Review by Fein

"The perfect introductary RPG"

Once upon a time there was a man named Disney. Walt Disney.

If you recall any other video game affiliated with Disney, you'll find the prospect of enjoyment a hidden one. It's most likely in a crowd "Hercules" or "Tarzan" won't be mentioned without the consumation of alcohol as a personal favourite. The problen is Disney. Nobody can deny the effect of Disney movies has on kids, and adults when they were kids. But time and human attitude has moved on to where Disney has become closeted and something a family may mutiny against.

The fact of the matter is that Disney are usually critically and commerically slated by people and critics when they donate their talents into video games. Why?. Because the populous of gamers are teen to adults who are not interested in their genre, but also misunderstand the intention that Disney games are for kids solely. And anyone who takes the games too seriously aside from kids needs either;

1) Warm loving from their parents, friends or dare I say it, purchased company.

2) An appointment with a therapist (depending on HOW serious you are taking these games)

I put my hands up and shimmy to gospel music that I have actually enjoyed the platforming delights of certain Disney games, but indeed, they are for kids. So what does Disney do to prove that they can make a game for kids and teens, what mistake will they make to crack the gaming market?. They team up with Squaresoft. Creators of the perpetual and global franchise Final Fantasy, who were recovering from their less successful and in my opinion, underrated The Bouncer. From mere speculation and with the exception of Final Fantasy X, Kingdom Hearts was a development to promote both companies and a secret relay for Squaresoft in case FFX had not been so well received.

But just because I accept this game and didn't have descriminations against the license, that doesn't mean to say I didn't have high expectations. Hell, I thought it would need a miracle to gain my pity at the most. The expectations will be different for everyone, higher than some most likely. For cynics, it has a task of convincing them. And for me, at least, it did more than convince.

Needless to say, Disney specify in platform games while Squaresoft are masterminds of the RPG. A cross breed would seem dangerously embarassing. But instead, both companies have enduced glam with the wonderworks of adventure gaming which games like Alundra and Vagrant Story have done in the past. But still, there is a sharp tongue for Disney as a license on this game (which is a pity) but fans were more concerned about the reputation of Squaresoft after this project.

In prior to the statistics of this game, it's important to note a few things about Kingdom Hearts that will appease cynic views and attitudes towards this game (I was a cynic, I even begged my friend to buy the game for me and look at me now, a whole new lease on life).

1)Don't expect KH to have an edge or mind boggling twists like any other FF game. The plot is very honest, hasn't got the Squaresoft depth but is interesting all the same.

2)Embrace the good memories you had of Disney movies as a child and comprehend that this is a Disney adventure, a straight forward light hearted adventure with a touch of FF's mysticism.

3)Understand that KH has nostalgic moments from movies, you'll recapture certain key moments from the movies meshed in with the mainstream overall key plotline.

4)Have tolerance. With characters like Goofy and Donald Duck, you'd need to. But indeed enjoy the animations of the FF characters from previous games.

5)This is a game aimed at kids, branding it their "guide kit to RPG's" but that doesn't mean teenagers and adults can't enjoy it. Honestly.

Now we can move on and let me try to sell you what could be, with it's 4 million sales, a new franchise for both Disney and Squaresoft.

It all happened once upon a time......

When a young boy named Sora lived on a remote island for kids with his two friends Kairi and Riku. For months they lived in the unique and idyllic lifestyle where they had no control placed over them and lived life freely. However, they planned to sail away to explore other islands with their newly made raft (How cute. See? sounds like an epic Disney movie already). However their lives are disrupted by the opening of a portal and the darkness engulfed the island and Sora's two friends. He then finds himself in another world clueless of what has happened. In the same time, King Mickey Mouse has disappeared without a trace and has left a mysterious note for his loyal friends Donald Duck and Goofy.

And yes, by this point I feel awkwardly awkward explaining this. Right, prior plans to use contemplated battle quotes such as "Come on Goofy!, stick em with your teeth" have shot out of the window. Anyway.....

The note basically instructs Donald Duck and Goofy to entrust the Kingdom Key to Sora, when they find him, they both team up to find Sora's friends, King Mickey and release the towns of the darkness creatures. However, the cult of Disney bad guys from movies such as Maleficent, Jafar and Hades also have a plan in mind for the princesses of the Kingdom (Such as Belle, Cinderella, Snow White etc.). The plot is very lukewarm, not too serious and not too lame (Opinion of course) which makes it more universal than your stereotypical FF game. But considering this is an epic license, it has a story telling feel to the plot which is the most important. There is the cliches as you would normally find in most games, and in most Disney films. It is also vital that if you are not a fan of ANY Disney film and find Squaresoft's work dull (What?!) then you may have to rely on other aspects of this game for enjoyment.

