Review by BloodGod65

"My Childhood in Flames"

Think of your favorite RPG. Chances are it was created by Square. If it wasn't, I can guarantee that it was heavily influenced by their work. Does it have summons? Limit breaks? Giant swords? How about an amnesiac teenager off to save the world? What about the effeminate and maniacal villain? Over the years Square has reinvented the RPG numerous times and it would be easy to say that they are the masters of the RPG. Well, that is until you play this miserable train-wreck. It seems like they've started all over again, making every rookie mistake there is.

STORY
While Square pioneered the whole amnesiac hero thing, there is (thankfully) none of that to be found here. There are also no intricate, grandiose plans of diabolical genius. Rather, you get a bunch of Disney villains trying to take over the universe.

The game starts out with the main character Sora on an island with his friends Riku and Kairi. They wonder if there are other worlds and engage in a lot of other pre-adolescent foolishness before being swept away by a storm and separated. However, (this is where the “kid is savior of humanity” comes in) Sora soon finds out that he is the wielder of the Keyblade and it is up to him to stop the strange forces that have been taking over stars, but he is still determined to find his friends.

The whole premise of the game is a rather strange one, with Disney characters teaming up with Final Fantasy characters to save the universe. Don't get too excited though, because the Final Fantasy guys don't play a very large role in the game. In fact, most of the FF characters in the game will be seen within the first two hours of gameplay and you'll never get to control any of them, which is a disappointment. While it's a weird idea, once the game starts it doesn't seem all that bad. This is mostly due to the fact that the angsty-teenage moodiness of the Final Fantasy characters has been done away with.

GRAPHICS
In true Disney fashion there is very little subtlety to be found here (apparently, kids can't grasp subtlety) and everything is in bright, bold colors. The Monstro (the whale from Pinocchio) world is the worst offender in the game. While walking around inside it, I thought it resembled what an abstract painting would look like if done by a hippy on ecstasy. Who knew that whale guts could be so colorful?

But I'll give credit where credit is due. The character models look nice and all the cartoonish graphics have held up well in the years since the games release.

SOUND
This is the second area where I'm going to give Square kudos. While I expected the characters to have terrible voices that sounded nothing like the originals, that isn't the case. Square even managed to bring back a lot of the original voice talent. James Woods is Hades, and I'll be damned if Danny Devito isn't providing the voice of Phil. From what I can remember from my Disney watching days, the rest of the characters sound about right. As for the Final Fantasy characters, notables such as David Boreanaz and Mandy Moore provide the voices of Squall and Aerith. And those who manage to find him are going to be surprised when they hear the voice of Lance Bass coming out of Sephiroth's mouth. Oh, the fan boys aren't going to like that.

As for the music, in every world there is a single song that plays in a loop over and over again, until you'll want to stick pencils in your ears. In most cases, it is the signature song from the movie that world was in. In Atlantica, the tune is “Under the Sea”.

GAMEPLAY
The whole object of the game involves you going to different Disney themed worlds and saving them from the sinister menace that has been destroying other planets. All told, there is a pretty wide range of worlds including Wonderland, Agrabah, Atlantica and Halloween Town from The Night Before Christmas. However, each world is so tiny you'll be seeing the same three or four sections as you try to complete the objectives for each world.

As you can imagine, combat plays a significant role in this game, much like any other RPG. However, the combat is what ultimately damns this game. It is in real-time, which is a nice break from the turn-based fights of Final Fantasy but this causes new problems, because it is hard to use healing items or select magic while being pummeled by enemies.

The AI of your companions doesn't help matter any, either. Usually, they just go off in random directions and never focus their attacks on a single enemy. When they do stick to one enemy, they usually get the crap kicked out of them, leaving you to fend for yourself. To make matters worse, they seem to be quite skilled at using all their healing items when they aren't needed, so they don't have any when they are about to be killed. Great, huh?

You'd think that the saving grace would be that after each fight, orbs filled with health, mana and money drop to replenish everyone. Alas, this just isn't the case, because your companions are too stupid to go pick them up. They'll just stand around, on the brink of death and let you collect everything for yourself.

For some sick reason, Square wasn't happy just to give gamers a terrible combat system. They had to bestow an awful camera on us too! During combat, the camera will swing wildly, generally going in the exact opposite direction you need it too, thus leaving you blinded and dying while fighting to get reoriented. Naturally, this leads to most of the dying that you'll do (and a lot of creative cursing as well).

THE VERDICT
I have (or should I say, had) fond memories of my childhood Disney movies. Unfortunately this game has killed all those happy memories and replaced them with rage and frustration. Square has managed to make one of the most horrid battle systems in recent history. They've also done a great job of somehow alienating any audience for this game. On one hand, the story can be a little too dark for kids but it's also too childish for adults. My advice: Give this to someone you really hate!

HIGHS
- The unholy conglomeration of Final Fantasy and Disney is oddly compelling

LOWS
- Battle system is terrible
- Companion AI is worthless
- Awful camera
- Unremarkable plot


Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 12/18/07, Updated 08/01/12

Game Release: Kingdom Hearts (US, 09/16/02)


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