Even today the concept of merging Final Fantasy and Disney characters sounds bizarre and a tad goofy--no pun intended. When Kingdom Hearts was first announced for the Playstation 2 I expected it to end up in the dustbin of history and was half certain we would end up talking about it years later as one of the dumbest game ideas ever...
But surprisingly,the whole thing works, in fact, it was fantastic.
In that weird and wonderful way many of the Magic Kingdom's projects seem to go, the fusion of Disney characters and Final Fantasy ones not only works but seems a natural fit. Truthfully, I never expected to like this series as much as I did, much less fall in love with it. Yet here I am, wanting to spend a little time praising the music from the sequel, Kingdom Hearts 2.
"Passion" or "Sanctuary" as we call it here in the states, by Hikaru Utada brings a synthesizer J-Pop feel to the soundtrack giving the game an oddly ethereal sounding theme song. Funny enough, just like the odd fusion of the of Disney and Square works, so does this infusion of Japanese pop music. There a dozens of surprisingly satisfying little touches throughout the song, here are a few that I enjoy in particular.
Set to cut scenes, the music starts the game, and I love that about it. Making use of reversed audio, the background beat of the song mixed with electric guitar riffs and synthesizer padding helps the music set an adventurous tone for the game. It doesn't do it using orchestral music or something that feels vaguely reminiscent of the "Raiders of the Lost Ark" theme, but in a way that still fresh to this day. Another key moment in the song that always gets me is the bridge mid-way through. I like the driving beat you get during the sequence where Sora, Donald, and Goofy run up the spiral staircase from Chain of Memories flashback. It not only serves the cut scene well, but it keeps the tune from growing stale. The swooning vocals never feel overdone nor do they painfully remind me of many tunes that try, even to this day, to find ways to imitate Celine Dion's vocals from the infamous "My Heart Will Go On," song.
To this day "Passion/Sanctuary" remains one of my favorite video game songs. I love hearing not only the video game version of this, but the original Japanese version as well. Instrumental versions of this song have played a key role during my marathon story writing sessions, and in general it transports me back to where I was in life when Kingdom Hearts came out nearly a decade ago. I've included links to both the intro video and the Japanese language version of this song. I know that some have called this song a "phony music track" that has "tricked" you into thinking it's good. I to heck with that. For me it has always been a great single and always will be. I will likely go on about some of the other music at another time, but for now, here are the tracks:
"Japanese Language (and video) Version"