Character Development, Character Structure, Characteristics, Concepts and Ideas, Creative Writing, Innovations, J's Writing Corners, JRPG, Mario Games, Narrative, Narrative Design, Narrative Structure, Nintendo, Nintendo Brand, Nintendo Switch, Nostalgia, Nostalgia games, Paper Mario, Plot Structure, Sequels, Uncategorized, Video Game Design, Video Games

On and Off Paper: The Inner Progressions of Mario’s Paper Thin Series.

Paper Mario’s Progression ~ Source: Nothing But Games

The Paper Mario series has been a unique trek in establishing new roots while promoting older sources, with the famed mustached plumber’s adventures in a 2D scope world. Since its release in the 2000s, the game’s received praises for unique takes on the Mario series through the scope of adventures in a paper-thin universe. It reintroduced Mario to the world for younger viewers, and older viewers saw his newest experiences as a continuation of his adventurous exploits from previous titles.

The original game was well-received by fans on the Nintendo 64 console back in 2000 for Japanese audiences and 2001 for North American audiences. It was a light-hearted, fun, and reactive combat RPG for children of all ages. It’s success promoted a second installment for the series, The Thousand-Year Door (TTYD), which acclaims as the best installment in the series. Furthermore, it’s the one that fans have remembered, cherished, and have hoped would continue to be the traditional formula for Paper Mario games in the future. Despite this, the series has gone through several changes and has left fans questioning its progressive development.

Since its second installment, the series has always presented a unique take to the word “paper” for the Paper Mario series. Through the incorporation of particular abilities that Mario gained through his travels, it allowed him to solve puzzles and traverse the world, which brought a new dynamic element to the games. This mechanic progressively became a selling point for future titles in the series, with its fundamental mechanics tied to a specific innovation, paper or otherwise. While the games released were seen as useful additions to the Paper Mario series and were welcomed despite older fans criticisms of its new direction in game design, the games paper mechanics’ core principle continues to be implemented within each installment. At the time of writing this article, Paper Mario: The Origami King has been well received by gamers since its release on July 17, 2020, and has currently sold 555K digital units since July.

Paper Mario: The Origami King sold 555K digital units in July. While its performance was nowhere near those of the last big Switch exclusives, Animal Crossing: New Horizons (5.0M) and Pokémon Sword and Shield (2.7M), the game did better than Fire Emblem: Three Houses when it launched in July 2019. 

Source: Superdata

The games complement visual prowess with colorful graphics, awe-inspired papercraft designs, excellent soundtrack, and creative takes on turn-based battles. In addition to cementing the mechanics and ambiance of Paper Mario, it has showcases different systems as a core principle for its game design and game development.

Throughout this article, points of interest in the Paper Mario games bring attention to new developments and new perspectives explored throughout the series. These referenced points showcase change for each title in the Paper Mario franchise and its progression from past to present. It will detail how it has achieved new structures from its original release back in 2000 towards its latest title in 2020. By the end of this article, a summary of where the Paper Mario games will lead and how its future titles will gain traction with old and new gamers’ generations shall unfold.

  • The Expansion of Characters (Enemies and NPC’s), Mechanics, and Story

A growing staple found in most Mario games is the increasing roster of characters that Mario meets, whether it’s friend or foe. The Paper Mario games are no exception to this rule. They have transitioned countless characters from Mario’s famous adventures within the Mushroom Kingdom; primarily, notable enemies and species from his most famous outings. The games also established other known species like the Toads, Goombas, Koopas, Boos, etc., and fleshed their lives out in a way that was befitting of an RPG. This exploration of the different species would cement a more robust narrative that fans would enjoy playing other Mario titles.

If not the most important, one of the essential factors lies in the foundation of its mechanics. Each game illustrates something new that’s added to the world of Paper Mario, whether its from the paper dimensions or the level of meta within Mario’s paper world. The narrative design in the stories for each game is equally important. Nintendo continues to make a convincing story that appeals for kids; however, underneath the surface, it can also be relatable to adults; after all, E for Everyone doesn’t mean it’s only for kids sometimes.

Source: Super Mario Wiki

Paper Mario (Nintendo 64)

Characters/Enemies: The first Paper Mario supplied 233 enemies for Mario to battle throughout the story and allowed him to fight four additional enemies as optional side bosses making 237 enemies. The game also promotes multiple species as allies to Mario, aside from the essential trio of Goombas, Koopas, and Bomb-Ombs, even giving them a bit of history in terms of how their names come to be. Other characters will share the same development of mixing their species name, or the animal they’re based on, to create their name while showcasing various Mushroom Kingdom species’ culture.

The dichotomy of Mario’s enemies and allies introduced gives substance to their species within the RPG setting. Toads weren’t just citizens but also salesmen, soldiers, and martial artists, proving that the species wasn’t incapable of defending themselves, or their sovereign, and that they have merits in protecting the Mushroom Kingdom; which, at the time, seemed to be solely the responsibility of Mario and Luigi. Enemies like the Goombas and Koopas showcase that they are unwilling participants in assisting Bowser’s army, provoking the idea that Bowser’s anarchy on the Mushroom Kingdom through fear and power might have been the reason for Mario’s rogues’ gallery.

While Paper Mario isn’t the first game to establish this relationship between Mario and the residents living within, around, and above the Mushroom Kingdom, it paints the picture differently compared to earlier games in the franchise. It establishes growth, understanding, and develops the characters found within Mario games. The idea that Parakoopas are excellent at delivering mail, Goombas are inherently peaceful unless threatened, or that Boos pride themselves in scaring people was a notable first in the series. That Bumpties are a different kind of penguin than actual penguins, Shy Guys are mischievous collaborators with different shapes and sizes, Bob-Ombs are gendered, Sparkies are sentient, and that Toads are resourceful was also a surprise. This momentous decision helped shape worldbuilding and character development for future Mario titles in the future.

Mechanics: The Partner System was the first support system for the titled game in the series. Each partner could be related, in a pseudo sense, to HM’s from the Pokémon series; subsequently, they were incredibly important to the progression of the game. The characters that joined Mario’s adventure adds to the expanding world that Mario explored, influencing the story with their connections to the locales.

The Perspective of Story: The original game’s most refreshing take towards a narrative design comes from a storybook. Memorable titles like Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island was known for its storybook progression sequences, and Paper Mario’s story delivers lines that take it from beginning to end. The start of Mario’s journey, successes, downfalls, and the final battle are all accounted for, like a bedtime story for the player.

Source: Super Mario Wiki

Paper Mario TTYD (The Thousand Year Door)

Characters/Enemies: The second installment within the series cuts its roster down to 124 enemies, but introduces new species like Caws, Ratooeys, Bristles, Nibbles, Twilighters, and subspecies of Humans (Flavio, Wonkie, Merlon, etc.); furthermore, reintroducing other known species like Swoopers, Squeeks, Piantas (Mario Sunshine), Doogans, and the return of Duplighosts from the first game.

The characters found within TTYD could be considered one of the most relatable characters written from a Mario game. Unlike the fairytale-inspired locals that the Mushroom Kingdom usually showcase, the game’s enemies and NPCs are linked by the troubles in their environment. Rogueport could be considered the ghettos of the Mushroom Kingdom, showcasing the slums and how corruption by turf wars, crime, and the destruction of the ‘former town’ becoming known as the Rogueport Sewers. Almost every town/locale showcases a different threat that affects the townsfolk, which, in turn, is represented by the threat that Mario has to help them conquer.

  • Petalburg: Fear and Endangerment.
    Threat: Hooktail’s attacks promotes fear, lack of confidence, and anxiety for the villagers; furthermore, in addition to his father’s disappearance, this affects Koops’ anxiety.

  • The Great Tree: Harassment, War, and Survival
    Threat: Jabbies (Natural Born Enemies) and X-Nauts threatening their way of life; furthermore, this prompts Punio to stand against their oppressors and rallies his fellow Punies to fight.

  • Glitzville: Greed, Gluttony (Power), and Confinement
    Threat: Grubba’s binding contract forces the Glitz Pit fighters to continuously keep fighting, while isolating them from leaving Glitzville (Mario); furthermore, Grubba entraps potential stars for his own machinations.

  • Twilight Town: Bullying
    Threat: Doopliss’s schemes of turning the innocent Twilighters into pigs, and shaming Mario as he tries to get his body back; taunting/threatening him outside of town, and every time he leaves or approaches it.

  • Keelhaul Key: Betrayal and Isolation
    Threat: Cortez and, to an extent, Lord Crump’s involvement; Cortez’s betrayal and the deceitful actions of Flavio’s ancestors, and Lord Crump’s involvement with the crew before revealing his betrayal.

  • Excess Express: Trust and Deception
    Threat: Doopliss’s deception as Zip Toad, Heff T.’s deception of Chef Simi’s stew, Ghost T.’s trust in Mario (which could also be deceptive), and Pennington’s trust as a detective and as the sanctum holder for the Crystal Star in Poshley Heights.

  • Fahr Outpost: PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)
    Threat: No notable threat causes this in game, however, the Bob-ombs in various titles are always involved with battle or war in some way (Bobby the Bob-omb, Bombette was a prisoner (Prisoner of war)), like how General White was apart of something akin to the Cold War.

In addition to the town’s circumstances, The Trouble Center expands on characters Mario meets on his adventures and fleshes their stories out. Issues of losing a loved one, mid-life crises, bioterrorism, etc. are just a few examples of how the game tackles serious matters; furthermore, it’s optional to be experienced or wholly forgotten by the whim of the player.

An arrangement of Paper Mario’s most notable partners within the series.

Mechanics: The Partner System continues in the next installment; however, the first paper mechanic introduced via an interesting “curse” that’s linked to the lore of the story. The game utilizes the idea of being paper-thin with advantages. Mario’s abilities with turning into paper airplanes, paper boats, rolled/tubed papers, and being paper-thin, was a creative execution of the title character’s abilities, figuratively and physically speaking, ironically.

The Perspective of Story: TTYD takes from the perspective of a story, a common point in all of the games, and inadvertently makes the game feel like a pop-up book. Every location that Mario travels towards to find the Crystal Stars, a new site is revealed in a way similar to a pop-up book; however, only when it’s necessary. Switch blocks push the initiative to reveal different paths, uncover secrets, and change the landscape in many other areas that Mario visits within the game and promotes the idea that this storybook has additional features.

Source: Super Mario Wiki

Super Paper Mario

Characters/Enemies: The third installment in the series provides 200 enemies for battle; however, the complete cast of characters included within this game bumps the total to 234 characters. The enemies that return for this installment are the stapled types from many of Mario’s games (Goombas, Koopas, Pokeys, etc.) with the inclusion/debut of a couple of enemies absent from previous Mario games that couldn’t be fought (Thwomps, Tromps, and Cheep Cheeps).

Super Paper Mario’s take on characters was uniquely executed to imitate the mechanics available for the game. Instead of being one dimensional, a joke in the sense that their from a paper-verse, the game prides itself in showing two layers of complexity for the characters. The game showcases “light” and “dark” personalities through the interdimensional citizens known as Flip-Flop Folk. Flipside represents the light side of things, while Flopside represents the opposite with the dark.

Mechanics: There were two systems implemented for this game that continued the previous system mechanics from TTYD. The first system, The Flip System, allows Mario to transcend his 2D plane perspective and transcends into a 3D plane perspective for a limited time. The addition of the Pixls, additional partners that assist Mario with his main partners (Bowser, Peach, and Luigi), allows access to previous partners and paper moves. With additions in being more of an RPG-platformer, this system made the new battles fun and provided additional gameplay options.

