Review by chandlerbing

"An excellent well structured cross-hydrid between Square and Disney"

When gamers first heard that Kingdom Hearts is a collaboration between Square and Disney, many were cynical that the game will turn to a kid-fest of simplistic and easy gameplay and were baffled as to why Square would want to work with a ''children'''s based company. Kingdom Hearts turned out to be quite unexpected and in a particularly good way. Square manages to incorporate their own Square style whilst retaining the Disney magic with particular ease and professionalism.

GAMEPLAY

-Structure -

Taking a break from the turn-based structure of the Final Fantasy battle systems, the real-time battles of Kingdom Hearts allows you to get deeper and have more control over your character, Sora. Your companions, Donald Duck and Goofy are both computer-controlled and will act with reasonable intelligence throughout the game though it can be questionable at times. The controls are particularly important for an action RPG and Kingdom Hearts manages to incorporate a control system that is convenient for the players (customising short-cut buttons for casting magic) so they don't have to trudge through menus and getting hit whilst doing so.

- Characters -

For many people, the large cast of Disney characters as well as Square characters will set off an nostalgia trip. For older gamers, they can meet up with classic characters they may have watched in a Disney film when they were younger such as Alice and Pinocchio or from more contemporary films such as Tarzan and The Nightmare Before Christmas. Meeting up with some Final Fantasy characters from the more recent selections is certainly a welcome and neat touch from Square for their fans to savor. This is certainly a trip that you're not going to forget.

In your travels between worlds on your ship, you will enter an fun shoot-em-up style game that I really didn't expect to find in an RPG. It tests your skills at evading and dodging as well as shooting obstacles and enemy ships. A nice surprise indeed.

- Optional stuff -

There are plenty of side-quests in the game to take your mind off the main plot for a while. These are Disney based, naturally and fortunately they do not pose the tediousness that were associated with the side-quests of Final Fantasy X. The search for the dalmations can be carried out during the course of the game and there is also a colloseum where you can participate in battle cups to try and win prizes are just two examples of the mini quests on offer in the world of Kingdom Hearts.

- Load Times -

Load times are excellent. There is no load time or screen change when entering battles making your journey flow very fluidly as well as engaging with the game's environents rather than being forced into a repetitive background and scene. Brilliant.

GRAPHICS

The wonderful graphics of the many different Disney locations are really captured in this game. Character sprites on the whole really fit their cartoon counterparts (well, of course you may say) showing that Square has placed particular care into making sure that everything, every place and everybody looks right. As for camera angles, they are generally good with the rotation done automatically as well as manually but they do suffer occasionally. Each world is portrayed magnificently to that of the cartoons - the Arabian theme of Agraba, the smooth and colorful world of Atlanta and the misty, ominous colors of Halloween Town are just a few examples of graphical splendor.

The inevitable borders issue so well known to all PAl gamers. Let it be known that the borders should not detract you from playing this gem of a game and you will ignore them after a while. There, I've said it. And if anyone persists on saying that the borders are distracting them, just be thankful that they're not the massive borders on the PAL version of Final Fantasy VI.

MUSIC/SOUNDS

The musical score in the game is breathtaking with original stuff conjured up by Square as well as undeniably recognizable Disney classics. The voices are generally excellent especially for the Disney characters with quite a few of the original voice-actors for the movies reuniting to create an incredibly imaginative audio experience as well as visual delights of the graphics. Occasionally, the dialogue may be cheesy but this is a Disney experience so expect dialogues in the lines of ''we can do this if we work together''.

REPLAY

There are two difficulty settings in the game - Normal and Expert - so if you beat one, you can always try the alternative setting. Also the choices between the staff, sword and shield at the beginning of the game determines how your characters develop so you can always replay the game to take a different route or setting to your first play.

OVERALL

Kingdom Hearts is a genuinely charming game that has exceeded all my expectations and placed my initial cynicism of the game at rest. With a wide range of Disney characters and a fair amount of Final Fantasy characters making appearances, I can say that it is the best of both worlds (but why no chocobos???) that will appeal to fans of both genres. If you're an older gamer, don't let the idea of playing a Disney game put you off from playing Kingdom Hearts because it is a very additive game as well as meeting up with your old Disney characters that you probably grew up watching their cartoons and movies. Rent the game to see whether the game fits your bill but I would highly recommend it to anyone looking to play a well defined and well executed RPG.

PRO

- Additive action-based gameplay with virtually no load times.
- Wide range of characters across the Disney world and Final Fantasy world.
- Excellent and convenient control system
- Good, tidy graphics with genuine personality associated to each. Same goes for the character voices and representation in the game.
- A welcome difficulty setting mode to suit the different needs and skills of players.
- Excellent soundtrack as can be expected by Square!

CONS

- Some of the worlds seems quite small...
- Game could have been longer.
- Perhaps there should have been more playable characters.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 11/22/02, Updated 11/22/02


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