Review by KasketDarkfyre

Reviewed: 12/30/02 | Updated: 12/30/02

You never know you'll run into next...or do you?

When you think of the Squaresoft Linage, you think of all of the Final Fantasy games that have come out over the years across several different systems. While those games are full of quests and side missions, deep stories {for the most part} and at times, memorable characters, you will probably find this one to be as linear as it gets with a couple of extras to perform while you play. The mixture of Disney characters in a role-playing setting is something is essentially new, and with the cute story-line and well-known characters set through several different worlds, do you have anything to look forward to? Well, the answer to that question is clouded with a little bit of mystery.

The Story

The story that you find is something out of a fairy book in which you take control of a boy named Sora who lives on Destiny Islands in the middle of the ocean with his friends Kairi and Riku. With dreams of adventure, the trio decide to set out into the world, but before their journey can begin, a terrible Darkness overshadows the island. After a fierce battle into the unknown, Sora finds himself in a world he doesn’t recognize, surrounded by strangers. In another part of the universe, the pair of unlikely heroes, Donald and Goofy have set out to find the missing King Mickey and in a chance meeting, the setting for the game begins.

The Game Play

What you’ll find here with Kingdom Hearts is not a traditional role-playing game in the sense that everything requires you to be fully powered up with skills and magic before you can defeat the bosses. The game is linear to the extent that once you’ve completed the worlds as you come across them, there is little {if anything} to do other than move onto the next world and complete the mission there. A couple of small side quests help to keep you going back to those worlds and the use of small Marks in different places require you to do plenty of traveling. However, once you’ve found everything in one world, there is no reason to go back.

The enemies in each world are as diverse as the stories that Disney has to offer, with several different enemies populating each stage. For the most part, you’ll find that they are all just like one another with some minor behavioral difference between them and the amount of damage that they can take before they are defeated. Boss characters that you find are some of the greatest villains that you might have seen in such stories as Peter Pan and the Little Mermaid, but in all reality, a little bit of pattern and attack will get you through even the toughest battles. As you move through the realms, you’ll be able to switch out characters and power up your own, but at no point can you ever be without Sora, so you’re pretty much stuck with him.

When you defeat an enemy, you collect a small amount of experience points, which will go towards you powering up your characters with more skills and abilities that will help you in the later stages of the game. For the most part, these small abilities add a hit or some sort of effect to your weapons and attack with some of them being along the lines of making more money for your characters. While the idea of making money for your characters is nice, you will probably find that buying items {if you need them} is what you’ll use the money for. When taking into consideration that the weapon you have for Sora is the only one that you need, then you’ll find that the game is pretty simple to roll through without having too much difficulty. Hit and run is essential here, so be prepared for some easy battles.

Another feature that Kingdom Hearts has to offer is the Gummi Ship, which is essentially a small blocked out ship that you use to travel in between the worlds. In itself, it seems to be almost like a mini-game and really the only place that you can pick up more gummi blocks to attach to your ship. As you move throughout the game, the amount of ships that you can build and create increases, but after using the ship a couple of times, there really is no sense in building your own ship and using it as you are only going from one world to the next. This little portion of the game seems to have been thrown in as something to divert the action from the simple hack and slash gaming that makes up a good portion of the title.

Control really isn’t a big deal, and you’ll find that the use of a lock-on button allows you to have some control over the free roaming battles. Unlike other role-playing games in the Square arsenal, the battles that you find here are all in a free-roaming environment with means that you can move freely while attacking. This small break allows you to be able to cycle through magic and items on the fly, but be aware that you cannot access menus when there are enemies on the screen. While some gamers might be used to the idea of free movement in battle, the lack of turn-based battling might be a little hard to deal with in the later stages when concentrating on a boss and enemies are just flying at you from all directions.

The Visuals

Visually, Kingdom Hearts is a beautiful game with plenty of story themed stages and locations. However, you might find that the lack of extensive detail gives the game an almost cartoon-ish feel to it and makes it seem just a little childish for an older gamers liking. The magic spells lack the flare of Final Fantasy, and while trying not to compare this game to that one, the lack of in battle flare really does have an effect on you if you live for a massive battle. The extra characters and the bosses that you face off against are all true to Disney and you’ll find that some of the best action takes place in Halloween Town, so be prepared for some neat little scenes here and there to go along with your adventure.

The Audio

The music in Kingdom Hearts has all the cuteness of a 101 Dalmations movie and then some. While the game music fits and has the feel of each and every stage, you might be yearning for something a little more serious when you’re facing off against the likes of Oogie Boogie and Hades. However, what you do have to work with is serviceable at best and shouldn’t be bashed on too hard. The sound effects have a nice touch to them with small grunts and groans as well as the occasional remark from one of your characters to keep the battles flowing. However, the voice-overs have some impressive quality to them and to see some of the more infamous Square characters have voice to them this time around is something that really grounds you to the fact that Square created this game.

The Verdict

Kingdom Hearts isn’t a bad game by any means, but it does seem to lack any sort of seriousness that you might expect out of a Square game. Though the comparison between this title and any of the Final Fantasy games shouldn’t be made, the reference to the said characters is so great in some instances that you just can’t help but make the connection. With the lack of deep adventure and some pretty shallow side-quests, this is a once through game as long as you remember to look everywhere and take to everyone. As a renting choice, you can’t complete this in a single weekend, but it isn’t necessarily a must-have game for the hardcore role-player. If you’re interested in the Square line, then you’ll find that this game is just another title to add to the collection, but if you’re a hardcore gamer, you might want to check out some of the other titles in the genre first.

Rating:   4.0 - Great

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