Kingdom Hearts χ
|Kingdom Hearts χ|
Kingdom Hearts χ, stylized as Kingdom Hearts χ[chi], is a Japanese role-playing browser game developed by Nomura, SENA, and published by Square Enix for web browsers as the eighth installment in the Kingdom Hearts series. Gameplay involves players navigating a customized avatar through Disney-inspired worlds fighting enemies, along with taking down bosses in multiplayer matches in competition with other teams. A version of the game for mobile devices, Kingdom Hearts Unchained χ, was released as the ninth installment of the series in Japan in September 2015, and worldwide in 2016. In April 2017, Unchained χ was rebranded as Kingdom Hearts Union χ[Cross].
Kingdom Hearts χ is a prequel to the Kingdom Hearts series as a whole, taking place centuries prior. It takes place before the Keyblade War, which established the organization of the Kingdom Hearts universe as of the original game. The player assumes the role of a Keyblade wielder who joins one of five factions led by Keyblade Masters fighting for control of the limited light existing in the world. Unchained χ/Union χ acts as a sequel, retelling part of the story of Kingdom Hearts χ before diverging and telling a new story set after its events. The game's plot is connected to Kingdom Hearts III, the next main entry in the series. The title refers to the χ-blade, a weapon central to the series' story arc.
The game was designed as a playing experience that newcomers to the series could come to. Its presentation was compared to that of a fairy tale, as depicting the usual style of the series would have been difficult on the platform. Both Tetsuya Nomura and Yoko Shimomura, veterans from the main series, returned as director and composer respectively. The game received favorable reception from critics. A companion film, Kingdom Hearts χ Back Cover, was released as part of Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue in January 2017.
Kingdom Hearts χ is a role-playing video game set in the universe of Kingdom Hearts which includes original characters and locations as well as ones from Disney and Final Fantasy media properties. Before beginning, players create their own character. Players can customize the gender, hair, and clothing, and choose accessories themed after both Square Enix and Disney universes present in the Kingdom Hearts series. Story missions are unlocked by the player. After a certain amount of the available content has been completed, new story missions become available. Players navigate their surroundings by dragging their cursor across the screen. Players navigate different worlds, defeating monsters known as the Heartless. The base game is free to play, with optional microtransactions. Actions use up AP, which can be replenished by either waiting or by using potions, which can be earned or bought. Rare items such as special cards can also be purchased. Alongside the single-player mode, there is a multiplayer mode where teams of players take on Raid Bosses, gigantic Heartless with high HP.
Enemies appear on-screen, and can be engaged by clicking on them. During the player's turn, three cards are randomly drawn from a deck of nine, each resulting in an attack. If the cards' combined strength and attached skills are insufficient to exhaust the enemy's HP, the heartless will counterattack. If the player survives this attack, or continues by spending additional AP, a new turn begins. Upon defeating an enemy, the player earns Lux (which unlocks rewards as it accumulates, but resets weekly), experience points (through which the player advances in level), and Munny (an in-game currency). The player also earns Fragments, cards based on the characters original to the Kingdom Hearts series and those from Disney and Final Fantasy franchises: the fragments are imbued with different properties depending on the character, such as physical or elemental strikes. Players can level up their cards to improve their attack and defense. Players can strengthen their Keyblade using materials found in each world, and new Keyblades are acquired as the story progresses. Each strengthens different types of cards; for example, Starlight is an all-around Keyblade offering boosts for Power-, Speed- and Magic-type cards, while the Snow White-inspired Treasure Trove is Power-type focused.
The mobile version of the game, entitled Kingdom Hearts Unchained χ, shares multiple gameplay features with its browser counterpart: the main exception is that this version is tailored for a touch screen. The ability to travel freely between different Disney worlds is also replaced with a stage system. These stages, called quests, are confined to specific areas of specific worlds. Instead of spending AP on individual actions, AP is paid to start a quest, and the player can attack as many enemies, collect as many materials, and open as many chests as he or she can find before defeating a target Heartless. If the player's HP is fully depleted, a choice is offered between forfeiting all progress in the quest or continuing to fight by spending Jewels, a new general-purpose in-game currency. Lux is considered another name for character-leveling experience points. Clothing, hair, and accessories are obtained through Avatar Boards, which each contain an array of nodes on branching pathways. These nodes are unlocked, in set sequences, with Avatar Coins, and may also yield such benefits as increased limits for AP and HP. Cards from the browser version are here replaced by Medals, which are no longer drawn randomly in battle. Instead, each equipped Medal is presented one at a time, and the player is given the choice of attacking one enemy, attacking all enemies (dealing less damage), or using the special attack granted by the Medal (provided the Keyblade's special attack gauges are sufficiently filled). Medals can be combined with matching Medals to improve their special attacks.
