Review by Radiuju
Okay, excuse the rather cheesy pun title, but it does get the point across. Ah, Kingdom Hearts, the project formed when Square all of a sudden decided to team up with Disney to create an action-RPG. When the project was first announced, many were quick to spit on the idea. Many were absolutely disgusted. Yet, I was not one of those people. Hearing of this idea, I jumped for joy. I wasn't a huge Disney fan, but this idea was fresh and original. It was extremely unique, and I thought the idea of meshing Disney with Final Fantasy would be extremely satisfying. As time passed, many of the naysayers were silenced, as hype was built into this game, and it became 'To Buy' game on everyone's list. Of course, it was on mine as well. After all, I was already excited about the game, and with all the hype, I was excited all the more. Upon receiving it, I was quick to plop it into my PS2 and get playing.
Oh, how disappointed I was.
Let's start with the good. The graphics, are, as you'd expect from a Square title, marvelous. The cutscenes are also excellent, with the way each character's mouth moves so realistically, and the environments were also very detailed. The spell effects and weapon effects are of course, spectacular, with pretty light shows and whatnot. Besides, it has Nightmare Before Christmas as one of the stages in it, and who wouldn't want to see Nightmare Before Christmas PS2 style graphics? Very well done, and certainly not something to complain about.
The music is also very well done too. Composed by Yoko Shimomura, the musical genius behind Legend of Mana, she manages to capture the usual great Square sounds with the unique Disney flair. Some tracks are rather lacking, but for the most part, this is definitely an OST you should pick up.
Now then, this is where the game changes from a normal, consumable hot dog in a microwave, to an exploded, splattered hot dog, leaving you with one messy microwave.
The storyline is very disappointing. And I do mean very. Coming from Squaresoft, or I should now say, Square-Enix, this is a travesty. You play as Sora, a boy who lives on Destiny Islands who dreams of going to see other worlds with his best friends, Riku and Kairi. One night, however, shadow demons known as the Heartless attack the Destiny Islands, and Sora is separated from Riku and Kairi. He obtains a mysterious weapon known as the Keyblade to fight the Heartless, but it's origins are unknown. Sora is also torn away from his own world, as the Destiny Islands are smashed into oblivion.
Meanwhile in the kingdom of Disney, King Mickey has disappeared, leaving behind an enigmatic message to Goofy and Donald: find the boy with the key. They leave, and meet with Sora who is (obviously) the boy with the key, and team up to find King Mickey, and also, maybe, just maybe, find Riku and Kairi. Along the way, you'll go to varius Disney worlds, meet various Disney characters, kick some Heartless booty, and also meet a few random Final Fantasy characters.
Sounds good, doesn't it? It looks good on paper, but the execution is extremely stale. Each of the worlds are the size of a small village, and they are filled with very few NPCs. The ones that do have NPCs spout boring, forgettable dialogue. Add insult to injury, is that the time you spend on each world is very slim, and you don't even feel like a hero. Your trips in each world are in actuality, compressed versions of the movie the world is based on, and you basically feel like a spectator. You're not actively involved with any of the Disney characters, and you feel more like a helper sent to aid the world of each respective movie, but there is very little meaningful interaction between the Disney characters and Sora. Of course, the interaction between the Goofy, Donald, and Sora is funny and entertaining, but these moments are very rare in comparison to the bland interactions between Sora and the other Disney characters. The only decent Disney characters are the villains, and even then, some of them feel out of place.
It gets even worse. The character interaction is bad enough, and the actual worlds you go to are forgettable, but the main storyline itself--Sora's journey to find Riku and Kairi, along with stopping the Heartless--is very weak. The script is good, but the storyline itself is very weak. Sure these three main characters all have their motives, but as said before, their main development is weak. Sora does go through some meaningful changes at the end, but he still nothing more than a spectator for most of the game, and Kairi, the main female protagonist, isn't even in the game for 90% of the time. How can you care about a character like that? Riku is the only character that changes throughout the game, and his motives and everything about him are very realistic. He develops throughout the entire game, and is by far the only compelling original character. And the main villain of the game (who will remain unnamed due to spoiler purposes) suffers from a huge Ultimecia syndrome. He's not introduced until the very end, and his character is not very compelling at all. He's voiced by an extremely talented voice actor, and his lines and script are cool, but he's really just a typical bad guy behind his cool exterior.
