Kingdom Hearts 3's Selfie Camera Encourages Sora to Embrace His Disney Tourism

Kingdom Hearts 3's Selfie Camera Encourages Sora to Embrace His Disney Tourism

Our favorite Disney tourist finally gets the tool he so desperately needed: a camera with a selfie option.

FOMO is the feeling you get when you see that something more exciting and cool is happening, and you're not involved at all. You could feel FOMO for a friend's party that you were inexplicably not invited to, or you could get FOMO from seeing someone's Instagram post about being on vacation, sharing all the thrilling things they are doing and places they are visiting. Playing Kingdom Hearts, really any game in the series, often gives me some serious FOMO. FOMO for worlds I'll never see with my own eyes.

It makes sense, as heroes Sora, Donald, and Goofy are doomed to be perennial tourists; exploring worlds far away from their own in pursuit of vanishing evil. In the first Kingdom Hearts, Donald warns Sora to never meddle in the lives of people across these Disney and not-Disney worlds. Yet they actually meddle a lot; that's pretty much all they do. Sora's like a Witcher and can't turn down any request for help that's flung his way; it's in his nature to help out whoever, but he never does it with a grimace or demand of payment like Geralt of Rivia. He does it with a big ol' smile.

I love my city! | Caty McCarthy/USG, Square Enix

It's a charming attitude to carry, especially now in 2019 when virtually every video game hero trades either in snark and witticisms or dour manliness. Sora is just a positive, sweet guy, and in Kingdom Hearts 3, he's able to show off his comedic chops too. Sora's at the center of it all, with a bright personality that can bring a smile to anyone's face.

Across Kingdom Hearts, Sora, Donald, and Goofy explore the universe. Upon each world, they find themselves making new friends and enemies, sometimes even wearing new clothes to fit in better. (As if a spiky-haired kid with Final Fantasy roots fighting alongside Donald and Goofy of Disney fame wasn't odd enough.) In Kingdom Hearts 3, Sora gets a key new gadget: a Gummi Phone. It's basically a smartphone featuring Jiminy Cricket's diary (a series staple), glossaries on characters, and most importantly a camera.

Sora mostly uses this camera to snap pictures of the Mickey head-shaped emblems he finds everywhere (finding a certain amount will unlock Kingdom Hearts 3's secret movie, but how many you need to find depends on what difficulty you're on). It's similar to the hidden Mickeys you try to spot at Disneyland while on rides, but now it's in a Kingdom Hearts game. I utilized the trusty camera in another way though.

I snapped photos for Sora with the same idea that motivates most people when they're on vacation: I snapped pictures of beautiful scenery, and better yet, selfies of Sora in that scenery.

While Arendelle does get a little boring compared to most worlds, it sure is pretty sometimes. | Caty McCarthy/USG, Square Enix

In Kingdom Hearts, Sora's primary motivation is friendship. Whether it's his childhood friends Riku and Kairi, his adventuring comrades Donald and Goofy, or the random Disney characters he meets along the way, Sora cares deeply about the people he hangs out with. In obsessing over his in-game camera, I imagine he's adopted the same mentality that I do when I'm hanging out with friends or am on vacation: I snap photos of moments I want to remember and of scenery I don't want to ever slip my mind.

Skimming through my Gummi Phone in Kingdom Hearts 3, Sora's photos reflect basically me on vacation. There's a lot of photos of perfectly timed sunsets or beautiful trees. Sometimes Goofy or Donald slide in and do a funny pose. But most of the time, I just have Sora turn the camera around, grinning wide and saying "cheese!" as his pearly whites reflect into the lens. My dude is a selfie king, bragging about his life across the questionable internet connection of his Gummi Phone, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Of anyone in Kingdom Hearts 3, Sora's the one that experiences the most FOMO, like me on a Friday night watching Dynasty on The CW while I scroll through Instagram and see my friends at bars across town. At the start of it, Sora's jealous of King Mickey and Riku, who are certified Keyblade Masters, wear matching outfits like the buddies they are, and venture into dangerous territory (the Realm of Darkness) to save a friend (Aqua). Poor Sora, meanwhile, failed his exam to get that shiny title. And even though he can summon a keyblade no problem, he's left without a key ability: the power of waking. He can't be a Keyblade Master without it, so he's off on a quest on the hope that somehow, someday, he figures it out and he too can go on more dangerous adventures.

You can see Donald's feathers in the Pirates of the Caribbean world, and it messed me up. | Caty McCarthy/USG, Square Enix

That doesn't stop Sora from whining about it though. Maybe the Gummi Phone, and the 100-plus photos I've taken (and have repeatedly had to clear out the library for hitting the maximum amount), is his own way of coping. He's not saving the livelihoods of people like most of his powerful friends are; he's aimlessly drifting from world to world with only but a loose goal in mind. It's a stark change from past Kingdom Hearts games, which usually imbue a stronger sense of purpose in exploring Disney properties of yesteryears, but in Kingdom Hearts 3, Sora's journey is to find himself.

The Gummi Phone, in all likelihood, isn't soaked in that deep meaning though. It's really just Kingdom Hearts' answer to the photo mode that's in most triple-A games nowadays. While most photo modes are divorced from the game itself, usually buried in a menu of sorts, Kingdom Hearts 3's at least feels natural to its world. From the instant Sora gets his Gummi Phone and struggles to fully comprehend it, he latches onto its camera quickly. It clicks immediately for the precocious teen. And for players, we love it too—or maybe you've missed the sea of Sora selfies washing over your Twitter feeds.

For all video game heroes to get their own photo modes and selfie functionality, Sora and Peter Parker of last year's Spider-Man are the ones that have made the most sense. They're characters grounded in their relatability, even as zany shit flies around them—for Sora, it's meeting our favorite Disney characters across entire worlds while wielding a sword-key that slays shadows; for Peter, it's his struggle to survive as an adult while bearing the burden of being a superhero. Even amidst darkness, the two heroes are bubbly and endearing. We can't help but root for them.

For Kingdom Hearts 3, it's one of the most recognizable modern changes. We see hints of its current-gen finesse across it—in the seamless cutscene to gameplay transitions, in the smoother overall gameplay, in how good all the Disney characters look—but the Gummi Phone is where the modern feels the most noticeable. After all, Jiminy's journals don't need to be scribbled down on paper anymore; he can just type it in now. That extends to Sora's adventuring too: he can better preserve the memories he'll hold close to his heart, so that maybe he'll never find himself in a Chain of Memories situation ever again.

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Caty McCarthy

Senior Editor

Caty McCarthy is a former freelance writer whose work has appeared in Kill Screen, VICE, The AV Club, Kotaku, Polygon, and IGN. When she's not blathering into a podcast mic, reading a book, or playing a billion video games at once, she's probably watching Terrace House or something. She is currently USgamer's Senior Editor.

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