The Perspective of Story: The Pixls stories have a heavy concentration on the concept of life. Amongst “other characters,” the game presents a unique take for the NPCs living in that world, impacting the story with a conservative take on life and how it can be easily lost. This concept, considered to be very dark at the time of its release, plays with the trope of good and evil and subverts the expectation of light and dark affiliate forces within a Mario game; such as the rivalry between Bowser and Mario, Bowser and Peach’s complexities, and Luigi’s inferiority complex.

Paper Mario: Sticker Star

Characters/Enemies: The fourth installment in the series drastically cuts their enemies down to 83, concentrating their efforts more on the gameplay with the use of Stickers and Paperization techniques. Stapled enemies in the franchise would continue to appear; however, based on Shigeru Miyamoto’s decision to use species from only Super Mario, this increased the catalog of returning Mario enemies. This change included the debuts of Snifts, Ninjis, Scuttlebugs, Scaredy Rats, Spinning Snowmen, Rocky Wrenches, Broozers, and Whomps.

Aside from wanting us to change the atmosphere a lot, there were two main things that Miyamoto-san said from the start of the project—”It’s fine without a story, so do we really need one?” and “As much as possible, complete it with only characters from the Super Mario world.

Kensuke Tanabe’s response to “two main things” informed to him by Shigeru Miyamoto for Paper Mario: Sticker Star’s development.
Source: Iwata Asks

The focus on characters was not as strong as previous installments; however, a specific character does get a bit more shine than others as a pivotal point with in-game mechanics, plot, and being the “voice” for Mario at times.

Mechanics: A system overhaul was requested for this game, allowing the paper techniques to be used more frequently and within battles. This idea was made way by the Sticker System, introducing stickers’ concepts within the paper world. Its mechanics were similar to some Mario and Luigi games with the Bros. Attacks; however, unlike M&L’s techniques, the stickers were collectible attacks and not progressively learned abilities.

The Perspective of Story: The story went back to its roots of generalized Super Mario games with Bowser as its antagonist and Princess Peach as the damsel in distress. Its perspective was still an open storybook; however, it would be negligent if it wasn’t a sticker book with storytelling elements within it. In addition to introducing “Things,” the tongue and cheek of fully realized objects in Paper Mario’s world present humorous results in and out of battle.

Source: Super Mario Wiki

Paper Mario: Color Splash

Characters/Enemies: The fifth installment lowers its roster of enemies to 73; however, including different variations and unique takes on enemies, totals the enemy roster to 88. Newly introduced enemies include Bone Goombas, original concept Lava Bubbles, Ptooies, and Dhino Rhinos’ debut within the series.

The introduction of Huey, Mario’s partner for the game, was a well-rounded addition in the catalog of partners that Mario has had throughout the Paper Mario series. His positive attitude, courageous sacrifices, and Mario’s relationship would be fondly received by fans, old and new. This development of a “partner” made the story of Color Splash an enduring tale; however, the combat’s prowess for older fans did not appeal to them as much as the story would for others.

Mechanics: The Sticker System from Sticker Star was revamped into the Battle Card System for Color Splash. Additional tweaks to the system provided a new, yet familiar, overlay of battle within the game; including the added objective of paining the environments and enemies.

The Perspective of Story: In ways similar to the second game, Color Splash introduces the concept of a mystery and how it can be solved alongside Huey throughout the game. As it progresses, the storybook motive is ongoing; however, the idea that Mario’s adventure is now in a paint book would be tolerable from the paper mechanic focal point.

Source: Super Mario Wiki

Paper Mario: The Origami King

Characters/Enemies: The fifth and recent installment boasts a roster of 61 enemies, which is currently the lowest count of enemies in a Paper Mario title. What they sacrificed in numbers, they made up for in new additional species. The appearance of GaloombasSidesteppers, Crowbers, Nipper Plants, Chargin’ Chucks, Stingbies, Sumo Bros, and Mechakoopas are welcomed additions to the series.

The introduction of Olivia creates an origin to the Origami King. Though not unique in design, the addition of partners makes its return with partners like Bobby the Bob-omb, Kamek, Professor Toad, and others.

Mechanics: The newest mechanic introduced in The Origami King is a unique take on “turn-based battle systems” that allow for diverse strategies in formatted battles. Weapons return in a system similar to TTYD, where they can be upgraded; however, accessories and artillery can be bought from shops as a first in the series. The origami aspects outside of battle are highlighted with the use of Magic Circles and the 1,000-Fold Arms.

The Perspective of Story: A giant origami project would be the best explanation for the game’s perspective. The game’s use of paper perspectives, highlighted in various ways throughout the game, makes the world feel grand in size rather than linear in its design.

  • Where is the series heading? Will it ever be the same as the first or second games?

The Paper Mario series’s future has been questioned ever since the concept of Sticker Star was presented to fans back in 2012. While different, Nintendo’s direction with the games was not without merit in regard to the continued success of the series. Additional restrictions by Shigeru Miyamoto, Nintendo’s guidelines in the use of Mario, and the targeted audiences for those games have continued to be a private and public debate regarding the direction of the series. The first generation of fans that grew up with the series remembers what made Paper Mario so memorable for them. Whether it was the concept of partners, the 2D paper-verse that Mario travels, the whimsical soundtrack, or just the fact that it was a new Mario game, those fans were excited to play the game, seeing where Mario’s next, big adventure.

“The game development philosophy I’ve adopted from Mr. Miyamoto is developing innovative and unique gameplay systems. I’m not opposed to the fans’ opinions. However, I view my game development philosophy as separate from that. If we used the same gameplay system wanted by the fans again and again, we wouldn’t be able to surprise them or deliver new gameplay experiences. We always try our best to exceed expectations in surprising ways. At the same time, there’s no guarantee that we’ll always succeed in doing that – so it’s a real challenge.”

Producer Kensuke Tanabe’s response on the development of new Paper Mario games.
Source: NintendoEverything

Applying the same logic that fans love Mario games and are excited to play them is to be noted; however, the reality that Paper Mario is changing should not be ignored. Kensuke Tanabe’s response in developing “innovative and unique gameplay systems” is a statement that continues to hold for all the Paper Mario games he’s worked upon in succession with others. He knows about the core principles that fans loved in TTYD, and he’s worked on every game involving Paper Mario as a producer to implore new ideas for the series creatively.

“Mr. Tanabe is correct about us having complete creative control over the crucial elements of the game. We were constantly checking whether or not our approach was moving too far away from the Mario universe. During development, we were also careful not to disappoint the expectations of fans of the core Mario series. As mentioned, there are strict guidelines related to the use of characters. It’s a challenge to emphasize the unique aspects of the game while still adhering to the guidelines.”

Director Masahiko Nagaya follow-up in regards to Tanabe’s statement on “creative control” in regards to Paper Mario games.
Source: NintendoEverything

In my opinion, I feel that the series hasn’t lost its edge or has gone down the wrong path. As I continue to grow as a narrative designer, hoping to create a video game series of my own one day, the backlash of writer’s block, creative slowdowns, or the lack of inspiration, impedes every project I create. Good ideas will be altered heavily, and perfect ideas will be seriously flawed when revisited later. The concept of creating innovations is crucial to the continuing success of any idea. Whether it’s in advertising food, publishing new stories, designing new fashions, and creating video games.

Whether it’s Super Mario or Paper Mario, the franchise continues to promote creative innovations. Source: Fawfulthegreat64

The continued success of Paper Mario depends on the fans, young or old. After the release of The Origami King, details on the production of Paper Mario games have been made aware to the public. It shows that the team behind the games wants the fans to trust that they will get it right, and even if it’s wrong, they’ll continue to create great additions for the series. Nintendo’s famous franchises have had their fair share of unique games from Yoshi’s unique adventures with crafts, or as crafts material, Kirby’s adventures with yarn and paint, Pokémon’s otherworld adventures (Mystery Dungeons, Pokémon Conquest, Detective Pikachu, etc.), Link’s multiple timeline adventures, and so many more.

In the end, Paper Mario will continue to be a prominent series that Nintendo works hard to achieve. Whether it’s an RPG like the first two games or plays around with the concept of paper from the last three games, Nintendo’s development team will continue to make the games relatable to the fans, whether it’s paper-thin or folded over.

Capcom, Capcom Games, Character Development, Character Structure, Characteristics, Comic Book Movies, Concepts and Ideas, Creative Writing, Fighting Games, J's Writing Corners, Main Characters, Narrative, Narrative Design, Narrative Structure, Nostalgia, Nostalgia games, Plot Structure, PS4, Representation, Rival Schools, Sequels, Uncategorized, Video Game Design, Video Games

J. Arthur’s Gaming Workshop: Rival School Games in The Present. (2020’s)

Whether it’s in movies, books, or tv adaptations, older shows from the past tend to be a recurring topic going into the present. When developing new media, some franchises are used divisively to promote new growth within the show’s already durable source material. An example of this would be with the original Twilight Zone and its use of “weird, unusual circumstances and situations” to promote a manner of recognizing real, impactful notices to concerning topics. It presents something new but still invokes the general premise of what it was based on; furthermore, using the context of “weird” and now relating it to “normal abnormalities” creates a more persuasive narrative towards The Twilight Zone’s ominous take on the unknown and informing others about what is obscure; using an old franchise to promote new concepts.

The same works in regards to older video game franchises, and this was made relatively clear in a character announcement for Street Fighter 5. Since its inclusion of Seasons, a regularly attributed notice to new DLC in the form of characters, stages, mechanics, and so forth, Street Fighter 5 has built itself from its initial launch back in 2016. The game was, in a word, “rough,” and fans felt shortchanged by the efforts that Capcom produced with one of their biggest IPs and a staple point in fighting games everywhere. With their announcement of Season 5, the fanbase was surprised and blown back by the sudden appearance of a particular character, a character that hasn’t been seen in years, in the form of Akira Kazama from the Rival School Series.

They said it couldn’t be done….they said it was dead. My god….they were wrong.

Such a character’s announcement was unexpected due to the lack of interest Capcom showed towards their older games, especially towards its fighting games. Titles like Power Stone, Star Gladiator, and Rival Schools are just three of many forgotten fighting games that Capcom hasn’t digitally released or rumored for a very long while despite being popular IPs that fans, young and old, still love in the present. Since her announcement was made in August of this year, fans have been speculating the power dynamics of what Akira’s appearance could mean for Capcom fighting games.

At the time of writing this article, Producer Yoshinori Ono has departed Capcom after 30 years of working with the company. Producer, Shuhei Matsumoto, and director, Takayuki Nakayama, will potentially be responsible for the direction of new content in regards to Street Fighter, Fighting Games, and Capcom’s possibly underused series that still holds a place in older fans memories.

However, in the case that they would revitalize an older series, Rival Schools’ idea as a current fighting game is both exciting and divisively-speaking, a problematic development. As someone who wishes to create new games creatively and narratively, I wanted to try my hand at figuring out how a current generation Rival Schools game would look, feel, and be developed through a gaming workshop. In this article, I’ll focus on four points of interest that are necessary for rejuvenating the franchise and providing new content for players. These four points will be Presentation, Mechanics, Story, and Inclusions. I will be using these four interests explicitly to construct what I think a new Rival Schools game would be like. In adapting multiple references and ideas from previous Capcom games, and other notable fighting games, this is my video game workshop towards a new and improved Rival Schools innovation.

  1. Presentation

    As an older franchise reintroduced into a new generation, the first idea that popped into my head was its presentation. Presentation plays a big part in how it will be received within the media and its community fanbase.



