Christmas cake to enjoy!
Overall, the Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 Official Community Launch Event was something that many people will not forget for a very long time. Square Enix really made the evening a memorable one – with a great venue, a fantastic insight into the world of Kingdom Hearts and how it has affected a global community and some great interactive opportunities. Personally, I would like to thank Hoi, Dan and the rest of the Square Enix staff for providing people with such an amazing and entertaining evening for their fans, as well as Siân and Aaron (my newfound friends) for keeping me company from the very start to the very end of the event. This event has really rekindled my love for the Kingdom Hearts franchise and you can bet that I’ll be trying to get a hold of my own copy of Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMix to keep the magic going!
As mentioned earlier in this report, Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMix is available in the UK from Friday 5th December 2014 for the PlayStation 3.
If you would like any more information on the Kingdom Hearts franchise, check out these links:
Official website: http:// http://www.kingdomhearts.com/
Official Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/KingdomHearts/
All photos © Jojo Yap