Review by Kashell Triumph

"Yeah, your eyes are not deceiving you. The guy who bashed the game finally had a heart and gave the game a whirl"

Kingdom Hearts. Just the name makes me think of two of things: Disney and Square. And that's what it is. Disney and Squaresoft combined to make an action/RPG. When I first heard of this, I was just appaled. What the hell was Square thinking?! The main character, Sora, was going to fight alongside Donald Duck and Goofy!? He was going to join forces with Peter Pan, Dumbo, Bambi, Ariel, and other Disney characters in hopes of saving his world?! COME ON! This made me so mad. However, there was going to be just as many Squaresoft aspects, right? WRONG! First off, Square has made some great games other than Final Fantasy. Why they didn't include anyone from SaGa, Secret of Mana, Front Mission, or anything else is beyond me. Hell, they didn't even bother with Final Fantasy Tactics. That has Final Fantasy in it, right? Furthermore, the Final Fantasy games chosen to be in Kingdom Hearts were FFVII, FFVIII, and FFX. WHERE THE HELL IS FFIX?! I loved FFIX; my favorite FF on the Playstation. There were no characters from the SNES FFs either. Cecil? Celes? Nope. How lame this game must be. Then I found out that there was voice acting done by famous stars. This made me even more furious. Lance Bass from N'Sync was the voice of Sephiroth. Yeah, a guy from the famous boy band acting as one of the coolest characters in video game history. Yuffie, who is somewhat intriguing, was voiced by Christy Romano a.k.a. REN STEVENS from Even Stevens. The beautiful Aeris was done by Mandy Moore. MANDY MOORE!? Yeah, the girl who was so bad at singing compared to Britney and Christina she decided to try acting. Too bad she sucks at that too. The more I thought about it, the more I was pissed off by it. Oh but it gets worse! People who bought the game with the shiny Square logo on it were putting down a game that was released around the same time: Dual Hearts. Now, Dual Hearts was amazing. I loved it. Did it have flaws? Yes, but it was still original, creative, and fun. I thought it was better because it didn't try to get recognition for having Disney cameos. Dual Hearts was overlooked, bashed, and neglected. So I did the same thing to Kingdom Hearts and it's mass followers. In fact, I have been in many an argument about the crap that was Kingdom Hearts (and I'm still awaiting a decent know who you guys are). I made an Okage (another great game) vs. Kingdom Hearts deathmatch. This was where most of the KH characters lost a fight with the Okage characters. I did a lil' flaming on the KH board and whenever I was in a game store I would take all the KH boxes and hide them so no one would think of buying them. Did I act immature? Yes, but that's how I am. Don't get me wrong, I loved Squaresoft. I still do (and never will they be called Square Enix by me, but I won't get into that). However, the creators of Final Fantasy teaming up with Disney was just unacceptable. Well folks, fast forward to 2004 when I just completed Drakengard, and I wanted something new to play. I asked countless opinions about Kingdom Hearts. The consencus was that the game was FUN. That is what makes a good game, overall. My friend lent it to me and I've been playing for 40+ hours now. I actually played the game from start to almost finish (I still have to beat the last place and I'm trying to do some more side-quest stuff). So it's high time that I tell everyone like it is and say what Kingdom Hearts is all about.

Story: 6/10
The story begins on Destiny Island. This island is a tropical paradise where kids frolic, have fun, imagine, and dream. One of the island residents is named Sora. The boy with big yellow shoes Sora has been having some odd dreams as of late, but he can't quite put his finger on what they exactly mean. Sora and his friends Riku and Kairi dream of leaving Destiny Island and seeing new worlds. Together, they build a raft and hope to set sail the next day. Now, head on over to the Disney Kingdom where royal wizard Donald Duck learns that King Mickey has gone missing. Donald joins the knight Goofy and gets instructions from Queen Minnie and Daisy Duck. They are informed to find the Key Blade Master; the one who will bring together all worlds. But first, they must find a man named Leon. He should be able to help them out with more Key Blade related information. Donald and Goofy hop aboard their Gummi (yeah...Gummi...) Ship and set a course for Traverse Town. Head on back to Destiny Island where a terrible storm has brewed. Odd creatures are overtaking the island and Kairi is nowhere to be found. Sora ends up facing a large enemy, and obtains a mysterious weapon in the shape of a key. Yup, it's a Key Blade. Who would've thought? After a bizarre encounter with Riku and a dark portal, Sora ends up in Traverse Town all alone. Eventually, he meets up with Donald and Goofy. Since Sora and the Disney team are both looking for missing people, they decide to join forces, fight together, and see what is going on with these bizarre creatures called the Heartless.

