Arguably, the biggest aspect that makes the Kingdom Hearts franchise a distinctly Disney product is the variety of worlds the game has to offer.
From Aladdin’s Agrabah to Hercules’ Olympus Coliseum, the series is jam-packed with the nostalgia explosion that is everyone’s childhood. With rumours of Kingdom Hearts 3 possibly being set to release in early 2016, it’s worth speculating what iconic worlds we’ll have to look forward to in the Square Enix title.
Although Disney has obtained the rights to Marvel and Lucasfilm, would we dare ask to see the likes of the Hulk or Ben Kenobi in the newest Final Fantasy/Disney fangasm?
The answer to that and a bit more will be explored here in the 13 Worlds We’d Like to See in Kingdom Hearts 3:
1. Camelot (The Sword in the Stone)
The Sword in the Stone is a classic movie that revolves around a boy who goes through various trials and tribulations, only to be given a sword that will change his life forever. Switch the order of that around a little bit and we have the story of Sora, a boy whose life was heavily altered because he was given a swo… erm, keyblade.
With Sora older and fully aware of how big of a burden a weapon can be, he could assist a young Arthur – or Wart, as his family endearingly call him – in his quest to pull Excalibur. At one point, Arthur loses interest in the quest, which could be a great opportunity to explore duty above personal desires, and a subject Sora that could shed plenty of light on.
Merlin has also been there since the beginning, so we think it’s about time we gave the old wizard a little more screen time. Plus, who wouldn’t want to see Sora and Arthur save Merlin from the treacherous Madame Mim? Did we hear someone say wizards’ duel?
2. Winter Wonderland (Frozen)
Anyone who thinks that Frozen won’t be a part of Kingdom Hearts III will have to take, ahem, a chill pill, with regards to their disillusionment. It is going to happen, and it is going to be awesome.
We can imagine a winter wonderland of snowy adventure for Sora and his Disney pals. The progression of scope in gaming over the past nine years bodes well for the appearance of the largest and most vibrant worlds of the Kingdom Hearts series, and Frozen’s domain of frosty forests and glittering mountain peaks will certainly be no exception.
We’re thinking of Skyrim in terms of the game’s potential for beauty and expansiveness. You could be trudging through deep and realistic snow drifts, getting caught up in hazardous blizzards, exploring the cobbled streets of Arendelle, or hiking up shining, blue glaciers towards Elsa’s crystal palace. Of course, once you reach it, she might just teach Sora a thing or two; boosting his Blizzard skill, and that would be really, ahem, cool.
If this isn’t enough to satiate you, there can at least be one fantastic certainty: this world will contain lots, and lots, of Let it Go.
3. Game Central Station (Wreck-it Ralph)
What Disney world is better suited to a video game, than a world that revolves around video games? It seems almost too perfect. Let’s imagine that the heartless have ‘infected’ the video games like a virus, and are chewing away at the program – much like how Vanellope von Schweetz was turned into a glitch in the often-overlooked movie by the evil King Candy.
The fun that Sora and his pals could have in this world is limitless. You could play inside the games of Sugar Rush and Wreck-it Ralph themselves to chase down the Heartless and challenge them on the racetrack – all set against some funky, 8-bit music. Now, tell us that doesn’t whet your appetite?
4. Secluded Woods (Fox and the Hound)
What’s a more fitting world to visit than one inhabited by two young friends who’re growing apart with age? Todd wants the life of a young fox who spends his days chasing fox cuties and causing trouble for woodland creatures. Copper wants the laid-back lifestyle with his fellow hunting dog and grouchy master. Of course there’s going to be some problems; problems of growing apart that Sora and Riku experienced in the flagship title that started it all.
This not only gives Copper and Todd a chance to learn a little about life and embrace change, but also allows for some pretty heartfelt flashbacks on Destiny Islands where Sora and Riku had to go through the same experience. If that doesn’t shout Disney cheesiness, then we don’t think anything will.
Also, being that it’s a wooded area, it would be a great place to discover the famous Winnie the Pooh book we all get lost in. Don’t pretend you don’t.
5. Xandar (Guardians of the Galaxy)
Say what you will about Final Fantasy XIII and its sequels, but one thing that they are able to nail time and time again is the realisation of beautiful, pristine and futuristic cities. It is this already well-established pedigree of utopian creation that leads me to believe that the home of the Nova Corps, Xandar, would be a perfect inclusion into the Kingdom Hearts III universe.
Sora and company would fit perfectly into Xandar’s symmetrically constructed walkways and parks; an aesthetic that would provide a unique contrast to the jungles, oceans and small-time villages of previous entries. The size of the planet would also provide a larger area to explore; an area that could be filled with dozens of alien species available for interaction and side-quest delivering antics.