Kingdom Hearts χ is set in the distant past, prior to the other games in the series. The game begins before the legendary Keyblade War, a conflict sparked due to disputes between Keyblade wielders over the light that created the world, triggering a calamity that reshaped the world into that seen in the rest of the Kingdom Hearts series. Prior to the war, a Keyblade Master known only as the Master of Masters bestows a Book of Prophecies to five of his six apprentices, the Foretellers, before disappearing. The book has the ability to predict and even manifest objects and people from the future, from which the five Foretellers learn of a prophecy foretelling the world's destruction. In order to prevent this, the Foretellers use their books to manifest future worlds and defeat the Heartless infesting them in order to gather and hoard pieces of light, called Lux. Each Foreteller creates and leads their own "Union" themed around their individual animal icon: Unicornis, governed by Master Ira; Anguis, governed by Master Invi; Leopardos, governed by Master Gula; Vulpeus, governed by Master Ava; and Ursus, governed by Master Aced. The player character, a newly awakened Keyblade wielder, chooses to support one of the Unions and works to ensure the chosen faction's supremacy.
Kingdom Hearts Unchained χ takes place after the events of Kingdom Hearts χ in an alternate world, with the player reliving the past to forget the events of the Keyblade War. Due to the Book of Prophecies' loss of power without the Master or Foretellers present, the Keyblade wielders instead visit simulated datascapes based on the various Disney worlds. Unchained χ initially repeats the story of the original, but diverges partway through the narrative. New stories feature the player forming a new team with four other Keyblade wielders, who become friends. Other major story events that do not involve the player are delivered via game updates, serving to expand on the story of Kingdom Hearts χ and continue the narrative after the events of the Keyblade War.
Kingdom Hearts χ story
A newly awakened Keyblade wielder, controlled by the player, is given a choice of joining one of five "Unions". Once the player chooses, they are brought to Daybreak Town and assaulted by an army of Heartless coming through a portal. Before the player is overwhelmed, however, their Union's Foreteller arrives and drives the Heartless back through their portal. A Dream Eater named Chirithy, which had been accompanying the Foreteller, is tasked with aiding the player in his training and explains their destiny. The player must use their Keyblade to collect Lux and stop the Heartless from conquering every world and spreading darkness. The player then visits illusions of future Disney worlds under Chirithy's direction, where they interact with the locals and help defeat the hordes of Heartless. As they continue, Chirithy explains that the Foretellers had discovered a prophecy within the Book of Prophecies of a great battle in which the light would be defeated and the world would be consumed by darkness. To save the future, the Foretellers began to use the book's powers to project the future into their era, growing more powerful to save the light from final defeat. Chirithy also converses with their Union's Foreteller and another Chirithy regarding concerning events.
In Daybreak Town, the player befriends Ephemer, another Keyblade wielder from a rival Union. He wishes to explore the mysterious tower in the center of town where the Foretellers reside. The player agrees to help, but Ephemer mysteriously disappears shortly thereafter. Later, the player meets another wielder from Ephemer's Union named Skuld, who is investigating his disappearance. The two also witness the Foretellers fighting one another, believing there to be a traitor among them, and encounter Keyblade wielders who have been corrupted into Heartless as well as the other Chirithy, who has been turned into a Nightmare. Investigating the Foretellers' tower, the three are caught by Ava, who challenges them to a duel. Upon defeat, Ava reveals that she has been recruiting new members to the Dandelions, a group of elite Keyblade wielders strong enough to resist the darkness, who will be sent to another world in order to avoid being caught in the impending war and to help rebuild the world in its aftermath. She explains that Ephemer was one of those chosen, and offers the same to Skuld and the player; Skuld accepts, but the player is uncertain. As time passes, other wielders accuse one another of stealing Lux, and the Foretellers begin rallying more wielders to their Unions to bolster their forces for the coming war.