The story sounds semi-original, and it is for the most part. You have your characters with motivations and a mission. Basic stuff. You fly your Gummi Ship from world to world in hopes of finding the missing friends. The worlds are all from Disney movies with the exception of two (I won't reveal spoilers). You visit Wonderland, Neverland, Tarzan's Jungle, Agrabah from Aladin, and so on. When you visit these worlds and advance the story, this is when it starts to lose it's originality. Basically Sora, Donald, and Goofy are in the world and going through the events that happened in the movie. In fact, you fight the same Disney villains in a similarly like the way the Disney characters did. Example: In The Little Mermaid, you encounter Ariel, the dad is strict, sea witch Ursula is evil, Ariel makes a deal, Ursula gets trident, she grows to a big size. In Kingdom Hearts when you visit Atlantica (The Little Mermaid place), you basically go through the exact same thing! The only difference is the way Sora, Donald, Goofy, and the new types of monsters (the Heartless) interact with the events taking place. To sum it up, it's completely unoriginal. The concept was sort of nice, but the story gives no reason as to how the Disney characters came to be. There are some interesting twists near the end of the story that focus on Sora, Kairi, and Riku but it doesn't help it enough. The way it SHOULD'VE been done is that Sora, Riku, and Kairi all get stranded in Traverse Town and they try to find their way back home with the help of Disney characters in all new worlds where the Disney villains were brought back to life. But hey, that's just me.

Gameplay: 7/10
Kingdom Hearts is an action/RPG, so there is plenty of jumping and climbing that needs to be done. What's good is that you can jump and climb on pretty much everything. You want to reach a rooftop for a treasure? You can most certainly get on there if you find the right path. Speaking of treasures, there are tons of them in this game. Getting them all will require certain abilities like High Jump, but all can be obtained. A new type of ''treasure'' is the Trinity Mark. These little markings come in blue, red, green, yellow, and white. At first you'll only be able to get the blue ones. When you activate the marks you get Munny (the currency) and some new items. It's really exciting to see what you'll find. You can also look for 99 dalmations from the movie 101 Dalmations. Getting all of them nets you a fabulous prize. The town where you buy your items and accessories (there's no armor, helmets, boots, etc.) is Traverse Town. That's it. If you want to restock, you have to go all the way back to Traverse Town. At first it's an annoyance, but eventually you get the ability to warp so it's not that bad. At some point you'll find a Synthesis Shop (the only thing from FFIX and ironically owned by Moogles which played a major role in FFIX) where you can make new accessories and a few items. If you make enough, you'll get the option to make the most powerful weapon for Sora. You can buy things for your Gummi Ship as well, but I'll get into that later. Other than that, you'll be mostly fighting and advancing the story. You can visit Merlin to practice magic or visit Winnie the Pooh in Hundred Acre Wood for mini-games, but that's pretty much all.

