"Don't be left in the dark by not playing this game"

Kingdom Hearts is somewhat of a cross between Square and Disney… to an extent. The Final Fantasy characters you see in the game are pretty much cameo appearances but the Disney aspect of the game is actually prominent. There's also a plethora of new characters and places to make the game somewhat original. Kingdom Hearts is a solid game. It has garnered a large fanbase to the point where it even outsold Final Fantasy X. This is no easy feat but Kingdom Hearts managed it. You won't be hooked right off the bat in Kingdom Hearts. It's the type of game that gets better towards the end. You start off as a kid named Sora. I really didn't like playing as a kid the whole game, especially one like Sora. You see Sora is a moron and your typical goody-two shoes adventurer. He often has no idea what's going on and is overall an embarrassment as a main character. He is living on Destiny Island with his two friends Riku and Kairi. Riku (Not to be confused with Rikku, the scantily clad bimbo from FFX) is actually a pretty well developed character. He's not exactly a mysterious badass but he does have an attitude and he is Sora's lifetime rival. I liked Riku as he did undergo more character development than the rest of the characters although his emotional battles were a bit cliche. Lastly there is Kairi who is rather worthless actually. She and Sora have a strong relationship that doesn't quite include Riku. She doesn't do much in the game except be unconscious and needing to be rescued. Anyways, Sora, Riku and Kairi want to get off Destiny Island and see other worlds. After a series of events transpire, they end up doing that but not exactly in the way they wanted. Darkness is consuming the worlds and it is up to Sora, who is the Keyblade Master, to be a stop to that. You'll first end up in Traverse Town where you'll meet a few Final Fantasy characters such as Squall, Cid, Yuffie and Aeris. Eventually you'll be going from world to world trying to save that particular world from the Heartless which are supposedly creatures that lost their heart. Only you can do this because you have the keyblade and you need to seal the keyholes in each of the worlds. This is actually a pretty neat concept because the vast majority of the worlds are from several of Disney's movies. For example, there is Wonderland, Agrabah from Aladdin, a Tarzan jungle world, an under the sea world from The Little Mermaid, the coliseum from Hercules just to name a few. Not every world is from a Disney Movie but most of them are. Perhaps it's the nostalgic throwback that truly appeals to people but it is awesome progressing through your favorite video games.

The battle system of Kingdom Hearts is not turn based like Final Fantasy which isn't a bad thing at all. The Zelda style fighting makes the fights more epic. I suppose the major glaring issue with the game play is all you really need to do is mash X….. it gets a little repetitive. Of course, Square attempts to remedy this by making some bosses have a “strategy”. This, of course, is usually quite simple. For example, the battle with Ursuala will require you to hit the cauldron with fire magic when it turns white and ice magic when it turns red. This is supposedly the idea of a “strategic battle” in Kingdom Hearts. On the bright side, there are many big bosses like the Cerberus which are quite epic and fun. Now for the actual organization; you attack with the X button but you can also use magic spells and items and techniques. You can allocate three spells to a “quick-cast” type of thing which can allow you to use those magic speels a little quicker. There's alo summons in this game but they aren't really important, I never really bothered with them. As you progress in the game, you will acquire new abilities. These abilities can be equipped on and used at the cost of AP. These abilities can range from giving you more MP, to allowing you to roll, to allowing you to use powerful finishing up combos. Of course, this IS still an RPG so HP, MP and experience points are in this game. You will also be equipping weapons and accessories to boost your stats as well. Leveling up doesn't always mean you get more HP though, sometimes your strength, AP or MP among other things will rise. You only control Sora but for the vast majority of the game you'll have Donald Duck and Goofy (What the hell IS Goofy anyway?) helping you out. They often just jump around and get hurt but they are better than nothing because they can heal you and they do serve as a good distraction from the enemies. Also, when you go to several worlds, you can replace either Donald or Goofy with a character like Aladdin, Tarzan, Beast etc. The item concept is simple to learn, you'll acquire many items throughout your journey but you can only have a few in your own personal “stock” that can be used during battle. You probably will only use items for ethers as it is easy to run out of MP as opposed to HP. Probably large in part due to nearly every enemy you kill drops health balls. The difficulty of this game isn't too bad, mostly because you can just mash X but some of the optional bosses like Sephiroth can be quite challenging. The game play is honestly repetitive but the game is still fun regardless. The worlds also aren't too long which is nice. One of the worst aspects to this game was the gummi ship. It was absolutely monotonous, boring, pointless and a waste of time. They really needed a better system to go from world to world. If there wasn't a Warp Option, the game would have probably gotten a 6 or 7 from me. The gummi ship was bad.

Graphically, this game is a visual masterpiece as we've come to expect from Square. The conversion of Disney to a 3-D environment was done very well. Really, outstanding is all that needs to be described for the visual aspect of this game. The soundtrack to this game is alright. Simple and Clean, the opening song is one of the best in video games. Unfortunately, that's all that really stands out in this game. I'm not saying the music is bad, but it isn't really that great. One thing this game does have going for it is that the music is varied and not the same over and over. The sound isn't realistic all the time but what do you expect, it is Disney. The voice acting was actually quite good. Donald did get on my nerves but at least he sounded like Donald Duck. The voice acting in this game was good and similar to that of the classic Disney movies. The game isn't too long but there are some good side quests that can be accomplished to make the game a more enjoyable experience. One word that you'll never want to hear again is the word “Darkness”. You think they could have taken out the Thesaurus or something…. Another downside to this game is the camera angles. You can't adjust it at all and it is often a pain trying to et it to where you want it. The camera angle is one of the most vocal complaints about this game and believe me, it is pretty bad. You may be thinking that I've brought up a lot of bad things about Kingdom Hearts in this review. It has a lot of flaws. But it still manages to be an epic, unique experience adventure.

Storyline/Characters: 7/10
Game Play: 7/10
Soundtrack: 7/10
Graphics: 10/10
Difficulty: 4/5
Length: 4/5

Overall: 39/50 = 78% (Rounds to 8)

Kingdom Hearts was obviously a dip in the water. There are a lot of things that could have been improved upon and a lot of things that could have been added… but I guess that is for Kingdom Hearts II. Kingdom Hearts is a quirky idea but it has grown into a series. The downsides include the terrible camera, the repetitive game play, the overall poor original characters, the overall sub-par soundtrack, the gummi ship and DARKNESS. The positive things include a unique idea, the epic battles, a real time battle system, cameos from your favorite characters, concise worlds and some fun sidequests. Kingdom Hearts is a game that appeals to the Final Fantast fanbase because of the cameo appearances but make no mistake, it is not just for Final Fantasy fans. This game is quite different from Final Fantasy games and is less like and RPG and closer to a 3-D Zelda game than what may be popular belief. Kingdom Hearts is not just popular because of the Final Fantasy and Disney characters, it is a fun game but it does have it's fair share of flaws. It started as a strange concept and now it has become one awesome series. Don't be left in the dark by missing out on this. Although the amount of times "Darkness" is said in this game is about the same amount of times you'll hear a reused Jay Leno joke.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 06/26/06, Updated 07/31/06


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