Seeking a solution, the player, Skuld and Chirithy seek out Gula, who believes the only one who could stop this is the Master of Masters, who had disappeared along with the sixth apprentice, Luxu. Ava tracks down Luxu, who claims he wants to see the end of the impending Keyblade War after discovering what is written on the "Lost Page" of the Book of Prophecies. When Luxu reveals the identity of the traitor and that everything has been part of the Master's plan, Ava attacks Luxu in a duel, ringing the clock bell and starting the war. Skuld returns to the Dandelions and the player encounters Nightmare Chirithy, who claims responsibility for turning wielders to Heartless and attacks the player before being defeated and dissolving into darkness. A few days later, the Keyblade War begins and the player battles as long as they can before collapsing in exhaustion. The war ends with numerous Keyblades planted in the ground, forming the Keyblade Graveyard, and the player sees Chirithy, Skuld, and Ephemer approach them before losing consciousness.
Sometime later, Chirithy awakens the player in Enchanted Dominion, lying to the player that the events of the Keyblade War were all a dream. Behind a wall of thorns, Maleficent congratulates herself on traveling back to this past version of her world, confident that Sora and his friends cannot follow, and makes plans to conquer it.
Kingdom Hearts Unchained χ / Union χ story
A flashback set before the Keyblade War depicts the Master of Masters giving Ava a list of five Keyblade wielders who are to become the new Union leaders. He instructs her to give each of them a special rulebook to follow, along with a Book of Prophecies for one specific person. In another flashback, one of the new leaders chosen, Strelitzia, secretly follows the player throughout their journey, being fascinated with them. As the war starts and she realizes the player is not a Dandelion, she tries to find them and convince them to join, but she is ambushed and killed by an unknown figure, who steals her rulebook to pass themselves off as one of the chosen five.
After the end of the Keyblade War, the Dandelions reside in an alternate Daybreak Town, with all but the Union leaders made to forget what had happened. Ephemer meets up with Skuld in the Keyblade Graveyard, revealing that they are two of the new Union leaders selected by Ava. They are met by three others: Ventus, Brain, and Lauriam. The five return to the Foretellers' tower, where they agree to keep the world's destruction secret and form a new united Union, Union Cross, to prevent the past from repeating. While speaking with Ephemer and Skuld, Chirithy reveals that the player has been having nightmares, with their memories of the Keyblade War beginning to resurface. Ephemer warns that a stronger source of darkness is coming and plans to strengthen Union Cross to stop it. Meanwhile, Maleficent is frustrated by her inability to undo her own defeat, but an unknown figure explains that the world is only a data simulation. Refusing to let her stay due to the damage her knowledge of the future could cause, the figure teaches her how to move forwards through time.
Lauriam begins searching for clues to his little sister Strelitzia's disappearance, aided by her fellow party member Elrena, who encounters a ghostly image of Strelitzia. Brain, having read the Book of Prophecies, believes the new world is on a path to ruin and becomes determined to change their destiny.
Kingdom Hearts χ was co-directed by Tetsuya Nomura, one of the series' creators, and Tatsuya Kando, who had previous directed Nintendo DS game The World Ends with You. The game's music was composed by Yoko Shimomura, a regular contributor to the series' music. The game was co-developed by Square Enix and Japanese studio Success Corporation. Square Enix originally handled the planning and design itself, but due to their developers' inexperience with creating browser games, development was transferred to the Success Corporation, who were familiar with the process. Despite multiplayer elements being included, the game was "fundamentally single-player", as with most other entries in the series. Chirithy, the player characters' companion, was designed around the concept of a supportive yet unobtrusive guide. Nomura based the character's design on the Scottish Fold domestic cat.
