Review by NeoTS
"Sora's Back... Finally!"
Kingdom Hearts 2 is everything you could ask for in a sequel, and then a little bit more. The Disney worlds are bigger, and they are more ambitious. Their are more Final Fantasy characters than ever, even a trio you never thought you'd see. There is Mickey Mouse kicking ass and taking names like he's been doing it since 1928. There's Goofy and Donald Duck- hilarious as ever and always up for a good scrap. There's Kairi, Riku, and last but certainly not least, Sora. The whole gang is here for this epic battle between light and dark, and Square doesn't pull any punches this time. Sora has to find his friends or bust. Everything you loved about the original Kingdom Hearts has become bigger, faster and more importantly- better. So sit tight, the story long and fairly complex- but it's so very worth it.
After a stunning CG opening, the games leaves you in the familiar shoes of Roxas. Wait a minute- Roxas? Yes, for a few hours before you'll get to play as Sora, you have to play as this young resident of Twilight Town. I can't really say too much about the story- due to it's complex nature- but all of your questions will be answered throughout the course of the game. Sora, Donald and Goofy do team once more, opening pathways to different worlds about the universe. Their quest will put them under the wrathful gaze of the Heartless once again, but also a shady group of Nobodies called Organization XIII, who are Sora's main arch-rivals. There are also two Disney villains right along for the ride, so Sora is never quite sure where the attacks are going to come from. He'll battle his way through the Disney worlds once again; some new- Mulan's Land of Dragon's, Beasts Castle, the Pride Lands from the Lion King, Port Royal from Pirates of the Caribbean- even travelling back into time to fight in the very first Mickey Mouse cartoon. The complex story is somewhat off-putting in the beginning, but stick with it. There's a great game to be had.
The game-play will be familiar to anyone who played the first game. For novices, it's extremely easy to just pick up and play. This game is an action RPG, so all your commands come from a small battle menu in the corner. This may sound hard to do in real time, but it really isn't. In the first menu, you can choose to attack, use a magic spell, use and item or go into Drive, which I'll explain more about later. Once you know what to do, you should lock onto the enemy with the R1 button. With this done, Sora will always follow that enemy. It's nice to have, especially for airborne enemies. Instead of jumping and then attacking, Sora will just launch himself into the air with an attack. Speaking of which, battles can transition seamlessly from the ground to the air, so expect lots of spectacular, low effort battles. This is definitely a hack and slasher, but there are plenty of magic attacks for the wizards out there. But if you're like me, you'll slug it out, relying on Donald's magic and Goofy's defense to heal you up when you need it. Donald and Goofy are a big help, they'll always assist Sora, and you can change their commands. Pressing left on the directional button will bring you into the second menu. From here, you can manage your party, use a limit attack, or use summons. The summons are cool- The Genie from Aladdin, Stitch, Peter Pan, and Chicken Little- they're all really cool and fun to fight with. And of course, you'll always be able to fight with the star of the particular world you're in. If you're in Port Royal, you can fight alongside Captain Jack Sparrow, or even fight with Auron from FFX in the Underworld of Hades. These characters behave just as Donald or Goofy would, and it's nice to fight with some of the biggest Disney and FF characters ever.
Drive Mode is one of the coolest additions to the game, allowing Sora to change into a Valor or Wisdom form, one for brawling and the other for magic. Valor and Master forms were my favorite, which allows Sora to use two keyblades at once and really take it to the enemies. These forms can end a lot of fights very quickly, even boss fights. Speaking of boss fights, they aren't too challenging, with the exception of the last 7 or so. The last boss is 100 times better than the one from the first game, challenging you right down to the last minute. Even if you're owning him, he'll still lay quite a beat down on you before he goes- and that's how any good RPG final boss should be. To make boss fights easier, and regular fights, their is a new addition called Reaction Commands. When the Triangle button pops up, it gives Sora a special cue to perform an attack he wouldn't normally be able to. These actions can be relatively simple, like a quick dash to get around behind your opponent. They can be devastating, like grabbing the sword of a hulking giant and smashing him to pieces with it. Or they can be downright cool, like dodging laser beams, dueling creatures or reading an opponents attack to get inside of it and slash it to pieces. They'll usually appear in most battles, so keep a look out, as these commands can save you when you need it, and make the game a lot more fast and fun. As Sora levels up, he gains abilities, which can all be equipped if he has enough AP, also gained by leveling up. Some of these abilities are intuitive, meaning you don't really control them- they just exist, such as the ability to scan, or measure an enemies life bar. Others, like guarding and dodging in midair are controlled by the player, and are very useful. Donald and Goofy have abilities as well, so you'll have to pay attention to how everyone is equipped.
I shouldn't have to tell you that the graphics of a Square-Enix game are absolutely beautiful. But this game goes beyond anything found in its predecessor. There are several levels in this game that are much more complex than anything found in KH- but on different levels. It wouldn't be very respectful to the original cartoon if Sora showed up full of color in 'Steamboat Willie'. So, they were all redrawn to fit the era and seemingly blend in with the cartoon. It works extremely well, and it just feels right. Cartooning Port Royal would have taken all of the charm out of that level... so we're given a near photo realistic world that for some odd reason, doesn't seem out of place at all. Captain Jack Sparrow looks amazingly like Johnny Depp, as does the rest of the cast look like their respective parts. There are a couple of other worlds where Sora and his party is transformed, but it doesn't happen in all of them. The characters and environments are finely detailed- they look exactly like their respective movies. I'm not sure what my favorite area is, but to have all my favorite Disney worlds in one game is definitely a treat. Also, the CG, while seldom used, is spectacular. The music in this game is brilliant. Each world has it's own battle music, taken right from the movies and spiced up a little for a little drama. I can't tell you how big my smile spread across my face when I realized that Port Royal was using the Pirates of the Caribbean theme. It was very cool to be fighting to that music, it almost felt like it really was a part of the movie. Other notable worlds include Beasts Castle, Halloween Town, and Disney Castle. The voices are a quite good, led by Haley Joel Osment as Sora once again. The great Christopher Lee has lend his voice- and all of the Disney voices sound exactly like or close enough to the original actors. It's a well-rounded cast that's just as good, if not better, than the original game.
Enough ranting, this is an excellent game. Playing straight through the game without doing any sidequests should take the player around 25-30 hours. But, you'll want to try and unlock everything in the journal to see the secret ending... yes there's another one, and it's just as cool as the one from the first game. Unlocking everything in the journal will keep you occupied for a good while, with tons of minigames to compete in, lots of treasure to find, items to synthesize, and one infamous boss to beat if you really think you can walk the walk. This is a great game, a great sequel, and a lot of fun to play.
Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 04/10/06
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