Review by FantasyMayDie
"Thinking of you, wherever you are"
We pray for our sorrows to end, and hope that our hearts will blend.
There are many worlds, but they share the same sky
One sky, one destiny."
Kingdom Hearts. The game where dreams may or may not come true, and in this case, they did. When commercials first came out for this game I'll admit, it was the prospect of playing with Disney characters that drew me in to some degree. Then I saw that the game was being made by SquareSoft, and thought to myself the same thing that everyone else did: Final Fantasy and Disney combined together? No one knew what to think about this new mysterious concept. Would this drive Square to the ground or would they breach new heights? There were many things about the idea that I felt uncertain about. The only thing that I was certain of was that I had to buy this game, whether it be good or bad. I mean would Square just drive themselves into the ground making an RPG with Disney characters, if they didnt think it could somehow work?
With all that in mind, I must say that Kingdom Hearts turned out to be really quite, well, fantastic! This game brings the magic qualities of both Square and Disney into an amazing gem greater than any of us wouldve expected.
A truly magical tale, the story is genuinely gripping. It's not as complex as you might find in games such as Final Fantasy or Xenosaga, but it's freshly original with a beautiful balance of mysterious intrigue and magical wonder. I'd like to start off by saying that this game's plot isn't oriented in Disney worlds, it is merely driven and interwoven within the Disney worlds. Kingdom Hearts does have it's own story, and an impressive one at that. I wasn't expecting much but I was truly blown away by the end of it all. The Disney worlds really just served as spectators and the slight brooding feeling that something bigger is happening never leaves while you're in them.
You take control as a cheery fourteen year old kid named Sora who lives on Destiny Islands with his friends, Riku and Kairi. They all enjoy living in prosperity on the islands, but the trio soon begins to question the world that they live in, if there are other worlds, how they ended up on that particular world, ect. We join them as they work together to build a raft so that one day soon they may finally get off the island and explore the outside worlds.
However, the night before they set sail things go terribly wrong and through a string of unforetold events you get separated from your friends ending up in a world called Traverse Town. It's there that you meet up with Donald and Goofy and the three of you embark on a journey to find your friends and get back home. Along the way you encounter many Disney friends (as well as enemies), with a tale full of plot twists and surprises that captivate you from beginning to end; while doing a excellent job of keeping you in the dark of the bigger schemes at hand. While the game has the Disney touch, it also has a balance of depth/maturity to it through the strength of heart and fight between light vs. darkness. In all honesty, the lore of this universe is truly charming and you'll probably be left touched, yet fascinated by many of it's messages.
Very nicely done. Most impressive achievement that's worth nothing is that all Disney characters have been flawlessly rendered into the 3D universe. Our trademark Final Fantasy characters, some redesigned, also look equally great. The special effects like magic and particles are nicely done (as expected from Square). Environments are beautiful, with an honorable mention to the atmospheric Traverse Town and Hollow Bastion. You can also expect to see two very beautiful FMV scenes featured at the beginning and end of the game, both of which have a very Final Fantasy X esque look to them.
This game has some great sounds that appeal to what we love about these type of games. The main theme song Simple and Clean by Utada Hikaru is beautiful, and manages to send you whole variety of emotions. The in-game music for the most part is also very good. World music is made up of some catchy tunes that fit each respective world. Destiny Islands is definitely one of the highlights. Along with the Traverse Town theme song, giving you a real home kind of feeling. The only weak point would probably be that some of the world music tends to just loop repetitively after a while (really got sick of Under the Sea); but once you put that nitpick aside, Kingdom Hearts is made up of many tracks that move you in a deep and magical way. The best example being the Orchestral version of "Hikari" which is a perfect blend of Final Fantasy and Disney goodness meshed together; and without spoiling anything I have to say that, truthfully, the musical scores in the final two worlds were simply epic, spectacular, and really got my spirits rising. Some of the best I've ever heard in a videogame. Fantastic.
And guess what? Kingdom Hearts does not suffer from terrible voice acting. It is actually one of those very few RPG's that doesn't fall victim to a bad dub. The main character's all sound exactly like they should, with most of the Disney characters being portrayed by their original actors (i.e. James Woods as Hades) which was a treat. The impersonating voices didnt sound half bad either. What many gamers will asking though are:"How are the Final Fantasy's characters voices?" Considering this is the first time that many of them actually speak, ever. Simply put, they are awesome. I am particularly fond of Cloud's and Leon's. The main character, Sora's, voice can be a bit annoying at times but it fits the character well and HJO is perfect for him. There's a real honesty to his voice and it's full of fire at the right moments. Finally a game where the actors actually cared about their lines.