I've said enough about the original characters, but I forgot to talk about what I was originally was going to mention: the original storyline. Most of the time, the original storyline is masked by the boring trips through the compressed Disney worlds, and very little of it is actually spent on the journey that Sora is embarking on to find his friends. Of the time actually spent on Sora's storyline, it is very good, but the time you actually experience Sora's storyline is very slim and not much of the Heartless or anything is explained in great detail. At the end, the focus completely changes and the focus is put entirely onto Sora's own original storyline which is good, but it's still not enough to call the storyline as a whole a good one.
Of course, I've mentioned the Disney characters and the original cast that are part of the main story, but who could forget the Final Fantasy characters. Well, like most of the Disney characters, they feel extremely out of place. When I first met Squall (or his new alias/codename 'Leon'), my initial reaction wasn't, ''Hey Squall/Leon!'', it was more like, ''You don't belong here.'' They are sent to aid you, but they play an extremely minor role as for most of the time they simply sit back and let you do all the dirty work. You only interact with them at the beginning, and at the very end, they make a comeback and when they talk to you, they talk like they've known you their entire lives, when in reality, you haven't spoken with them much at all during the game. Good ol' Sephy, the One-Winged Angel is back, and he and Cloud are perhaps the only Final Fantasy characters that actually feel like they belong here, as they weren't sent to help you, but simply to look cool and get in a few sparing matches with you as well. Tidus, Wakka, and Selphie, along with Cid, also don't disappoint, if simply for the fact that their roles were not meant to be important.
Alright, after that lengthy explanation of the storyline, you must be bored, so I'll switch perspectives now and focus on the gameplay. The gameplay is rather...bad. The mostly lacking storyline could, should, and would have been compensated by some awesome killer gameplay, but oh what a shame, that's not the case here! It's typical action-RPG fare, but with a few problems. You can target onto enemies using the shoulder buttons, but most of the time, you'll scream at the game in anger, as it targets the wrong enemy, and you'll swing like a fool in the wrong direction. Your allies, the Disney characters, are for the most part worthless, especially the representatives of the worlds you visit, as they're only with you for a short amount of time. Each and everyone of your allies are permeated and thick with bad AI. Most of the time, they're simply cannon fodder for the enemies so that they don't target you, but by far, the most insulting and most blatant example of this is Donald. As a mage, you would expect him to be packing some awesome magic. He does, but the bad AI makes him use worthless magic against the enemies most of the time, and he uses Gravity magic that don't even affect bosses against the bosses most of the time. Add insult to injury is that he's constantly flailing magic at even the most minor and weakest of enemies, leaving his MP bar empty most of the time, rendering him even more useless against bosses and even more worthless of a character. And as you expect of a mage-type character, he's getting killed most of the time. What fun. Sora has spells of his own as well, to compensate for Donald's Artificial Idiocy, but he is more of a physical fighter than an arcane magician, and most of his spells, save for Cure/Cura/Curaga are extremely useless.
Well, that took one hell of a time to write, but that concludes this little session. This game was certainly not deserving of all the hype it got, because as it stands, it's an extremely mediocre average action-RPG. The storyline does get extremely strong and very gripping at the end, which is why this game got a six instead of a five, but this doesn't compensate for most of the game, which feels very lacking in gameplay and story. The graphics are music are phenomenal but they don't make up for the game's other obvious and extremely blatant flaws. The game tries to make a very lacking and barely touched on storyline look good by seasoning it with Disney and Final Fantasy, but unfortunately, they used too little spices, as each Disney world is a short compressed version of each movie, and the Final Fantasy characters don't play even of a role for you to even give a damn. My advice to Square when they make the sequels is that they get a decent writer, and they don't be so lazy with the Disney worlds or the Final Fantasy characters. This was very inexcusable as if most of them don't serve much of a purpose, why put them in there to begin with? Let's just hope that Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories and Kingdom Hearts II, the GBA and PS2 sequels respectively, are not as lacking as this one.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Originally Posted: 10/28/03
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