Review by wolverinefan
A fun sequel to the PS2 original but got boring halfway through
I remember getting Kingdom Hearts for the Playstation 2 on the day it came out and staying up until late (or early, whichever) into the AM. After beating the game I have been waiting for the sequel and since it's to be released soon I figured I grab the GBA mid-game and play through it so I could get the entire story. In all honesty, I wish I had skipped it.
To be honest the original Kingdom Hearts didn't have the greatest story but it worked rather well and you cared about the characters by the end. It's completely different this time around. Sora and friends arrive to Castle Oblivion. They shown to forget their memories and he meets a group of people in black coats, known as "The Organization".... That's real deep... Now Sora must travel the floors of the castle, unlocking his memories. Now, this might sound interesting but the plot is paper thin, the twists are lame beyond lame and in the end this just felt like Square was cashing in and trying to get some interest back into the series before the true sequel comes out.
The graphics in the game are so-so. It's 2D spirits which by all means are fine and dandy. However, these sprites look like crap. The characters are blurry; some are even jaggy which is very odd for this type of game. The levels look good, sometimes. Hollow Bastion looks really lame and doesn't even fit. Heck, a lot of the levels look lame and with the same backdrop for every room it gets old quick.
The sound in the game isn't too shabby. Sora and friends yell their names and ugh... that's about it for voice acting. The music is rather good; a few songs from the Disney movies are used, like the Little Mermaid's "Under the Sea" is used as the background music during that level. It adds a bit to the levels but I can't figure out why the Pooh song only plays during the first dialog of that level and then we're forced to listen to something that isn't even remotely good. Of course if that level had been done halfway decently, you might have been able to ignore the music. The sound effects are basic. Grunts and thunks and what not. Nothing exciting really.
The control in the game is easy to get the hang of but the GBA obviously doesn't have enough buttons for this game. You can jump and use a card. You can also move around. Those are easy to do. You can also browse your cards by hitting L or R, The problem comes in when trying to do a sleight (more on those in the game play section). You need to hit L and R together. Not a problem but you really need to hit them together, otherwise you may end up browsing to another side which isn't a good thing since using a sleight causes you to lose a the first card for the rest of the battle, unless you have a special card that brings them back, back you can't get that until after you really could have used it.
The game play feels almost like it did on the Playstation 2 but instead you're using cards. For those who have played the original Kingdom Hearts this may sound odd and to be honest it is slightly odd. Basically, you get cards, from enemies, stores or randomly find them by hitting objects in the levels. Now, you can have up to 99 cards in your deck and you can make more than one deck. There are a few different types of cards. Attack, Magic, Item and Character. Attack cards allow you to swing the Keyblade. Magic cards allow you to use spells such as Cure and Fire. Character cards allow you to call upon different characters, Cloud, Simba or one of the baddies, if you've found one of their cards. Item cards basically allow you to quick load your deck, I think that fall under the character category in the game though. Each card also has a number on it before adding it to your deck. It's the CP number and it's how much CP it takes up. You have X amount and you can only carry that X amount in your deck. You don't use it during battle, it's just so the game can regulate how powerful your deck is in the beginning, incase you get lucky and get tons of 9 cards. Don't get the CP number mixed up with the attack number.
See, the thing is, every card has a number. Ranging from 1-9. 9 is the highest but there are also cards with a zero by them. They are useless unless you sue one when a baddie is attacking, this will cause a card break, meaning their attack fails. Now, if your number is also higher than the card they are using, you card break them as well. The thing is, it gets annoying when the enemy has 60 cards, all high numbers and your cards are found randomly and so you might not have really high cards or cards with the value of zero. You can also store cards up, as can the enemy and it unleashes a very power attack, usually the only way to beat that is by combining cards yourself or using a zero. To be honest, it feels like the game relies a lot on luck at times. Also, cards full during battle, they let you get a level specific friend to attack. They can also give you Donald or Goofy to attack quickly. Now, when you use character cards, you can't move. It's a bit odd but oh well.
The world design in the game is what I think brings it all down. Each floor of the castle is a Disney world. You have different cards to choose from to pick the world and you can do them in any order but it doesn't really matter which order. The problem is that each world (excluding Pooh's) is a group of rooms. They have objects and stuff lying around to break up and get mog points (money) or new cards. There are usually 3 specific spots in each world that require a special card. The cards are easy to come by, you get the first automatically at the start of the level and you get the others when you use the previous one. By defeating enemies you get room cards. Basically, every room is locked off. You'll need a specific color, number or general amount to open the doors. There are a number of different cards and some make the enemies more powerful, or a shop room, a save room or whatever. You get the point. Each room seems to have a set amount of enemies depending on the cards used. The enemies randomly pop up in the room and you need to touch them to go into battle. Once you clear all enemies from the room, they just won't come back.
You gain levels like any other RPG but like Kingdom Hearts, you need to grab the orbs that are EXP. Kill an enemy and they drop these different colored balls, which are the EXP. Gain enough and you gain a level. At this point you are given three options. Upgrade Health by 25, CP (card power) by 15 or learn a new sleight. You can only get all upgrades for two of those and a few upgrades for the other. You really need the CP though.
The game is fairly short, between 10 and 15 hours long. The game is also sort of easy until the end where it throws some rather tough bosses at you and I felt that that strategy was a bit cheap because I had used 1 specific deck the entire game and it's suddenly not good enough for a boss. This was also due to my CP being too low and caused me to go back and gain more levels. One nice feature though is the fact that upon beating the game you unlock another story to play through. Slightly different gameplay (still uses cards and stuff but leveling is different) but that mode is even shorter and has you just going to the same levels all over again.
For those die hard Kingdom Hearts fans, pick this one up but it is still a bit pricey even being a year or so old. However, the game isn't good enough to buy a GBA for and I'm sure you can play Kingdom hearts 2 without having played this. Not a whole lot is explained and this game feels more like a filler chapter than a real part of the story.
Story - 5/10
Graphics - 7/10
Sound - 9/10
Control - 8/10
Game play - 7/10
Replay Value - 6/10
Final Score - 7/10
Rating: 3.5 - Good
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