When Street Fighter IV was announced it displayed distinct animations with a flowing display of painted colors and backdrops in trailers. Artistic depictions of strong ink motions with a brush, and calligraphy-inspired movements (Which in turn would be a definitive feature known as “A Focus Attack“) made the characters feel like they were fighting on an artistic landscape. This excited fans about the future of the Street Fighter series. This presentation, first shown in FMV (Full Motion Video), before it was demonstrated in gameplay, made fans excited to play Capcom’s classic 2D fighter as a 3D fighting game.

Regarding Rival Schools, I don’t think the style of Street Fighter IV or V is necessary for their presentation. When I first heard about the Rival School series, I imagined it more like “Street Fighter High” rather than as a full-blown fighter in multiple countries. Because of its local feel, and whatever the story may be within it, I thought that the presentation for the game could be something similar to Street Fighter IV’s approach with artistic representation. Since it also has ties to being like a Marvel vs. Capcom game, perhaps it could also take a page from out of MVC3’s comic popping inspirations, and, lastly, the game itself could be presented as both a throwback and as a recollection of events that occurred within the series – like a yearbook OR a scrapbook.



Imagine it: Rival Schools’ idea as a new game would also be seen as a throwback to various events within the franchise. The game would be presented through pictures, comic strips, and the characters seamlessly walking in cutscenes from one image to another, and so forth. This would build upon the already established comic style inspirations found within the MVC series and would also play coyly with that of the Arcade endings in SFV, and tastefully incorporating the traversing mechanics of an older Sega Genesis game called Comix Zone. The game (Comix Zone) explored the idea of traversing comic panels, going page by page throughout the adventure. The presentation, not so much the gameplay, could be played around with in regards to the cutscenes with fading backgrounds, dropping polaroid frames to connect to another scene, turning the page, etc.

An example of how it could be implemented but NOT EXACTLY like TTYD.


It’s innovated enough to show growth and presents the game in remembrance as a franchise, continuing to play upon the yearbook theme in this title. A yearbook filled with memories about Rival School characters is the perfect setup to include multiple, and I mean MULTIPLE, costumes for the franchise. Whether it involves an entirely new generation of fighters for the series, OR revels in antics made between past and present views from within the series. This level of presentation would not only make the game a standalone fighter for the series, but, in case it isn’t the best game in the world, it provides it with a last ‘hurrah‘ in regards to its comeback within Capcom’s eyes.

2. Mechanics

When it comes to the mechanics for a new Rival School game, I believe it should be a mixture of old and new; however, it should be simple for newcomers and intricate enough for older fans. Given that the game’s last entry was a mixture of tag-team combat and one on one battles, I think that system should stay with new additions to the mechanics that work the 2D&3D fighting perspective:

  • 2D to 3D to 2D Battle Transitions: Justice Transitions

Project Justice’s Sidestep/Dodge Mechanic into a German Suplex

If this particular Rival School’s game was to go in the way of being an MVC fighter, yet still grounded with what makes Rival School such a nostalgic gem, one aspect that I think Rival schools would be terrific in implementing is a 2D to the 3D transitional battle system. When I thought about Pokken Tournament and their use of 3D to 2D combat, this idea came to me, transitioning from a 3D combative phase into a close-quarters 2D phase. The plan would be implemented in a distinctly different manner than Pokken’s and would involve brief transitions to 3D, rather than a full shift into a 3D arena mode.

Let’s call these moves “Justice Transitions” (Like transitioning between 1st Period, 2nd period, etc.), and it could be used as both a dodge against specific attacks with low frames and even some of them could have super armor enabled for them, while others can be used as counterattacks to change the flow of battle. Whenever the action is perfectly executed, it leads to a transitional cut between strips of a comic, or pictures in a yearbook, that turns the arena on a 3D-axis as the opponent is propelled into nearby objects (trash, benches, statues, handrails, etc.). The follow-up can be with the controlled character for extra damage, OR it can be transitioned back into a 2D state.

An inspired take on what a Justice Transition could look like in-game.

Regarding the 2D vs. 3D issue, this issue can be explained through the arena. As fighters are going against one another and use a Justice Transition, bouncing on the object that they would hit, another hit can be executed to turn the stage, showing another portion of the screen and, technically, resetting the stage or getting themselves out of the corner. This system could evolve through updates or new mechanics being added into the game; however, until that beautiful Season 1 update occurs – I believe this should suffice for the first stage of the game’s evolving combat.

  • Versatile Focus Attacks: Hall Pass Kenpo
It can be used to set up faints and counter-attacks.

Hall Pass Kenpo, or evasive moves/counters, could be implemented into the game to give everyone options when dealing with various kinds of matchups. Some of these moves will help their character speed pass projectiles, pushback opponents, initiate feints of some sort, amongst many other things that the game includes in its revamped playstyle. This would also, story-wise, make sense since for most of the characters. The use of particular sports, hobbies, and activities to produce a powerful combat style would make a bit more sense in this game if 1st years, or students that could defend themselves, had suddenly developed particular strengths in this installment. It’ll be treated as a ‘video game rule’ that the students in this game can do because of their love for the “fill in the blank activity” and that this makes sense within the game.

  • Perfect Guard: Grade Adjustment(s)
A perfect guard that can push back OR counter an opponent’s attack.

Grade Adjustment would be the equivalent of a Perfect Guard, allowing the characters to guard and secure further damage from making their HP gauge decrease. While this sounds very similar to the parry system, this idea actually came to me from a concept found in some forms of JRPGS.

This particular idea came to me from games like the Mario&Luigi franchise and Paper Mario series, respectively. A chance to decrease damage, or nullify it completely, sounds like a pretty basic concept since its foundation in many fighting games comes in the form of counters and parries. The idea of being able to counter and have the choice to push back or power through to attack the opponent is only found in some technical 3D fighters; an excellent example of this would be found in Tekken and Soul Calibur as reversals.

Grade Adjustments would give the choice of either being defense or using it to be offensive. In a sense, you’re adjusting your school work/homework and making it into something viable for a better grade. It could also be used to improve your rank at the end of the match; A+ being the highest and D- being the lowest, since F wouldn’t really exist because you have to move and/or do something in these matches.

  • Team Assistance (Support Attacks):
Initiating attacks into an assist attack OR the assist attack that you can use to catch others off guard.

Team Attacks, which could also include specific centered Vigor Combos for each character in addition to them, could be done in three different formats. The first would be the simple assist that comes out when you’re on the ground, the next would be a different assist that occurs while you’re airborne, and the third would be a brand new assist attack that uses the combined efforts of the two assists that you are using.

When used together, it would do something along those lines but as support; not as a super

Depending on the characters you’re using you’ll get different results and, in the case they don’t go together at all, the assists will come out just as they normally would; however, in the fact that they’re relatable to one another, the characters will produce a unique animation and attack, or support, for the fighter on screen.

  1. Story
20th anniversary. Perhaps a re-release or new game is necessary?

In regards to its story, Rival Schools can go in multiple directions with its narrative. Since Akira’s inclusion into Street Fighter 5 is supposedly in the future, where Sakura goes to a university, it could be implied that the adventures in this entry are of the past. By the story’s conclusion, older models of the students could be revealed, and through the season, for both young and old models, costumes could be added for each of the characters; Past and Present versions included.

  1. Inclusions

Now with most of the newly added mechanics implemented into the game, how it will be presented in-game, and a sampled story for the narrative enthusiast, let’s discuss the inclusions within the game. A game like this should have more than just the game (Controversial, I know) so, here’s a couple of ideas that could be implemented, HOWEVER, it’ll be done without a heavy data consumption:

  • Digital Download of Rival Schools (1 and 2)
Sprite Fighters, anyone???

Sweeten the deal with a digital release of Rival Schools OR even redeem codes to download it with the game’s purchase. Gathers the old, introduces to the new, and establishes the communities that love the games.

  • School Life Mode (Arcade mode, Synopsis and History Compendium, Time Archives)

School mode should be unique, maybe even like an arcade mode but with story mode notes and, if the yearbook motive is still active, you can learn more about the past of individual characters as it leads up to their graduation; so it’s sort of like a “fill in the blank” on certain characters history and giving them a synopsis by the time of their graduation, and where they would be in the Street Fighter Universe. It makes it interesting for casual players, and for diehard fans can appreciate the detail made in giving a complete synopsis on characters that haven’t been seen for 20 years!

In conclusion, this is just a possible continuation of the series and one way to pay respects to the franchise. Whether it becomes a thing or appears in the form of a new IP, this is my take at workshopping a classic game for the current generation of fighting games.

African Americans, Black Collective, Black Diaspora, Character Development, Character Structure, Characteristics, Concepts and Ideas, Creative Writing, Ethnical Representation, Final Fantasy, Final Fantasy 7, JRPG, Kingdom Hearts, Kingdom Hearts 2, Kingdom Hearts 3, Main Characters, Narrative, Narrative Design, Narrative Structure, Nintendo Switch, Plot Structure, PS4, Representation, Sequels, Spiderman, Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse, Square-Enix, Uncategorized, Video Game Design, Video Games, Xbox One

Putting Identity to Ethnicity; Dark-skinned Heroes and Villains in Gaming

What makes a good character stand out? The struggle of their character as they ascend from the bottom of the barrel to the top of the leaderboards in character development? The development of what kind of character they’ll be throughout the story? While all of these factors, and plenty more, attribute to the development and construction of a character, there has always been a unique connection – a fine line – that’s crossed or maintained when ethnicity is calculated into a character’s bio.

Over the past few years there has been a resurgence in promoting dark-skinned characters through movies, television shows, and comic books (Luke Cage, Black Panther, Black Lightning, Spider-Man, etc.), however, the iconizing of dark-skinned characters has always been prevalent in one form of media or another. In this article, I will display my findings and knowledge towards the establishing growth of dark-skinned characters in video games. I believe this development will garner fruits of representation within the black diaspora and can open the doors towards representing different ethnicities and, from a linguistics point of view, can offer a form of ‘code-switching’ that can be seen from a bigger viewpoint; virtually and culturally outlined with an interactive perspective provided by video games.


  1. Dark-skinned characters to Black/African characters

    Let’s talk about the elephant in the article: Are dark-skinned characters considered to be Black? The answer can be split down the middle, depending on how you view the character and the media it hails from. You could say that dark-skinned characters represent the black diaspora and that each character you find that happens to be darker than most is just another variety of Black/African characters. On the opposite side, you could argue that a dark-skinned character isn’t considered to be black because of their identity within the work of fiction they originate from and could be considered a mixture of different ethnicities – a melting pot – which speaks to the perspectives of different races that aren’t represented in multiple characters BUT is represented in one character. Both answers hold valid points – points that can be made and have been exemplified in various characters over the years within different video games. While some are a bit more obvious in regards to representation with a dark-skinned character, there have been subtler accounts of dark-skinned representation within gaming.


    Suikoden Revival


    A good example of diversity between dark-skinned characters can be found in an old JRPG (Japanese Role-Playing Game) by the name of Suikoden. Suikoden was a notable game for its tactics and implications for war-based strategy, and the turn-based battle system that had players forming a party of six characters rather than the general 4 found in other RPG’s like Final Fantasy. In addition to its unique system of battle, the game gives the opportunity to incorporate 108 special characters into your army that ranges from multiple races and species that inhabit the game. Ever wanted to have flying squirrels, griffons and unicorns as a companion that helps you fight against a tyrannical empire – Suikoden 2 offers that in spades. Ever thought that beavers were capable of dishing out damage and could be a solid foundation for representing third world countries – Suikoden 5 answers that question for you. However, within every entry of Suikoden, there has always been a representation of multiple ethnicities and cultures within the games.



