Review by ashjenbff
A fabulous RPG designed for the creative mind
An absolute stunner. I picked up Kingdom Hearts from a friend for fifteen bucks, and expected it to be pretty much average. Boy, was I mistaken. After just a few minutes of playing, and three or four strange cutscenes, I was hooked. The graphics were stunning; the characters amazing, emotional, and deep; the storyline was excellent; and the combonation of Disney-Square worked out perfectly. I can honestly say this is perhaps the best game I have ever played.
The graphics were great. The Disney worlds look exactly as you remember them: bright, fun, and colourful. Dark places are thrown in at just the right times to give you a slight chill. Sure, the characters have ridiculous outfits (huge red pants and enormous yellow shoes? What, is Sora a size twenty in sneakers?), but it all fits in very nicely. Despite a few objections from others who have played the game, I love Sora's spiky hair. One thing that struck me as odd however, was how Kairi managed to bring all of that hair dye with her. At the beginning her hair is a purplish colour, towards the middle it gets more brown, and then it's red at the end. It changes colours quite a lot inbetween too. Anyways, the backgrounds are colourful and detailed. Destiny Island is pure paradise, and Traverse Town looks just like you would imagine a small refugee town. Overall? Great graphics.
Character Development/Characters: 10/10
Wow. You really get to know the characters through the game, both through playing Sora and watching the fabulously-timed cutscenes. Everyone still has their original qualities by the end though, so it's much more realistic. Riku was my favorite, even through his little "trip" with a certain Disney character (No spoilers, I promise!). Kairi and Sora's friendship (and maybe more) grows with each passing hour added to the menu clock, and the last cutscene portrays it beautifully (believe me, I almost cried). Now, on to the Disney characters. Donald and Goofy can't fight for anything, but myabe that's because they're pre-occupied with their search for the King. Who knows? They don't get too developed in cutscenes however, so you've got to have a basic knowledge about them for their lines to be funny. I'd also recommend reading subtitles, as Donald sounds exactly like he does on the big screen. Disney villians are wonderfully portrayed, and look as good (maybe better!) than they do in movies. I found it odd that the Disney Villians usually cross your path more than "good" characters. Aside from that brat Peter "Pain" (you'll see what I mean in one of the Neverland cutscenes) all of the characters were generally favorable to have in your party.
Exploration/World Size: 6/10
I have no idea why, but I get all worked up over having small worlds and not enough space to explore. The worlds have multiple areas in them, but they're generally small. Take the deep Jungle for example. There are about six or seven different areas, but they are each only a few steps wide and long. Fairly boring, too, in some cases. One area in the deep Jungle has nothing but a single rock as decoration. The tent at camp is the tightest fit yet: Sora can hardly move two steps with Donald, Goofy, or Tarzan by his side. Monstro was another disappointment. All of the rooms look exactly the same, give or take the occassional ledge or barrel or chest. The Hollow Bastion is perhaps the biggest world, but still, so many extra rooms and buttons can confuse a person easily. The chests are adequately placed, usually fairly well hidden, but visible. Sora and friends can move pretty easily throughout the levels. Not bad, but definitely not great either.
Gummi Ship: 5/10
A total disappointment. I ended up warping everywhere I could. The concept is, you send your little Lego ship out into the void of dark space. Your Lego machine gun (well, it sure looks like one!) shoots other little Lego ships, rocks, and "comets". You collect little gems, from which you may choose to build another Gummi ship. The one you are provided with in the beginning is adequate, however, so there's no need. By the end of the game, you will be trying and failing to open chests when they say you cannot carry any more "Aero-G" or "Dispel-G". Then you come back to that world later, and realize, "Hey! I just spent twenty minutes getting up here, just to try to open a chest that contains something I already have ninety-nine of! Wow that Gummi ship is great!" (note the sarcasm). Plus, you're probably going to want to get into a nice college and get a degree in design and engineering before even attempting to build a ship. If you're good with that kind of stuff though, go for it. The Gummi ship is definitely a disappointment though.
Could be better, could be worse. Hey, at least we can control the camera, even if it is with those annoying shoulder buttons. The camera keeps trying to follow Sora around though, and it just doesn't work sometimes (Take Halloween Town for example). The camera will end up stuck in a wall or behind one, and you won't be able to see and thing you're fighting. You'd better hope you can lock on and just mash the X button quickly, or you're going down. That's all I have to say about the camera. hey, it's got it's flaws, but it works!
The music is excellent. It totally sets the scene for the area. You will also encounter Disney favortes such as the Winnie the Pooh song and Under the Sea. Sure, after a few repitions of the same music, you will get annoyed and probably turn the sound down, but by then you'll be in a battle or cutscene and the music will have changed already. The only downside (two actually): there are only a few measures of music for each area and battle. Plus, Under the Sea gets extremely annoying after a few minutes of game play. I think Under the sea should have been played in combo with an original song. Anyways, the music is great. Now, on to the theme song... I love it. Simple and Clean by Utada Hikaru is a simple amazing song that fits the theme of Kingdom Hearts, but could also fit with the average listener. Beautiful.
Finally getting to the good stuff. Controls are simple enough, just mash the X button and use the D-pad to select a spell or item once in a while. They're easy to learn, and easy to remember, so they get an 8/0. They're no amazing, and they could be a lot better, but hey, they work.
Ahh, the essence to the game. Gameplay is excellent. You cannot control Goofy, Donald, or any guest characters that are in your party, but they usually end up dead anyways before realizing they have potions to use on themselves. Sure, they come back after a while, but it does get annoying. You can use a system in the main menu, similar to Gambits in FFXII, but it won't do much. Now, for the reason the gameplay gets a nine. Sora is easy to control. Pretty easy to fight with. Donald and Goofy do help. Gameplay is simple, yet strangely difficult at the same time. Just as you would expect a Square game to be, easy, but useful gameplay.
We're going in for the big one now. The storyline is simply excellent. The characters develop, although I think Sora has a hearing problem (count how many times he says, "What?" or "Huh?" in the game). The first cuscene will get your mind going, with all of the reference to darkness. The worlds tie into the storyline perfectly, especially the very last word (I won't give it away). Fabulous. The last cutscene nearly made me cry, it was so touching. The storyline combines basic elements of friendship, love, and a lust for power, but in a kid-friendly manner so you can feel good about letting your kids play. (Sora is only 14 after all!) The heartless tie in really well to the story of the Keyblade, and that's why the storyline gets such a high rating: everything ties together.
Time to play/Difficulty: 8/10
It took me and my friends about fifty hours to get through the game. However, that is considering we left it on for almost five hours one night on the pause screen and multiple other times that surely add up. You will also spend more time collecting treasure and the 99 Puppies than anything else, so skipping this will deny you the secret ending, but will also save you a lot of time.
The difficulty? Medium/Hard. I got stuck on the centipede pot battle in Agrabah and quit for a few months, then tried with some friends and beat it and the rest of the game somewhat painlessly. The lack of save points and easy bosses do make this a challenging game, however.
Replay value: 4/10
After you see it all, there is nothing more to see, unless you want the secret ending. You will know the characters, the storyline, and the area, so the best thing to do if you wish to replay would to try a harder difficulty setting. That's it. No replay whatsoever.
I'd say check it out through rental first, seeing as a lot of people have strong negative opinions about it, and buy it if you like it. I thought it was an absolutely excellent game, and hope you enjoy it as much as I do!
Rating: 4.0 - Great
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