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Musical Memories: The Kingdom Hearts

Kingdom Hearts is coming back and the excitement is off the charts.
What with a divide between this new sequel in the classic game’s famous saga and the release of Kingdom Hearts 2 clocking in at over 13 years, its frenzied reception from fans eager to relive its unique take on Disney and Final Fantasy fusion is hard to over-anticipate.

More than an urge to play a new release, the anticipation of the game’s arrival later this month comes loaded with an emotional connection to the experience Kingdom Hearts originally introduced to all who played it. It opened people’s hearts, ok? Yes, we’re going there.

The full experience of playing Kingdom Hearts came with a whole host of beautiful details delivered in just the right ways. The addition of children’s favorites in the form of well-known Disney characters, the sheer scope of navigating a colorful universe of worlds alongside beloved allies, overcoming Final Fantasy style challenges and obstacles and, well, the music. Yes, the music. Oh, the music.

…there’s more to the music of Kingdom Hearts than might otherwise meet the eye. Its appeal is the real deal for more reasons than one.

Music will play a central part in making this newest release another success. Knowing this, Square Enix turned to the same singer they’d turned to for the other two main console epics, Hikaru Utada. However, they’ve also enlisted the aid of major modern dubstep (or brostep, or future bass, if you will) pioneer Skrillex. The two are apparently at work in tandem on the new game’s new tune “Face My Fears.”

It’s a lot not to get excited about, but there’s more to the music of Kingdom Hearts than might otherwise meet the eye. Its appeal is the real deal for more reasons than one.

Making Melodic Memories…

From the very beginning – the main menu, in fact – Kingdom Hearts comes at you with incredible music. A gentle, halting piano ballad by Yoko Shimomura brings tears to your ears as a bright, minimally populated screen fades into view.

And who could ever forget the original intro to Kingdom Hearts? Hikaru Utada’s nearly nightcore-speed techno-remixed masterpiece “Simple and Clean” opens up to a bright, intricately creative world of digital graphics every gaming schoolboy in 2002 geeked out about for years.

Caught up in this unexpected moment, confused and amazed, we watched, mouths agape, as our every vaguely heroic dream played out before us. Then, we totally played it.

Amaze Us Once…

Kingdom Hearts 2 was no different, sporting another killer Hikaru Utada track. This one, titled “Sanctuary” sends shivers down the spine with sloshing, backwards vocals and haunting melody.

The main menu theme came in with a slimmed-down sound; less melodically verbose and more morose than the first.

Wait just long enough there and something amazing would happen… A symphonic rendition of the game’s intro track takes over, playing triumphantly over sentimental phrases followed by snippets and cutscenes from the game.

3rd Time’s the Charm

The Utada/Skrillex musical combo, though not without its heavy detractors plays to stunning effect over the upcoming game’s visuals.

Every bit as exciting as its predecessors, this opening theme puts the game’s complex story into perspective, playing on the shift in emotion of its main characters. Fear and uncertainty phase to bravery, and battle over a full-blown future bass beat.

Interestingly enough, “Face My Fears” wasn’t initially slated to be the game’s intro track at all. Instead, Utada’s tune “Don’t Think Twice” was poised for such placement, but she and Skrillex decided to create something else for the game. “Don’t Think Twice” will still be used for other purposes apparently, though, which is great because it’s a beaut (perhaps best in its original Japanese).

In spirit, it’s evident “Face My Fears” draws on the emotional arc of the previous games, unifying the series’ releases with this new one…

We may not yet have the full thing, but already it brings back memories of previous installments. In spirit, it’s evident “Face My Fears” draws on the emotional arc of the previous games, unifying the series’ releases with this new one and, hopefully, providing the same awe-inspiring experience every Kingdom Hearts fan knows and loves.

A true gift to fans of the series, the upcoming release in January bears a promise of future releases as well, despite serving as an end to the original story’s arc. There’s much more Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts music to come.

Hopefully, beyond plain nostalgia, the series continues to entertain new fans the world over.

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