Last weekend, Central Hall Westminster in London was graced by the long-awaited Kingdom Hearts Orchestra World Tour.
The first Kingdom Hearts game was released on the Playstation 2 in 2002 and has since sold over 25 million copies and released over 8 games. Developed jointly by Square Enix and Disney, one of its key selling points (in my view) is that the cast is partly a mixture of Final Fantasy and Disney characters. Whoever came up with the concept of Final Fantasy meets Disney is a genius – it’s a formula that works better than some might think.
The Kingdom Hearts World Orchestra Tour is the first of its kind and is being held in honour of the series’ 15th anniversary. It launched in Tokyo earlier this March and has since been to Paris and London, and now it’s on to Singapore, Shanghai, Los Angeles and New York. Needless to say, the Kingdom Hearts series has a beautiful soundtrack, hence why thousands of fans were so excited to hear about it.
I feel the need to clarify, for the sake of this blog post, that I am not a hardcore Kingdom Hearts fan. My memory of the first two games dates back to when I was a teenager watching my younger sister, Grace, playing them. There have since been several spin-off games (confusingly released on different gaming platforms, so my sister and I presume a number of other fans didn’t get around to playing them). I bought the tickets to the London show largely because I figured it would be a nostalgic Christmas present for Grace. Of course, I appreciate the music myself and have previously been to the Final Fantasy orchestra tours and love the format of these ‘video game orchestras’.
For the uninitiated, the main draw of these ‘video game orchestras’ is that you get to hear the music from your favourite games in an impressive venue, with a large screen behind the orchestra playing clips from the game to add to the nostalgia. Depending on your view, the footage on the screen can either be a distraction from the magic or add to it!
The main highlight of the night for me was, of course, the music. Even though I didn’t recognise a lot of the songs as they were from spin-off games I never played, the classics were all there and I discovered some beautiful new ones too. The full song line-up is at the bottom of this blog post.
There were, however, a few drawbacks on the night for me. The price of the merchandise was mad in my opinion and I say that as someone who has bought her fair share of programmes and memorabilia from the Final Fantasy orchestra events. But £35 for a glossy programme was too much even for me. Also, on the night most of the merchandise had already sold out by the time of the interval on Saturday and it was cash only.
The other potential issue for some may be the screen playing footage above the orchestra. Fair enough, I realise the games have been out for years, but there were a lot of major spoilers from some of the games. Perhaps someone could have been a bit more selective with the footage for the sake of someone who had only played Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II!
Without going into too much detail, I also had a very bad experience with La Fee Sauvage, who dealt with the pre-sale tickets. In a nutshell, they messed up my ticket order and were incredibly slow to respond (I half-suspect the entire operation is a single person operating in an office in France). I know I wasn’t the only one who had issues but fortunately everything was alright on the night.
Overall, however, we had a fantastic night. Never underestimate the power of a Square Enix soundtrack to drown you in nostalgia and the presence of Yoko Shimomura, the series’ composer, to get the fans applauding.
Coincidentally, we were sat next to a girl from Tokyo who had come to London for just three days specifically to see the orchestra! Why? It had sold out in Japan! That’s dedication for you.
There are many Japanese video game series with beautiful soundtracks that deserve the privilege of a world orchestra tour. It’s certainly fitting for Kingdom Hearts to get one on its 15th anniversary. Personally, I would be over the moon if an Ace Attorney orchestra world tour was announced!
If you want to discover the Kingdom Hearts series or catch up on the games you haven’t played, the confusingly-named Kingdom Hearts 1.5 and 2.5 Remixes (which consists of the main and some of the spin-off games) are available now for the Playstation 4!
For those interested, the full orchestral line-up was:
Dearly Beloved (Kingdom Hearts II version)
Twinkle Twinkle Holidays
The World of Kingdom Hearts (medley)
Fate of the Unknown
Threats of the Land (battle medley)
Heroes and Heroines (character medley)
Vector to the Heavens
The Other Promise
Let Darkness Assemble (final boss battle)
Fantasia Alla Marcia