Although, we must not forget the most enticing prospect: Sora, Donald and Goofy will be able to mix with some of the greatest superheroes of all time: the Guardians of the Galaxy. Humour, warmth and suspense are staples of both franchises, and we have a feeling that combining them would lead to some seriously satisfying results.
“Hey Rocket, aren’t you friends with Pocahontas?” – This must happen.
6. Tatooine (Star Wars)
Our trio of heroes have perhaps traipsed back to the Arabian setting of Agrabah a little too frequently for our tastes. Sure, Tatooine may look similar, with its arid wastes and sandy towns, but we feel that its inclusion could change up an all-too-familiar aesthetic for the better. Sorry, Al.
The planet has played host to numerous iconic locations throughout the entire Star Wars saga, all of which would provide ample exploration time for that kid in the big, yellow shoes. The back alleys of Mos Espa could lead to the discovery of hidden treasure troves; deserts could be traversed rapidly on speeder bikes; Jabba’s Palace would be an excellent choice for a final battle against that disgusting slug’s pet Rancor. The dangerous nature of this planet could give added conflict to every situation, and thanks to the strange array of citizens that inhabit it, the Darkness would remain free to lurk quietly around every corner.
A perfect place for lurking, of course, would be the Mos Eisley Cantina; a bar where fights are picked with even the most innocent of individuals (“My friend, he doesn’t like you.”). If this area does materialise in the final game, then Figrin Dan better warm up his Modal Nodes; we need to hear that sweet Kloo Horn melody.
Beat that, Genie!
7. Corona (Tangled)
Who doesn’t love Tangled? For a start, it has Rapunzel, the clumsy goofball princess; Flynn Rider, the suave rogue on a mission; and Maximus, the noble steed that, quite frankly, owned the whole movie with his hilarious antics. Not only that, but Corona is a beautiful setting with some fantastic mythology at its centre: a mysterious flower with healing powers, a lost princess, and a nasty old pantomime-esque witch.
Rapunzel’s desire to be free mirrors Sora’s own dreams, and besides, she absolutely kicks ass. Imagine her in the party taking down Heartless with a frying pan and a sidekick chameleon. We all know that princesses play a huge part in the overarching plot of Kingdom Hearts, and Rapunzel is certainly a princess who shouldn’t be overlooked. She may be a recent addition to the clan but she easily stands strong as one of the best.
8. The Mansion (The Haunted Mansion)
Most of the Kingdom Hearts series’ scares come from the creepy world of Halloween Town, but for a bit of a change, why not visit The Haunted Mansion? Of course, when we say that, we’re not talking about the 2003 movie adaptation (it was a piece of hot trash). Instead, we are referring to the Walt Disney World ride; an attraction that oozes scary sights and sounds, in a macabre show of the morbid and illusive.
The entire episode could be narrated by the ride’s “Ghost Host”, a figure that takes you on a tingling journey throughout the mansion, and describes its various visitations in frightening detail. Optical illusions are also a staple of the attraction’s spookiness, and could be successfully incorporated into the game’s world. Elements of the mansion could change throughout: the layout could alter and warp to leave Sora trapped in tight situations, while suits of armour, portraits and mirrors could manoeuvre themselves freakishly when your back is turned.
The ghosts themselves, along with the sombre tones of the ride’s droning organs, could add heightened levels of menace to the gang’s situation. Random and unexpected apparitions could pop out of walls and ceilings, or even spring up from the coffins littered around the mansion’s hallways and graveyards. This would go a long way towards making the stage unexpected, panicked and chilling.
9. Andy’s House (Toy Story)
We’ve seen them as African animals, we’ve seen them as spooky monsters, and we’ve seen them as underwater creatures. This time, get ready for another costume change. Alright, everyone, get excited because we have a chance to see Sora and co. as a trio of plastic, energetic, adorable toys!
That’s right, we’re talking about Toy Story, the Disney movie almost everyone has seen. We all know the incredibly emotional story filled with friendship, loyalty and more heart than even the Heartless know what to do with. Take that and throw in Sora, Donald and Goofy and we have one of the most unique levels the Square Enix franchise has ever seen.
Not only that, but Toy Story might be one of the darkest Disney flicks that’s made us hug a box of tissue paper. At one point, all of Andy’s toys almost got thrown into what we could only say looked like an incinerator. For Disney, that’s some hardcore stuff.
What better time to throw in a little sad realism than Sora’s last journey? We already know this is going to be the most mature title in the series. We think it’s about time Sora starts to learn about the harsher realities of life… Like having your loving master abandon you and almost getting you melted down and turned into an Aquafina bottle.
