Review by Fraghappy
"An unlikely, but great collaboration..."
I, like many other Squaresoft fans, was surprised to hear that Disney Interactive was going to be teaming up with the creators of the epic Final Fantasy series. At first, I was skeptical, but when good reviews started pouring in, I checked it out. All I can say is, I was wrong to not believe that Square could pull this off. Possibly the best RPG of 2002, I was blown away by Kingdom Hearts.
The story begins with the small group of children at Destiny’s Island. Sora, Riku, and Kairi spend endless days playing around their tropical paradise home. However, as they grow older, they wonder about the outside world, as they have spent their whole lives on the same island. Therefore, they decide to start gathering supplies in order to sail out into the ocean and see if there is anything else out in the vast blue sea. However their plans are foiled by a huge storm, but a freak accident happens, and they still make it out into the great beyond…
Most of the game takes place in different Disney worlds, as you control Sora and unlock the secrets of each of them. Each world has been infested by the “Heartless,” a group of evil monsters that cannot feel love or pain. Sora wielding the Keyblade (the magical blade of the Slayer of the Heartless,) accompanied by Goofy (as a Knight) and Donald (as a Mage,) must protect the worlds from the oncoming threat of the Heartless. At the same time, he must solve puzzles and help people in the various worlds that you encounter. After Sora manages to solve all problems in a given world, he can use the Keyblade to “lock” the world, and stop the darkness from consuming it. In the meantime, he also helps Goofy and Donald look for the missing King Mickey.
The way Sora develops is based on his decisions at the beginning. At the start, when he gets to choose two from from a staff, a sword, and a shield, one to empower, and one to weaken, be sure to pick a wise combination, as these affect which abilities he gets and how he levels up the rest of the game. Also, you will have to talk to several people around Destiny’s Island in order to determine “what time of day your journey will begin.” This is determined by answering various questions about how you will accomplish your quest. The outcome of this determines how much xp at each level you need to proceed to the next.
Of course, the majority of the characters in the game are from Disney, but Squaresoft fans will be glad to know that several of their old favorites are back. Selphie, Tidus, Wakka, Aerith, Cid, Yuffie, Squall, Cloud, and everyone’s favorite kittens with red bon-bon’s on their head, Mogs. There is also another Squaresoft character in the mix too, but I want you to enjoy the surprise yourself. Not much else from Final Fantasy made it in, unfortunately, but stuff from almost every Disney movie can be found in the game.
One part of the game that I never really managed to get into was the construction and use of Gummi Ships. These are the vessels that transport you between the various Disney worlds, and can protect you from the various threats that exist between the worlds. Over time, you will gather Gummi Blocks, which can be used to build new and better ships. However, I felt that this part of the game was not emphasized very much, even though you seem to get Gummi Blocks every few minutes, and overall wasn’t very well put together. You can easily make it between any of the worlds with the weakest ship, and once you get the Teleport Gummi block a few worlds into the game, there is no real reason to travel between worlds at all. This was a feature of the game that had a lot of potential, but really fell short in the end.
The battle system of the game was very simple, yet very good. Basically, as your characters level up or complete certain events, they gain new abilities. Then, they must use AP points to allocate which ones they want to use in battle. In addition to this, there is Magic. At the beginning, you are unable to cast anything, but as you complete certain events in the game, you will unlock new magic or power up new spells. Finally, you can equip a weapon, a piece of armor, and a few accessories that can give you some pretty good bonuses. Unlike other Squaresoft games, where you can only equip a fixed number of accessories, in this game, you are allowed to equip more and more of them as you level up. Overall, I was fairly impressed with this aspect of the game.
The game also had a fair amount of sidequests, perhaps one of most fun parts of any RPG. There are several challenging bosses, including Kurt Ziza, Phantom, and a special hidden boss in the Platinum Challenge in the Coliseum. Perhaps one of the longer sidequests is the 101 Dalmatians quest. Pongo and Perdita have lost their 99 pups, and they have been scattered around the game. It is your job to find them, and send them home. Finally, there is my personal favorite, the 100 Acre Wood sidequest. As you go through the game, you will come across several “Torn Pages.” These can be taken to Merlin’s House, and be used in a magical book to go to the realm of Winnie the Pooh. Here, you can do several sidequests to help the residents of 100 Acre Wood, and gain some nice rewards.
In addition to the sidequests, there are several other things to look for across the game. There are various colored “Trinities” that yield access to new areas, items, and other things when used (you have to have Goofy and Donald in your party to do this.) At first, you can only unlock the blue colored Trinities, but as you go through the game, you will gain the ability to unlock more and more, until you can finally unlock the rare white Trinities. Another thing is the “Ansem Reports.” Ansem was a scientist who studied the Heartless, so gathering his papers may prove useful in determining how to stop them.
The graphics for the game were great, but this was expected from a collaboration between two huge gaming companies. The graphics were slightly better than the already amazing graphics of Final Fantasy X, showing that Squaresoft is trying hard to improve their use of the Playstation 2’s power. The models and scenery are all very detailed, and all of the animations are very smooth, and there is never any slow frame rate or “jumpiness.” However, I was particularly pleased on how well the animations for the various spells were done. Overall, graphics were great, but for the most part, not much better than expected.
The music was very “Disneyish” but didn’t detract too much from the game. A few songs were very good, on the other hand, such as Hikaru Utada’s “Simple and Clean,” but for the most part the soundtrack wasn’t anything special. I did miss the beautiful symphonic sounds of Squaresoft’s head composer Nobuo Uematsu in this game, and look forward to hearing his works again in future games. The sound effects for the game were very realistic, and none of them being annoying except the “weird springy noise” coming from Sora’s shoe. This fades into the background, however, and you get used to it after awhile. With the voice acting for the English version, it seems that Disney wanted an all-star cast. If you pay attention, Aerith’s voice is none other than Mandy Moore and Sora’s voice is Haley Joel Osment. These are just two of the members of the celebrity voice cast, which, in my opinion, doesn’t make it great, but overall it turned out well in this case.
With all of this in mind, be aware that it takes at least 50 hours to do everything on Easy Mode. Even then, there is a large amount of replay value, due to the fact that there is a Hard Mode option, and depending on what combination of the staff, sword, and shield you pick at the beginning, you will unlock a completely different set of abilities for Sora.
So, should you rent or buy? Without a doubt, buy it. There is no reason to waste a few extra dollars on the rental fees, because you won’t be able to finish it in time, and you will most likely be addicted to it by the end of the rental period. This is the kind of game that many people may think is “childish” or “immature,” but I assure you, those people are the childish and immature ones. I encourage you to try to be the mature one, and play this game. It is truly a great addition to Squaresoft’s RPG library, and should be an addition to yours too.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 03/25/03, Updated 03/25/03
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