I’ve only had one opportunity to read the KH1 manga in the past, and none to read the novelization. I feel I should cover the former since I have technically read it. Unfortunately, I’m not going to have much to say about it. The reason I even have this section is because I have a lot to say about every other Kingdom Hearts manga, but… not this one. The later ones add to the original, or change it to make it work in the new format in interesting ways, or in ways that suck! But not this one. And so I don’t have much to say. I imagine there are a lot of readers that will disagree on this point, but oh well.
The Kingdom Hearts 1 manga adaptation was produced in 4 volumes from October 2005 to July 2006 by Enterbrain. It was later restructured into 3 volumes under the “Final Mix” rebranding, with a few extra scenes. The manga was initially localized by Tokyopop in 2005, and Final Mix was brought back in 2013 by Yen Press, who sell it to this day.
The adaptation is… exact? Faithful? Shit, what do I say? What can I say? This adaptation adds very little, and subtracts only Deep Jungle due to the usual copyright issues, and it also subtracts some minor details that weren’t needed to begin with. It does an adequate job without being stellar or terrible or even unremarkably inadequate. It’s everything in Kingdom Hearts except the gameplay, and it’s a little funnier, but even that doesn’t take as many risks as later projects. I don’t even find the manga preps you for Shiro Amano’s style of writing Sora and the gang in later entries, because the adaptation takes a major turn in CoM, so KH1 isn’t really setting any kind of precedent. I’d talk about the art, if only to fill space, but I’m not familiar enough with manga to really be a judge of that sort of thing.
As comics reviewer Linkara tells it, comic book adaptations of films were introduced back in the days before the home video, and so served as a sort of “best we can do” home release before the invention of VHS and Betamax. They’re copies, and like Linkara, I’m not entirely sure why you’d want those copies now that home releases are readily available. Unless you aren’t interested in video games, there isn’t much reason to pick up KH1’s Manga instead of KH1, and just as little reason to pick it up alongside KH1. I can see what later KH manga adaptations were doing by adding their own spin, but the Kingdom Hearts 1 manga seems more like cross-promotional piece (from its serialized days) than a standalone one. Maybe this just isn’t my medium.
In a way, this post is half apology and half promise that later Retrospectives on the manga will take up more words and time? Because there really is nothing to say about this one, save that the Heartless actually seem menacing in the manga. That is, until they are pushed into the background forever, seeing as how a comic can’t dwell on minor enemies the way a game can. During Traverse Town, one even rips a grown woman apart (a woman who was… flirting with Sora?). You’d think this would lead to a more mature tone for the book overall, but it really doesn’t. It’s just a blip in the radar before things settle back down to base level, or maybe a little less mature overall. It marches lock-step with the plot from world to world until it finally wraps, and there’s nothing to be said about any of it.
On the plus side, in that same Traverse Town chapter, Cid attacks the Heartless with a makeshift flamethrower. That’s worth the price of release, right? Right?
Yeah, the, uh, later manga retrospectives will be longer. The other mangas made enough changes to justify the additional discussion. This one… not so much.
El Cetro y el Reino
El Cetro y el Reino (“The Sceptre and the Kingdom”) is a promotional comic released by Spanish retailer GAME as a pre-order bonus for KH1. It’s a surprisingly well-drawn comic book for a pre-order bonus probably commissioned by GAME themselves, not Square, and is hardly canon, but it is interesting in how the characters visit two worlds that hadn’t been seen in the game at the time, and one of which hasn’t been seen yet!
Because the comic is so rare, and doesn’t seem to have been fully uploaded or translated anywhere, I can’t really tell you anything the Wiki doesn’t. Ed: However, Hyperion09 sent me a link to scans from “an Australian magazine” that include an English translation you can see here! If you’re having trouble with the Imgur images, ShardofTruth has uploaded a zip archive. The images were originally posted by GlitchingSpark on reddit.
A strange winged Heartless breaks into Disney Castle, where it steals the “Fairy Sceptre” which it apparently can be used to uncover Excalibur in the world of The Sword and the Stone. Sora and Riku happen to be present (and are friends?) and team up to chase after it, a chase that somehow ends up in Paris during the events of The Hunchback of Notre Dame where Claude Frollo tries to get them executed for witchcraft.
Long story short, the kids stop the Heartless with the help of Wart/Arthur and the day is saved. Is wish I could say more but all I’ve got here is a summary and a weird, rare non-canon comic made with a perplexing mix of knowledge of the game.