    Starting with the game that introduced the first two dark-skinned characters within the franchise, Suikoden 2, are Hauser (Right) and Bob (Left). At first glance, Bob seems to mirror someone familiar – perhaps iconic – and you would not be wrong in assuming such a thing. Bob’s character is based, in appearance, to that of the legendary musician Bob Marley. From his dreads to the carefree nature that he holds, Bob is a subtle nod to Jamaican heritage within a European fantasy-based war game made by Japanese developers. While he isn’t the main character or a character that’s necessary to the story, the option to recruit him and know more of his history and skills is what makes the goal of finding 108 special characters in each game an intriguing objective. Once you recruit him, you learn that he isn’t actually human but is that of a Lycanthrope (Werewolves) and happens to be the last of his clan. The rune that’s embedded on his right hand, known as the Rabid Fang Rune, doesn’t initiate his lycanic transformation but actually prevents him in being able to transform. His appearance as a dark-skinned male isn’t racially attributed to anything outside of the fact that he appears to have dark skin, however, it’s the subtlety of his history and his lineage that paints a different perspective towards the character. In a description of his village and people, a darker tone is showcased and a word, or two, seems to be relatable to another incident that’s occurred within the bowels of history:


    Once a village of lycanthropes located in the Grassland, Lycanthrope Village was destroyed by Windy in her quest to find powerful runes, leaving only one survivor, a young man named Bob who participated as a soldier in the Dunan Unification War. As a result, Lycanthropes have become extremely rare and little information is known on lycanthropes or the village they once inhabited. The Holy Kingdom of Harmonia has several lycanthropes living within their borders; however, they have been integrated into the non-human class and thus are treated little better than slaves.


    On the other hand, there’s Hauser, another dark-skinned character and one that would paint the argument that his skin and structure would be ideally linked to that of African heritage. Unlike that of Bob, Hauser has importance to the story and is a commander of his own forces before joining that of the hero’s main army. He is a soldier, a knight, and a strong C.O. (Commanding Officer) to the forces he leads. There’s no identifying his race or status, other than being human, but the closest thing he has towards the representation of the black diaspora is that of his facial structure


    Black Male Gaming Characters - Face Structure


    Hauser’s distinct features are linked to a particular art style that’s uniquely attuned to that of Black/African drawings. The structure of the cheekbones, the accentuation of the nose and, most notably, the appearance of the lips. While it’s easy to write off that Bob and Hauser’s ethnical identities are a part of the black diaspora, it’s to be noted that Bob’s appearance, from a visage approach, is ethnically different from that of Hauser’s. Granted that Bob’s appearance isn’t naturally that of a dark-skinned male, and is more of a lycanthropic wolf-man, the two distinct styles in how they were drawn plays against the idea that “all Black people look alike” and that the diaspora of Black/African people can be seen in different views; even as different species.


  2. Implication vs Confirmation

    There’s a lot of trial and error when it comes to making a character, especially a character that is linked, or seems to be linked, to a race, or ethnicity, that’s had its fair share of criticisms. While it’s not impossible to make a good character that can represent the black collective, it’s entirely possible that the implication can overweigh the confirmation in the brainstorming process.

    This process can be called “Implication vs Confirmation“. As a writer and storyteller, there’s always an invisible list to which needs to be filled when creating a story that’s comprised of elements which can enhance the reader’s, or in this case ‘the player’s’, experience. A protagonist to lead the story, an antagonist that makes the events for the protagonist, or the story, more difficult, and many other options can be found on this list. The idea of creating a character that’s ethnically unbiased within a game is plausible. Most games that take place in a fantasy setting require that the characters themselves be unified under one term – Humans. The idea of race and individual ethnicities is turned on its head, subverting expectations, which creates a clearer narrative without the addition of white noise in regards to a person’s race convoluting the storyline. This is the Implication.

    The second part that has to be confirmed is, well, Confirmation. Does the character’s persona appropriate or appreciate the ethnicity? Are certain colloquialisms necessary to convey identity towards a culture? Is it necessary for them to be “too much” of a certain cliché or stereotype in regards to their ethnicity? Every decision to these and other questions is what outlines a character – what makes the character shine as their own individual presence. If the implication of a dark-skinned character has to be showcased through certain actions and provocations, does it create the display of ethnicity that grounds their character OR could it be used to heighten their character’s story in addition to character development? Confirmation plays an important role in structuring and developing a character in regards to their personal narrative. When it comes to race and ethnicity, the outline of character can be based off a figure or even constructed to be similar towards one, however, characters shouldn’t be objectified to a list of demands that MAKE the character.



    Another first in the series of dark-skinned characters comes from Barret Wallace from the Final Fantasy series. Barret stands as the first of the dark-skinned characters introduced within the series and one that can be closely identified to Black/African collectives in regards to representation within video games. While his initial introduction and artwork painted him as a virtual copy to that of Laurence Tureaud (Iconically known by the name “Mr. T”) his character within the game and throughout the game is anything but that. He’s the leader of AVALANCHE, a dutiful father, another main character next to Cloud Strife, and much more. His presence throughout the story is filled with various colloquialisms and vernacular English that’s directed towards, or from, AAVE (African American Vernacular English) which portrays his character.

    The implication that was crafted for Barret was to possibly give the image of a Black/African man with strong leadership skills, a brash/ruff attitude, and a character arc that has gone through strife in more ways than one; in the past and in the present. His conflict in trying to save the planet and to save his daughter, who (SPOILERS) isn’t related to him by blood, develops his character and confirms his identity as a man fighting for what is right; under the circumstances, he endures. He isn’t identified as a Black/African male and outside of his appearance to Mr. T, he isn’t considered to be an icon for the race. He just happens to have dark skin, a hi-top fade, a beard that would make Mr. T proud, a gun-arm, and a mission; both personal and economical.


    Barret Wallace Remake


    With the Final Fantasy 7 Remake, a plethora of design choices and tweaks have been made for the cast. No longer exists the old Mr. T inspired look for the leader of AVALANCHE as he has now adopted a more modern design for the hair on top of his head and on his face. Sporting a nice fade from each side, leaving a short but slicked back layover for the top, a rugged but maintained beard lineup, while outlining various elements to his visage from the initial character design; Barret has evolved. In addition to his pronounced features (outlined in the same account as Hauser’s from the previous number) Barret’s appearance shows a confirmation to the modern era of hairstyles and beard lineups, however, he also showcases how a dark-skinned character can appear within video games. While the industry has access to mocap technology, using the contour of models and other personnel to digitally craft features in real-time, Barret’s design proves that a fundamental choice in perspective from one figure can be transcended with different likenesses. He may have been rough and hard to handle in the beginning, but the development of his character visually can, and has, been improved over time.


  3. Dark-Skinned Villains; Reasons, Motivations, and Script

    With every great hero comes a daunting force of conflict in the form of an antagonist or villain. While villains don’t necessarily need to be dark-skinned to impose themselves against others in a game, there have been some candidates in the last couple of decades that have showcased that their skin color isn’t entirely necessary to convey their story as a villain.



    Rolling back around to the 2nd and 3rd games in the Suikoden series we’re introduced to another dark-skinned character: Lucia. As a villain, Lucia was a unique character right from her introduction in the second game. A young leader of the Karayan Clan, a clan of dark-skinned warriors whose cultural background shares an affinity to Native Americans, she fights to protect her people and collaborates with one of the leading characters in order to ensure protection for her people and the securing of new land. Her role as a villain is further enhanced by the means in which she uses to execute her desired goals. She was merciless in nearly killing the main character, showcasing many of her abilities – which are further fleshed out in the proceeding title, she has ideal strategies in regards to war and tactics, something which is further enhanced in other games due to becoming a leader at a young age after the death of her father (Another interesting point that fuels the flames of her villainy), and was willing to do anything to enact vengeance.

    In comparison to other villains within the game, Lucia’s role is rather minor. She appears near the beginning of the third act with little to no involvement in the main story. She’s propositioned land and safety for her clan, she’s given command of her own forces, made a general within the army (albeit until the end), and fights against the opposition due to personal incidents regarding her clan, family, and how it shaped her life.

    As a character, Lucia has motivations which develop her character and those motivations within Suikoden 2 is what makes her a unique villain. Furthermore, going into Suikoden 3, because of her experience from the previous game, she’s further relentless in believing that no kingdom is worth aligning alongside. The disrespect that is shown to her people, the destruction and theft of their lands, play an important part in the formula that makes Lucia a well-established villain.


    Balrog


    Next on the list is that of another popular figure modeled after, well, a popular boxer: Balrog.  Not to be confused with the mythical beast from Lord of the Rings, this Balrog comes from the highly popular fighting game series “Street Fighter” and has been a prominent member of the cast ever since his inclusion back in Street Fighter II. Identified as an African American he’s modeled after Mike Tyson and is quick to make as much fight money as possible. Balrog’s villainy already shows through his moral compass and decisions in regards to fighting for the main villains, yet his race is never an account for his underhanded tactics and infamous moves throughout the story. His countenance is more towards the sin of greed than it is to villainy, however, given the context of working for Shadaloo, an evil organization infamously known throughout the series, Balrog’s conscious decisions do not promote the inner good of doing the right thing.


    08_rog1


    To his credit as a character, the motivations he carries is undeniably linked to his entire persona. He doesn’t feign ignorance to being better than what he shows to others, as he implies that he’s the best at what he does, and his honesty is enough to make a lie detector look stupid; cause his cold hard truth would make it seem inefficient and useless as a device. Since his appearance, he has been a strong, tough, and rash individual that has been seen as a villain. A rough nature and a smug attitude, Balrog’s street skills paints the scene for a villain pugilist with little concern for others well being; with more selfish and greedy intentions just for himself.


     

    ansem21


    Ansem, preferably the ‘Seeker of Darkness‘, is a fundamentally intriguing villain within the Kingdom Hearts series. In explaining his origins, an account that I will not do in great length, showcases that his existence and connection within the story is, for clarification purposes, fundamentally sound and acknowledgeable to the lore that’s presented within the story. However, if you take out the complications with the lore, this version of Ansem was the first and pressing antagonist that started the Kingdom Hearts series. A shrouded figure in the darkness that did research on hearts (metaphorically and semi-physically speaking) he was the imposing figure that stood in the shadows of Sora and Riku’s adventures within the game. His acts included corrupting Riku’s heart with darkness – a poignant act that would play an important role in the character’s development within later games – and the construction of Kingdom Hearts through the obliteration of multiple worlds.


    ansem smirk


    His appearance on screen is unexpected and the appearance he takes is just as foreboding as the voice that comes from it. He doesn’t pardon his actions and he only parleys for small moments with the main cast of characters. His intentions to find Kingdom Hearts and to use it for his own well being, in addition to filling all of the worlds with darkness, is a straight and simple goal for his agenda. What made his goal and presence unique was the lack of involvement he played within the game itself. The game, Kingdom Hearts, associates most of its story to Sora, Donald, and Goofy as they travel to different Disney worlds and preventing their collapse from the Heartless; which Ansem also happens to be, however, this isn’t prevalent within his appearance as it is more of an epiphany in later games. In future games, an explanation is given as to why he has dark skin and silver hair, however, before those games were even a concept, Ansem’s appearance wasn’t a hot-button topic. His attitude, the role he was given, and how it was implicated within the game is what made Ansem a great stand-alone villain within the series.


  4. Conclusion ~ Representation

    As an African American, I’ve learned that representation within different forms of media is a necessity going forward. Black and African figures in today’s media have been brought into the light for the public through the use of comics, instilling a sense of understanding and acceptance to one’s race that isn’t seen as often. Video games have provided chances for African Americans to be expanded within the media, however, I’ve found that the representation for the race has been used in different contexts; whether it’s from the east or the west gaming franchises.

