The Kingdom Hearts games have been remarkable for their success and have consistently been a favorite amongst gamers since the original’s release in 2002. Now, ten years later, the series has amassed over twelve titles across six individual platforms. As fans around the globe celebrate this momentous anniversary, I would like to share my own experience with the series, and how connected I have become to it – not just as a translator, but as a fan as well.
Though it is a favorite of mine now, I was not a fan of Kingdom Hearts at the start. I had heard friends mention it from time to time, but as it may have seemed to many potential players at first, the idea of Square kiddies in a game with Disney characters sounded more like a joke than anything else. It wasn’t until a rental on a whim I brought Kingdom Hearts home and realized what I had been missing.
Right from the beginning, the charm and thoughtfulness put into the opening scenes, combined with the soundtrack and interactive gameplay, had me entranced. It ended up being what I had always hoped Final Fantasy would become – an action RPG with an intriguing storyline and enchanting characters. The integration of the Disney cast and settings worked; it was a chance to remember and explore the worlds from my childhood memories in a whole new way. The attentive cast of creators that made Final Fantasy such a well-loved series obviously put those same efforts into this title and continue to do so with every release, each evolving from the last.
I became engrossed in the series, playing every sequel to fulfill my need to know more about the mysteries surrounding these beloved characters. It was a while after the North American release of Kingdom Hearts II that I, like many others, began to wonder when we would see Sora’s adventure continue. This was the winter of 2008 and the three sequel titles – Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days, Birth by Sleep, and Coded - had only just been announced. Having studied Japanese for quite some time, I felt I had found my calling in putting it to use.
When I started out, there weren’t any translators dedicated to the Kingdom Hearts series, and months would go by without announcements about the series’ upcoming releases. So I worked off of what I could. I found that fans in web forums were just as hungry for information as I was, and once the language barriers were crossed, ideas flooded amongst excited fans – and I met many friends because of it. Four years have passed since then and I still take translating content from the series very seriously, giving a voice to their creators through interviews, and sharing upcoming information that official news sources don’t have time to detail. It has become a personal priority. It may sound trite, but I know there are many who translate my interpretations into more languages, and the news is spread to a wider international spectrum, which connects fans on a global level.
This leads me back to the series, whose themes of friendship and connecting people through memories encompasses its fans directly unlike any other franchise. Beyond playing the games, just hearing notes from the numerous songs that fans identify with the series is enough to invoke emotional responses among most of us. Sora and his friends, along with King Mickey and all the other characters introduced in the series, have become a part of our hearts. The tenth anniversary is a milestone for any series, but for Kingdom Hearts fans, it’s a mere mile marker of a longstanding relationship with a franchise we will continue to enjoy in its latest release, Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance. Here’s looking forward to whatever the future of the series holds for its fans.
Read Olivia’s interview translations at her blog, SQEX.info, where she covers all things Square Enix.