Actually, Disney Animation Studios director and artist Seth Kearsley revealed in November 2013 that there was a time when they considered making a Kingdom Hearts animated series, but it fell through. This series also had Sora and Riku as buddy-buddies. I guess that’s just far more marketable than “murdering you so I can feel special about myself?” Actually, yeah, I can see how that might be a little more marketable.
Kingdom Hearts: V CAST
Kingdom Hearts V CAST is… wow, folks.
The short of it is: Disney, without the help of Square Enix except presumably licensing where and if required, developed a game in the Kingdom Hearts series for Verizon Mobile’s “V Cast” service. The game was released in 2004 in Japan, the US in 2005 (a V Cast launch title), and I’m not sure if it was ever taken down prior to V Cast’s December 2012 shut-down, but what information we have about it is slim to none. And that information is that this was not much of a game.
Before we go any further, let’s be clear about the title: the game is simply (and misleadingly) titled “Kingdom Hearts.” Fans calls it “V CAST” to tell it apart from the KH1 we’re familiar with. Hyphenation and capitalization of “V CAST” varies. Before you get smart and suggest “Kingdom Hearts (mobile),” be aware that “Kingdom Hearts Mobile” was also a Kingdom Hearts spinoff title released in Japan around the time of coded, which we’ll be talking about later. I’m sticking with “V CAST.”
Like so many failures before them, KH V CAST is defined by its chronic overshooting of the developers’ abilities. It was a fully 3D game, on old fashioned, number pad cell phones (some Verizon phones featured an arrow pad, but I can’t be certain if this game supported them), and I’m not sure if a good fully 3D game was ever developed for those phones before smart phones arrived on the scene. From the only video that seems to have survived (seemingly taken from recently-retired site KH2.co.uk), this wasn’t much better.
What story exists involves Sora, Donald and Goofy in the Gummi Ship in the middle of KH1, when Maleficent casts a sleep spell on them and drags them into dreams. Sora awakes on a place called “Swashbuckler’s Island.” Sora sets to work trying to escape.
Let’s take a involved look at the video, or at least as involved as we dare. Sora starts the game facing a parrot, which as I understand was supposed to speak to you. Sora then turns… awkwardly, and not for the last time. This may indicate that the parrot simply has an oversized collision box, but it happens more than once. Sora then runs down the hill, climbs a tree and causes two coconuts to fall into the water, though it’s not clear why he did this as the video fade-cuts to a few moments later. This was probably a promotional video, so it cuts around as it pleases.
In the next section, Sora opens a chest to collect a Potion he will never use (note also the Munny he never uses and the MP bar he never uses), before heading through a door and getting in a fight with some Shadows, which have their health bar in the style of the player’s health bar, but displayed in the bottom-left! That’s probably the snazziest thing here!
The fight begins, and either the player is awful or the game controls terribly, and I think you can guess which is which by watching the rest of the video. The game mysteriously cuts mid-fight, before showing off a canned glider sequence and another suspect fade-cut.
This game does have one thing to its credit: it has swimming! Feel free to rub this in the face of any AAA title that doesn’t! Suck it, industry best-sellers! Kingdom Hearts V CAST could do it, why couldn’t you?
After a third highly suspect jump cut, we appear in an awful, PSX-looking lava area, complete with shitty trigger zones, shitty platforming and a weird chute-like barrel trap that seems to exist “because video games have shitty barrel traps.” The developers made use of fixed camera angles to help with the platforming here, though it’s hard to say if this is a help or hindrance. Controlling the camera on a cell phone would have been a nightmare, but if you’ve ever played platformers with fixed cameras like this, you know how they aren’t much better off. In the video, you can see the player inching their way around to avoid falling off platforms. I feel a rush of empathy every time they squirm.
Finally, Sora climbs a mountain and unlocks a gem of some kind, before we fade-cut to Maleficent for no clear reason. Just when you think this is the climax, we return to Sora to see a feature that might have been even more awful than the rest: the ability to make your own platforms in the water with floating boxes. This is the kind of feature that should never, ever, ever be in a game with terrible platforming controls, by which I mean: no cell phone games, no Kingdom Hearts games, and god help us, no cell phone Kingdom Hearts games!
At this point, the video loses all pretense of being anything but a teaser trailer and has Sora triggering the mountain puzzle again, fighting some Shadows, meeting his evil shadow twin, and seemingly assembling a raft (this may be tied to the sequence with the box-throwing, as the raft has a pirate sail and Sora can be seen collecting a pirate flag, so this may be reminiscent of the Destiny Islands scavenger hunts). Sora then floats away looking just… super bored, before Inception-ing himself into a dream within a dream.
