Review by cmiyc

"The Best and Worst of Two Worlds."

In an elevator two guys got an idea to put their company’s flagship enterprises together and witness the results. On the surface it sounds like a great idea. The world leader in RPG Video Games along with the World Leader in Storytelling teaming up for one grand adventure. So was this a great idea or does it just sound good on the surface?

The look and feel of the game is very beautiful. From the very beginning you know you’re playing a Square RPG and once you meet Donald Duck the first time, the Disney influence is obvious. Battle effects, the cutscenes, and the character models are beautiful. I was less impressed with the undetailed environments. The Disney environments mesh very well. However, it seems like someone scaled back the colors in the Opening Island and Hub “worlds.”

The animation if very fluid and a pleasure to watch. The Disney characters move like you’d expect.

Graphics Score: 4/5

If you don’t know the basics of the story by now, you’ve been living under a rock. The story is in usual Square fashion. Some unsuspecting child awakens after a tragic storm and is forced on a quest. There is a slight twist in the beginning since you aren’t sure how Donald Duck’s story is going to get intertwined with yours.

Thankfully the story is somewhat non-linear. You are given at least a little choice in the next world, instead of going in a perfectly straight line. A huge, and I mean huge, gripe here is traveling from world to world. You travel in a Gummi ship between each world. On your way you are forced to play a short game of Rez. I guess Square wanted to remind everyone the PS2 is still capable of playing early PS1 quality games. At least it is not Blitzball

Storyline Score: 4/5

Every once in a while you’ll recognize a familiar Disney tune, however most of the score is original. The theme song isn’t very memorable and neither are most of the other songs. What is very nice is the voice acting. Although it is limited to the cutscenes, the voices are pretty amazing. The biggest surprise to me is that the Disney characters sound as they should. That was very refreshing.. Also, Square didn’t botch the english lip synching quite as badly as they did in FFX. Although its not as fluid as FFX’s cutscenes, at least you don’t feel like you’re watching 1970’s Kung-Fu movies.

Sound Score: 3/5

I saved gameplay for last this time around. Why? Because. This category alone could make this a very, very long review. Simply put, the Gameplay is bad. I’m appalled at the idea that Square makes use of a “battle system.” The truth is, Kingdom Hearts is a platformer/adventure game. There is nothing unique about its “battle system.” It is rather clumsy and detracts very much from the fun of the game. The targeting system is a joke and the camera adds extreme frustration. The controls are counter-intuitive, which only makes things worse.

The single largest problem with the gameplay is the camera. Most of the time onscreen indicators as well as your cohorts take up a huge amount of your screen. The shoulder buttons provides manual control of the camera. Which, at first, seems like a good idea. However, to switch from Attack to Magic, or to Items, you have to use the D-Pad or Right Analog stick. This means that trying to heal yourself requires you to remain open to attacks.

Jumping seems to have been an after thought. When you jump you float down at about 1/3 to 1/2 of the speed you used going up. Once you land, you have to wait about half of a second before your character will move again.

The targeting system will cause you a serious amount of grief. In the Wonderland world you are fighting against Card Soldiers. Every so often the target system will attract itself to the Tower. This would be a good thing, but you’ll be attacking a stationary object while about 5 lethal targets pummel you!

Oh, and how about a block button? Forget it.

Here’s a tip. Your initial sidekicks are Donald and Goofy. Don’t even bother thinking about healing Donald. He’ll spend at least 80% of your early battles hanging out on the ground in a daze (aka KO’d).

All in all the gameplay represents all of the problems of a Final Fantasy Game AS WELL AS all of the problems of a Platform Adventure game. The story moves along slowly at time and the camera, to put it simply, sucks.

Gameplay Score: 1/5

Despite its gameplay problems, there is something that keeps me drawn to the controller. It is exciting to discover whom you are going to encounter next. However, I don’t feel this game is worth running out and dropping $50 ASAP. Rent it first and see if you like it. If you’re a hardcore Square or Disney fan, you’re probably reading this after you already bought it. =) Personally I’m a big Square AND Disney fan. I’ll probably finish the game, but I’ve got lots of swearing to do on the way.

Overall: 6/10

Reviewer's Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Originally Posted: 09/19/02, Updated 09/19/02

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