|Buena Vista Games
|Mild Blood, Use of Alcohol, Violence
| The Good
Large areas that look great stylistically
Lots of combat options
Tons of boss fights
Overall presentation is top notch
| The Bad
Less story and more action would have been nice
Prologue is enough to drive anyone away
When the first Kingdom Hearts
was announced I was a bit concerned on how the story would
work out, but after playing it, I found that Square-Enix (then Squaresoft) found
a way to merge Disney with Final Fantasy in a story that didn't
depend on either. With the sequel, things pick up some time
later as Sora, Donald and Goofy are still on the trail of
Mickey and Riku. After a three hour prologue that introduces
Roxas and covers some of the events from the first game, players
are drawn into a story where the Heartless remain and new
enemies, the Nobodies and Organization XIII, show up everywhere.
Yes, you read that correctly: the game opens with a three
plus hour long prologue that slowly introduces gameplay elements
in between sizable story segments. Finally, when you are turned
loose in the game, players are given multiple worlds to visit
and even more to unlock as you complete the goals in each
world. To access these worlds, though, players have to fly
the Gummi Ship through space shooter like levels which are
vastly improved over the previous game.
Once in the level, you'll find Sora controls with the Left
Analog stick while the Right stick controls the camera. The
D-Pad flips through the menu in real time. Through the Start
menu, you can set up the Shortcut menu, which can be used
with L1 and any of the four face buttons to quickly use items
or cast magic. The R1 button is used to lock onto targets.
The X Button performs attacks, while the Circle Button jumps
and the Square Button performs certain actions that can be
turned on in the menu.
While you use the X Button as your main attack button, there
are times when you'll have context sensitive options that
can be activated with the Triangle button. Often these are
just attacks that can be keyed off during combat, while other
times, they can be used to do combo attacks with the characters
you join up during visiting each levels.
Along with basic combat and magic, Sora and pals also have
access to summons, including Stitch, Peter Pan and Chicken
Little. And, then there's Drives, where Sora merges with either
one or both of his allies to do all sorts of major damage.
To pull one of these off, you have to fill your Drive gauge.
Once you do, just select the Drive and Sora will merge with
either Donald, Goofy or both. At this time, you start emptying
the gauge, all the while performing all sorts of high-speed
As Sora, Donald and Goofy defeat bosses and level up, you'll
gain more AP and access to new abilities. In the menu, you
can equip these skills (each which costs a certain amount
of AP) on Sora. The abilities for Donald, Goofy and any additional
allies you come across can likewise be equipped and even set
for the frequency of use.
One of the nicer aspects of Kingdom Hearts II is how
the scenarios have been planned out. The first time around,
most of the worlds play out closely to the original content,
but when you revisit, things feel more unique and open. Also,
a lot of mini-games are thrown in to keep things lively. And,
then there's the fact that the game is packed with boss fights,
many of which are both a blast to fight and even a bit of
Visually, Kingdom Hearts II excels in both technical
and stylistic terms. The levels are often massive with a lot
of detail and a number of things going on. But rather than
packing the levels with excessive realistic detail, each location
is patterned after the movie they came from. The colors are
often bright and the designs find a nice midground between
Disney and Square-Enix. Each region has a well-executed style
that permeates everything from the menu to the treasure chests
to the monsters. The character designs are nicely executed
and the animation is finely developed. On a technical standpoint,
the large levels often feature a lot of NPCs and enemies on
screen at any given time with little to no slowdown.
Since a huge portion of the story is told through voice-acted
cutscenes, the voicework had to be pretty good. For the most
part, it is. Many of the Disney voices are either from the
original voice actors or from people who can pull off the
voices to near perfection. Other, like the voices from Jack
Sparrow and Barbossa, don't sound much like the original.
The voice work for the Square-Enix characters is decent enough.
Osment as Sora does pretty well, as are most of the main story
characters. Where things get bit iffy is in the stiff voicework
for Aeris, Yuffie and Cid. The soundtrack is well done and
features a lot of familiar themes. Each world has the same
music and sounds found in the original content. For fans of
the originals, you'll certainly enjoy the familiar themes.
There certainly is a lot to enjoy here, but I would have
to wonder how much deeper the game could have been if not
for being on such a short leash. Many of the stages are heavy
on story and short on combat, especially early on. Further
into the game, this gets better as more areas are open to
you, but you'll have to work through 10-15 hours before you
start to feel a little freedom.
If you loved the first game and enjoy a story-heavy action
roleplaying game, then Kingdom Hearts II is a must-buy.
Of course, if you haven't played the first KH or even
Chain of Memories, then you may find the story a bit
much to swallow, especially when it comes at you as such a
healthy portion of the game so early on. Still, Kingdom
Hearts II does well to show that the PS2 still has some
life in it.