Review by Chaos Control

"A cute game that brings back childhood memories"

It's never too late to play a good game, and Squaresoft/Disney's Kingdom Hearts is definitely not one to miss. At first, Kingdom Hearts may be confused with a cute Disney game targeted to little kids, but it also contains many elements of a seriously good RPG that will leave its players drooling for more. Many of the Disney worlds are back, and with their trademark characters, too! Although this combination of Disney and Final Fantasy is a bit... weird, it's still an amazing game that will make you jump out of your seat!

Game play in Kingdom Hearts may be a little overwhelming at first, due to all the game concepts being thrown at you in the first hour. Many elements of RPG's are here, including leveling up and learning new abilities. A little twist to the leveling is that when you gain one level, usually only one particular stat will increase. So you could level up once and gain an increase to your Strength, but everything else stays the same. You could also level up and increase your Max HP, while everything else remains unchanged. Every 3 or so levels, you will learn a new abilities for your characters. However, you have to "equip" these abilities, and to do so, you need to use AP points, which are gained by either leveling up or using items.

Magic and spells can be used as well. They are gained by going through the story or completing side quests, nothing new here. Yes, there are several really cheap spells you can cast that make you "immortal", in a sense. One spell will allow you to regain portions of lost HP at a relatively low cost and casting time.

Another cool aspect to battles is the ability to summon Disney creatures to the battlefield! Imagine the surprise I got when I summoned Simba for the first time! Although summons look cool and are very useful, often times you won't even be able to summon them because the battles are too short, except boss fights. Speaking of which, there is also a very cheap creature you can summon that would also make you immortal...

The battle system is certainly different, much more so that I initially expected. The battle takes place right where you are standing, as the enemies poof out of nowhere to attack you. You are not permitted to access the menu during battles, so that means no switch party members or using items from your stock. Before the battle, you can "equip" items to characters so that they may use it in battles. Your party members can equip items of their own to use in battle, although I find that the rest of my party burns through all of their items quickly in like, one battle... very wasteful.

Kingdom Hearts uses an easy-to-understand battle style, which translate to "Hack-and-Slash". If you see an enemy, just rush up to it and attack it with your weapon until it dies. You could also use magic and special abilities, although your MP bar will drain quickly. I've found that most of the boss battles require no intricate strategy, just hit and run. The problem here that ruined by battle experience was the targeting system. By pressing one button, you can lock onto one enemy. That's great, exactly what I need. But when you get near an enemy, you will automatically target on to one particular enemy. This is bad, especially when swarmed by enemies because the enemy you are trying to attack is different then the enemy you're auto-locked on, so you end up swiping at thin air.

After a battle, an enemy will "explode" and little balls of munny, HP, and items will fly out over the battlefield, so you have to collect them by running around while dodging enemy attacks. Some enemies will drop synthesis items, which are just shards, gems, and crystals which are materials for better items such as accessories and weapons. Some of these drop items are rare, so you may have to go through hordes of enemies before one will drop the item you need. Just so you know, munny is basically useless in this game. All the good weapons are obtained through side quests, the storyline, and tournaments. All the good accessories are either dropped by enemies and synthesized. Potions and other healing items are commonly dropped by enemies, especially early on. And don't forget the huge numbers of treasure chests loaded with goodies! In conclusion, money translates to power and wealth, but not in Kingdom Hearts.

Kingdom Hearts has many different worlds for you to travel to, and each world is it's own little dungeon. The dungeons themselves are long, but not really that complicated. Compared to games like Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, the dungeon's are rather easy. They just take a long time because there are endless waves of enemies. Characters from their respective worlds will join your party just for that world, so Aladdin will join you in Agrabah and Ariel will join you in Atlantica. The order in which you visit these worlds is very linear and you always know where to go next.

Going from world to world is a huge pain, unless you can warp. The mistake in Kingdom Hearts was the Gummi ship feature. Basically, you traveling from world to world while riding this ship, shooting enemies that pass by and collecting the Gummi ship parts that they dropped. Except that this was very poorly done. This space shooting game is really boring, and adds absolutely nothing to the content of the game. You can also customize and build your own ship. I feel this is a waste of time, because I bought the game for the Disney content, RPG value, and graphics, not some silly space alien destroying game. You don't even need to upgrade the ship you start out with to beat the game, so why bother?

