Review by superspi

"Disney Squared"

This has got to be one of the most incredible games I've ever seen, and I've seen a lot of games. I put this on par with Legend of Zelda - Ocarina of Time and Final Fantasy 10.

You are Sora, a teenager. You live on a remote island, and you dream of escaping to other realms. Along with your friends Riku and Kairi, you decide to build a raft and set sail for other lands. The day you plan to set sail, a sudden darkness covers the island and sends you to the faraway Traverse Town, leaving your friends and home far behind.

At the same time, a king disappears from his faraway realm. He leaves behind a message that sends two of his loyal subjects to find the mysterious Keyblade.

A series of twists of fate bring you closer and closer until you finally meet the emissaries that are searching for the Keyblade. Then your adventures truly begin!

STORY 10/10
Some parts of the story are Square-related. The story gives you some cameos from Final Fantasy characters that we all know and love. You make connections with several characters, and gather information for a few miniature quests. You even have the opportunity to go head-to-head with Yuffie and Cloud, and they kick some major butt.

Some parts of the story are Disney-related. The story builds on Disney-developed worlds and characters you already know. The stories they use all make sense 1. From the original Disney story for each realm and 2. From the game standpoint.

This game has great continuity. It's really beautiful; the wanderlust theme explored in the beginning of the game is continued throughout in a logical progression. Two totally separate mythologies meet and intermingle in a very rare and wonderful way. It seems to bring out the best in both.

ANIMATED SEQUENCES 10/10
I give this its own category. This game is so full of animated sequences, you wonder how it could all fit onto one disc. The sequences all have a purpose, and the character interactions are interesting and important. Some of the sequences are done completely animated so that character voices, interactions, and movement are all automated. Some of the sequences are done in a partially 'interactive' manner so that you must make a movement or perform an action before the rest of the sequence continues. Usually, it's just a 'read the text and press the button' kind of motion. No matter which of these types of sequences it is, they are always purposeful. Fairly often, the game comes to a point where you will watch almost a miniature movie. It's at this time that the game will be most revealing, and I feel, most entertaining.

GRAPHICS 9/10
The water, magic and windows have to be ranking as some of the top features in contributing visually to this RPG. They are all fantastic. Even more fantastic is the way that the Disney characters are brought from two dimensions and given life in three dimensions. Each detail is well-placed, each character is nicely rendered, every feature is bright on brilliant hues or deep and mysterious on the dark hues. The texture of things is apparent by their appearance. Water looks cold. Wood looks aged or freshly cut. You forget how pretty things are because you believe that you are in a garden or a jungle. The graphics are A-plus, nothing less than expected of Squaresoft. Hats off, kids.

SOUND 10/10
The aural world is sometimes one of the most difficult. Since most people are convinced to be in another place by visual representations, often times the sound in a game is glossed over. Not so with this game.

Every water drop, every grunt in battle, every door and every footstep has a unique and wonderful sound. It's not only a visual world that you step into, it's an auditory one as well. When you walk on wood, it sounds like walking on wood. When you run ankle-deep in water, that's what it sounds like. There is no other way to describe it. Your mind is fooled into letting the sound fall into the background, blending into a surreal realness that envelops you and draws you ever further into the story.

Not to mention that the music is perfect. Each Disney realm sports its own theme music. Each of the Disney movies of course had its own theme music. All the worlds that were recreated in the game incorporated elements of those soundtracks. This wasn't done in an in-your-face kind of way either. It's incredibly well done, and it will get you in the mood for playing in the realm rather than distracting you. That's a feat in its own.

GAMEPLAY 5/10 (8/10 in the Gummi ship)
Okay, first the good parts. There's virtually a smorgasboard of ways to kill something. It's set up like your basic RPG, meaning that you work on a hit point/spell point kind of system that's easy to figure out. In addition, you also get some special abilities in the course of the game. Those are easy to equip and can really be cool. You also acquire the ability to summon some different characters that will assist you in battle for a period of time. So the question isn't really 'will I kill this enemy'so much as it is 'HOW will I kill him'.

Unfortunately, this leads to so many options that you will probably learn a few different tricks or ways of killing and then stick to the same way. Variety is the spice of life, but there's only so many ways to skewer a bad guy before it gets old.

Another good part is the Gummi ship/spaceship fighting sequences. The controls are like old-school airplane controls (down is up, etc) and the break you get going from one world to another relieves a little tension, letting you digest all the information and storyline. Besides, every game needs a little random slaughter and shoot-'em-up to keep it interesting.

Now we come to the bad parts.

First, the fight sequences are real time and it makes it hard to get some spells off or do one of the 'extra' attacks. Also, sometimes you have to acquire a target or thing, and unless you hold it down after acquiring it, it's easy to reacquire something else in the area that you don't want.

But worst or all is the controls. Yeah, the controller action stinks. The controls seem backwards and there's no real option to change the configuration. Also, the motions are irritating at times. The camera angles switch at inconvenient moments. Like there's a certain part in the game where you have to retrieve some rare nuts for a character that is really, REALLY annoying. Also the camera tends to switch in battle at bad times, sometimes making the enemy impossible to get.

PLAYTIME 10/10
All tolled, the annoying gameplay is a small price to pay for such an amazing game. You want to get to your ultimate goal, and yet you don't want it to end. It's like a good book like Harry Potter (don't knock it if you ain't tried it!) or Heinlein or Tolkein. You know each of the characters in and out, and you don't want to leave them behind. But it's so engrossing and challenging that you can't help but go forward. Okay, so some of the characters are a little flat, but you really want to stay in the game rather than finish it too quickly. It's a great ride, and the pacing is great. It leaves room for a good amount done in a little time, but not *too* much at once. Extra nice.

REPLAYABILITY 6/10
It's very engrossing, but I can't really see going back after all the initial challenges just to do it all over at a higher difficulty. If you could unlock more worlds after beating the game it would be worth the replay. But as it is, the camera and controls are frustrating enough at the normal level of difficulty that the expert level doesn't look all that tempting.

WHAT I WOULD ADD
I would definitely like to see this game with some sort of new mini game or other option after beating the game. This would make it better for replay, as well as giving players extra incentive to play until the end. Also, giving the camera angles a facelift would make this game less frustrating in parts. I definitely would love more controller options. This game was a 10, but not because of the controller. I believe that just a little time play testing would have probably revealed the obvious difficulty in the controller.

WHAT I WOULD REMOVE
Everything in the game was tight and fairly pared down to its basic elements. It looks like it was done very well on that end, even though there are many components to be handled.

OVERALL 10/10
The game as a package is superior. As Heinlein would say, it was 'good art'. It has great visuals. It has superior audio. It is a fantastic story that would stand well on its own even without the Disney blend. It is an incredible blend of two totally different modern fantasies. It is an example of what can be done with a collaboration done right. I highly recommend this game, even to those who dislike RPG's in general. This is a great game that will excite Square fans and Disney fans alike. After all, it IS Disney Squared.


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 02/10/03, Updated 02/10/03


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