Review by Computerbug8

"Sora. Donald. Goofy. Thank you for a great sequel."

Kingdom Hearts (KH) was a surprisingly great game that was created when two giant corporations in their own industries put their heads together. Those two companies were Square-Enix and Disney. The two unlikely partners created the great game that was Kingdom Hearts, and years later, they made the sequel, Kingdom Hearts 2. (KH2) Part of Square-Enix's deal was putting in Final Fantasy characters, and anyone who's played FFX and FFX-2 knows how much of a let down a Final Fantasy sequel can be. And Disney has also demonstrated that they have the ability to ruin their greatest movies by making a sequel. (Lion King 2, I'm looking at you) So when Final Fantasy and Disney once again get merged, can they escape their tradition of disappointing sequels?

STORY

The story to KH2 is a very mixed bag. Some people have called it epic while others have said that if you like the story to KH2, you'll like the story to any game. (that honor, I'm afraid, goes to Star Ocean: Till the End of Time) Believe it or not, the story to KH2 is actually a fairly decent one. Not the best you'll find, but it's better than some give it credit for.

If you haven't played Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories prior to playing KH2, then you'll probably get a bit confused at first. The story starts off in a place called Twilight Town where a boy named Roxas is trying his best to enjoy the final days of summer with his friends. Things seem to be going okay until new enemies called Nobodies pop up, as well as mysterious cloaked figures who pass themselves off as members of a group called Organization XIII. The first three hours or so are spent as Roxas fighting off these mysterious enemies until he meets up with a girl named Namine and sees Sora, still asleep from the events of Chain of Memories. Once Sora wakes up a while later, you gain control of him and learn about the Nobodies, what little there is to know about Organization XIII at the time, and try to uncover what they're planning. And like in the first one, this involves you once again teaming up with Donald and Goofy while traveling to various worlds in the Disney universe. Sora also has a side mission, and that's finding his two friends, Kairi and Riku.

Perhaps my biggest problem with the story is that the villains are underused. Most of the Organization XIII members aren't seen for more than a few minutes. That's a pretty huge shame, considering that just about all of the villains in this game were cool and you don't get to see them much (with the exception of a handful) unless you're fighting them.

Another huge gripe with this game's story is how it's paced. The game starts off incredibly slow, and it stays that way until about half way through. It then gets slow again and stays that way until everything is crammed in at the very end.

GAMEPLAY OUT OF BATTLE

Like the story, a lot of people seem to love the gameplay or hate it. Regardless, the gameplay is actually done very well, whether or not you're battling. Like before, you take control of Sora (or in the first couple hours, Roxas) and guide him through all the worlds that KH2 throws at you.

But, there's a problem with a lot of the worlds now. In my review for Kingdom Hearts, I made it clear that I don't like exploring, but Kingdom Hearts actually made it fun to explore. KH2, on the other hand, doesn't give you much to explore at all. You'll notice right away that most of the worlds are nothing except long plains with a few obstacles in the way that you need to climb, run through or past, or other small things like that. All treasure chests or items are clearly visible and take little to no looking to find. But let's get that problem out of the way and talk about other parts of the game play.

Okay, so exploring and going through the worlds isn't fun like it was in the first game, but what about traveling to the other worlds by means of the Gummi Ship? Well, there's good news and bad news here. The bad news: the Gummi Ship is still in this game and you're required to use it every time you want to go to another world for the first time. The good news: it's ia million times better now. (and that's not even an exaggeration) Now the Gummi Ship is fast paced and the graphics take giant steps forward from how they looked in the first one. Square obviously REALLY stepped it up a notch and tried to fix this mini-game from the snore-fest the first one was.

Gummi ship…much better. Exploring worlds…much worse. There's the basic description of playing KH2 when you're not in battle.

BATTLE SYSTEM

Like the first one, the battles in KH2 take place in real time without having to enter a battle screen. You control Sora or Roxas as he once again fights with his keyblade(s) to beat the snot out of any heartless or nobodies that get in his way.

The battles are basically the same. You can lock onto enemies and you generally just smash them with your keyblade until they run out of health. You can equip magic to shortcut buttons to make it easier to cast. You can also equip an item to a shortcut button, therefore making it easier to use items than it was in the first KH.

You also have ability points you earn when you gain levels, enabling you to equip abilities that help you in battle. Such abilities can either help you do special moves or add on to make some rather impressive combos. And as always, you get experience for every enemy or boss you kill. Also like the last one, you can fight with two other Disney characters by your side. These characters come in the most handy when you're performing limits, which is when Sora temporarily goes into a stronger and much tougher form.

A new addition to the battles are reaction commands. These appear every so often during the fight when an enemy makes a move that Sora can counter, dodge, deflect, or do other things like that. To trigger a reaction command, all you have to do is hit the triangle button when the game signals you to. This can take any enemy attack and prevent damage from being done to you and/or sending it back at your opponent.

The battle system initially felt like it was nothing but a giant upgrade, but there are actually a few flaws to it. The most obvious one is that the battles in Kingdom Hearts 2 are EASY. This may be because of how aggressive the combos and other abilities can make Sora, or maybe it's just because the enemies just plain don't put up much of a fight. Only a handful of bosses will actually give you a good fight. (and luckily, they're the bosses that you would want to have SOME challenge with fighting)

Oh yes, KH2 can also be beaten very easily with simple button mashing. Hardly any fights take any skill or strategy at all and can be beaten simply by hitting the X button until your enemy's life is empty.