    I avoided putting any American games in this article for a couple of reasons. One of them was because of how the interpretation of race is seen when compared to the most popular games in America vs the fantasy elements found within most JRPGs. Popular titles like the Assassins Creed series deals with the re-telling of history and the amplification of the past and presents involvement. In Assassins Creed: Black Flag’s DLC “Freedom Cry“, the character Adewale, a former slave with an education that would soon become a pirate and eventually would become an assassin, would embark on his own journey which would lead to many historical bouts against the Templar and freeing captured slaves. I appreciated the bold storytelling, the use of history, and its importance in regards to African heritage, however, I feel that the game is only one example that places the character in an ethnically threatening situation which garners a greater change in their character. Other popular games like the Grand Theft Auto series paints a stereotypical image which, in most cases, presents a toxic representation in regards to cultural appropriation. The games are not bad – technically speaking – but the storytelling for dark-skinned characters like CJ (San Andreas) and Franklin (Los Santos) seem to always have a unique turnabout in regards to their characters.

    In fantasy RPG’s, East or West, the context of the story is vitally important to each character. While there are some tropes that can be filled with throwaway characters, the development of any character should always be seen as a vital component in regards to crafting a great story. While most protagonists can be seen from a Eurocentric viewpoint, the choice to make dark-skinned characters protagonists is just as valid to other perspectives. Square-Enix’sFinal Fantasy” series may have gotten the ball rolling with Barret, but the domino effect of different dark-skinned characters like Fran (XII) and Sazh (XIII) have also been introduced into the fold of dark-skinned representations. There identities as humans, or Viera in Fran’s case, are established as their main identity and the way that they speak are clarified to that of their characters; Fran uses her voice as a means to showcase respect and authority, as her race generally acknowledges is a valuable trait, while Sazh uses comedy and blunt statements, mixed with AAVE, due to a tragic past and coming to terms with the world he now lives within; these developments are paramount to the character’s progression.

    In starting with Suikoden for this article, a game which I have personally favored since playing its second installment back in 1998, it introduced to me, a young, African-American man, that a story can involve many ethnicities and that the concern of “race” shouldn’t affect it. From the second title in the series to its fifth installment on consoles, Suikoden has proven to be a game that uses its diverse cast as a means of storytelling. The third installment showcased the Karaya Clan, previously mentioned with Lucia’s appearance from the second game, which amalgamated Native Americans and Africans as a single clan; pressing the matters of land reservation, cultural racism, and hate crimes – yet their clan isn’t the only one who experiences these events; broadening the subject to others, however, making an impactful statement that alludes throughout the entire game. Further titles would introduce new clans that would further represent Africans, Asians, East Indians, Cubans, Anglo-Americans, and many more. Topics of war would continue to be targeted and even topics of social hiearchy would be challenged in each installment; including issues that pertained to Feminism, Sexism and Gay Rights. To me, Suikoden was like the older brother to Pokémon who preferred World History rather than Zoology. While Pokémon has gone out of its way to make 819 creatures based on actual animals, splashed with some creatures that are more akin to folklore/mythology, Suikoden has created 540 characters that have represented most of the races and ethnicities on our planet.

    In conclusion, this article isn’t a compilation of reasons to make more dark-skinned characters. This article is to bring awareness to how dark-skinned characters can be made and the impact it has on gaming and media. While the progression of Black/African protagonists is few and far between, the acceptance of race and its accumulation in games is slowly developing towards a positive retrospect. From Pokémon’s extending cast of different races (The trainers, not the Pokémon) in their games to the rise of more prominent characters that share in the representation of the black community, I believe that representation will be seen as a positive investment towards the identity of ethnicity in games and media going forward.

     

 

Animated Movies, Character Structure, Concepts and Ideas, Creative Writing, Disney, Disney Worlds, Ducktales, JRPG, Kingdom Hearts, Kingdom Hearts 2, Kingdom Hearts 3, Narrative Structure, Plot Structure, PS4, Sequels, Uncategorized, Video Games, Wreck-It Ralph, Xbox One

The Future of Disney Worlds in KH; Predictions and Ideas for KH4

best-worst-kingdom-hearts-worlds.jpg.optimal

Outside of the tremendous fun of gameplay that can be found within a Kingdom Hearts game, another thing that most players can agree on is towards the exploration of new worlds; Disney or original to the story. While KH3 gave us a new standard on the term “worldbuilding” it also introduced the players to bigger and more expansive environments to explore, fight within and to test the boundaries of this new development within the franchise. From searching for Lucky Emblems, photographing people, or enemies, for Moogles, to finding every treasure chest in the newly created space for the worlds. As fans, we can only hope that this trend is continued in future KH games, even at the behest of causing it to slow down development, but with KH3’s surprise ending and the secret ending getting the internet into a fuss over what’s the next adventure (Side or main narrative) there’s speculation as to what sort of worlds could be added for KH4. In this article, I’m going to list six worlds that I believe would work in continuing the story of KH and, if I’m guessing correctly, lines up with Tetsuya Nomura’s algorithm of adding old and new worlds to traverse.

Before we start, a few ground rules for this prediction list:
– No repeated worlds (Olympus/Coliseum, Monstro, The Caribbean/Port Royal)
– No Sleeping Worlds (Dream Drop Distance)
– No Obligatory Worlds (Disney Castle, Yen Sid’s Tower)


  1. Wreck-It Ralph (Power Surge)gcc_interior_revised_web
    Partners: Wreck-It Ralph
    Keyblade: IGWI (I’m Gonna Wreck It)


    Starting off with one of my favorite ideas and one that fits in with the criteria of worlds that can be visited in KH4 is the world of Wreck-It Ralph. This idea holds relevance due to a certain fire-breathing summon in the form of Mushu making his appearance in the first Kingdom Hearts game. He was an absolute blast and necessary summon, in my opinion, so the fact that he reappears in KH2 alongside Mulan, assisting in the Team Attacks, was the ripest cherry one could give to this delicious sundae of an idea. Now, granted that summons like Bambi, Dumbo and Chicken Little haven’t been given the limelight since their introduction as summons, being cut instead for Simba, Mushu and Stich from KH2 to BBS, Ralph’s world could be handled in a variety of ways:

    [1] Beginning/Origin: One thing that was improved with exploring Disney worlds in KH3 was the complete synopsis, more or less, of the worlds that were visited. The Kingdom of Corona was a perfect example of inputting Sora and the others without derailing the initial story of Rapunzel’s day out and her eventual arrival to the kingdom. This same scenario would play seemingly close if this was implemented for Ralph’s world. Players would be introduced to an empty Power Surge Station, Ralph could be fighting against Heartless before reuniting with Sora and the gang, he’ll explain his reasons for leaving his world – leading to two different games(Sections) that have to be visited, Vanellope will be introduced, more talk of “Order” within games and “Going Turbo”, Sora and Ralph will fight Turbo and a conclusion will be reached that ends the story/world on a good note; allowing for “The Internet” world to be formed without continuity issues for future games.

    WR Games

    [2] Hero’s Duty, Sugar Rush and Fix-It Felix Jr: As far as expanding the world with multiple sections and parts that would be relevant to the story, Hero’s Duty and Sugar Rush would be the perfect inclusions to this world; with Fix-It Felix Jr. being an additional sector for a minigame and Ralph’s developing storyline. The Ice Labyrinth in the Frozen world from KH3 could easily be the same, if not better, in Ralph’s world with the challenge of climbing a tower in Hero’s Duty wrought with Heartless, secret paths that will help you ascend the level and possibly a giant Heartless bug that’s waiting for you at the end. On the other side, Sugar Rush would be a sweet treat to the eyes with visually attractive landscapes, fun candy mechanics throughout the level, and a racing mini-game that isn’t as questionable as the one from BBS. Lastly, Fix-It Felix Jr. would serve for playing the game, Fix-It Felix Jr., with the assistance of an 8-bit Sora, for some old school Donkey Kong vibes; possibly adding in some 8-bit scenario battles amongst the fluid 3D battle system; something akin to what was done with the Classic Kingdom in KH2 and mixed with its own unique pixel differentiation for each area within the world(s).

    [3] Visual and Game Mechanics ( In game and in-game): Sora’s array of costumes could be taken up a notch by donning the Hero Duty soldiers outfit while in said game and donning a sweet and stylish mix for Sugar Rush. On top of that – with the inclusion of Ralph’s game – 8-bit graphics sections for Sora could be implemented for Fix-It Felix Jr., first-person shooter segments in Hero’s Duty, and racing viewpoints/options for Sugar Rush.

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  2. Treasure Planet (The Alponian Quadrant)
    treasure-planet-23
    Partners: Jim Hawkins
    Keyblade: Solar Sailor (Based on the board used within the movie)


    After seeing Stitch’s world implemented in Birth by Sleep and the recent developments done in KH3 to The Caribbean world, I feel that we’re at a good point in the series to now expand upon another kind of pirate: The intergalactic kind. Treasure Planet is a hidden gem within the vault of Disney’s films and works as a world that could add to the lore of the Gummi Blocks as well as add to the general idea of how other characters, Disney or Square, travel amongst the stars in this unknown universe. In addition to bringing back a pirating world for Sora and the gang, which can include a new outfit for our pirate-loving protagonist, it can also introduce a few ideas which could be implemented for future games:


    [1] Traverse Town Callbacks: Going back in time – back to KH1 – the beginning to Sora’s journey started from that beginning world, acting as a hub world for other Disney characters and introducing us to even more Final Fantasy characters. While the general world itself doesn’t have to be a hub world for others, it’s not impossible to write in some sort of setup that reveals that Final Fantasy characters have appeared at the ports and maybe even some Disney characters. The world, as a whole, could be treated like Monstro was in the first game; it doesn’t show itself on the map initially and it could spawn different characters to visit it for some unknown requests.

    [2] Treasure Quests: A unique thing that could be introduced to the series is the idea of doing certain quests in order to achieve certain ingredients (Synthesis), un-acquired treasures and maybe even fight a couple of optional bosses (Heartless, Disney, or Square Related). A request board can be set up for these specific quests to which Sora and the gang can fulfill, alluding to future bounties in different worlds, making the world feel much larger in comparison to just another world that needs to be visited; crafting another necessity of being a treasure hunter and, once more, being a pirate that’s searching for the booty.

    Solar Surfing

    [3] Alponian Solar Surfing: Arendelle’s Frozen Slider mini-game was a fun attraction that was made relevant to the story when going through the snowy environment, avoiding an avalanche and building tension when confronted by Heartless. This same involvement could be used for the Solar Surfing in this world and could even be used as a way to transition between different sectors within the world, adding to the fast-paced routes that require sky rising acrobatics that can only be pulled off when used by Sora; adding a purposeful initiative in using the mechanic and something which, in my opinion, could even lead to a fantastic looking keyblade design. In addition to this revelation, the solar surfing board could be used by our good ol’ boy Jim Hawkins and Sora (respectively) within battle for interesting combo potentials.

    [4] Treasure Planet and Portals: The destination of Treasure Planet, the involvement of portals used to get on and off of it, could play a unique role in the management of how to divvy up the world for the developers.

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  3. 101 Dalmatians’ ( The Twilight Bark)
    dalmatians
    Partners: Pongo, Perdita
    Keyblade: The Twilight Bark (A Dalmatian inspired Keyblade)


    Here’s another callback from KH1 that also has a sound reason for being one of many world’s to be properly introduced in the KH series. 101 Dalmatians inclusion in the first game, while questioning who would package puppies in a small box across multiple worlds, was a treat for those who knew of the pups and those who were successful in finding all of them before finishing the game. Now given the fact that this isn’t an origin story for them – in the traditional sense – it could still be implemented in a way that reconnects Sora’s heart with those he hasn’t seen in some time; in addition to shoehorning one of Disney’s biggest and oldest films from the classics vault. From the story to the gameplay, there are a few ways this world could be constructed:

    [1] Puppy Sora: Outside of plenty of merch, Puppy Sora would be another interesting and, dare I say, a “doggone” unique take on animal transformations for Sora. At this point in time, Sora has been a merman (Atlantis), a lion cub (Pride Rock), and a furry monster (Monsters Inc.) in regards to more feral transformations. Whether he’s a Dalmatian, Beagle, or a German Shephard, Sora’s transformation will speak to his character.

