Kingdom Hearts has been around for two decades now, giving us plenty of interesting anecdotes and history surrounding its creation and characters. With the news that the entire series will be coming to Nintendo Switch Cloud Streaming, I couldn't help but think back on some of the more obscure facts surrounding the franchise. See if you knew these already or if they're new to you.
1. Lance Bass from NSYNC voiced Sephiroth
Let's start with an easy one. Kingdom Hearts is the marriage between Disney and Square Enix characters in an RPG. As such, one of the bonus boss players you could fight in the first Kingdom Hearts game was Cloud's nemesis, Sephiroth. Unknown to many of us at the time, Lance Bass of NSYNC fame actually voiced this silver-haired demon. A strange casting choice considering that boy bands don't give off anywhere near the same vibe as the evil villain determined to destroy the world. But really, I'm just sad that Sephiroth never broke into song at some point. Just imagine him breaking out with "Bye Bye Bye" and some sweet dance moves each time he killed you. Definitely a missed opportunity.
2. Kingdom Hearts was the last Squaresoft game
Square's North American subsidiary that worked on Kingdom Hearts was still going by Squaresoft when the first game released in 2002. However, Square and Enix merged in 2003 and so every Kingdom Hearts game since then has been by Square Enix.
3. It's all thanks to elevator talk
The Kingdom Hearts games are pretty whacky when you think about it. Square Enix's characters tend to be far grittier with a more realistic design while Disney is... well Disney; family-friendly and cartoony. Mashing these two worlds together probably never would have happened if it wasn't for the fact that Disney and Square occupied the same building in Tokyo back in the 90s and early 2000s. As reported by The Guardian, the D23 2017 convention for Disney fans is where we learned about the game's early beginnings. As explained by Kingdom Hearts director Tetsuya Nomura:
Considering what huge companies were involved at the time, it's kind of crazy that no formal proposals were ever made. I guess networking really does work.
4. Kingdom Hearts 3 is the 11th game in the series
Confusing right? Despite sounding like a trilogy of games there's actually a full series that has released on a number of platforms including Nintendo devices, PlayStation consoles, and Xbox. Several remixes have also been released since then that add additional plot and characters to the story. As such, you really need to play the latest versions of all the games to get the full story. And the titles are just as messy as the plots, I'm afraid.
- Kingdom Hearts (PS2)
- Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories (DS)
- Kingdom Hearts 2 (PS2)
- Kingdom Hearts Coded (DS)
- Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days (DS)
- Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep (PSP)
- Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance (3DS)
- Kingdom Hearts X (PC)
- Kingdom Hearts: Unchained X (Android, iOS)
- Kingdom Hearts Dark Road (Android, iOS)
- Kingdom Hearts 3 (PS4, Xbox One)
- Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memories (Switch, PS4, Xbox One)
It's a lot, right? Fortunately, the versions of these games coming to Nintendo Switch Cloud Streaming are all the latest with updated characters and added plots. If the list seems a bit daunting, feel better knowing that only five Kingdom Hearts games are absolutely necessary to play in order to understand the story.
5. Square Enix and Disney are both represented in the game
Sora meets members of Organization XIII as early as Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories. This is a group of hooded individuals out to bring as many Heartless to various locations with this being a stepping stone towards enacting an even greater evil plot. All members of Organization XIII have anagrams assigned to them with the letter X thrown in. So just remove the X and rearrange the letters. For instance, Axel is Lea, Xemnas is Ansem, and Xaldin is Dilan.
As any Fantasia or Disney buffs might know, if you spell Yen Sid backward, the sorcerer Mickey is apprenticed to, it spells Disney. Meanwhile, Terra, Aqua, and Ventus' teacher, Master Eraqus is an anagram for Square.
6. Tarzan only appears in the first game
When you're depicting characters that belong to different licensing agreements and copyrights, you occasionally hit some snags. So, while Tarzan, Jane, and the gorillas made a prominent appearance in the first Kingdom Hearts game, they don't appear in any others because Disney doesn't have the rights to Tarzan anymore. That honor belongs to the Edgar Rice Burroughs' estate.