Due to difficulties that arose adapting the core Kingdom Hearts experience into a browser game, the presentation was designed in a fairy tale-style instead of the locations encountered previously by series protagonists Sora and Riku. And because the game was to be played with a mouse instead of a game controller, the gameplay focus became simple controls and "flashy" battles. In an interview, Nomura stated that the work on developing Kingdom Hearts χ was paused for a time so developers could work on Kingdom Hearts III. He also stated that at the time they were exploring ways to allow more fans of the series to experience the game. The stories of Kingdom Hearts χ and Kingdom Hearts III were both written at the same time, and thus share a strong connection. Despite this strong link, it was described by Tetsuya Nomura as a title where story was not the focus, and that its content was completely separate from the main series, making it accessible for newcomers. The game's title refers to the χ-blade (chi-blade), the original Keyblade and a weapon central to the Kingdom Hearts storyline.
The creation of a mobile version of the game was decided upon while the browser version was still being developed. Nomura initially planned to release both titles simultaneously, with each being updated individually. However, as development went on, the team's efforts became focused on finishing Kingdom Hearts χ, and development on Unchained was halted. The original plan was to make the game a simpler version of its browser counterpart, but with the increasing specs of mobile devices, the workload increased, contributing to the halt to development. As mobile devices employ a different control set-up to web browsers, Unchained could not work simply as a port of Kingdom Hearts χ. Its title "Unchained" signified the gameplay and story of Kingdom Hearts χ being released into a mobile format. One of the changes instituted during the games mobile remake was to make the gameplay more "casual" than Kingdom Hearts χ, with battles being shorter and potentially easier.
In March 2017, ahead of the first anniversary of the North American launch of Unchained χ, Square Enix announced that the mobile game would be rebranded as Kingdom Hearts Union χ[Cross] in April 2017. The relaunch of the title would include a new Union Cross multiplayer mode, allowing parties of up to six players to take on the Heartless together through the game's matchmaking feature as they communicate with each other through emotes and text options, and a theater mode to rewatch unlocked cutscenes and animations. In September 2018, a series of special "Classic Kingdom" minigames was added to Union χ; by completing certain objectives in these minigames, players were able to unlock a special "Starlight" Keyblade for use in Kingdom Hearts III.
The game was first announced at the Tokyo Game Show on September 20, 2012 alongside Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix under the tentative title Kingdom Hearts for PC Browsers. Its official title was announced in February the following year. To promote the game, codes for special items and in-game currency were included with first-print copies of Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix. A closed beta for the title began on March 22, 2013, with Beta recruitment beginning on March 13. The test was available for users who had a Yahoo Japan ID, and included in-game items and currency as a starting gift. An open beta test began on July 9, 2013, and the game's official service began on July 18 of the same year. Since the original release, the game received constant updates to its story missions, providing additional content to players. In April 2016, Square Enix announced that the browser game would be discontinued in September 2016.
Disney Interactive was forced to delay a western localization of the game when the game's publisher Playdom, a social game network owned by Disney, was shut down. Despite this, planning continued for a western release with playtesting taking place to improve upon the game before launch. The western localization was revealed to the public with the title Kingdom Hearts Unchained X at the 2015 Electronic Entertainment Expo. Unchained χ was released in Japan on September 3, 2015, in North America on April 7, 2016, and in Europe on June 16, 2016.
In September 2015, Square Enix announced a new game entitled Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue. The collection features Kingdom Hearts χ Back Cover, a 60-minute cinematic film that focuses on the Foretellers, elaborating on their actions during the events of the game and their attempts to determine who is the traitor among them. It was released in January 2017.
By September 2013, 200,000 users were announced to have enrolled for the game. During the 2013 WebMoney Awards, Kingdom Hearts χ was among the games voted into the "Best Rookie of the Year Good Games" category, with most voters praising the game for being accessible to series newcomers, and fun to play. Richard Eisenbeis of Kotaku was generally positive, saying that despite it being similar to other Japanese browser games and using a micro-transaction system, it was "an enjoyable little time waster."
Unchained was also well received, with Metacritic giving the game a score of 70 out of 100 based on 5 reviews. AV Club praised the game for being a true Kingdom Hearts title despite its free to play format. TouchArcade gave the game three out of five stars, praising the music and graphics while calling the gameplay shallow with an overcomplicated user interface. Gamezebo called the title "better than expected", citing the game's fun but simple combat and extensive character customization but critiquing the game's dialogue for being cheesy and the story for being weaker than the console Kingdom Hearts titles. In the month after it was released, the mobile version was downloaded over two million times.
- キングダム ハーツ キー Kingudamu Hātsu Kī
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