One other interesting aspect of the plot is that it can be unravelled in subplots by the towns you enter first. For example, if you enter Agrabah, you'll be ressurecting an abridged version of the story of Aladdin. And if you enter the jungle, then you'll be taking on an adapted and distorted version of the story. Such as it is, it isn't original with the characters and bosses but hey, it suffices finely.

But of course, as a ranter, I had negative things to say about Disney's plot in this game. As any Disney film, there was a mass heap of subtext that they cleverly got away with. They also did the sentimentality very well for playing on kid's emotions. But this plot could have been sneaky, rude, cheeky and a great sattire of the work Disney has done over the years. Snow White for instance. She breaks into someone's home and stays with seven midget men she doesn't even know while she has a Stepmum trying to kill her?. No wonder there's so many single Fathers out there. Sleeping Beauty. The girl slept for one hundred years and didn't even stretch a wrinkle or go to the toilet. Has Cher heard of this?. It's like there was a job, cure or public following invented every time a fairy tale was read. Hansel and Gretal; childline. Cinderella; Why second marriages are bad. Bambi; mental wards. 101 Dalmations; birth control, Snow White; necrophyilia. And finally, my favourite- Jack and The Beanstalk; drug abuse.

Ultimately though, Kingdom Hearts is the perfect game for children. Because it is so special to the imagination of a child, it will portray their dreams, sincere moments from films (aka Disney) and capture their innocent nightmares, which now, they have the ability to battle them. Plus, it has the ultimate portrayal of friendship and puppy love, even older gamers will enjoy the rivalry between Sora and Riku and the glorious alligment between the childhood icons, Donald and Goofy. To fight with them mimics nostalgia, no matter what anyone will say. Kingdom Hearts is strong here, maybe even stronger than some Final Fantasy titles.

And the ending, for me, was superbly done. I will be honest and mention that it could be aimed more for the kids but it hinted at a could be great sequel and just stupendified (that isn't a word, that's neologism) the whole concept of the game. I loved the ending.

Muhammed Ali, Madonna, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis....

Squall Lionheart, Cloud Strife, Aeris/Aerith Gainsborough, Yuffie Kisaragi, Cid Highwind are all characters that are adapted icons from their trademark games and planted in this game. But also are the characters from Disney titles. What I'm saying is, aside from Sora, Kairi and Riku, there is no original concepts of characters. But they are superbly enough, with their spellbinding animations of cutesy and colourful visuals. And how nostalgic and intriquing to see your favourite FF characters uplifted with new boisterous 3D colourful graphics. Sephiroth and Cloud look great and makes you lust even more after that rumoured sequel. However, the likes of Tidus, Wakka and Selphie are liquidised into children, still looking great. The characterisation was obviously another difficult stipulation against this license.

But the animations for monsters are quite harmlessly stunning, nothing too horiffic but graphic to the line of thought. The graphics are some of the best I have seen for the playstation 2 and even as much as some people would like to, there is no faults in this area. Why?. Because the trademark FMV Squaresoft has in their games is the same engine for Kingdom Hearts. So even if you want to say bad things about, you just - can't!. So nyah!. Okay, I may have to take that back now, for fear of castration and because.....

The graphics can be too cutesy for some fans to handle. This is a cross breed of Disney animation and Squaresoft animation (which may send the tolerant ones over the top by now). These graphics, in my opinion, suit the game well and will certainly appeal more to the kids playing this game. Out of respect, the compromise between the two deserves some recognition. Plus, no other graphics would have suited the theme of this game.

But as for certain points in the game (The opening and the end credits) there is a great use of movieworks graphics, which make it seem ten times better. Plus, it's glitch free, making the surrounding visuals even better.

The quest of locking keyholes....

The gameplay is an action RPG based format. No battle systems like the ones in Final Fantasy. Just the plain case of see an enemy, hack them up. But not so viciously in this game of course. Fans of Alundra will certainly adapt to this feature as it's both infuriating and fun. You can use the basic magics of fire, water, wind and lightning as you do in any other FF game but you will also summon magic. This is the amusing bit. Your summons consist of characters like Simba, Tinkerbell, Bambi and Dumbo. The summon isn't exactly an attributed or elemental attack promotely (in other words, yes but in a lesser obvious manner) but a funny and original way of dealing with enemies. For instance, Dumbo sprays water from his notril to wipe out enemies, Bambi hops around, giving you magic and HP balls to collect. The concept is bizarrely good.