    [2] The Environment: One thing that I feel can be combined with Ventus’s appearance within Cinderella’s world in BBS and the Toy Box world in KH3 is the scope of perspective for the player. In Toy Box, the feeling of being so small and having to use so many things to get around was implemented really well for Sora and his toy companions. This same ingenuity can be done when traversing old barnyards, quiet hideouts, empty parks, snow-covered roads, etc.

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    [3] The Twilight Bark: This form of communication could be used as a way of getting around the environment, a mechanic that could involve dogs that you see helping the player to get around certain obstacles and even helping Sora to learn new things while in his puppy form; granted Sora knows how to wield a keyblade within his mouth but let’s say he learns a trick or two; after all, an old dog can always learn new tricks.

    [4] The Story: As mentioned, this would be a pseudo-origin story for the Dalmatians as it would introduce a few things that were left out of their story. For starters, the incorporation of the one, the only, Gle— Cruella De Vil making her official KH appearance within this universe. While it can be argued that her involvement in the story wouldn’t have been as impactful as the villains that sided and congregated with Maleficent from the first game, it’s to be understood that her role as a villain, especially if it leads into the realm of giving her a Heartless, would be a great induction to Disney Villains and their Heartless taking an active role in getting what they want. Just imagine: Fighting Cruella De Vil as she’s speeding down the road like a madwoman, in pursuit to get the puppies back, all while having a seemingly dangerous Heartless (Possibly the puppet one from the Toy Box possessing the toys) taking over her car and making it into just as much of a nightmarish force as the mad woman that’s driving it.
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  4. The Princess and The Frog (The Bayou)
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    Partners: Tiana (Frog), Naveen (Frog)
    Keyblade: Southern Spin (A frog-themed keyblade with a splash of color from various characters)


    My prediction for the Dalmatians was more of a guilty pleasure that had relevance to past characters and revisiting old films that, in my opinion, are still considered one of the best films that Disney has created. This choice, however, is more of a story narrative decision and one that would actually affect the mythos of KH; if done correctly. The “New Seven Princesses of Hearts” have already been eluded towards in KH3 and with the start of their ranks being that of Rapunzel, Anna, and Elsa; excluding Kairi from this scenario for story purposes. Another princess, one in the making for quite some time, could be introduced in that of Tiana. In addition to that, a few specific choices to the world would assist in how the narrative would be told – while introducing some crucial plot points for the game’s own narrative:

    [1] Human to Frog ~ Frog to Human: An interesting mechanic which could make for unique traversing in the world, and for accessing parts of the world, would be the ability to transform between a human and a frog. This could be used for when Sora initially meets Tiana and Prince Naveen, as a frog, traversing the bayou levels, while using the human portions to get through more dynamic portions of the level; this could possibly be hidden from Tiana and the others for “Order” reasons; with the exception of Mama Odie and her omnipotence towards Sora’s visit. In addition, given what’s already happened to Sora, whose to say that he won’t learn High Jump, again, from being a frog in this installment.

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    [2] Dr. Facilier: The man of mojo, the myth of the bayou, Dr. Facilier, would be an excellent villain to introduce within the series. While there are various kinds of villains and beings that are aware of the worlds outside of their own (Check out my previous article to get a lock on what I mean), I feel that Dr. Facilier would be aware of this knowledge – if only because of his “friends” – which would further push him in the direction to be involved in Sora’s demise; if Maleficent and Pete would get back into the fray of being villains and not crowd watchers. His control over the Heartless would be undeniable and his boss battle could be a reference to his song “Friends On The Other Side” with multiple phantasms, ghouls and ghosts inspired from his dark magic.

    [3] The Story: Tiana’s story would be a wonderful way to introduce, if ever so slightly, the general concerns of being born poor to being born rich and, to an even greater subtlety, the idea of being black and showing indifference to being white. Sora’s obliviousness could probably hide the racial ambiguity of the message, however, it could be a unique factor that helps to tie the characters together; plus this scene could be addressed while their frogs – making the reveal and presence to Sora that she’s human, without racial tension, a more believable life lesson. Being different and born in different circumstances doesn’t mean that one can’t be happy. This idea, if used in the correct sense, could possibly be seen as one of the most impactful stories and differences found within a Disney world and expressed in a better light through the emotional impact that KH can deliver going forward. Tiana’s story would be told with clarity, Dr. Facilier would have more of a chance to show that “he’s ready” to fight and a lesson of individuality could be shown without ill provocations.
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  5. The Incredibles (Syndrome’s Island or World of Supers)
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    Partners: Mr. Incredible, Mrs. Incredible
    Keyblade: Positively Super (A keyblade with an Incredibles color theme)


    This entry and prediction on the list is not only due to the popularity in which Incredibles has had between its premiering film and its sequel, but this is also because of the structure and narrative shown between the two films – creating a lore of its own to the ideas and identities of Supers within the film; which can be translated for Sora and the gang in future entries within the series. This would be the first and foremost  its most important entry for the world within the series – possibly it’s best and only interpretation of it – that could hit home with a few inclusions from its two films to create the best experience within the game:


    Monologuing
    [1] Syndrome: I think it goes without saying that the main villain of this world and the one that really holds the record of controlling Heartless with a strong will would be our fallen fanboy turned super villain Syndrome. If the world itself is his base, the possibilities for exploration around the island is nearly limitless and his past victories against other supers, ones that had been defeated off screen, could be shown in the various sections that you’re allowed to roam. Syndrome himself could also play commentator for these events since, much like Randall did in Monsters Inc., except his jargon and threats could be backed up by soldiers, robots, and Heartless; in addition to the meta that he already knows for both Heroes and Villains. Include knowledge to other worlds, a fantastic boss battle and a possible return nearing towards the final battle, possible, and you’ve got the perfect Syndrome implementation. (I know it’s a stretch but, come on, if there’s a man that seriously wanted to defy “Order” it would definitely be Syndrome; it’s practically his Modus Operandi)

    [2] The Island: An active volcano, a rising tower filled with soldiers and heartless, lush jungles with scattered caves, water running segments amongst night and day options (Like San Fransokyo but NOT like San Fransokyo). Wall running, Rail Grinding, and Free-Falling portions all on one map? Need I say more?

    [3] Cosmetics: Much like San Fransokyo, the world doesn’t need to make Sora, a superhero within his own right, into a symbol of justice and peace for this world. Hand him an Incredibles Mask, since Donald and Goofy would already be seen as costume wearing crimefighters, and you’ve got yourself a secret identity.
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  6. Ducktales (Old) and Ducktales (New) ~ (Sides of the Same Coin)
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    Partners: Scrooge (New)
    Keyblade: Number One Dime (A dime handled keyblade with dual colors from the 1987 show and the 2017 reboot)


    This prediction and last entry for this list are under the clause of a “Classic Representation” to which Nomura seemingly has introduced ever since the very first Kingdom Hearts game. You could say that Winnie the Pooh was the first classic interpretation before being replaced with the Classic Kingdom in Disney Castle, and the two sharing a seat within the same hub world of Twilight Town for their beginning adventures; one with games and one with multiple mini-games. I feel that the next best representative for the classic category should go in the way of Donald’s heritage and a founding member to an extension of Disney lore within Kingdom Hearts: Uncle Scrooge and both of his Ducktale adventures. The 1987 and 2017 adaptions of the show would be a perfect fit for the role of a classic meets present mashup; it also gives Nomura another chance at the idea of merging the old with the new that doesn’t involve time traveling. Here are some suggestions to solidify why this feathered frenzy mashup could be possible:


    [1] Alternate Dimensions and Relics: Relics like the Cornerstone of Light could be one of many relics that can assist, or threaten, the realms of worlds that are, or aren’t, presently aware in the KH verse. Since Scrooge, and possibly Donald, are no strangers to the unknown (Donald with magic and Scrooge with adventuring) it’s highly likely that treasures in Scrooge’s possession could possess the power to venture into alternate realms. Playing off the idea that Scrooge wants to expand his business practices to other worlds and realms, even if it’s an alternate version of his own, would be an interesting and likely plot for the wealthy duck. A magic mirror, a reverse clause in the Cornerstone of Light, or even an experiment gone wrong could lead to this development of having the two realities meet.

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    [2] The Duality of Uncle Scrooge: Scrooge, from the show to the KH verse, is driven but seems to lack a sense of authority. Selling sea salt ice cream, popsicles, opening a restaurant and traveling worlds seems like something that Scrooge would do, however, since Scrooge isn’t pivotal to the plot of Kingdom Hearts, it’s understandable that his greedy pursuits for money and his drive to be an absolute businessman, at the behest of forsaking others at times, could be shown with this alternate look at himself from the 2017 reboot. His life as a secret agent, adventures with Donald and Della Duck, the heart-wrenching backstory between him and his family, would all play an important role in making the old and the new relevant to one another; it could also introduce the cruel Scrooge from Ducktales past but in an entirely different way.

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    [3] Magica De Spell (Old and New): If Maleficent is the thorn of darkness towards King Mickey’s light, Magica De Spell (both of them) is the eclipsing moon to Scrooge’s sun. While both interpretations have had it out for Scrooge – some more than others – it goes without saying that the appearance of the sorceress could play a very big part in the case that the two dimensions connected. By aligning themselves with the Heartless, two different kinds to showcase the old and new varieties, the two have more in common to completely destroy Donald and Scrooge (If written well) that the interface of one Duckburg clashing with another could be the essential start of something new; perhaps a conflict between the now and “what if” worlds that Disney has established in its canonical lore.

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    [4] Backstory for Scrooge and Donald’s KH adventuring: An old hand to Disney’s initial comics starring Donald and Uncle Scrooge showcase the two of them, in addition to the triplets, going on adventures and finding treasure in the process. This content is canon to the comics and lore between the two, however, what does that translate to within the KH verse. Donald is the head wizard, Scrooge is a wealthy businessman making investments across worlds, and the triplets are selling Gummi Ship parts. An explanation of their connection would do good in explaining a bit more about Donald’s backstory within this interpretation of his character; unless their going to hide the fact that Donald was once a black belt martial artist in one game, or a member of the navy, or a used car salesman, and was even a robot in one Epic game.

Character Structure, Creative Writing, Disney, JRPG, Kingdom Hearts, Kingdom Hearts 2, Kingdom Hearts 3, Narrative Structure, Plot Structure, PS4, Sequels, Square-Enix, Uncategorized, Video Games, Xbox One

Kingdom Hearts: What’s After KH3? ~ Thoughts, Predictions and Theories

KH3 Secret Ending 1

Kingdom Hearts 3: A 14-year long experience that has been crafted for the fans has long since been delivered on its release date of January 29 in 2019; that is until an inevitable final mix comes out – fixing and/or adding things to such a prominent entree for the franchise. In completing the game, collecting most of the lucky emblems and various other misadventures, you’ll be rewarded with a secret ending that has promoted fans to go in the direction of the most simplistic conclusions to absolutely bizarre theories in regards to the future of the series. In this article, I’ll be going over seven thoughts, predictions and/or theories which could influence the future of KH games and the filler titles leading to KH4. And to get this out of the way – THERE WILL BE SPOILERS FOR THE GAME – so if you haven’t finished your experience that is KH3, then I suggest you save this article for a future read.


