Review by Inspector Boyd

"Square and Disney . . . who would have thought?"

I have to admit, when I first heard about Kingdom Hearts months ago it really didn’t peak
my interest. Having been somewhat disappointed with Square’s recent efforts, I really
didn’t pay much attention to news about the game. I thought the fact that Disney was
involved in the project was pretty neat, but ultimately I lost track of the game. Then
about a month ago, I was in my local import shop looking for a new game. A couple
people in there were raving about this game, so I decided to pick it up. After playing
through it, I must say I was pleasantly surprised with the game. And for those of you out
there wondering if Square and Disney are a good combination, the answer is a resounding

The graphics in this game are excellent. All your favorite Disney and Square characters
are beautifully rendered and animate very smoothly. The CG scenes, while few and far
between, are gorgeous and nearly on par with those in FFX. The environments in the
game are equally, impressive. Everything from Tarzan’s jungle to Halloween Town look
wonderful and have their own atmosphere.

Kingdom Hearts is an Action/RPG similar to The Legend of Zelda and Brave Fencer
Musashi. Battles are fought by running around and tapping the button to hack and slash
at your enemies. You also have a variety of magic spells, summons and abilities at your
disposal. Magic is cast using your standard MP system, but abilities work a little
differently. As you gain levels you acquire AP points. You use these points to “equip”
abilities. These abilities range from a nifty dodge roll to gliding ALA Peter Pan. So,
basically if you’ve played other Action/RPG’s then you should feel right at home with
this game.

As far as music goes Kingdom Hearts soundtrack isn’t outstanding, but it is very well
done. Each area has it’s own theme song and battle music, so the soundtrack doesn’t get
to repetitious. My only complaint is that there’s only a couple Disney themes in here, I
would have liked to have had more. The sound effects are well done. Everything from
the explosions to the battle cries are crisp and clear. The voice acting is where the game
really shines. A lot of the Disney characters actually sound like the original voice actors.
In fact most of the actors do a good job (Donald and Goofy especially). However there
are a few characters (Pooh in particular) that have pretty bad voice jobs. The best part is,
it’s pretty funny to see Disney characters speaking Japanese! It is also neat to see some
of the old FF characters finally get voices. Overall the voice acting really adds to the
enjoyment of the game.

The controls work very well. The main character Sora is very responsive and has a wide
range of moves. The computer controls your other two characters, and surprisingly the
AI is fairly smart. Your buddies keep you healed and attack when they are supposed to.
You can also program how aggressive or defensive they are. Both analog sticks are
utilized to scroll through menus, use magic and select items. There is also a handy quick
key setup, where you can program certain spells to certain buttons. This makes casting
magic easier in the heat of battle. The game also has a lock-on function similar to Zelda,
which helps to keep track of enemies. The only real complaint I have is that the camera
gets a little wacky sometimes, but it’s nothing too serious.

I can’t really go in depth on the story, because I don’t know Japanese all that well.
Basically there is a race of beings called the Heartless who are stealing the hearts of
people from the Disney and Square worlds. They are even recruiting famous Disney
villains to help them in their efforts. You play the role of Sora who, after his island home
is attacked by Heartless, wakes up in Traverse Town. This town is sort of a half-way
point between the Disney and Square worlds. There he teams up with Donald and Goofy
who are searching for King Mickey. So together they travel through various worlds to try
and solve the mystery of the Heartless. Now I’ve heard a lot of people complain that this
game looks too “kiddie” with all the Disney stuff in it. To me the game isn’t kiddie,
light-hearted is a more appropriate word. I had a smile on my face everytime I saw a
familiar character, and the friendship between Donald, Goofy and Sora is pretty hilarious.

This game has plenty of extras. My final game time was over 30 hours and I completed
all the secrets and sidequests. There’s item forging, and the Olympus Coliseum to test
your fighting skills. You also have Dalmatians to find, a secret boss, mini games in the
100 acre woods and much, much more. The game will keep you busy for a while. The
only problem is once you finish the game there really isn’t a lot of replay value.

Overall Square and Disney have a winner on their hands. It’s been a long time since I’ve
had this much fun with a game, especially a Square game. Needless to say, I’m eagerly
awaiting the U.S. release so I can get the full scope of the game. If you’re really anxious
to play this game, by all means import it. It’s well worth the $60 and you can get through
it with little Japanese skill. Otherwise just hold off for the U.S. release, the wait will be
well worth it.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 05/08/02, Updated 05/08/02

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