Review by Bleuet
"An in-depth review of Kingdom Hearts"
Introduction: Disney, raining king of classic children's stories in the movie universe, and Squaresoft, emperor of RPGs in the video gaming world, have combined forces to produce an RPG masterpiece that goes by the name of Kingdom Hearts. Unless you've been living under a rock for several years, you'll know that Squaresoft is the company responsible for the creation of the never-ending Final Fantasy series. Millions of gamers probably bought this game on Squaresoft's name recognition alone. They had so much trust that Squaresoft would make a game worth their money that they purchased the game blindly on it's release date. That tells you something, doesn't it? I don't know about you, but this tells me that there are a lot of foolish people in the world... or are there?
Gameplay: Every game needs a main character, and this game is no different. You play through the game as Sora, an innocent, spiky-haired boy in search of his friends. Along the way you team up with Disney characters Donald Duck and Goofy. Donald uses magical powers, making him the wizard of the group, while Goofy relies more on raw power. The trio travels to different worlds using a gummi ship (a spaceship made of rubbery stuff). But why are you doing this, you ask? Well, you see, each world has been infested with mysterious, shadow-spawn enemies known as the Heartless. As you posses the only known weapon that can destroy them, it only makes sense for you to do your part in saving the worlds. For you to be able to do this, you must fight your way through the Heartless in each level. At the end is a boss based on a Disney villain. The idea is to find the "keyhole" of each world. Yes, each world literally has a giant keyhole, and with Sora's weapon (a keyblade) you "lock" the world. Locking the world means no more Heartless are able to get in and cause havoc. Each world is based on a Disney movie- for example, you'll wander in Wonderland from "Alice in Wonderland." While visiting all these places, Sora and company meet up with tons of Disney characters- some of which will even join you party (though you can only have them in your party while in the world you find them in). Also along the way are characters from the Final Fantasy games.
The Battle System: The most common reason I've heard for gamers not liking RPGs is because of the battle system. Kingdom Hearts goes in a different direction that most RPGs tend to go in. An average RPG will have a short menu of options you can choose from in the heat of battle. These options usually consist of moves like "attack" and "magic." The player takes turns with the enemy to do these moves. Taking turns in itself is pretty ridiculous. I mean, if you were fighting a 10 foot-tall, rancid-looking, mega spider would you take turns exchanging blows with it? I think not. KH does away with "turn taking," you strike whenever the heck you feel like it.
That's not the only thing the battle system in KH does differently from your typical RPG. Most of the time RPG characters have an automated attacking scene. What I mean by this is that when you choose "attack" your character automatically does it for you instead of you yourself controlling your character and taking on the enemy. This setup reduces the fighting in RPGs to "wait your turn, press attack button, watch your character do some super move, repeat process until someone is dead." The battle system revolves around computer stats instead of actual skill with the controller in your hands- which makes you feel like you're an outsider looking in as opposed to being center stage. This is not the case with Kingdom Hearts. In this game there is no letting the computer attack for you, you beat the monsters using your own skills. Not only does this make for better and overall more intense battles, but when you win you feel like you've truly earned it.
Graphics: Is this game visually pleasing to the eye? Yes! Honestly, I went into this game thinking the graphics would look awful, but to my pleasant surprise they were awesome! Disney characters look exactly as they did in the movie, only in 3-D. The Final Fantasy character models have been updated and look even better then they do in their own game thanks to the fact that Kingdom Hearts takes full advantage of the PS2's graphics engine. Though I probably don't have to mention this, I will anyway: the cinema scenes used in the game are excellent.
Story: Ok, so, maybe you don't care about the battle system, maybe you could not care less what the visuals are, maybe all that matters to you is the story when playing RPGs. If so, this game won't disappoint. In the beginning the story if pretty straight forward and simple. But then it becomes not-so-simple and gets twists and turns that make it anything but straight forward. Instead, it comes closer to the deep interwoven plots that Squaresoft uses to tell a story. There's layers to it, ala Final Fantasy 7. To use an analogy, the story is like getting in the shallow end of a pool and walking to the deep side. The more you play the deeper it becomes. All in all, Kingdom Hearts isn't your average Disney story.
Music: The music goes along perfectly with the world you're in. For example: in Atlantica, you here the classic song "Under the Sea." While it does get repetitive after awhile, it goes along well with the world. What really stands out is the song entitled "Simple and Clean." The song is remixed and used a few times throughout the story, including the opening scene. Having a great opening scene is crucial in an RPG, and "Simple and Clean" makes this happen. The amount of emotion received in the opening alone is just phenomenal.
Side Quests: What is an RPG without side quests? Not a very good RPG, if you ask me. Kingdom Hearts is full of stuff you can do. Finding 99 dalmatians (no need to find mom and pop dalmatian), getting rare items for the all powerful Ultima Weapon key chain, designing a custom gummi ship, or, my personal favorite, going to the Olympus Coliseum and entering tournaments are bloody fun ways to pass the time. So little time, so much to do. The coliseum side quest is the best I've seen in any game I've ever played, it's just so detailed and addicting. You can also work to try and get the game's secret ending- which provides a challenge.
Flaws: Nobody's perfect, right? We've all heard this saying before, but does it apply to games as well? The answer is yes- yes it does. I love Kingdom Hearts, but the game isn't without it's flaws, though it has but two (maybe three). The first concerns the underwater world of Atlantica. Expect to be hearing "Under the Sea" a lot as you'll be spending some time here. This has to do with the swimming control system you use while "under the sea." It's terrible. You'll find it hard to control Sora because the controls are so bad, which makes the level frustrating. This will really come into play while battling Ursala. You'll be so caught up in trying to maneuver Sora that actually attacking her will be next to impossible. Thank goodness that this problem is over once you beat the world of Atlantica. The other problem occurs throughout the game, however. The problem is that your friends who are trying to help you save the worlds... are dumb. At the site of the weakest foe your partners will begin chugging down potions left and right and using up all their magic faster then a hummingbird's heart beats. I was really hoping to use teamwork to beat this game, but alas, I can't play with morons. I got used to doing most (I say most cause they do help some) of the work myself. Soon, their cries for help were just meaningless background noise. Hopefully on the next game they'll be more helpful and not so greedy-greedy. A minor flaw is the camera. Though some may say it's bad, it's good most of the time. On a few occasions it was in a less than desirable place. Keep in mind, however, that you can manipulate the camera, so not too much worries.
But what if I don't want to play this game because of the Disney theme?: Yep, some just don't like Disney. There are those who won't play or won't even allow themselves to like this game when they do play it do to the Disney association the game has. I was worried about the Disney theme, too, but that didn't stop me from loving every minute of it after having played the game a short time and realizing the truth. The game is fun. Don't get the wrong idea, this is no "kiddie game." In fact, you will need to be a dedicated gamer to ever see the spectacular ending, let alone the mysterious, secret ending. Not playing this game because it has Disney characters is as smart as not getting on a school bus because it's yellow- it just doesn't make any sense.
Sora has big clown shoes!: Yes, yes he does. Maybe that's why he's got mad hops.
Final Recommendation: This will be easier if I just tell you who will not like this game: those who hate RPGs and those who hate Squaresoft. As long as you don't fall into one of those two categories, then you'll have to pick up the game. At $20, how can you not get it? A great game for first-time RPGers and people who've played hundreds of RPGs alike.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 06/27/04
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