Kingdom Hearts
Game Info
Platform(s)
Playstation 2
Publisher
Square EA
Developer
Squaresoft
Genre
Action/RPG
Official Website
ESRB Rating
Violence
 
Grade
The Good

• Great representation of Disney films
• Fun real-time action
• More boss fights than you can shake a stick at
• Voice acting is some of the best around

The Bad

• In-game camera needs constant attention
• Gummi ship levels

 
Grade
B+

As Kingdom Hearts begins, we are introduced to the youthful Sora and his friends, Riku and Kairi, who live on a tropical isle and dream of exploration. Elsewhere in the Magical Kingdom, Donald and Goofy find out that King Mickey has left to investigate a growing evil within the various worlds under his rule. As Donald and Goofy leave to find Mickey, Sora's isle comes under attack by the evil minions, known as the Heartless. Sora finds himself chosen by the mystical keyblade and transported to the unfamiliar Traverse Town. There, he finds himself once again under attack, but also comes to find new allies not only in Donald and Goofy, but in Leon (Squall) and Yuffie, who clue him in on the bigger picture: the Heartless are taking over the many worlds in the Magical Kingdom. Sora joins Donald and Goofy in hopes of not only helping them but finding his own missing friends.

At first glance, viewer might wonder why the game doesn't sport the heavy detail of a Final Fantasy X, but upon further inspection, you'll realize that Square has done their best to recreate cartoon worlds in 3D environments. Each location is a fairly faithful reproduction and you'll be amazed by how certain levels look so close to the Disney movies they represent. And, the player can take a look around at all the minor details that really add to the environments, like the canopy of trees in the Deep Jungle level. Lighting and texture details really add a nice touch to the visuals and the slight nuances of the character animations are a great touch. The character models do their best to translate 2D animation into 3D models.

On initial play, the combat and gameplay seem fairly easy to pick up. Hitting the X button will perform attacks and the player can lock on to enemies and even scroll through the enemies. The further into the game you get, the more you learn, like magic spells and even summons. The player has access to a menu that will allow for real-time use of magic, items and special abilities. While the player uses the left analog stick to move, you can use the right stick or the D-pad to use the menu. While in the heat of battle, this may seem a bit dangerous, but it's executed so easily that it's rare for you to get hit with cheap shots while trying to heal yourself or use a special skill.

Having Goofy and Donald along at first seems like very little help, as they tend to use up their potions too much, but once you manage to manually change the frequency of their actions, they start to be of real help. Also, the further into the game you game, the more they seem to learn and the more useful they become to you. In certain areas, you have additional allies, like Tarzan and Aladdin, who can only be used in that one area. Outside of combat, it is kind of funny to watch your A.I. allies try to follow you as you perform all varieties of platforming tricks. Often, they try to follow you but without much luck. All you can do is continue on without them into the next area, where they'll magically appear by your side.

Besides combat, there is a fair bit of exploration and platforming required to navigate through the levels. Along with finding a variety of items and Gummi pieces (for the Gummi Ship), you'll also be given the responsibility of finding the missing Dalmatians and even finding colored Trinity markers, which once activated open doors or take you to hidden treasure chests.

And then there's the Gummi Ship levels, which occur when you travel between areas. Imagine an on-rails space shooter, where the player must fly through obstacles and shoot enemy crafts to earn powerups and items that can be used to make new ships or upgrade your current one. Unfortunately, though, the levels are woefully underdeveloped, look way too simple and even have noticeable pop-up. And, with all the items you pick up to make changes to the Gummi Ship, one would think making alterations would be either easy or fun. And if the interface wasn't overly complicated, I guess that might be true. After a few minutes of messing with your Gummi Ship, you'll probably never return to the Gummi Garage again. Luckily, after a certain point in the game, you can warp to worlds that you've already visited, which cuts down on the Gummi Ship levels.

The audio portion of Kingdom Hearts is superbly realized. The music is a playful range of tunes that almost feels simple compared to it's Final Fantasy brethren. But, the fact that the tunes are built not to mimic original Disney music, but to elicit a sense of nostalgia in each locale by it's familiarity. The voice acting, which features a lot of familiar Disney voices and some famous actors like Haley Joel Osment, David Boreanaz and Mandy Moore, is wonderfully executed. The lines are delivered like a true conversation rather than a string of lines pieced together and Final Fantasy fans will be pleased with how their favorite characters, like Squall, Yuffie and Cloud are realized. My only gripe would be that not all of the notable characters, like Cid (FFVII), who plays a fairly sizable part, are voiced.

Kingdom Hearts's biggest flaw has to be the in-game camera, which is never so bad that it makes the game unplayable, but you will find yourself constantly adjusting it so as to see where you're going when you turn the corner. Also, in the heat of battle, there will be times where the camera placement will lead to confusion, which can only be remedied by some serious hammering of the attack button until the enemies are dead. Also, you'll find that a lot of the levels only have a limited number of locations, and you'll find yourself returning to them often to complete the area. For the most part, this isn't a problem, but there will be more than a few times where you'll be expected to return to a location with next to no direction that you're in the wrong place or even what your goal is.

For as few times that Kingdom Hearts made me frustrated with the camera and repeat visits, the number of times I was happy with my trip through the story more than made up for it. The huge number of bosses and the nice degree of challenge provided was more than enough to keep me pushing on. In fact, if you think this is a kid's game, you'll quickly be looking at the Continue screen and often. Fans of Disney have no option but to get this - just about every major Disney character is on display. Fans of Final Fantasy also owe it to themselves to play Kingdom Hearts. It's a fine action/RPG with more than enough depth and story to keep you going.

- - Kinderfeld

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