There are A LOT of characters featured in the game. Original characters, Disney, Final Fantasy, and everything in-between. Just like it says on the back of the box there are a plethora of Disney characters to interact with and all are true to their movie counterparts. The Final Fantasy characters look great, and act just the way they do in their respective games; and somehow, oddly enough, are able to interact with the Disney characters in a very natural way. Yeah, it beats me too.
Our main character, Sora, does have a slightly odd appearance going for him (what with the clown shoes and balloon shaped shorts), and as such he's definitely got Nomuras trademarks written all over him. To sum up Sora, he's a very naive kid but equipped with a great sense of justice and determination to help others. His slightly older friend, Riku, is noticeably more mature and collected for his age. He also has a number surprises in store throughout, as he goes through many changes that I will not ruin for you. Lastly Kairi, aka Sora's love interest, is a kind yet strong willed girl who is never ready to give up. Even she manages to be a refreshing take on the female lead as she too has a deeper role in the story than you may expect.
Of course we can't forget your fun traveling companions, the oh so well known Donald and Goofy. Their back-story in the KH universe is that they both come from Disney Castle where Mickey is King. Goofy works as a lazy knight while Donald is a rackety magician. Throughout the storyline we even see these character's get their dramatic moments and a true bond is formed with Sora, an unbreakable trio indeed.
A little divided controversially, but I like it. This is an action RPG which means no turn based/random battles. It will resemble that of Final Fantasy (via of the command menu, spells, items, etc.) but it is done in real time which creates for something quite unique (Think Zelda but with more movement). You carry around a giant key with you, which is promptly named the "Keyblade", your ideal weapon of choice. Although the combat could be improved, I have to admit that hacking and slashing has never been this much fun. Yes it is mostly a button masher, but once you equip certain abilities it begins to pick up properly. It may not have depth, in spades, but it's still a whole lot of fun.
One of the biggest complaints seems to be concerning the camera in KH, people say that it's hectic and too close to Sora. I suppose that's another reason why some people don't like the gameplay. Personally, I was able to deal with the camera just fine. Admittedly it can be a little busy at times but I've dealt with much worse, and I didn't mind using L2 and R2 to rotate it either. Though I acknowledge that not everyone is like me, so I'll let you decide for yourself. Scrolling through the menu can lean on the tedious side however, especially during the heat of battle.
The main gameplay formula is that you travel around to different worlds looking for your friends, while taking on these enemies called "Heartless" whom are creatures made up of the darkness in people's hearts. As mentioned before, you meet up with a bunch of Disney characters that will help you any way they can, including via of fighting in your party. There's even some exploration and platforming aspects along with side quests to keep you adventuring. As for your method of getting around to your destinations, you travel in a rocket called the Gummi Ship. I'll be straight with you, it's really nothing special, and it starts off rather boring actually. It's a whole lot of fly shoot, fly shoot, and eventually arrive. Visually it's not much to gawk at either being composed of block and ring type designs. In it's defense though, towards the middle of the game when you finally acquire good means of building your ship, it actually becomes pretty fun. Also for those of you who are wondering, the fact that "Disney's stamp/characters are here does not bog down the experience at all. Fighting alongside Donald and Goofy in these epic landscapes is truly cool. My verdict, the gameplay managed to be both unique and entertaining.
Job well done! One of the best games I've ever played, especially in recent years. With a sweeping/charming storyline and memorable moments throughout. It looks like Nomura knew what he was doing when came up with the idea for this and it has opened doors for new gaming possibilities. Combining Disney and the company responsible for making Final Fantasy together was just, remarkable. It paid off immensely. I truly do not think that anyone except Square could've made this bold concept work. Kingdom Hearts will no doubt go down as an instant classic.
Rent or Buy:
Buy this incredible gem. This game brings you an amazing/mysterious experience that you wont find anywhere else, and I see great things for this series in the future. If you hate, I mean really HATE Disney then I guess this game just isn't for you. While Disney is merely a backdrop to the main story, it is still featured heavily in the gameplay. Give yourself a chance to like this though. It's really unique. Whether you rent or buy, the experience may just touch your heart.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 05/09/06, Updated 03/31/14
Game Release: Kingdom Hearts (US, 09/16/02)
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