Review by CChan

Reviewed: 09/19/02 | Updated: 09/30/02

Childish? Think again...

Squaresoft and Disney joined forces? Yeah, unbelievable, and the result of the collaboration is a game titled ‘Kingdom Hearts’, featuring a 14 year old boy named Sora, Donald Duck and Goofy. Heck, I know this sound totally weird. One practically non-existent character, 1 wacky duck and a pretty dumb animal – fighting against the evil and darkness of the world. But in actual, it’s a pretty fun game to play with, as an action-based RPG that requires more skill and strategy than the traditional ones.

Graphics – 9.0
Kingdom Hearts is brilliant in the graphics, bringing you to the worlds of Disney in a fully 3D world... compared to what you saw in the movies and televisions in animation form. The character models are nice, the magic effects are great, as well as the summoning sequences, which is pretty attractive.

The lighting effects is a neat thing to look at, what with the magic and all, added with the colourful background and environment which enhances the graphics of the entire game. Still, when compared to Final Fantasy X, the graphics in this game falls short a bit – but perhaps that’s done on purpose, as Kingdom Hearts is rather ‘cartoony’.

Music, Voices and Sound Effects - 9.5
The background music in all the stages are okay, with some of the stages having an altered music theme to the particular stage; for example, the 100 Acre Wood starring Winnie the Pooh and friends. The sound effects are done nicely, with the sounds of swimming, fire blazing, lightning, and the like done quite well.

Voices are one of the main important aspects, as it boosts the fact that this game is a Disney and Squaresoft game. It seems that (presumably, because I’m not entirely sure) that the original voice actors for most of the Disney characters are retained. It’s a real joke to hear Donald squawking, “Sora!”, together with the entire line of Disney’s characters which include Tarzan, Jane, Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, Rabbit, Hercules, Hades, Ariel, Peter Pan and a countless of others.

Squaresoft characters like Aeris (joy!), Squall (called Leon in the game, maybe because of his full name Squall Leonheart), Yuffie, Tidus, Wakka and a few more have their own voices, even though they might sound slightly weird in comparison of their own personalities (for those who didn’t know, Squaresoft’s Final Fantasy series didn’t have voices until Final Fantasy X). And for Tidus and Wakka from Final Fantasy X, they didn’t have their original voice actors, which a tad bit too sad, but perhaps it’s so because they didn’t really look like the original Tidus and Wakka. In fact, they look like they were in their teens. Just a bit more of information, Mandy Moore is Aeris’ voice actor, while Sephiroth (who is an additional boss for the English version of Kingdom Hearts) has Lance Bass from ‘NSync doing the grunts and all for him; it seems that the celebrities have contributed too in this game.

Gameplay – 9.2
Although this game does states that it is an RPG, it is a form of an action-RPG type, which is different than the traditional one - the Final Fantasy series are the best examples. This game basically allows you to choose weapons, armors, magic and summons, where you control your character (Sora) and attack enemies manually, instead of a choice of selections for you to pick.

Perhaps the thing that catches your eye is the summons, because normally, an action-RPG game wouldn’t have that type of attack (considering this is a Squaresoft game too, well...). There are various type of summons hidden across the many worlds of Kingdom Hearts, which you need to find (other than your initial one during the early part of the game). You can summon Disney characters like Simba (from Lion King), Bambi (from well, Bambi), Genie (from Aladdin), Tinkerbell (from Peter Pan) and many others.

And the enemies? Well, most of them are from Disney, like Jafar from Aladdin, Hades from Hercules, the evil queen from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and even the evil pirate from Peter Pan!

In the beginning, you will be given a choice of three things, a sword, a wand and a shield, which you can choose only two and will affect your character’s stats, although there aren't any difference really because the difference of the stats is quite minor.

Magic too is understandably from Squaresoft, with the usual range of magic like Fire, Blizzard, Aero, Gravity, Stop and more. They are upgradeable to a more powerful version, and some of the names are totally weird, like Stopra, while the usual ones you’ve heard before in the Final Fantasy games are like Fira, Blizzara and the like.

Other than magic, there is this special move called the ‘Trinity’, which have different colours. Whichever colour of Trinity that you have learned will allow you to perform a Trinity move on that particular Trinity sign (which by the way, can only be performed by Sora, Donald and Goofy).

Kingdom Hearts has plenty of mini-games to play, the most notable one will be the 100 Acre Wood which involves Winnie the Pooh and friends, together with activities like tournaments to join, which will award you with items and new magic.

And heck, just like any other RPGs, there are ‘munny’ which is equivalent to money, just like Gil in the Final Fantasy series. These can be spent on buying things from item shops and accessory shops, and those unusable items that you had collected on your travels can be combined to create new items in the synthesis shop, run by Mogs (you know, those cute pink look-a-bit-like-pigs creatures in Final Fantasy IX.

There are some optional characters that you can use only on the particular world itself, like Tarzan in Deep Jungle, which means that you can throw away a useless one (which for me, is the annoying, squawking bird who called himself Donald). And also, once you had acquired Donald and Goofy, the two of them will help you out as a party, and since they’re being controlled by computers, their AI can be pretty dumb at times, but those could be adjustable by setting how often should they attack, use magic, use curative items, etc. – all in the convenience of the Configuration.

Story – 9.1
Although the storyline here is mostly linear (unlike Final Fantasy VII), there are several interesting parts of the story that'll set you thinking (play the game and you'll find out). Basically, it’s about Sora, a 14 year old teenager, Riku, a 15 year old boy and Kairi, a 14 year old girl. The three of them are best of friends but got separated when an evil force attacked their island. The three of them are split into different worlds, and Sora is determined to find the other two. On the way, he bumped into Donald, the mage of the castle and Captain Goofy, who are on the search for King Mickey, who had mysteriously left the castle with a letter. So, as the norm of almost any story goes, the three of them set out in search of various people and battling the Heartless at the same time.

Replay Value – 8.0
This game doesn’t have anything to offer once you have completed the game, but those mini-games and tough tournaments should bring you back to level yourself up often, since levelling up in this game is quite tough (the amount of experience points you obtain is so... little to be of any use, especially battling the weaker enemies).

Overall – 9.3
Kingdom Hearts is a game about love and friendship, together with those lovable Disney characters (at least, for most of them). If you’ve never played an action-RPG before, this game is a recommended one because it’s not too tough and complicated to play, compared to Morrowind... All in all, this game is funny in its own ways, and the collaboration between Squaresoft and Disney resulting this game is something to praise.

Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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