Disney has their own little theme worlds like Wonderland and Atlantica which look awesomely similar to their movie counterparts. Ariel's got her little grotto where she hides her human stuff, and Agrabah has that cool Cave of Wonders. Each world also has a little story that pertains to its movie. For example, Ariel is always talking about trying to see new worlds and her father is overprotective. Aladdin is trying to protect Jasmine, and the Rabbit from Wonderland is still late. Enemies are back too, as you will see familiar faces like Hades, Ursula, Jafar, and more. Even cooler, some of these enemies have their "god" mode form, like Jafar's genie form and Ursula's giant trident wielding form. This was definitely fun to watch and nostalgic at the same time.

There are mini-games for you to play as well. While the prizes you get for them are cool, and the directions are easy to understand, playing the actual mini-game is not. It's simply frustrating. The objective is simple, like breaking a pot or finding other NPC's, but to gain a special ability, you have to get a certain high score for every mini-game. Meeting those requirements will have you replaying the same mini-games over and over again until you find strategies from a FAQ. Also, there are side quests that have you fighting a certain number of enemies with a time limit. This is also another cause of frustration, because a single mistake that takes 10 seconds off the clock will force you to restart the entire sequence.

Don't get me wrong, the game play is generally very good, despite the few frustrating factors. But one more problem that bothered a picky person like me was the lack of NPC's. Traverse Town, a place where people who lost their worlds gather, consists of just 3-4 civilians, a couple of shopkeepers, and all monsters. It's a ghost town, but it's the place you will call home. In Atlantica, the supposed home for all the mermaids, I counted a total of two mermaids: King Triton and Ariel. In Agrabah, I don't even recall any NPC's! Of course, this really isn't important, but the worlds are so empty that I'd feel lonely if it weren't for all the monsters.

The storyline is actually very good and captivating at times. A boy travels across different worlds to find his friends and meets weird characters (Donald and Goofy) with the final goal of destroying the ultimate darkness/evil bad guy. That's it. But the story is done so beautifully that it's actually one of the stronger points of the game. I must also say, the ending is very amazing. It's so great that it convinced me to buy Kingdom Hearts II. The ending is worth all the time spent on the story!

The graphics are probably the most appealing part of the game, as it's surprisingly clean for an early PS2 game. The cutscenes are dramatic and effective, meaning that are very well done. The beginning and ending scenes are absolutely some of the best I've seen in video games, which you'll just have to see for yourself.

The Disney worlds look remarkably like their movie counterparts, and it feels very much real. The characters and bosses look cool. This game puts you in a boss battle at the very beginning, so imagine the fear that you feel when that boss turns out to be this huge, dark, evil looking monstrosity. And imagine the humor when you realize that this monster is actually easy to defeat. Outside of battles, characters suffer from the "run-on mouth" when they talk. Their mouths are moving, but they keep moving until you decide to close the dialog box. Character expressions are nonexistent out of cutscenes, so often characters will stare back at you with a blank smile. Final Fantasy characters have nice looking weapons too, as Cloud will be wielding his huge sword and Squall his gunblade. By the way, there are some really cool looking weapons to obtain! Furthermore, the summon animations are very impressive as well. Often times, I summon these useless creatures just to see their animation!

Each Disney world has it's own exclusive music, and that music is sometimes pulled straight from the movie! For example, Winnie the Pooh will be playing when you enter 100 Acre Woods. The theme song "Simple and Clean" is played at both the beginning and end. This is basically the theme song for the entire series and it does sound nice. There are several tracks used in this game that are worthy to be listened to outside of the game.

There is voice acting done, with Disney voices done by their movie actors, which is good. The cutscenes are subtitled, and combined with flawless graphics and expressive voice acting, these are the parts to look forward to while playing. In battle, enemies that can talk will say repetitive quotes that can make no sense at times. Overall, the sounds are pretty standard, like the sounds of footsteps, weapons killing enemies, and voice acting.

The overall storyline with completed sidequests can take some 40-50 hours to complete for the first time. It's the standard length for any RPG. Time will fly past quickly while you play this game.

The replay value is moderate. It seems as though you don't unlock anything after beating the game, so you can try again on a different difficulty. You can adjust game settings like level up speed and Sora's stats by choosing different weapons at the beginning. Everything else will be the same, though. Personally, I thought Kingdom Hearts was fun, but rather than playing this one over again, I'd move on to the second game in the series.

Kingdom Hearts is a cute game, full of many Disney characters people are familiar with. It also contains many serious themes like friendship and Light versus Dark (which is actually very deep and philosophical). It will provide a generally fun gaming experience and is an essential prerequisite to playing Kingdom Hearts II. This game is a definite buy due to shining brilliance in graphics and compelling storyline!

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 04/23/07

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