Kingdom Hearts is a long-running video game franchise which has been lauded for its innovation in the realm of gaming. One such example was the inclusion of cutscenes that allowed players to control each character during gameplay, instead of being restricted by just watching prerecorded scenes. The Kingdom Hearts 20th Anniversary Cafe opened up on November 28, 2018 and despite all marketing efforts it became anything but a successful venture; from complaints about food quality to outrageous server fees and an unreliable WiFi connection, there were several reasons why this location did not succeed as intended.
The Kingdom Hearts 20th Anniversary Cafe was a hot mess, even as a longtime fan. The cafe had an hour-long wait for the first day and many people were left disappointed by not being able to get in.
Every Kingdom Hearts fan may recall their first encounter with the franchise. Mine was reading a rumor in Electronic Gaming Monthly, a now-digital magazine devoted to video games, regarding a probable Disney-Squaresoft partnership project. I was delighted since I adored Final Fantasy and had a passing interest in Disney movies like Robin Hood and The Sword and the Stone, so this was my first introduction to crossover items. My family, on the other hand, didn’t have a lot of money and believed video games were a waste of time. As a result, I was instructed to mow lawns in order to get a PlayStation 2, which I did. Since then, I’ve been a fan.
I wasn’t sure whether the cafe aspect of Square Enix’s Kingdom Hearts 20th Anniversary celebration, which included products and a themed café, would work out well. After all, the café was only supposed to be open for a month, and cafés with a definite closing date are more likely to provide subpar food. But this is Square Enix, after all, and the Final Fantasy XIV “Eorzea Café” serves up some tasty meals and beverages. Isn’t this one going to work out?
If you’ve lived in Japan for a while and are also a gigantic geek, you’ll notice when themed cafés are worth visiting and when they aren’t. For those who don’t know, “themed cafés” are cafes that are designed after a product or series – Resident Evil, Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest, and Gundam are just a few examples of franchises that have their own cafe. Except for the aforementioned Final Fantasy XIV café, which has proven to be popular and lucrative enough to be around for many years, these “pop-up” cafés do not endure long and vanish after a few months.
Pop-up cafés are largely used to promote item sales, and anniversary memorabilia is particularly popular among collectors. Before we get to the café menu, I’m happy to report that the collectible merchandise is really rather nice. The Keyblade Silicone Ice Tray, the Character Omnibus, and this killer sweatshirt with Kingdom Hearts 1 imagery that I will probably never wear out of fear of destroying it were my particular favorites. The product was so popular that several things were out of stock or completely sold out – farewell, 20th Anniversary Coffee Mug, you were something I truly wanted.
The café itself had a light vibe, with expensive artwork and autographed photos adorning the walls and b-roll of Kingdom Hearts game footage playing on a few monitors. The café was filled with music, including a mishmash of combat and overworld music. We didn’t stick to one game and played everything from Deep Jungle’s overworld theme to Rowdy Rumble. The decorations were fun to look at, but there were so few that what you see in the images is pretty much all there was. The KH café appeared sterile in comparison to the Eorzea café, which features Moogle sculptures, imitation weaponry, and enough of FFXIV chotchkies to gaze at.
Unfortunately, the meal provided was terrible. Each lunch cost about $12, however the amounts were not only modest, but the food was also boring. The Mickey Burger was a disaster, and not in a nice manner – the relish topping was blander than broccoli soup. By the way, the Goofy Broccoli soup was literally the greatest part of this dinner. If it weren’t for the whipped cream in the centre, the Donald gelatin would have been practically tasteless.
I assumed the soup would be superior, but it wasn’t. Although shirataki noodles are usually simple to include into any soup, mine were undercooked. Even pepper, much alone any other flavor, was missing from the soup stock. The finest tasting item on this meal was the bread, which was cutely embossed with a drawing of Sora sharing a paopu fruit with Kairi. When I say these dishes caused me food sickness, I’m not kidding. After my second strikeout, I made the (smart) decision to move on to the beverages.
The beverages on sale were pleasantly wonderful — not everything on the website was accessible since the café’s month-long existence was divided into two halves, each with its own set of offers. Because I arrived early, my drink selections were restricted. The Nobody Soda was a lovely combination of apple cider and blueberries, while the Twilight Town drink was a refreshing orange and mint mixture. The Destiny Smoothie had a touch too much crushed ice, but the watermelon and pineapple combination was delicious. The King’s Castle, a beautiful combination of blueberry and lassi that was certainly the finest of the four, rounded up the meal.
After paying the bill and staying a little longer to see some more b-roll — they were playing the Hydra battle from KH2, and I had to stop myself from yelling “GET UP ON THE HYDRA’S BAAAAACK!” — I had to think about what it meant to be a fan of anything. Commitment to a series that has had a significant impact on people’s lives does not always imply loyalty to everything associated with it. I had the opportunity to live out many people’s dreams, yet I couldn’t help but feel that I had squandered my time. Did it make me a less ardent supporter?
This experience only confirmed what I already knew in my heart but chose to ignore because of my love for Kingdom Hearts: III: Kingdom Hearts II: Kingdom Hearts III: Kingdom Hearts III: Kingdom Hearts III: Kingdom Hearts III: Kingdom Hearts III: Kingdom Hearts III: Kingdom Hearts III: Kingdom Hearts III: Kingdom Hearts III: Kingdom They’re fun novelty items, but they seldom stand up to the price. The excellent cocktails couldn’t compensate for the KH café’s lack of ambience and mediocre cuisine. Sure, the gear is nice (I’ll always adore and treasure my sweatshirt and ice cube trays), but goods is generally available after the event. To get here, I took a three-hour train ride that I didn’t think was worth it. I can’t image a mega-fan visiting from the United Kingdom or the United States witnessing this and coming away satisfied without some severe mental gymnastics. Being a fan sometimes entails recognizing when something you like has let you down.
Kingdom Hearts is a long-running series of games. The 20th Anniversary Cafe was a hot mess, even as a longtime fan. Reference: kingdom hearts games in order.
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