Review by Railven
"My name is Squaresoft, nice to meet you Disney. Let us make beautiful children."
Let us get things straightened out first; Disney plus Squaresoft equal a damn well made game. Lots of gamers will be discouraged by the usage of the Disney Universe, but as a elder gamer, I must say I wasn’t offended or questioned my mentality one bit. This game is Grade A RPG material, so all the hardcore RPGers got their next big game to chew on, genre-gamers can find countless hours in the platform game play, and for the casual/here and then gamer this game offers something new and fun to test and experience.
Kingdom Hearts is classified as an RPG game, therefore the main aspect of the game has to be story. Kingdom Hearts didn’t fail to keep this end of the Genre Characteristics alive. The story is simple, yet complicated when you get into it. You play as a young boy named Sora. Riku, Sora’s best friend, and Sora decided that when they get older they would leave their island and explore the worlds that are out there. A young girl by the name of Kairi had just arrived to their small island, and the story of Kingdom Hearts begins to be told.
On another world King Mickey has disappeared. The King’s faithful Magician Donald and Knight Goofy set out on an adventure to find the King and return him to the Castle. The mention of the ‘Keyblade’ and ‘Key Bearer’ are mentioned.
Once the Heartless are unsealed, by Ansem, Sora’s island is engulfed by the darkness and both Riku and Kairi disappear. In a new world Sora meets Donald and Goofy and embark on the adventure of Kingdom Hearts.
There is a combination of characters from the Disney Universe and Squaresoft Final Fantasy Universe. However, with the large amount of characters one would expect that the characters wouldn’t be developed so well, as the case in Chrono Cross, but that is exactly wrong. The story revolves around Sora, Kairi, Riku, Donald, and Goofy, and it is these characters that receive the most attention.
As you explore the worlds of Disney, such as Atlantis, Neverland, Hollow Bastion, and a few others, you will encounter characters specifically from those worlds that can help you, such as Ariel, Peter Pan, and Beast. This adds to the playable characters instead of it just being Sora, Donald, and Goofy. Upon meeting your new allies in their world, each one is faced with a dilemma that Sora and his friends must help solve in order to advance in their guest. Truly a well cast of characters and nicely developed main characters.
The game play in Kingdom Hearts is simple, with a few minor headaches. Circle is to Jump and Square is to attack, basically the most two used buttons through out the game. Combos and auto lock make the game a little easier to handle. Once Sora locks on to an enemy, hitting the Attack Button will lunge Sora in the direction of the enemy and start attacking. Repeated tapping of the Attack Button will commence in a series of attacks that will finish with a possible critical hit.
Since Kingdom Hearts was developed as a 3D platform game, you will find yourself jumping constantly, exploring areas from multiple camera angles, and cursing the developers’ reasons for choosing a 3D platform. RPGers will find themselves seriously capped by the platform system; I know I was, since most RPGs don’t require much jumping or camera panning to find secrets. The camera can get in the way of important battles as auto lock makes it so the camera is always aimed at that particular enemy, enemies from the side can target and ambush you easily. Some time and patients with the camera and auto lock system and you will find yourself breezing through the battles.
Since Donald, Goofy and all other allies aren’t controlled directly by you, you may find the A.I. a little on the dumb side. You will be fleeing, as your life gauge is low while you see your allies, who are in the same situation, jump head first into battle and getting themselves killed. Also, if you leave the characters A.I. in its original form, and you equip your allies with items, you will see a fast consumption of your hard earn stock. How did the developers work around this? Simple, they include a simple A.I. customization system. With options such as Constantly, Frequently or Only in Emergency, you can customize your characters on how they use their items, magic, and specials.
Finally we get to the magic and item system. For of all Kingdom Hearts is all real time game play, and thus so are the battles. Most RPGers are use to the options of Wait and Active time battles in Squaresoft games, so they are use to having 1 HP and still being able to use an item or magic by selecting it from the menu, however in Kingdom Hearts being idle while selecting your magic or item can result in your death. Yes, you have to move around and flee while you navigate your menu. Squaresoft attempted to make it easier by allowing you to use the digital control or the right analog stick to navigate the menu as you avoid damage using the left analog stick, but this doesn’t cut it for someone who is sluggish in the controls. Shortcuts are vital for the magic system, in which you can assign up to 3 magic spells to correspond to a combination of L1 + Triangle, Square, or Circle instead of having to navigate the menu, but I honestly wish Squaresoft could of done the same for the items.
I am currently trying to figure out if Kingdom Hearts is designed with the usage of Cell Shading or if it is just beautifully rendered. Regardless of that, this game is just that beautiful. It maintains an animated feel that the Disney cartoons are known for. All of the Final Fantasy Character cameos even maintain a nice animated feeling as well as a true to their game feeling. I don’t know how other gamers will respond but when I saw Squall, Cloud, and Sephiroth on the Playstation2’s hardware I convulsed and drooled for hours.
The worlds that you explore also have an animated touch. They also have a true to their original form touch. Atlantis is an underwater adventure, Agrabah has a nice Aladdin touch, and even the new Traverse Town has a Disney world like touch.
The soundtrack is incredible. Japanese Pop Artist Utada Hikaru sings the main theme, dubbed Clean and Simple, in her beautiful English Voice; I wish they had the original Japanese version as an extra. The worlds all have tunes that originate from their prospective animated series. Songs like “Under the Sea,” “This is Halloween,” and some new songs specifically for the game added to the fun in adventuring.
With the new generation of Consoles, games have begun to see their share of voice dubs. Kingdom Hearts is by far the best game I’ve played in its Genre, in an RPG genre second only to Final Fantasy X, to have the best cast of voices. The new lip synchronization done for the American Version is on the mark, well not entirely on the mark on the less detailed cinemas. I personally love Sora’s voice.
The only downside in the graphics is the childish feel. Kingdom Hearts revolves around the animated worlds of Disney, so to keep that feeling, I feel Squaresoft lessened the graphics to keep it “animated.” I feel that this game doesn’t really show of the true power of the Playstation2 hardware, but jeez for it being aimed at a younger audience, which I must add I don’t fit it, it is just gorgeous.
Sadly this RPG doesn’t have much replay value, unless you missed a lot the first time through. My first time through I found all the secrets, except for one, and feel that playing the game a second time through will be a waste of time. The developers added in a few choices, such as Choose a Sword, A Rod, or a Shield, to make the game worth replaying, but I honestly see no point in it. If you can unlock all the secrets, find all the Trinities, Dalmatians, synth all the weapons, and even defeat Sephiroth, the Omega Weapon of Kingdom Hearts, then I think there really is no reasons to play through Expert Mode, unless you loved the game so much and want to try it again with a harder difficulty, or you missed a few things. Now that I think of it, not many RPGs offer replay aside from side quests and secrets.
I estimate this game to be roughly 32 to 35 hours of game play, with at least 10+ hours for those who like side quests, insanely difficult bosses, and finding items that you will never use. My time was 55 hours with Level 99, Ultima Weapon, beating all the bosses, all the Ansem Reports, all the Dalmatians, all the Trinities, and all of the side quests except for one.
Kingdom Hearts is a breath of freshness to hit the Playstation in the RPG genre. Squaresoft has once again showed us that it can make even Disney Characters, who are targeted at a younger crowd, make us whom are older smile and remember when we first saw Donald Duck.
The game play is a step up for platform like RPGs, think The Legend of Zelda: Mask of Majora or The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. This truly is a game for the young at heart and hardcore RPGers.
Game play: 9/10
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 10/01/02, Updated 10/01/02
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