The weapons Sora can receive are also very unique and the battles are realistic and tense as you can clash swords and use your own dynamics to defeat an enemy. But the adventuring feel is probably what makes the game reveltory for it's console. Per se, your team is Donal Duck and Goofy, who have their own abilities and strengths but as soon as you enter other dungeons, such as Atlantica, Ariel the mermaid can become a playable fighter, such as Beast, Aladdin, Tarzan and Peter Pan. Also, the dungeons are reminiscent of great locations from the movies. My favourite would be The Night Before Christmas scenario, quite graphic and fun to explore.

But there is so much to do aside from beat enemies and bosses. You have to acquire sub quests by doing things such as collect the 99 Dalmations to receive a perfect ending, fight in the Colloseum for fun, build your own gummi ship, and find information. And usually these things would either be compulsary boring, but in this game, it's honestly fun. The boss fights are also unique and very variated and dynamical, and strategic also.

The difficulty of this game can variate. Obviously a big difference is upheld in which mode you choose but personally, I found the last bosses to be rather easy, without the aid of items and despite the continual and consecutive fights at the end, it wasn't a challenge. But there is some bosses I found difficulty with on both settings, which gives the game more value and replayability. The mini games keep you occupied also, and the gummi ship construction is hard, but unique if you can master it. It isn't compulsary though.

Building a gummi ship is additional but fun all the same. You can piece together your own ship or build one from a model blueprint you can acquire. This is for travelling to different worlds, and in between you can engage in a space invaders type of game. This is very fun, bad graphics for this part, but very addictive. Some may even enjoy this segment of the game more so than the battles and mini games, which are;

Basically games you would have had to conquer in the game. For instance, you can enter tournaments at the colloseum for fun and for time limits. And "Winne The Poo" story has various games such as stopping Tigger from destroying the carrot patch, searching for honey, playing hide and seek etc. The small things are endless fun that entices the kids more than anything (This wasn't my favourite aspect for instance). These are things adopted from Disney's dabble in platforming games. But alas, every game has at least one major fault, and it's that one. The camera angle.

The camera angle is, to be blunt, murder. This is because when you're in a heated fight, say with a boss, you'll have to change the camera angle as well as fight if the angle is causing problems for you. To get a proper perspective and to be able to interact with the objects and surroundings requires the sensitive view of the camera angle. But hey, a camera angle is always a bummer in games but here, the lock on target prevents you from having to swing the angle around all the time, instead your focus can lock onto an enemy and save you a lot of bother.

Celine Dion did the "Beauty And The Beast" soundtrack.......

....And gave me sore eardrums. Luckily we aren't attacked with sounds that resemble cats being strangled and violently bashed against the wall but instead we are treated to a pop song called "Simple And Clean" by Utada Hikaru which is remixed and has an acoustic sound to it and a dance techno feel in the remix, it is also lyrical regarding the game. This piece is quite suitable for the idea of Kingdom Hearts. The generic music for locations and such are effective for conveying the situation and ambience but nothing that would cause you to hum the tune to (Relief?.). What piece I really love is the piano rhythm at the start menu, it's really peaceful and calm.

As for voice acting, we are treated to Hollywood actors. Oscar nominee Haley "I see dead people" Joel Osment, performs well as Sora while David Boreanaz and Mandy Moore (Ack. How did they ever let HER do Aeris? Why?!) are also involved in the credits. Dan Castellanata, best known as Homer Simpson performs as The Genie and does a spitting image (or sound image) as him. The actors performing as classic Disney characters are great soundalikes which is very respectful. The sound is another polished feature which has been very carefully done (aghast with the loading time.).

And so it was declared......

That Kingdom Hearts is regrettably, a love-hate game. People will, undoubtedly, judge this game solely on looks and some may not adapt to the lack of seriousness of it. But for RPG fans, it is a must, putting life into the RPG market and inventing something new. If you give this game a chance, expect nothing, then you'll find the experience worthy (and for beginner RPG players, it's invaluable). The game promotes two global success brands and it just goes to show that collaborations are sometimes beneficial amd interesting. To end this review, I pass on that Kingdom Hearts should at least be acknowledged in at least one play (may that be a demo or whatever). I recommend this game to anyone, it should give you nostalgia of all those things you liked about Disney in the first place. My only sin to this game is finding Donald Duck amusing at the age of seventeen. And for that, I do deserve to be incarcerated, hey, maybe I'd enjoy it. Okay, maybe not, in fact, I know I wouldn't. So why did I say it?. I don't know. Just like the time when I bought this game, or when my friend did.

What I'm saying is, you won't know if you dislike it so unless you play it.

Reviewer's Rating:   5.0 - Flawless

Originally Posted: 06/14/04, Updated 07/30/04

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