Battles: 6/10
Action/RPGs need to have solid, fast-paced action in order for them to be a hit. Kingdom Hearts does have this, but there are many flaws with it. You control Sora. You can't switch to another character like you could in Secret of Mana, so you're going to have to get used to controlling Sora. In the bottom left corner of your screen you have a menu. The four choices are attack, magic, items, and ?. Usually, it will be placed on attack. Using magic and items is a real pain because you have to do them in real time. Combat will not stop when you're hurting and require medical item help, so it is necessary for you to run to a safe place and use a Hi-Potion or Curaga. Yes Goofy and Donald can help you, but they usually end up using something on you at the same time, thus wasting one of the items they have equipped in their slots. Real time menus like that are a real pain. They improve your quickness in battle, but it gets frustrating when you're surrounded by a boss and his minions and need to heal your HP or use an Ether for some more MP. Magic is much the same way. You have to scroll through the magic spells you have, then cast it. Again, it's annoying. However with magic, you can assign shortcuts. I'll get to that later. The last thing in the menu, the ''?'' usually turns into a skill that you have equipped. These are only an option after you lock onto an enemy. These are powerful, but they require a lot of MP so you only should use them in emergency situations. Sora wields his Key Blade and attacks much like a swordsman. He starts off in the game with a three hit combo. As he levels up, he may learn a new skill that helps his sword moves. For instance, Vortex gives him a spin slash attack. Learning new moves takes time, however. The first skill I learned was one that increased the amount of stuff dropped by enemies. Whatever. Anyway, when you first see an enemy you can lock onto it or just face it directly. You press the X button a few times and perform your three hit combo and the fiend dies. It sounds basic, and it is but it is really fun most times and the battling can get exciting as you hack and slash like crazy. That is of course, the enemies aren't annoyingly cheap and hit you from behind taking half your HP away. Meanwhile, Donald and Goofy are casting magic and bashing the enemy with a shield, respectively. Donald is the magic user of the group. Goofy has the most HP of the group and learns some skills with his shield. You can set how their AI makes them function in battle. This includes how they attack, how they use their skills, how they use items, and how Donald uses his magic. Since we're on the topic of magic, it's time to focus on the magic system. The magic is all from Final Fantasy. Fire turns to Fira which turns to Firaga and the same goes for the other attack spells: Blizzard and Thunder. Aero is a support spell, not an attack spell. Gravity is like Demi (takes away a certain percentage of HP) and Stop does as it's name implies. Cure is the healing spell. Sora can cast magic by assigning short-cuts. You can assign a spell to the X, triangle, and square buttons. Thus, you have to choose which spells are best for the area. I typically use Curaga, Thundaga and Graviga for my shortcuts. No matter what, these are absolute life savers. It's so much easier to assign a shortcut with Curaga instead of looking for an item to use. Other than that though, magic has little use in the game for Sora. I found myself attacking much more than casting spells other than Cure. Sometimes Gravity would be used, but that's about it. Skills are equipped in the menu system. Goofy and Sora learn their own special set of skills. Sora's are sword combos that have extensions and usually end in cool finishers while Goofy just flails his shield. The rest of the skills are support type, like the one Sora first learned after some levels up: more MP with each hit, more money, more rare items. Things like that. All in all, they're very helpful. That's the basics of the action part in the action/RPG. Now let's focus on that horrid camera.

Terrible. This is what brings the score down ever so much. You can set up the camera to some extent in the menu, but it doesn't help much. The camera's default settings are as follows: The camera rotates as you move around. This means that it tries to keep it so you are always watching Sora's back. However, the camera is slow. It moves at a pace much slower than Sora's running speed. Couple that with all the quick turning and rolling you're doing and the camera starts to jumble up. Next, it automatically targets an enemy for you. This wouldn't be so bad if enemies didn't come together in such an abundance. If you're attacking a foe, and you run away, the camera will stay locked onto it. So annoying. Finally, you can target enemies yourself by pressing the R1 button. Doing this is much easier than relying on the auto-target function. Once again, however, running away will mess up your perspective as the camera stays focused on the targeted foe. Sure, hitting R1 again turns it off but it's still an annoyance. I found that the best setting is having the camera rotate manually (you do it with L2 and R2), there is no auto-target, and you can target a foe and stay targetted on him/her/it until he/she/it is finished off. It all comes down to how you play. However, no matter what settings you pick you'll be struggling at times. There is literally too much going on at once. It can be fun, don't get me wrong, but it can also get annoying. This is especially true during huge boss battles. Just wait until you fight Ursula! Terrible.

