Review by unclehosh
"The start of one of the greatest video game series I have ever played."
I have always loved Disney characters because they tug at the heartstrings, pulling you into their own conflicts and problems. I admit that I have never been interested in the Final Fantasy series, so the announcement of Kingdom Hearts was a bit of a mystery to me. I had no idea how the two entities would fit together, but Kingdom Hearts is so much more than a bizarre mixture of famous movies and unique games. It is a game that tells one of the most powerful and well written stories I have ever seen in gaming, while providing reliable game play and gorgeous music.
Make no mistake about it. Kingdom Hearts is a beautiful game. The opening and ending cut scenes impressed me with their level of detail, especially with the way the light reflects off of the water. During the game, everything remains fairly solid throughout. There is very little texture, giving the game a very cartoonish look, but I believe this was the intention. The only real issue is the lip movement and facial expressions. In some scenes, the characters move their lips in perfect sync with what is being said while conveying their emotions with realistic expressions. However, the rest of the game uses cheap open-and-close lip movements and blank expressions despite the chaos and tragedy that occurs. I enjoyed the vibrant colors that allowed the environments to come to life, and the small things, like the water splashing when Sora swims, make the game feel much more real.
I have played few games that have better stories than Kingdom Hearts. It focuses on a young boy named Sora who, like his two friends, wants to see the world outside of his small island shelter. Upon building the raft and preparing to set sail, the island is attacked by shadowy beings known as the Heartless. After Sora's friends Riku and Kairi vanish, he is left alone with the monsters. Suddenly, a giant key appears in his hands, which he uses to fight the creatures. The island is destroyed, and Sora appears in a small town where he meets Donald Duck and Goofy. The pair was ordered by King Mickey to find "the boy with the key" and follow him. The trio then begins the search for Sora's friends, and the tale that ensues is unlike anything I have ever seen in a video game. Fantastic writing and acting help the characters come to life. I found myself growing increasingly interested in the romance between Sora and Kairi, and I was touched by more that one scene. The game relies heavily on symbolism to convey its heavy themes about good and evil, and light and darkness. It's a remarkable and unique approach to storytelling in video games.
The music in Kingdom Hearts is some of the best gaming has to offer. Even the main menu theme left me speechless. Something as simple as a repetitive piano melody was able to make me think about my friends, family, and morals, which is what the game focuses heavily on. While I cannot say I am overly fond of the game's introductory song, a fast paced version of the ending theme, I can say that I enjoyed everything else. The music builds atmosphere, while making you think about so much more than just the game. The music inspires you, making you wonder what you would have done in the same scenario. That is what I call powerful music.
Game Play- 8/10
The game play in Kingdom Hearts in not perfect due to some minor problems, but I enjoyed it because of what the game succeeds at. Using the Keyblade to fight is fun, unique, and efficient thanks to a lock-on targeting system. Donald and Goofy offer back-up without ever getting in the way, and the magic system is fun and useful. However, using the favorites menu or the extensive menus during the heat of battle can be a bit tedious. Also, there is no way to turn the camera in any direction, so you are always in constant fear of what is behind you. Leveling up is extremely useful due to the increases in strength, defense, and magic abilities. In addition, you also receive new abilities while leveling up, like the ability to glide after jumping. Boss battles are brilliantly designed and flawlessly executed. Some of the battle are on such a large scale that I found myself comparing Kingdom Hearts to Shadow of the Colossus. Lastly, I can say that the jumping can use a little work, but the swimming and flying controls are almost perfect. If it weren't for a poor camera, tedious menus, and poor platforming, Kingdom Hearts would be perfect in every way.
I can't express how much this game moved me and intrigued me. I have rarely been affected by a game so easily, but Kingdom Hearts has it all. This game started something special, and something that I hope with be special for years to come.
Final Score: 9/10
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 07/31/12, Updated 08/03/12
Game Release: Kingdom Hearts (US, 09/16/02)
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