  1. The World of Broken Dreams and The Afterlife ~ (Verum Rex and Cut Content)KH3 Secret Ending
    One thing that the secret ending does to most, if not all, Kingdom Heart fans is amaze and confuse the player as to what will happen next. Now, while this ending showcases a future adventure for Riku and Sora, effectively bringing an answer to a rather vague – if not wandering – question, where does this take the game and our unsuspecting protagonists towards? My theory is that through the Power of Waking, a power that was explicitly told isn’t supposed to be used for “traversing worlds”, possibly has a price in regards to how it’s being used. Sora had used it in order to retrieve the hearts of his fallen comrades after their first encounter with Terra-Xehanort and an army of Heartless, to which Young Xehanort remarks “There’s no saving you” and leaving the player in confusion – even after his  final defeat, stating that “Your time in this world is…” which otherwise would’ve seemed like smoke, given his disappearance, but with Sora’s disappearance at the end – watched amongst the other hopefuls of the story – it’s entirely possible that the next game could solve that very mystery. The setup for this scene puts both Sora and Riku in two different worlds. In Sora’s case, it’s highly believed that it’s Shibuya from the popular series “The World Ends With You” which has already made a stapled intro as one of Tetsuya Nomura’s creations during Dream Drop Distance, a game which also invokes the power of waking, as both Sora and Riku traverse the sleeping worlds. One particular quote uttered by the cast of TWEWY is “See you in Shibuya” which fans have suspected might’ve lead to the inclusion of a TWEWY world, now shows promise that in Sora’s involvement with the story on a much grander scale.See you in ShibuyaOn the other hand, Riku’s destination seems to be a little bit more of a mystery. It appears that his world is connected to the video game world of Verum Rex from the Toy Box World. Now, if that were the case, it would result in two different methods:1. It’s possible that Riku had visited the Toy Box world, which in itself is already a copy of the world to which Toy Story originates from, entering through the same screen Sora had entered, leading to the events of being within said game world.Or2. Riku, as a Keyblade Master, is taught by Yen Sid in how to properly use the Power of Waking which leads to a world that is sleeping and that’s also awake. Verum Rex’s appearance within that world is an amalgamation of Final Fantasy Versus XIII (A game in which Nomura was the director for before its change in direction with gameplay and story), with the main characters being alternates of other characters (Which would make for a shoe-in for future Final Fantasy references/appearances down the line) and the concept that the world Riku is visiting is a world that also houses other incomplete ideas, good and bad, that were never made into final products.If the second mini-theory within this theory is what made you say “Hmmmm…it’s possible” than the next one will be all the more interesting and, hopefully, a decision that can be reached quickly with Disney’s allowance.
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  2. Oswald’s Return and Epic Mickey’s Representation (Forgotten Classics)Epic Mickey - Epic
    The introduction and reclaiming of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit in Disney’s favor, re-introduced for the masses whose only seen his appearance in vintage cartoons and Epic Mickey (A game which went over well with the masses and was a primary source for Oswald’s appreciation as a precursor to Mickey Mouse), would be a great addition and a fantastic concept to follow upon within a world that’s based on incomplete, or forgotten, ideas. Oswald’s appearance would not only be unique and very Disney (Given that he was created by Walt Disney) but his character’s history, in a world that seemingly has forgotten about him, would not only match with his modus operandi from Epic Mickey, but it would also be credited to his comeback as a character. Riku as the protagonist would be the perfect example in showcasing what it means to be in darkness and then to be within the light, walking the road to dawn (Alongside wielding a keyblade named after it) to show that there’s a connection; also given the amount of time Riku and Mickey have spent together, alongside Mickey’s emotional state in being unable to save Aqua – something to which could be shared with the loss of his brother in Oswald – it isn’t impossible to believe that Mickey would’ve talked about an “older brother” at some point; which is just as relevant as Goofy talking about his son, Max, or Donald’s revelation in learning magic when he was apart of The Three Caballeros. Hire me, Square-Enix, I’m a gold mine waiting to happen.Epic Mickey - Height
    The dynamic of introducing Oswald as a living, breathing Disney character, rather than re-introducing him in the Classic Kingdom as a character that Sora, Donald, and Goofy just happened to miss, creates a base for Oswald’s character; in addition to adding lore to the character that Disney created and just seemingly forgot about. While Mickey is the king of Disney Castle, a world in which houses most of the main Disney affiliates around Mickey Mouse cartoons, it’s not impossible to believe that Oswald’s role in Epic Mickey as the leader of “The Wasteland” couldn’t be attributed as a world; maybe even as a phenomenon – if the concept is about “forgotten” or “incomplete” ideas. On the other hand, Oswald’s reception to audiences since 2006 have been received well and fleshing out his character, in addition to Epic Mickey’s conflict which makes Oswald relatable and somewhat sympathetic, would be a perfect metaphor for the possible conflicts that come with forgetting others; instilling the principle of trust and honesty for friendships in addition to the theme of light and darkness.Epic Mickey - Despair
    Overall, Oswald’s addition to the KH crew of Disney characters would be a welcomed addition. With an attitude that’s more gritty than Mickey’s hopeful optimism, a theme that is just dark enough for Nomura to craft around – in addition to the storyline established from the game that re-introduced the character, Oswald could be the potentially epic cross between Nomura’s Final Fantasy Formula and Disney’s Family-Friendly outlines.
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  3. A Keyblade Warrior That’s Not Sora. {A New Light Appears}KH Union-3
    I may be in the minority when I say this but…Kingdom Hearts Union X [Cross] was the most derailing bit of backstory that I’ve ever seen for Kingdom Hearts. Did it give us answers about the Keyblade War and the formation of the Keyblade Graveyard, in addition to multiple backstories for some characters and the most confusing game of “Why is this a thing?!” in morbid detail – yes. It’s because of this long backstory, alongside the confusing notion of kids seemingly inheriting the light to become Keyblade wielders, that the expansion of other Keyblade users in this shared universe can be announced. While the series has already given us older keyblade users in the form of Terra and Aqua, in addition to Mickey and Yen Sid (Don’t let their looks fool you, I’m sure there pretty old by this point), I believe that we are at the perfect moment to introduce a new wielder of light for future chronicles. Whether Tetsuya Nomura continues with our MC Sora or decides to go in a different direction, here are some interesting points to make note of when constructing a new keyblade wielding protagonist.KH World
    1. Heartless: Yes, those things that seem to appear to devour people’s hearts but aren’t, or are, controlled by Disney villains, Organization Members, The Nort Squad or anyone tinkering on the verge of darkness is a continuing incentive for a new protagonist taking up arms against them. While Nobodies could return, I say with reluctance, Heartless are still the main force that seemingly can lead a world to destruction, countless lives being lost and the constant loom that a keyblade wielder can, or is, nearby. In addition, the Heartless’s true origins have yet to be revealed; given the amount of info that’s been divulged, it’s entirely possible that there’s a bigger story to these heartless beings. While Nobodies can be linked to somebody and the Unversed are connected to Vanitas, it’s not as black and yellow for the Heartless; unless they want to bring back Dream Eaters.


    2. Keyblades: Before you scroll past this obvious fact, I want you to take a moment to ask yourself something: How did Riku get his newest keyblade, Braveheart, from Yen Sid? It’s shown that there are multiple types of keyblades – ones linked with prophecies like the Kingdom Key and Kingdom Key D – so whose to say that another Keyblade with properties of light and darkness doesn’t exist in the same way that ‘A Way to the Dawn’ does? Passing the Kingdom Key around like a discount Excalibur seems, in my opinion, lackluster to the importance of other keyblades whose origins have yet to be told. With a new protagonist comes a new direction for Keyblades, a formula that hasn’t been wrong since its introduction.


    3. World Interactions: KH3 introduced a few new things to the expansive world. Gummiphones, Lucky Emblems, Businesses in various hub world (Sea Salt Ice Cream, Bistros, Popsicles, etc.) was just the tip of the proverbial iceberg of innovations for this entree. While Gummi Ships were inherently discovered by Mickey, seemingly used by him and various others, this continued discussion of “exploration” could be seen and shown in a different light for our future protagonist. KH3’s ending emphasizes that Hayner, Pence, and Olette were FINALLY able to go the beach…..except this is on Destiny Islands. “Order” could be ignored for this situation, however, another addition to Gummi Ships could be in the exploration of “Spirit Tracks” (Not be confused with the Zelda title of the same name). In KH2, the group finds themselves at Yen Sid’s tower without a Gummi Ship. Exploration by train, disguised by magic, appearing in Disney worlds of some kind just seems like another unique take on exploration.


    4. Final Fantasy/Square-Enix/Tetsuya Nomura Characters: In this stew of Disney lies another ingredient that fans seemingly have had the pleasure of experiencing since its introduction – Square-Enix Cameos. In Sora’s introduction, we’re surprised to find that a young Selphie (FF8), Wakka, and Tidus (Both from FFX) reside on Destiny Islands, whereas other Final Fantasy characters like Cloud, Squall (Leon), Aerith and others, are seemingly the same counterparts that were featured within their original game appearances. Since it appears that Final Fantasy characters are un-obligated to obey Order (Zack, Cloud, Auron), alongside Nomura’s own creations, the idea of throwing in characters to promote intrigue for exploration, getting stronger and essentially doing what’s right could be an added motivation for our new protagonist


    5. A Better Purpose: Whether the boat in the first game was a metaphor for life, or a really bad joke, a crucial piece to a new characters development is through finding a purpose and fulfilling that role. Sora’s beginning journey alongside Riku and Kairi was filled with child-like wonder in which the three, despite not knowing the outside world-world, would voyage upon. In Roxas’s story for KH2, it was all about getting to the beach, which was never there, as Roxas slowly came to the conclusion that he was apart of Sora and that he, in turn, needed to return to him. If there’s to be a new purpose that isn’t logically flawed, it could be the start of something new and potentially a driving force in which the newest protagonist strives towards.


  4. The Seven Princesses of Hearts and ‘World Order’ (World Representation)HonorableTidyKitten-size_restricted
    Princesses, am I right… that they play a rather big part in the construction of worlds and the conquest of many a diabolical plan? No? Well, if KH3 hasn’t already stated it, the future evolution of princesses could be taking steps in the right direction in the future. Ever since the beginning, rules have been put into place for the game; in-game wise and throughout its development. The Disney worlds had to be shown in a respectable manner that wouldn’t slander the properties involved and that didn’t break the mold in which Disney had formulated their existing characters. This rule by Disney is also the inside joke, or lore, that “World Order” is to be kept when visiting other worlds; so telling Rapunzel that she will find herself in another world – even if its Arendelle – is a big no-no for Sora and the gang. However, through Marluxia and Larxene’s interactions in The Kingdom of Corona and Arendelle, it’s stated that The New Seven Princesses of Hearts would be a fall-back plan to the gathering Warriors of Light. While this plan isn’t fulfilled and the only known princesses are revealed to be Anna, Elsa and Rapunzel (With Kairi as a possible candidate from the 1st game) it does bring interest to an old idea that had been executed in the first Kingdom Hearts game and hasn’t been touched upon since then.original
    Ever since their original appearance, Disney has continued to add princesses from modern fairy tales, created new ones for different minorities (A trend that has subtly been adapted in various forms of Disney media) and instilled them with a sense of identity and opinions that align with feminism; forming a stronger image towards women and how they are portrayed with the times; in turn changing the status quo of a ‘weak princess’. If that’s the case, future princesses that will be introduced/added into the series will have a lot to show in regards to their representing this image of a new princess, however, it also might mean that they, too, will have to take up arms in defense against the next impending foe that hopes to use them. While Rapunzel’s hair is currently not golden and Elsa/Anna haven’t discovered the mysteries of what’s impending in Frozen 2, the steps to bringing about four princesses, three if you’re excluding Kairi, to be socially and competitively ready for darkness, is an exciting venture.


