Just as the Kingdom Hearts RPG is a collaboration between Squaresoft and Disney, so is the soundtrack – well, for the most part, anyway. Most of the soundtrack is original material written by Yoko Shimomura, known for her Parasite Eve, Front Mission and Legend of Mana soundtracks. It didn’t surprise me too much when I found out she was the composer for Kingdom Hearts; she had also worked on Square and Nintendo’s only RPG collaboration, Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars. There’s still quite a few familiar Disney tracks sprinkled here and there, reworked to fit the album yet still pretty true to the original and very easily recognizable.
If you’re expecting more lighthearted, cheesy, and/or fruity Disney-like musical tunes to be represented here as well, don’t. Just like the game, you have to expect more than just Disney style although there’s a fair share of new material that’s still lighthearted in a Disney way. The soundtrack is two CDs long (75 tracks), with four versions of the theme song, “Hikari”: the vocal sung by Hikaru Utada which is pretty upbeat and almost has a Western feel, the techno remix of the vocal which may take some getting used to (it seems out of place on this album), and its orchestral instrumental version. Along with that is yet another instrumental, which is quite beautifully done and I can’t stop listening to both of them.
The first Disney song that you’ll recognize is “Mickey Mouse Club March” – I’m almost ashamed to admit I was tempted to sing along when I heard it. “Winnie the Pooh,” “Captain Hook’s Pirate Ship,” and “Under the Sea” (I miss the vocals, though) also show up in the album, among others, and some non-Disney, yet still light songs, such as “Destiny Islands.” And of course, there are the tracks with a slightly darker feel, “Destiny’s Force” (which almost sounds like it might be a battle theme), “An Intense Situation,” and “Fragments of Sorrow” – the last one has some background vocals and comes off as pretty cinematic. In fact, the last few tracks seem generally more cinematic than the rest of the album. A song in particular that I like is “Kairi,” and there are three variations of this song, simply titled Kairi I, II and III, which are fairly short and simple, but sound almost sad. And finally, near the end, there’s a sad but beautiful song called “Always On My Mind,” which ends as just a music box playing, much like “Kairi III.”
Although Legend of Mana‘s soundtrack had more charm to it than this one, and much of the album can be slow, Kingdom Hearts still has a great soundtrack, its own charm, and is one of Shimomura’ s best works. I doubt many of you can say that you hate Disney music enough to justify not buying this album since there’s only so many actual Disney tracks here. The tracks range from the lighthearted tunes to more serious, so there’s something for everyone in this one.