Hey everyone, it’s time for another cliché! However, I wasn’t sure which one I wanted to pick this time. Like I said before, there are so many different ones to choose from in this series. However, I realized that this was the first time I was covering a JRPG series on this blog. For the record, I am ignoring Pokémon in this instance because it doesn’t count as a JRPG in my eyes. It has no interesting battle mechanics, no heavy emphasis on story, and you don’t end up winning through the power of friendship. Sure, you can say that your little monsters love you just because you captured them in a portable capsule, but you are only fooling yourself. However, this series screams the power of friendship since that is the main motivation for our main character’s every action. Sora spends each game embarking on some sort of journey so that he can save his friends. Especially in the first two games where all he wanted was to be reunited with everyone on Destiny Islands. He just basically wanders around through different worlds making friends wherever he goes and connects the hearts of others in the process. For those of you who are not aware, this is very typical of such protagonists in JRPGs, hence why I consider it to be a cliché. However, I do not consider this to be a bad thing. In fact, I find it to be a staple of the genre. Although, that does not mean that they all play out in the same way. The most typical way is that when all hope is lost the main character suddenly receives some power out of nowhere when all hope is lost due to their friends believing in them. This series is no stranger to that idea. However, they do take the idea in interesting directions and the reason they can is due to their focus on hearts.
You see, the series is entirely based around how hearts can connect to each other. So it naturally gives the whole friendship thing a bit more weight to it. Strong bonds lead to characters overcoming great challenges because they know they are not alone. Typically in the series, that is how many of the characters recovered from the darkness. For instance, in the first game when Sora becomes a heartless after setting Kairi’s heart free, he uses Kairi’s light of friendship as a guide to return to his original self. In the second game (or third if you want to be picky about it), after Sora and Riku get trapped in the realm of darkness, the light of their friends guides them back to the destiny islands. The entire game is built on its connections to people, so it makes sense that these connections would be capable of bringing people closer together. Does that excuse the cliché from happening. Nope. Absolutely not. However, if you know you are going to just ending up resorting to that cliché anyway, then it is probably for the best that you just go all out with it from the start.
One more thing I have to say about this before I sign off for today. I want it to be understood that the only reason this works in the Kingdom Hearts series is because the series is meant to be taken that seriously in addition to having a JRPG background. Framing the game around the power of friendship is only possible because of the characters and storyline they want to work with here. That does not mean it will work it other settings. For instance, there are some games where characters get through tough situations while being all buddy-buddy the whole way through and then expect us to take this all seriously when the only trait these characters seem to have is that they are like family. They expect that just because we are with a group of characters that are near each other for a considerable portion of the game, that we are just supposed to support them with everything they have despite them being not well characterized. The only reasons it works in JRPGs is because they spend a lot of time with each character (whether you wan to or not) and because they do things in such an over-the-top fashion that you can’t take them seriously. The cliché is definitely overused in JRPGs and games with a similar feel, but it still works. So, I just ask to all of the games industry people who totally read this random guy’s blog to not have friendship be a key part of the story if you are not going to use it properly. Just a suggestion, you know, if you’re out there. Alright people, see you next week for the conclusion to this crazy month.