However, the action is solid, fast-paced, and fun for the most part. The camera brings it down, as does the real time activated menus. I will say, though, that I kept coming back for more. The game is addicting, mainly due to the action.

Characters: 8/10
I will admit that I am a sucker to the sheer cuteness of Donald Duck and Winnie the Pooh. Let's face it, they're cute. Original? Well, maybe back in 1937 when they were first created. Now they're the same old characters you remember from the movies. The same goes for the Final Fantasy characters. Sure they have a new look, but they're still the characters that saved the world. Sora, Riku, and Kairi are good characters, though. They have some twists in their personal lives that you'll learn about, yet it is nothing noteworthy. The characters were good enough to keep me going throughout the whole game. It was admirable how they intertwined all the Disney characters together, though still not original.

Graphics: 10/10
My one and only complaint about the graphics is that these are what caused the people to buy this game without a second thought, along with the Square logo. The same can be said for other games, but I won't get into that. In any case, other than that the graphics are flawless. All of the characters in the game move with fluid motion, their hair and fabrics of loose clothing get blown in the wind, and have a great realistic feel to them. They have amazingly detailed facial expressions. The way they interact and use their body language is top-notch. Great graphics for all the characters. There are distinct differences between the Disney crew and the Squaresoft folks. First the Square characters. Wow. They look amazing. These characters all got make overs for the new game. Cloud and Squall have never looked better. Sephiroth looks bad ass as always, and the rest of the FF cast is top notch, with the exception Tidus. He looks a little more crazy and annoying, if that's possible for that blond pretty-boy. The Disney characters were magnificently transferred to 3D. I'm sure that there have been plenty of crappy Disney games where Donald or Mickey are the hero and are placed in a low class 3D world, but this time everyone looks superb. The same can be said about the ones you've never seen in 3D. Peter Pan, Aladin, Jafar, Simba and all the other who were 2D on the big screen have been greatly captured with all of their classic actions and expressions in the three dimensional realm. Next up are the monsters. Imaginative, but they all have the same face: Two large eyes and a heart shaped emblem on their chest. Most do anyways. This is excluding the Disney villains, of course. Still they look great. The regular enemies aren't as great. What really sucks is that there are very few enemies in the game. You'll be fighting Shadows from beginning to end. The only difference at the end is that they are higher leveled. That shows a sign of laziness to me. On the other hand, it makes no difference when you feast your eyes upon the gorgeous backgrounds. OH. MY. GODDESS. First off, they are bright and colorful. That is so important because I am getting quite sick of seeing these bland atmospheres. Ah, the colors. There are so many of them and they are all placed perfectly. The skies are bright blue with white clouds that move in the wind. The water and grass in the jungle area's are exact replicas of a tropical rainforest. Not only are they colorful, but they are detailed, too. If you enter a random room, and just stop to look around you will notice so many things within it. There are pictures, tables, rugs, plants, chairs, etc. If you think that's something, you should check out the scenery outside and within the towns. All the signs and pillars and...EVERYTHING. What is great is how Sora can interact with nearly all of the fun objects. Seriously, Kingdom Hearts' best thing going for it are it's beautiful and detailed graphics.

Music and Sound: 9/10
Let's chat on the music first. The music has been done greatly to fit each world. What's really cool is that everytime you fight monsters, the music changes. There is a different ''battle'' theme for each world so the music never gets old. A lot of the music comes from the Disney movies. You'll be hearing plenty of ''Under the Sea'' when you visit Ariel, and The Hundred Acre Wood has a version of the theme song for Winnie the Pooh playing. Other songs are ones that I don't recognize, but overall all of them are a pleasure to hear. My favorite, however, is the opening theme. The song is called ''Simple and Clean'' and it was written by the beautiful J-pop star Utada Hikaru. The way it is performed to the opening FMV sequence will really get your heart pumping much like in FFVIII's opening theme. Once again, I really enjoy the music. I don't think I'll buy the Kingdom Hearts OST, but it's still great.