The reaction commands were a nice touch, and it was good to have shortcuts to items in this game instead of having to go through several menus while still trying to fight like you did in the first KH game. But this game is MUCH easier than the first one. So if you're looking for challenge, then prepare to be disappointed by this game. And if you're looking for a game that takes some strategy to win, you will also be sorely disappointed.

SIDEQUESTS

Like the first game, KH2 gives you the opportunity to go through the 100 Acre Woods and play mini-games with all of Winnie the Pooh's friends. You can also fight Sephiroth in KH2 as well. And this may be a bit of good news for you if you're like me and wasn't too fond of Atlantica in the first game. In KH2, Atlantica is optional. This time around, it's centered around musical mini games based on timing and reflex. You can also do separate missions on the Gummi Ship, which won't be as much of a chore in this game.

Those are a few of the sidequests right there. While it's not KH2's strongest gameplay element, the sidequests will surely add a few hours to your game if you decide to play them.

REPLAYABILITY

The only thing that would make you want to play through the game again is the fact that there are different levels of difficulty. So if you want to play through the game again on a harder mode and set a few challenges for yourself, you may want to do that. That, and doing sidequests you missed the first time around. That's it. Those are the only reasons I can think of that would make you want to play through this game again.

GAMEPLAY OVERALL

I hope I didn't make the last few paragraphs sound too negative, because KH2 is still an extremely fun game to play. The combat makes the game exciting and it looks much more cinematic than it did before. The Gummi Ship is so much better than it was in the first game, and there are more worlds for you to play through. But as stated, this game isn't exactly the hardest one I've ever played. It's certainly easier than the first one, with only a select few bosses providing much of a challenge. (not that it's a huge deal if they beat you. Mickey can come back and revive you during boss fights)

The gameplay is nothing short of addicting. You'll love seeing Sora pound the tar out of enemies and just enjoying the game once you get into it.

GRAPHICS

Like the first Kingdom Hearts game, KH2 delivers wonderfully in the graphics section. All of the characters are modeled very nicely, as are the environments around them. The game presents itself very well and it looks like you could be watching a Disney movie. And the FMVs you see every so often during the game are incredible. The opening video is animated very nicely, as is the closing one. All the animations in the regular cutscenes look great. Not much else to say. Graphics are great. Animation is great.

SOUND

KH2 delivers a great soundtrack. You once again hear remixes of your favorite tunes from Disney movies that you watched over and over all those years ago. However, the original tunes also sound very nice. Hearing the tracks that play during battles is fun to listen to, and the tunes don't get annoying. (while some of them aren't especially memorable)

But one of the things that amazed me the most about Kingdom Hearts was how similar the characters sounded to their movie counterparts, even if their original voice actors were dead. Well, Kingdom Hearts 2 amazes me in this area once again. All the Disney characters sound just like they're supposed to, whether they are Donald, Goofy, Mickey, or any of the characters you meet in the various Disney worlds.

New to the cast of voice actors are characters like DiZ, Roxas, and the Organization XIII members. All of their voice actors portrayed them very well.

I had no problems at all with the sound in this game. The music and the characters all sound great and will blow you away.

LENGTH

This was a part that killed the first Kingdom Hearts…how short the main game was. Kingdom Hearts 2 has a longer main game than the first one, but unfortunately, not by much. In the first game, I was at the final boss around the twenty-three hour mark. In KH2, I was on my way to the final battle at about the twenty-five hour point. Like it's prequel, KH2 is plagued by a short length. And due to this game being easier than you might expect, you could breeze through it even faster.

PROS

+Slightly longer
+Gummi Ship is MUCH better
+Story is more complex with more twists
+Graphics are nice
+Music is a joy to listen to
+Voice acting is spot-on
+A few sidequests to keep you busy
+Fights are more cinematic and fun
+You can now use items in battle without having to go through menus
+Cutscenes are skippable now
+Plain old addicting and fun

CONS

-Game is a lot easier than the first
-Exploring is barely existent
-Still pretty short
-First three or four hours are a real drag
-First several Disney worlds have no impact on the plot
-Villains are underused

CLOSING NOTES

In general, KH2 is a great game that I really enjoyed playing. Give it some time, because at first it may seem like a boring and pointless game. Just wait. If you just play through it and want a fun game, then KH2 will certainly not disappoint. The gameplay is addicting, the graphics are amazing and the soundtrack is equally incredible.

RECOMMENDATION

I would recommend this game to just about the same audience as I did the first: anyone who likes video games and has seen a few Disney movies over their life. In fact, I might even recommend this to more casual video game or Action RPG fans since it's very easy to learn to play and it's not too hard. But I would only play this game if you've played the first KH game. Otherwise, this game won't make much sense. (the beginning also won't make much sense if you don't play Chain of Memories for the GBA)

But to anyone who likes Action RPGs, and especially to anyone who likes Disney, then this game is an absolute must. It's a strong point in the PS2's lineup and is a game that I was sad to see end.


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 08/21/06, Updated 07/24/07


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