Review by miked7770

"Okay, Call Me Nostalgic..."

Let me begin with the negatives...

The music in Kingdom Hearts leaves something to be desired, in that while the tracks are mostly excellent, they are very short loops. And, unfortunately, no sign of Nobuo...:(

The camera can be a bit counter-productive at times, especially if you're backed in a corner. This mostly affects the platforming sequences. After all, if you're backed in a corner while fighting, you don't need to see to know what's gonna happen!

Personally, I was offended by the inclusion of The Little Mermaid. There, I said it. I feel better already.
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So much for my few dislikes of this game. On to the good...

and there's PLENTY of it...

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STORY
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Kingdom Hearts revolves around a young boy named Sora (acted nicely by Haley Joel Osment) who longs to explore new worlds along with his friends Riku and Kairi. Sora is amazed to discover that he has been chosen to bear the Keyblade, a weapon that also has the power to seal up worlds with have been invaded by an entity known as the Heartless. The game features a hybrid of Disney characters and Final Fantasy characters. The worlds are based on various Disney films.

What's funny is that at first I was most looking forward to seeing my old friends from Final Fantasy VII...will Aerith and Cloud reunite?...will I get to battle the evil Sephiroth?
And which incarnation of Cid will be there?...

But something happened after the first segments of the game. While my encounters with the FF 7, 8, and 10 characters were all rewarding, I quickly discovered that I was even more satisfied by my Disney comrades. Call me nostalgic, but there's just something indescribably fulfilling about running around whacking baddies with Donald Duck and Goofy at your side. And with a lot of work on my part, these two comic reliefs became quite able warriors, so that I could stand back and let them do the work. And if I got in a pinch, either of them would gladly share a potion or ether, although Donald is a bit less generous than Goofy.

The story arcs across different worlds while each world has its own charming, albeit familiar, story (except The Little Mermaid).

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GRAPHICS
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There are a lot of ways I could approach this one. But the bottom line is that Kingdom Hearts has some of the nicest graphics I have seen in a PS2 game, rivaling even Devil May Cry. There is very little slowdown and even when there is it is simply because of the sheeer number of characters and particle animations happening at once...this IS a PS2 game, after all, not XBOX.

All of the Disney characters look stunning and the FF ones are nice too. Enemies look good and have a sufficient amount of animations. Summons are pretty and the magic effects are right on par with any Square game out there.

The gummi ship sequences (more on these later) are a bit simplistic graphically, but once I spent the time to learn how to build a ship, I started to enjoy them, too.

Cutscenes are rare and often before boss fights, but are well done nonetheless.

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SOUND
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I've already mentioned my beefs with the soundtrack. Other than that, the sound effects are extremely average. What does shine are the voice actors. All of them do wonderfully, making me lament the few voices not done at all :(

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GAMEPLAY
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Personally, I love all of the play aspects of Kingdom Hearts.
The battle system is complex enough to allow for multiple fighting styles, yet easy enough for those boring individuals who are content to just mash the ''X'' button. While the camera can be problematic, a little ingenuity and patience can easily make up for it. I actually kinda like the camera going wild at times because it captures the essence of being
surrounded by enemies and it forces you to think on your feet. But I listed it as a flaw, so don't think it couldn't have been implemented better...

There is a lot of platforming in Kingdom Hearts and it is done well. Items are visible early in the game that you can't access until much later, ala Miyamoto. The Trinity Marks are a nice touch, as are all of the sidequests, mini
games and optional bosses. Most worlds give you the option of adding a resident of that world to your party. Since experience points are distributed to inactive party members, this can be a nice way to level up weaker characters. I had Donald on the bench a lot, but once he hit about level 50, he was fine on his own.

I should add here that I think the AI in this game is really impressive. I'm not saying that the enemies are all that smart, but they behave in generally believeable ways. The fact that they usually prefer to attack Sora can be traced to the fact that Sora possesses the Keyblade and the Heartless fear and hate it.

Then there's Gummy Ships. These are used to fly between the worlds. The play here is a dumbed down Star Fox which may not appeal to some, although I found it delightful. You can eventually build your own ship or customize an existing model for interesting effects. My final ship transforms from a fighter ship to a mech. Of course, if you decide you don't like this element, it's easy to circumvent. 90% of the time you can just warp straight to your destination without all the hoopla.

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REPLAY
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I've read a lot of reviews that say Kingdom Hearts has no replay value. Even if it didn't, it is a long and rewarding game and well worth the 50 bucks. But there are some clever secrets, including a secret featurette movie. Not to mention two modes of difficulty. Given the challenge of Normal Mode, which can at times be high, Expert Mode is sure to satisfy any die-hard masochist.

I will definitely play this game through again.

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SUMMARY
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If you like Square or you like Disney and especially if you like both, this is THE game to get. We're not likely to see such a unique title again soon...unless, a sequel...:)


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 09/23/02, Updated 09/23/02


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