    The Kingdom of DunBroch ( Merida), Sugar Rush (Vanellope von Schweetz) and The Bayou, or Jazz Age (Tiana) are a few worlds that could come to mind for certain princesses, showcasing their resolve and their ability to defend themselves. Merida’s archery would surely give the archer Heartless a run for their money, while Tiana (In frog form) could hop, kick and show her skills in froggy combat, while Vanellope’s control over her glitchy moments would ring her in for a unique combatant. Revisiting old worlds and seeing the progression made by other princesses would be another inspiring venture that only builds the reputation of Disney Princesses and their progression. Visiting Atlantica to see that Ariel is married and with a child would be a surreal experience, however, it would also be another example in showing how much she’s grown from the young woman we saw in KH1 to the woman she’s become in the future; having a child, being a parent, and caring for another life that isn’t your own. Fundamental lessons on life, while still being Disney, is something that can be visualized in KH games. If love can be shown in an intimate setting like it was for Rapunzel and Eugene, familiarized with a family with Anna and Elsa, the same can be said for the rest of the princesses.
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  5. Final Fantasy’s Connection (If it ain’t Disney, then Square it)
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    It’s no secret that Final Fantasy’s appearances within KH3 was incredibly minimal; unless you count the organization and some of our keyblade wielders. While Nomura states that the inclusion of characters from the previous two games wasn’t necessary for the ending to the Seekers of Darkness Saga, a sentiment that brought mixed reviews from multiple players, I for one thought that it was necessary given the “lore” between Xehanort and Keyblade Wielders. Its conclusion with the Warriors of Light and The Seekers of Darkness seemed right in the end; otherwise, it would’ve been an insult to see Leon, Tifa, or even Cloud being outdone by Xehanort – forget the Keyblade War, the Final Fantasy War would start the moment a FF character was knocked out.


    With that tangent out of the way, Final Fantasy characters are, as a whole, an unexplained character in the KH series. For gamers and fans of the series, their appearance within the game was a staple that attracted them to the series. Cloud’s alternate design had fans wanting more and knowing the story behind such a drastic change in his appearance; looking a bit more fit for a final fantasy than his initial Final Fantasy outfit. However, in most cases, the characters of the Final Fantasy games are treated more like cameos to the expanding verse of Kingdom Hearts. Whether it’s because Disney has more of a claim in having most of their ideas being put forth than anything Square-related, or it’s a creative choice by Nomura, it still shows that there’s a lack of evidence for some characters and the conclusion to their stories.


  6. Wreck-It-Ralph’s Meta (A World without ‘Order’)
    ralph-breaks-the-internet-wreck-it-ralph-2-chinese-poster-zm-2880x1800While Ralph made it in as a summon, rather than as a full-blown world and character, there’s a distinct possibility that the reason for his exclusion is due to the ‘lore’ and established meta found within Kingdom Hearts currently. As Ralph is a video game character, established as a character within Disney, set within a world that is seemingly the present-day Earth, there’s a possibility that Nomura might have, or not, seen how meta breaking the game itself would’ve been to the third installment; to imagine that the princesses are aware of Sora’s adventures, alongside the fanbase, might’ve derailed the story and would’ve given Nomura the perfect excuse to confuse the masses and theorists for the franchise going forward.gcc_interior_revised_webWreck-It-Ralph’s world, on its own, adds a unique spin on the order of ‘Order’ in regards to worlds. This element of meta would be seen as a breathtaking reverse of the tropes that have been implemented in most of the Disney Worlds – that the bad guy is always the bad guy and nothing else. A reverse of this trope, alongside the exploration of two or three worlds (Fix-it Felix Jr., Hero’s Duty, and Sugar Rush) would add into the element that there’s a world that has multiple worlds and those worlds, in itself, is a world that can easily be lost by another force that isn’t just that of the Heartless; of course, Heartless are just the natural glitches to the series.HwBt
    But even in a world where ‘Order’ is questionable, the enforcement of some kind can be reminded in Ralph’s actions in becoming something that he isn’t – a hero. Further enforcement could appear in Vanellope’s plight as a supposed glitch, Turbo’s underlining plan as an actual glitch, amongst many other things which adds to this wonderfully intricate meta, of meta, for the world. The playful interpretations that Nomura could execute within this world would be, if nothing else, entertaining to the rules set in place by the game. Future interpretations of the world, such as adding the internet, would further play with the idea that this world isn’t at all like the others; a world without order. However, until it’s eventual creation, the idea for such a concept seems closer to fruition with KH3’s resolve and the beginning trek for KH4.
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  7. Disney’s Lore in Connection To The Nexus’s of Worlds (If it ain’t Square, Dis-ney to happen)
    WorldsTo say that the worlds are fragments of different continuities, memories or even Walt Disney’s manipulation of the characters themselves would be, or could be, the actual state of the Kingdom Hearts Conspiracy Theory Circle at the current moment. In the future, hopefully, I believe it would be beneficial to learn more about the Disney Lore that exists within the KH universe in order to build branching understandings of the worlds that are ‘aware’ and those that aren’t. This popular topic was touched upon briefly from the very first game in the series, Kingdom Hearts, where King Triton reminds our heroes in regards to “meddling with other worlds” and even acknowledges the knowledge of keyblade wielders. While you could argue that this has been tossed under the rug for less development, it’s possible that the idea and the lore that encompasses the rest of the main Disney cast, amongst others, is selectively told and/or known by Disney characters. Here are three categories of lore to which the game could expand upon, reinvigorating the idea that Disney holds a special charge within the games:


    1. House of M (Disney Castle/Known Characters)
    HouseofMouse_RichBIf you remember the popular Disney show “House of Mouse” it was a show that brought the entire continuity of established Disney characters, from their earliest renditions to the most present newcomers, in a 30 minute romp filled with a couple of classic Disney cartoons and in house, quite literally, antics from the main cast. I use this example an example to showcase the cast of characters who have, or will, play future roles in the continuation of Disney and Square’s unique adventure. In BBS, it’s shown that Horace (Fruit Ball), The Triplets, Scrooge McDuck, and even Pete are aware of the worlds and the expansion of the said universe. While Pete and Scrooge expanded their horizons to different worlds in their own way, there’s still a healthy amount of characters that could still be introduced to the KH universe. Mortimer Mouse could be the second antagonistic force to Mickey who could be working in the castle, setting up for his takeover of the magical kingdom, or perhaps Ludwig Von Duck (The Duck-ish version of Merlin but with an emphasis on magic) could pose more interesting theories which may, or may not, have complete validity towards the situation at hand; though his necessity would be a fun way for Nomura to use fan theories and the like.

    CD12N - Male Idea

    Other known characters to this group would include characters that share in the same background with already established characters. For example, characters that have been associated with Donald and Goofy like Max (Goofy’s Son) from the Goofy Movies and The Three Caballeros (Panchito and Jose) would be a welcome addition to the cast alongside adding character moments with the established cast. Max, depending on the version we get, could be proud of his dad and wishes to be something in the world but that doesn’t revolve around being what Goofy is (In servitude to the king, being a goof like his dad, etc.) and could play itself out to the two Goofy Movies that have been released (at the time of this article being written); outlining Goofy’s dedication to Mickey and his lack of acceptance to Max’s ideals. On the other hand, Donald’s journey of magic and how he came to know of it, at the very least, could be outlined by the appearance of the other two Caballeros in that of Panchito and Jose, showcasing where Donald had been before the three of them united together.

    disney_castle_kingdom_hearts_family_and_friends_ii_by_9029561_d7iiyps-fullview

    With the re-appearance of the Three Caballeros, reviving a prominently known trio outside of MDG, it would continually add lore to that of the Disney characters we are already aware of within the game’s universe. This not only would add more content in the use of Disney but would also establish a core group of characters that are privy to the knowledge of other worlds and how that can be managed for future games. Whether this leads to a Ducktales spinoff world or a bigger expansion of Disney Castle, the inclusion of more characters within this grouping would not only establish Disney in a productive way but includes the association of other known characters and giving them a time to shine in their own way.

    2. Villains and Gods (Order’s Guardians and Rebels)
    disneyvillains

    There was a unique initiative that had been introduced in the first Kingdom Hearts and was re-iterated in Birth by Sleep: Conscious awareness of other worlds for Disney Villains; at least a good portion of them. It’s shown that Maleficent gathered the group of villains to execute the “Seven Princesses of Hearts” plan for their own malevolence, however, this category seems to have decreased in recent installments. Kingdom Hearts 3 and their villains’ awareness to other worlds was, in a word, absent. While I agree that, for the given situation, throwing another situation in which villains had gained awareness of other worlds – all while Xehanort is causing mass pandemonium – probably would not have been the smartest decision in regards to the story’s pacing; which is for another article. The importance of having villains that are meta to their own meta adds a sort of tongue and cheek to their goals being stopped by the protagonists of their respective worlds; Hades was the best representation of this rule due to his status as a villain and furthermore, the status of being a god leads him to have more knowledge than your normal villain.

    Speaking of gods, Zeus’s title as “King of the Gods” could be a nice little nod towards the same established title that King Triton has, aware that there are other worlds besides his own and could’ve imparted some sort of knowledge to Sora and the gang after their victory over Hades; given that Final Fantasy characters, Heartless, Nobodies and Titans have just been ignoring this whole ‘Order’ stick; unless you count Zack who, more or less, had some common sense as a kid to disguise himself. Zeus’s testament as a god, while unspoken of in regards to knowing about other worlds, was still established in a photo mission by the moogles; acknowledging his presence and stature could mean that he’s a known figure to the ever universally thrifty moogles. On the other hand, those with power – such as Merlin – exhibits this trait to which he, more or less, is seeming with power and uses it however he pleases. Merlin has popped up in Traverse Town to set up shop in an abandoned building alongside the Fairy Godmother in Kingdom Hearts, assisted the Resistance in regards to the heartless that were taking over Radiant Garden (in addition to keeping “The 100 Acre Wood” safe) and is even capable of summoning Kairi and Lea into a place where “time doesn’t matter” sounds like a unique clause in regards to those who have such power. In addition to this and Yen Sid, two wizards with extraordinary power and knowledge, their essentially The Watchers of the KH universe; Marvel references aside, that is.

    3. Otherworldly Spirits (The World; as itself)
    The Sea
    With the exception of Monstro, which is a whale of a tale in and of itself, the idea of a world being aware of its place in the KH universe has never really been explored in recent games. The 100 Acre Wood is a fair example of a world that’s unaware of its place in the world, however, a great example of a world that’s aware of its own presence would be that of a Moana World. Her world would not only have a representation of a spirit (The Sea) but it would also share in the former group’s involvement with the inclusion of Maui (Demigod) and his rebellion against Te Fiti (A God), Tamatoa (Villain) and the monsters urge in getting the Heart of Te Fiti, and Te Ka (A God but also a villain) who is seemingly cursing the world for Maui’s negligence.

    Te-Ka-moana-41048367-540-220

    While Calypso, a sea goddess, cryptically gave advice to Sora in regards to what he had to do in order to gain her power there was never a moment in time to which the confrontation of doing such a task and the task actually being acknowledged by the keyblade warrior was fulfilled. Moana’s entire goal for this movie is in returning the Heart of Te Fiti, thus the World’s acknowledgment of darkness, while using the lore of a Heartless God that commands the Heartless, could be a unique and interesting concept that could be implemented in the future of world-building other worlds.

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