Review by KungPaoChicken

"Flawed, but a good experience, nevertheless."

Now that I have beaten Kingdom Hearts, I would suppose that my opinions matter more now. Either way, having experienced all of Kingdom Hearts, I can safely say that KH was a good game, succeeding despite many problems.

The first thing you will notice about Kingdom Hearts, especially after entering your first boss battle, is that the camera is absolutely horrible. The supposed faults of Mario Sunshine's camera pales in comparison to the KH camera; in Sunshine you could actually move the camera along 2 axis. The camera, while putting you into the heat of the action during combat, becomes cumbersome during exploration. It gets stuck along walls. Often you spend time griping on how much better such and such angle would have been in order for you to reach such and such point.

What's worse is that the targeting system is also quite lackluster. There are two types of lock-ons, both ''soft'' and ''hard'', but whereas soft locking should have you locking on to the target that you are facing, it instead locks you on the the target that is closest to you, and often, the enemy behind you, whom your party members are already 2 seconds away from defeated; or so I have experienced many times. The ''hard'' targeting works, but not when the target enemy is too far off screen, or when they move quickly across the battle field.

The combat aspect of Kingdom Hearts is also a double edged sword. Granted, it is real-time, and you will never find another person who despises turn-based RPGs more than yours truly, esp. RPGs where you can just repeated press A and win. Other turn-based RPGs that made exceptions to the rule include Mario RPG (where real-time action was incorporated into the battle system, where the right button press at the right time made the attack [or magic] stronger) and Golden Sun (where if the enemy targeted died, the character would not simply just attack the next available target but would rather go into defense mode, wasting a precious attack that could be used elsewhere). But I digress.

I absolutely dug the nostalgia that the combat system brought back, memories of the classic Secret of Mana. Ground combos, air combos, intuitive active menu, jumping, blocking, all required some form of dexterity and/or reflex in one way or another from the player. However, once discovered, certain spells (like Cure) and abilities (like MP Rage) made items absolutely unnecessary, as all RPGs do. That is easily forgiven. But what isn't so easily forgiven, or perhaps people on various forums make it so, is that how a certain ability, namely Strike Raid, makes Kingdom Hearts both very easy and very repetitive.

Case in point: Strike Raid is an ability that can be won fairly early into the game, somewhere around the middle, in which Sora chucks his keyblade at enemies, and if timed right, a maximum of 5~6 times; the last time dubbed Judgement, which does the most damage. It also renders Sora invincible for the duration of the attack. As a result, most boss battles become a time of seeing how many times Strike Raid had to be performed to beat that boss, esp. when Goofy is configured to always utilize his MP Gift ability whenever Sora's MP was at 1. This is both good and bad, as it made the game less frustrating and more boring at the same time. So it is a mixed bag of sorts.

The ability Ragnarok, on the other hand, was well balanced in that you were vulnerable for the duration of the time the energy ball of homing laser was charging, and that those homing lasers weren't very homing at all. But that's another story.

In any case, Kingdom Hearts itself is a game that starts out relatively hard and ends relatively easy, instead of the other way around. But with gameplay issues aside, KH still manages to be a fun game, where new abilities actually do make a difference.

Let's talk plot. Kingdom Hearts really has none, aside from the beginning and the end. It is fairly linear, and the real heavy stuff doesn't really start until the next to last world. Personally, I would have preferred a darker, more serious, more mature (uh oh, there's that word) overtone, even for a game with a Disney moniker. But again, with my preferences aside, the middle parts of KH don't seem to matter as much any more, and as one reviewer put it best: just there to fill up space. I mean, sure, we know that each world's respective villians are using the Heartless for their own personal gain, but what does that have to do with the entire story? So I guess the biggest issue with Kingdom Hearts is that the parts don't really add up to the whole; there needed to be more content that strung the subplots to the main plot.

Which then leads this review to the issue of length. Make all the excuses you want, but KH is fairly short for an RPG. But of course, Golden Sun was shorter, but that's a different story. Each KH world was short. With all the plot in each Disney movie they could have made every world super long. And they should have. Give KH the 3 or 4 DVD treatment it deserves. And dissenters can always say that, ''well, this is the first one, so its ok.'' But you know what? Kingdom Hearts 2, should that ever exist, would never have the same Disney worlds again. Frankly, I don't really think revisiting Atlantica is such a great idea. But in light of all of this, Kingdom Hearts is still pretty good. Whatever plot it had was good. But of course, all the middle parts could have been more character development, but then that's just nitpicking. The final word regarding this issue is that KH tries to incorporate both comedy and drama, but what we do get is an unsatisfactory blending of both. More polishing is needed. If movies can accomplish that, so can games.

So what do I think about KH? Honestly, I really enjoyed it. But there was a lot of room for improvement. But like the less than stellar new Jackie Chan movie The Tuxedo, KH had the potential to be really lame and crappy, but somehow still manages to be enjoyable. I credit it to the Disney nostalgia, the fast paced real time combat, and the overall feel of the game. A must-own for real time RPGs fanatics, those who aren't concerned with their image (the word kiddy comes to mind), and a must-experience for all gamers. Kingdom Hearts is a step in the right direction for once.

8.5/10


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 10/13/02, Updated 10/13/02


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