Review by PentiumMMX

"Sephiroth and Pooh in the same game? Count me in!"

Back in 2002, I was very much a Nintendo Fanboy, because I refused to let my parents buy a PS2, because I assumed nothing could be better than something made by Nintendo (Even though the PS2 was outselling the Gamecube at a very high rate). However, there was one game that caught my attention more than anything else at the time (Including all of the major Gamecube releases like Super Mario Sunshine), and made me begin wondering what I was missing out on by not owning a PS2. That game was Kingdom Hearts; an action RPG that mixes the worlds of Disney and Final Fantasy together. Many years later, and a few months after Kingdom Hearts 2 came out, I finally got a PS2. The very first game I bought for it was none other than Kingdom Hearts. Is this strange concept of a game any good, though?

Story
It all starts on Destiny Islands, where a young boy named Sora lives with his friends, Riku and Kairi. They had grown tired of their island, so they decided they where going to build a raft and go on an adventure. However, when a weird vortex opens in the sky, everything starts to go wrong at once; Kairi is kidnapped, Riku goes missing, and the island was destroyed. Sora wakes up, finding himself in another world, which is having it's own problems; the boundaries between worlds was shattered, creatures called the Heartless where reeking havoc, and to make things worse, the king has gone missing. However, there is hope; they discover that Sora is the chosen one, who will use the Keyblade (A magical weapon shaped like a key, which was given to him while on the island) to save the worlds. Thus, he teams up with Donald and Goofy as they begin a quest to find the king, seal the worlds from the Heartless, and find out what happened to Riku and Kairi. It's a great storyline; it'd be hard for Disney and Square to top this.
Story: 10 out of 10

Graphics
Even several years after it came out, Kingdom Hearts still looks good (A little dated compared to newer PS2 games, but it still looks good). The characters look great, and the Disney worlds you explore truly reflect the source material. Also, even though it's technically a Disney game, it's not overly bright and colorful like Super Mario Sunshine; there are a lot of dark areas in the game.
Graphics: 10 out of 10

Music \ Sound Effects
...And I though my mix of songs on my MP3 player was demented. It features songs from both Disney and Final Fantasy, along with some new songs for the game. It's a great mix, but it's weird when a game's soundtrack features both Under The Sea (The Little Mermaid) and One Winged Angel (Final Fantasy VII). Also, the game's cheesy J-Pop theme song (Simple & Clean) isn't too bad, either. The sound effects are decent, but one of the things that makers the audio better is the voice acting; the voices fit the characters well, and they even went the extra mile to get the original voice actors for all the Disney characters to record new dialog for the game. Simply put; it's great.
Music \ Sound Effects: 10 out of 10

Controls
It takes some getting used to, because of some odd button placements. Instead of pressing X to jump and Square to attack, you press Circle to jump and X to attack. This can throw you off if you've played as much Mega Man Legends and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night as I have before playing KH for the first time, but it doesn't take much getting used to. Instead of using the right analog stick to control the camera, you use the L2 and R2 buttons. It's not that hard to manage if you've played Mega Man Legends before (Or most any other game that had to use the shoulder buttons for camera control), though it might annoy some people who are used to controlling the camera that way. What the right analog stick does here is navigate the action menu, allowing you to heal or use magic attacks, in addition to standard attacks (Which it always defaults to). It's not too bad, though its layout is a little oddball compared to most other games I've played on PlayStation.
Controls: 8 out of 10

Gameplay
It's a Zelda-like (I use that term loosely; it's got the hack and slash elements, but doesn't have the same level of puzzle-solving that newer Zelda games are known for). The gameplay mainly revolves around navigating the area, seeing any important cut-scenes, and fighting Heartless and other enemies. Because the game is real-time, enemies can pop up out of nowhere at anytime, but you do have the choice of fighting them or avoiding them. Also, you have to heal in real time, which is where one minor annoyance arises with the game; when you use a healing item or spell, there's a roughly 3-second delay between selecting the item or casting the spell and it actually taking effect. It may not sound like that big of a deal, but it can cause problems (Because you can't move during that time, you're left wide open for an attack). You do have Donald and Goofy to help you, and in the options, you can customize how they battle to your liking (If you're tired of them wasting all the healing items on themselves, leaving none for you when you really need it, you can change it in the options to only have them heal when it's absolutely necessary). In certain worlds, you can choose to team up with one of the characters from that world, which have their own unique abilities, which is nice for those wanting to mix it up a little. There are also a few mini-games for those wanting to take a break from their adventure for a while, which is always good. Also, unlike a lot of other games I've played, you can pause during a cut-scene, so you won't miss anything when you need to get a drink or something.

The game isn't without its problems, though. Besides the delay when healing, there are also camera problems in the game; sometimes it just won't let you position it right where you need it, and sometimes it's hard to see where you are. Another one of the problems is how the battles tend to get repetitive (You can throw in some magic attacks and special moves to mix things up, but for the most part, every basic Heartless can be defeated by charging towards it and mashing the X button. However, there are a few enemies you have to use some strategy for). Also, the game is really slow starting out, though it does get a little better once you get further in. However, it still manages to be an enjoyable game, even with it's flaws.
Gameplay: 9 out of 10

Overall
Kingdom Hearts is a great game if you get past it's flaws, and considering it can be bought for less than $20 now, it's worth trying out if you like Final Fantasy and/or Disney.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 10/20/08

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


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