The sounds are fine. Fire sounds like crackling and burning, slashes sound like a sword hitting something, and so on. The sounds are good, just like they are in most games. The voice acting, despite the amount of famous stars I don't like, is really top notch. Unlike games where the voice acting has the characters portraying little emotion, the all-star cast in Kingdom Hearts knows what it means to act and they give their characters life. From my earlier introduction, I don't approve of Aeris being associated with Mandy Moore but Aeris has a soft-spoken and innocent voice, which is fitting. Sora is doen by Halley Joel Osment. I don't know if I spelled his name right, nor do I care because not once in the entire game does the child star say, ''I see dead people!'' The Disney cast characters come directly from the movies. So if you've seen the films, you'll recognize most of the actors and actresses. Along with it's graphics, the voice acting and music are great.

Replay Value: 4/10
Once you find out what is what and who is who in the story, there is really no reason to go back and witness it again. There is little foreshadowing, thus there is no reason to go back and look for stuff you missed in the tale that may reveal a secret or something. However, I know for a fact that I will play again, but I'm going to use a little Pro Action Replay power to get some good items and power ups. Besides, the action does get fun at times. There is an Expert mode of play if you're a hard core gamer. I guess one could say that the game is like Grandia II in terms of replayability. The battles in Grandia II were great, but the story is not worth viewing again. Oddly enough, both stories have a similar theme with their overall story. Weird.

Difficulty: Medium
The game itself is very straightforward. You go from Point A to Point B with the push of a button. Finding all of the items and dalmations will take a bit of time, but it's still not difficult. For the most part, the majority of the enemies you'll face are relatively easy as well. Heck, even some of the bosses are a cake walk. A lot of the side quest bosses are very tough to defeat. Some will take you out in one hit. With the right preparation, however, you can manage to take them down. The camera, however, makes the game much more difficult when you battle. It just is terrible. Simply terrible. Yeah, it's terrible enough to add tons of difficulty to the game. Impossible? By no means. A pain in the ass? Goddess yes. So overall, the game has a medium difficulty. It would've been easier if not for the camera.

Buy or Rent: Rent
Yes, the game is now a greatest hits so it costs only 20 dollars. And yes, it's part RPG so it may take you a while to complete. However, one can easily beat it in one rental. Hell, after I was playing it the second day I was already in Agrabah which is about half way through the game. That does include leveling up, getting extra items and not playing the game for certain durations of time. If you like the game so much, then you can buy it if you want. A new copy is very cheap, and a used one is even cheaper. But a rented game is cheaper than both, and Kingdom Hearts can be finished in one rental.

That's it folks. I have finally said my piece on a game I was putting down. Do I apologize for all that I've bashed about the game? Of course not, especially to those punks on the message boards I dealt with. Again, I await your rebuttal. On the other hand, this game wasn't as bad as I made it out to be. Many a person has made it seem like this game is the game to end all games. By no means is it at all. It has good things and it has bad things much like other video games do. I've played tons of games and I have yet to see one that will be the one I'd play for the rest of my life if given the option. That's the idea I get when people say things like, ''KINGDOM HEARTS IS GOD!'' it isn't. If it was, you'll play it until the day you die. That is not going to happen. A 7/10 is a 70% and that means AVERAGE. I don't care what the numerical grading system says because a 70% is an average score. This game is average. It has wonderful graphics, sound, music, and voice acting but the average story-line and goddess-awful camera take the score way down. I would recommend Kingdom Hearts to someone who likes action/RPGs. I do not recommend because there is a shiny Square logo on it. Not all Square games have been hits, especially action ones. Just look at Brave Fencer Musashi! In conclusion, Kingdom Hearts can be fun. It can also be NOT fun. You will just have to try it out yourself if you haven't already.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.5 - Good

Originally Posted: 04/15/04

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