2 out of 5
Whenever I close the cover on a Boss Fights Books entry and don’t quite know how I feel about it – which is, unfortunately, quite often, for what I feel is an intriguing but somewhat flawed enterprise – I’ll generally look to the back cover blurb for some type of mission statement, along with the author’s introduction, if there is one. The hope is that this will distill what the intentions of the text were, and then I can more directly ask myself if, given that goal, it was achieved.
The back cover blurb for Alexa Ray Correia’s Kingdom Hearts II is rather roundabout, but it does suggest that this volume won’t be a game history or technological deep-dive, rather a study of its narrative. This syncs up with Correia’s prelude, proposing that we’re going to be reading a consideration of ‘what it means to be good;’ reading between those: how do a game’s heroes and villains stack up to real life’s black and whites?
That’s not an uninteresting standpoint for analyzing most games, and for an RPG set between the light-hearted worlds of Disney and the high-drama of Final Fantasy, one that offers a fair amount of possibility.
In a secondary prologue to the book, Correia confesses that she can talk up a storm about Kingdom Hearts, and has done so to many, sending them away with bored or perplexed looks. This is a fun confession (I love when the authors of these things wholly embrace their gamerdom), and also kinda sorta promises that that’s not what we’re gonna get here – that we’re going to be focused this time, I promise!
And I think that that promise could have been fulfilled at shorter length, as well as the good and evil study, which doesn’t, ultimately, offer as much depth as it could’ve, beyond, like, acknowledging that we’re all a little of both. This is sort of the flaw of this (the BFB) franchise: requiring writers to expand on things that maybe can’t be expanded upon to full length books. Kingdom Hearts II gets off to a good start of laying out the admittedly silly mythology of the games in a self-aware fashion, to which Correia responds by reading in to the possibilities of that silliness (and some of its vagueness), but then she essentially does what she’d warned us she’d done previously: starts detailing, at length, the loop-de-loop plot that follows. And more problematically, this involves rewinding frequently to KH I, and fast-forwarding just as frequently to its sequels, such that I can’t say that book really is focused on KH II, except that that’s Correia’s favorite of the series. This is also something that happens in a lot of these Boss Fight entries, again supporting that not every singular game can fill up 100+ pages of text.
While this entry is well written and well organized, I’m not sure who it ends up being for: those who’ve played the game and will likely nod along with the suggestions of how some of the plotting vignettes reflect real-life relationships with friends and family shouldn’t need this exhaustive review of the story, and those who haven’t played the game – me – will likely lose interest in the severalth go-around of so-and-so fights so-and-so. There are a couple of chapters that try to expand on the concept, looking at female representation and the prevalent bromance (both in the KH series, and not specific to KH II…), but these are very lightly broached, and feel more like attempts at hitting a page count. The end result is a book that has something to say, but that something is relatively straight-forward, and then gets buffed out with a lot of extraneous text that weighs down its impact, and allows a non-Kingdom Hearts’ player’s attentions to wane.