Review by Katon
"A perfect collaboration between two entertainment giants!"
Like most other Square fans, I was extremely skeptical when I first heard that the RPG legend would be teaming up with Disney, of all people, to produce a game. However, as time when on and more screenshots and gameplay tidbits were released, Kingdom Hearts became more and more appealing. Thankfully, when the big release day finally arrived, I was not disappointed. Square had managed to perfectly integrate the Disney mythos along with the Final Fantasy universe to create a gem of a game. Square has once again shown its talent for creating magical RPGs.
Wow. I will be the first person to admit that gameplay is more important than graphics, but the graphics in KH are just too beautiful to ignore. The Disney characters are perfectly rendered and animated. It's just like watching one of Disney's feature films. Tetsuya Nomura's character designs for the Final Fantasy series have been criticized in the past for being too similar to each other, but let's face it: his style is his style, and it works. Sora, the main character, looks suspiciously like Squall from FFVIII, but Sora, along with the other new characters and the old favorite FF characters, has been ''Disneyfied'' for the purposes of Kingdom Hearts. The FMVs are absolutely gorgeous. Square has always been noted for having beautiful games, and KH does nothing to change this reputation.
Another strength for Square games has traditionally been the soundtracks, and KH's music does not disappoint. The music is very listenable and is appropriate to every scene in the game. I highly suggest that you pick up the soundtrack to this one. Deserving special mention here is the voice acting. In the past, video game and anime fans have been treated to some truly bad dubs (including Square's own Final Fantasy X). However, Kingdom Hearts happily breaks this trend. The Disney characters are, of course, perfect, but amazingly, so are the Final Fantasy characters, many of whom have never had speaking roles before. The big-name celebrities had every reason to just mail in their performance, but they did an excellent job. I think anyone who listens to this game will be very impressed.
Some gamers have complained that Square's turn-based fighting system for its Final Fantasy games has grown stale. I disagree, but Square did go with a real-time, Secret of Mana-style battle system for KH. This system is very simple, yet also deceptively deep. There are plenty of spells and special attacks to learn. Additionally, Disney characters (usually Donald Duck and Goofy) will aid you on your quest; however, you only control Sora. Unfortunately, none of the Final Fantasy characters are ever in your party, but additional Disney characters will also be substituted into your party occasionally. You will journey through basically every Disney world, interacting with the major heroes and villains of each along the way. Finally, Sora will also gain the ability to summon various Disney characters, like Dumbo and Bambi, to help in battle. All in all, it adds up to a very attractive package. The only negative here is the camera, which can get in the way at times, but personally, I adjusted to it. Also, the airship mini-game is really not that great.
A company well-known for its storylines, Square has created another winner with Kingdom Hearts. You are Sora, who is looking for his lost friends Riku and Kairi. King Mickey has also gone missing, which prompts Donald and Goofy to join you on your journey. The major villains in this story are called ''The Heartless.'' The biggest surprise here is that KH does not have a story which is tailored to children. The storyline is surprisingly deep and even dark at times. Overall, it is very interesting and will inspire you to keep going.
Kingdom Hearts is truly a stunning accomplishment and may very well be the game of the year for 2002. The biggest problem with KH is that many gamers are bashing it because of the inclusion of the Disney characters without even playing the game. This is very short-sighted. Kingdom Hearts is a classic game, and if you own a PS2, this is one that should absolutely be in your collection. Pick up a copy; you won't regret it.
Overall score (not an average): 10/10
Reviewer's Rating: 5.0 - Flawless
Originally Posted: 09/22/02, Updated 09/22/02
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