Of Zippers and Mouse Ears: A Book Report on Kingdom Hearts II by Alexa Ray Corriea

Reading Alexa Ray Corriea’s Kingdom Hearts II corroborated a sneaking suspicion I’ve had for a very long time – that this game, and the series by extension, is something of an unmitigated hot mess.

As curious of an idea as it is mixing the House of Mouse with Square’s spiky-haired troupe is, it’s quickly apparent that Tetsuya Nomura, and by extension the Kingdom Heart series, has this tendency to have his head so far up his own butt with the lore and mystique of it all that it becomes this paradoxical investment that only those willing to spelunk through a wiki or fan site will understand. So here’s this gal, writing an entire novella for Boss Fight Books, under the pretense that Kingdom Hearts II is an obtuse game that struggles to find itself because it opens with such an odd and despondent tutorial that only the most die-hard Disneyphile will be willing to decipher it.

And yet, in my moment of grandiose celebration that my opinion had been given validation in the form of an entire book being written about it…there’s this nagging sense that it doesn’t really matter that much in the grand scheme of things. Sure enough, a few more paragraphs in and Corriea gives voice to that uncertainty as well – she knows it’s a cobbled together tale that is difficult to understand. She loves Kingdom Hearts II despite that. Hell, a lot of people do. It wouldn’t be a hit series if others didn’t feel the same way.

Suddenly I went from being a disengaged snob about it and quickly became someone who wanted to understand what lies underneath the surface of this bizarre amalgamation of a game.

Even if I didn’t read into this deep dive concepts of the book, on the surface this is the type of Cliff Notes commentary that the Kingdom Hearts series direly needs for those of us too afraid to climb the sheer cliff that is the history and backstory of Sora, Goofy and Donald’s misadventures.

Like many books in the Boss Fight series, Corriea leads off with a little personal history. While that’s the crux for a lot of other titles in the series, she quickly shuttles that to the wayside to get to the heart of things – what the hell is going on, why the developers went where they did and an analyzation of the themes therein. Considering I pooh-poohed Kingdom Hearts II and barely made a dent in Roxas’s role (as it seems a lot of folk did) in the proceedings but then summarily ate this book up, it’s safe to assume she did a pretty damn good job.

There’s a lot to grok in Kingdom Hearts II from simple motifs like the value of friendship and stalwartness therein to heavier subjects like finding a sense of self and meaning when you are literally a soulless being. Whether intentionally implied or not by the developers, it’s inferred by the author and thus given merit. In a culture where people become argumentative over what is deemed “canon” and have this false sense of authority as they lord it over others, it’s nice to have something more personal and, in kind, more relatable to peruse. It’s the type of thing that begets thoughtful and meaningful discourse rather than comeuppance.  If more games literature were lie this, we’d be in a better place.

This, coming from a guy who may or may not have pumped his fist when he saw that even a super fan will admit to a games shortcoming. It was a misguided cheerfulness, and one that turned into abject officiousness. If it can make a believer out of me, Alexa Ray Corriea’s Kingdom Hearts II can make a believer out of anyone.

By Matt Mason Posted in Books

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