If nothing else, this could give Tim Allen some more work – God knows he needs it… Incidentally, that brings me to my next pick: Jungle 2 Jungle, anyone?
10. Heffalumps, Woozles and Pink Elephants (Winnie the Pooh, Dumbo)
This would definitely be an out-there addition to the series; after all, these two “groups” are only prominent in short dream sequences within Dumbo and Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day. Despite this, we happen to think that they could contribute a wonderfully surreal element to Sora’s adventure.
But why combine the two parties? Well, each are similarly represented as colourful creatures of terror in the minds of both Pooh and Dumbo; both have the ability to change to their size, shape, and anatomy, and both have equally catchy songs sung by high- and low-pitched individuals. It makes perfect sense for these creepy menaces to be joined at the hip.
Now, where would they fit into the realm of Kingdom Hearts? We think that the franchise already contains similarly designed antagonists, the Heartless and the Nobodies, and so therefore the elephants, heffalumps and woozles could easily be mistaken for these well-established villains. Sora is pretty busy searching for giant keyholes and such, so perhaps he wouldn’t notice the difference between a world inhabited by Heartless, and a place of darkness filled with honey-guzzling hot air balloons.
Not only could these weird monstrosities bring in varied enemy types, but their world could be a mind-bending universe of colour and darkness. It would be incredibly trippy, there would be so many pink elephants, and that, of course, would be masterful, albeit a little ‘confusel’.
11. Treasure Planet (Treasure Planet)
With the exception of Heffalumps, Woozles and Pink Elephants, Treasure Planet might be the most obscure pick on the list. But let’s face it, Jim Hawkins is Riku. He wants nothing more than to venture away from home in search of the biggest adventure he can find. We can already picture the dialogue:
Jim: “I just… I just wanted to make a name for myself and show them that I’m not a screw-up. I didn’t want anybody to get hurt though.”
*Hangs head and sulks into corner as Riku appears out of the shadows*
Riku: “I’ve been there before.”
*Cue awesome world introduction screen*
Really though, Square Enix showed some love to Riku in Dream Drop Distance and he held the spotlight pretty well at times. Let’s give him a world to flesh out his story a bit more and show that’s it’s not all about the spiky-haired goofball.
12. Midgar (Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children)
“Whoa, hold on a sec: what is this?! I don’t think that’s legal,” you say in a bewildered cry.
Sure it’s not the happy-go-lucky Disney joy ride we’re used to. And it might even be a bit too dark for Sora’s last adventure. But you know what? We think it’s about time we got to explore a Final Fantasy-themed level. We’ve been seeing the cast of FF7 everywhere since the get-go. As this chapter of KH comes to a close, why not have some of the FF characters finally make it back to the world they’ve been searching for? Not only does it give Sora a chance to explore the world so many familiar faces call home, but it shows progression since the original Kingdom Hearts.
Cloud, Tifa, Yuffie and uh… Aerith, I guess (not sure how that one works out), will have made the journey back home and will need Sora’s help one last time to take out Sephiroth. Advent Children’s storyline would need some reworking, but we think it’d be more than worth it as the remnants of Sephiroth could make for an interesting mini boss battle.
Not only that, but right before the end of the game, Sora could revisit Midgar and fight Sephiroth alone, in a recreation of one of the more challenging battles to constantly frustrate us in Kingdom Hearts.
Also, we kind of want Goofy to meet Red XIII. We have no idea why.
13. London (101 Dalmatians)
One thing that we loved so much about Disney’s 101 Dalmatians was its beautiful and almost moody depiction of London. Kingdom Hearts had you searching all over the worlds for Pongo and Perdy’s puppies, so we’d love to see them get their own world. Also, who doesn’t think that Cruella de Vil would make a terrifying villain in the game, alongside a bumbling Horace and grimacing Jasper?
We would love to play in 101 Dalmatians’ world and have to find those pesky puppies again and navigate through a hide and seek gone sour – all with some sweet jazz music as the soundtrack. And let’s be honest here, Cruella is probably the most despicable villain ever: she steals puppies so that she can skin them. Skin them!
We think 101 Dalmatians is a massively underrated Disney gem and it deserves to be more than a side quest. Let’s go to London!
Despite having a rather extensive wishlist, finally being able to hold Kingdom Hearts 3 in our hands is all we could really ask for. It’s been far too long since a main storyline release, having skipped the PS3 entirely. With tons of material to work with, coming from the likes of several Disney releases and some interesting acquisitions, there should be plenty of source material to pull from to make the next instalment the most magical yet. And when the day finally comes to play Kingdom Hearts 3, we’ll be grinning ear to ear making our way to the game’s finale in our gummi ship; one world at a time.
Contributors: Austin Flynn, Tara Jayne, Scott Russell.