What information we have from that point is slim to none. Wonderland was featured, including the Caterpillar and his hookah, even though the Caterpillar has yet to appear in any official KH game. Agrabah came next, where Jafar may or may not have turned into a giant snake (that’s never been sourced – of course, at this stage in the process, citation may be a thing of the past). And lastly you came to “Maleficent’s Fortress,” which is only described with this sentence I’m about to quote for you, which reads like a dutifully preserved press release: “Maleficent’s Fortress is the final level in Kingdom Hearts V CAST. This is where Sora battles Maleficent in the final chapter. It has the strongest Heartless in the entire game.” The press release-style of the statement implied to me that no one ever actually played the game through to the end.
OR SO WE THOUGHT. Little did we know that almost a year after I made this post, a user named Kingdom King 13 would surface with details on the rest of the actual game, and not just a trailer! You can read the full post here (and should), but what the hell, I’ll do a little summarizing myself.
Kingdom King tells us that the Anti Sora seen in the trailer was an easily defeated boss who mirroring your every move, including walking backwards into a pit if you move correctly, which must have been just as pathetic as Kingdom King makes it sound. After Swashbuckler’s Island, you headed to Wonderland, where you would fight local enemies, Kingdom King mentioning the walking bird-glasses from the movie as enemies. The Caterpillar instructs Sora on how to leave the dream, namely by making a potion out of some magical teeth attached to upcoming bosses. The first boss in Wonderland was of a “giant floating ghost crocodile,” goodness knows where that idea came from. Maybe I need to give Alice in Wonderland a closer look!
The only way to hurt the ghost crocodile was using magic, which Kingdom King tells me included Fire and Blizzard, and possibly also Thunder, and he notes that there was no Cure in the game. The game instead ran on Potions that were used automatically once you were killed! That’s certainly a clever way to manage that sort of thing in a low-button setup like a cell phone! Ethers worked the same way for magic. The only way to beat the crocodile was to shoot it in its open mouth with magic, so these fundamentals are important.
After the ghost crocodile, you went on to Agrabah, where Sora was able to use Genie’s lamp himself to take on Jafar, followed by, yes, a boss fight with Jafar the cobra! Unlike the past two bosses, Kingdom King doesn’t describe this one as being a sort of puzzle or timing based boss, which is too bad, since a timing based boss was probably ideal for the poor tiny cell phone systems of the day.
The last world in the game (yes, just four) was indeed Maleficent’s Fortress, namely the fortress from Sleeping Beauty, complete with pig guards! Kingdom King says that Donald and Goofy catch up to you here, and you have to use the game’s painstaking tank controls to reach the final boss up a dangerous climb. What a cruel prank for the developers to pull at the eleventh hour! You then fight Dragon Maleficent and return to the real world. Or do you? Kingdom King’s final observation is something I should probably quote directly:
Anyway, for the grand finale, Sora races to one of Maleficent’s cauldrons, create the potion with Donald’s help, dump the Teeth in the potion, lights Goofy’s head on fire because he got in the way of your Fire spell trying to cook the potion, THEN you light the cauldron, and jump inside the Cauldron into the brew. Sora immediately wakes up in the Gummi Ship once more. He tells Donald about his dream and is thankful that it turned out to be just that: a dream. Goofy asks if Sora is sure that it was just a dream… Sora turns back, and Goofy’s head is still on fire.
Let the confusion flow through you.
Well I certainly am, what about you?
Again, thanks to Kingdom King 13 for this huge boon to the KH fan community, bringing us probably as close as we’ll ever get to the infamous lost Kingdom Hearts game. If you’d like to show him some thanks, head over to his DeviantArt for some theories and discussions!
Some time after Kingdom King’s post, we later heard news that a phone had been found with the game’s Chapter 1 data installed on it. The game was programmed in Java (unsurprising), and could theoretically be emulated, but there was a serious problem: due to the small storage of cell phones at the time, the game was released in such a fashion that after you finished a section, the game would download the next and delete the old. That means the game is still mostly lost, as the only way to recover it would be to find the original data or to find multiple cell phones, each of which abandoned their KHVCast playthrough at just the right point in the game to complete the set! Unlikely odds, but if that one chapter is ever emulated, I’ll be sure to give it a closer look!
Some time after that, another VCast trailer was unearthed on Youtube, showing gameplay from the remaining worlds (including a few scenes of Sora fighting a mummy?). You can see Stephanie’s post below for more details, but the link to it is here!