Cooper Newton

Faculty Advisor

Kristin Bovaird-Abbo

Document Type


Publication Date



The video game Kingdom Hearts (2002) is a crossover between characters from the American-created Disney cartoon films and shorts and characters from the Japanese-created Final Fantasy video games. The story follows a young boy named Sora as he travels through worlds based on various Disney films with Donald Duck and Goofy to fight off creatures of darkness known as the Heartless to protect these worlds from destruction. The context surrounding the game’s development is particularly interesting, considering the game’s strange beginnings. The game was inspired by the success of Nintendo’s 1996 game Super Mario 64, which used 3D spaces and the ability to explore the environment. A chance meeting with Disney employees led to video game developer Squaresoft (later known as Square Enix) to pitch a game inspired by Super Mario 64 with characters from Disney’s films, who the developers felt were as iconic as Mario. This pitch led to the creation of a beloved series. I am investigating what trends in Japanese and American media around 2002 may have influenced Kingdom Hearts’ story to see if these trends may explain the story elements that occur in the game and the choices involved in the gameplay. These trends include Japanese media’s focus on apocalyptic stories and American media’s push back on video games for being “too violent.”


This presentation is a finalist for the Undergraduate Humanities, Arts & Creative Endeavors Research Excellence Award.