7. Celebrities everywhere!
While this isn't the case for all of them, much of the Disney character voice acting throughout the series was done by the same actors from the movies. However, a few original voice actors and some notable others stepped in at various points throughout the series. Some of the most recognizable ones are:
- Sean Astin - Hercules (KH1)
- Mark Hamill - Eraqus (BBS, KH3)
- Lance Bass - Sephiroth (KH1)
- James Earl Jones - Mufasa (KH2)
- Pat Morita - The Emperor (KH2)
- Haley Joel Osment - Sora (All)
- Hayden Panettiere - Kairi (KH, KH2, BBS)
- Billy Zane - Ansem (KH1)
- David Boreanaz - Squall/Leon (KH2)
- Mandy Moore - Aerith (KH1)/Rapunzel (KH3)
- Zackary Levi - Flynn Rider (KH3)
- Idina Menzel - Elsa (KH3)
- Kristen Bell - Anna (KH3)
- Leonard Nimoy - Master Xehanort (BBS, KH3D)
- Christopher Lloyd - Master Xehanort (KH3, ReMind, MOM)
Believe me, there are plenty more big names among Kingdom Hearts voice actor veterans. Dive in some time to see who else voices your favorite characters.
8. Sora's fashion sense comes from Mickey Mouse
When you think Sora you undoubtedly think of a spiky-haired kid with red shorts, white gloves, and big yellow shoes...those clothes sound familiar? There's a reason for this similarity. As reported by CBR, Disney wanted Donald to be the lead while Squaresoft wanted Mickey. Nomura suggested a humanoid character instead. While his first iteration gave the character a lion-like appearance complete with a tail and chainsaw, Disney didn't much approve of the design and didn't want the character wielding a weapon.
After some time, Nomura reworked the character in order to appease both Disney and Square. This led to the creation of Sora, his Keyblade, and the Mickey-Mouse-inspired clothes. It's honestly hard to imagine Kingdom Hearts without Sora. If Mickey or Donald had been the leads this game would have felt very different, indeed.
9. Masahiro Sakurai thought it would be "impossible" to bring Sora to SSBU
Whether you loved them or hated them, Nintendo fans are very aware of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate DLC fighters. Characters from video games both inside and outside Nintendo's franchises have joined the battle over the last few years, which lead to many hoping to see their favorite characters appear in the game. Thousands of players have been wanting Sora to join the fray, but even Smash's creator, Masahiro Sakurai, thought it would be an "impossible" feat due to licensing issues. As he explained in his Weekly Famitsu column:
However, much like the chance conversation in the elevator that made Kingdom Hearts happen in the first place, Sakurai explained that he happened to meet a higher-up at a Disney awards show. It was a good thing he did. Not only did Sakurai mention how much he'd love for Sora to come to the game but the person from Disney also expressed interest in the idea. Disney, Square Enix, and Nintendo entered discussions on the matter and the rest is history.
While Disney characters don't appear in Smash, Sora does use many of his iconic moves, and of course there is the Mickey Mouse keychain on the Keyblade. Every Super Smash Bros. Ultimate fighter is getting an amiibo, so we're excited to see what Sora's looks like.
10. A Kingdom Hearts/Star Wars crossover was cancelled
As you might recall, Disney acquired Lucasfilm and thus the entire Star Wars franchise on October 30, 2012. Disney began working on a mobile game called Kingdom Hearts: Fragmented Keys, which would serve as the first crossover between Kingdom Hearts and Star Wars. Alas, this free-to-play crossover was not to be, but several of the other ideas did make it into Kingdom Hearts 3, including Tangled and Frozen. The mobile game was scrapped and the project was officially cancelled. However, concept art made it look like Sora would have visited during the Clone Wars era. It's still possible that this crossover will happen in an upcoming game. Until then, we can only dream of what might have been.
A whole new Kingdom on Switch
There are plenty of other interesting facts surrounding Kingdom Hearts, its characters, and its creation, but these are the most interesting ones. Now that Kingdom Hearts on Nintendo Switch is a reality, you can play through these classic games again.
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Gaming aficionado Rebecca Spear is iMore's dedicated gaming editor with a focus on Nintendo Switch and iOS gaming. You’ll never catch her without her Switch or her iPad Air handy. If you’ve got a question about Pokémon, The Legend of Zelda, or just about any other Nintendo series check out her guides to help you out. Rebecca has written thousands of articles in the last six years including hundreds of extensive gaming guides, previews, and reviews for both Switch and Apple Arcade. She also loves checking out new gaming accessories like iPhone controllers and has her ear to the ground when it comes to covering the next big trend.