Review by wolverinefan

Reviewed: 04/05/06

Fans of the first will love this sequel

Kingdom Hearts 2 has finally arrived on North American soil. Fans have waited almost 4 years to this follow up of the highly thought of original. I must say that I fell in love with the original title. Maybe it's because I'm a fan of Disney, or that I'm a fan of Final Fantasy. Either way I found that the game play had been solid and the story was interesting and worth the time put into it. Does Kingdom Hearts 2 follow the same path or does it fail like most sequels?

Kingdom Hearts 2 starts off slightly odd. Different than what I was expecting and I won't go on from there. I also don't want to ruin the original for anyway but let's just say that Sora is back and he need to return to some familiar worlds and visit some new ones to solve this new mystery that has befallen him. How's that for vague? To be honest I don't want to ruin anything for anyone. I found the twists to just throw me for a loop every time. The new characters are memorable (for the most part) and the new Disney worlds add a lot as they are a few current favorite Disney movies as opposed to the more classic route the original had taken.

The graphics in Kingdom Hearts 2 are upgraded from the original but not by a whole lot. The CGI on the other hand has faired much better and looks amazing at times. The new enemies look great and there are a lot of them. The worlds look a lot like the ones in the movies they are based on but there are times when they do feel kind of empty and a bit lacking in the detail department but then there are some places that just look great, those tend to be the ones not based on a Disney idea and where Square had free will over it all.

Just like last time Square has gone all out with gather a top notch voice acting line up. Everyone is back for the main roles. A few roles have new actors/actresses but it isn't that noticeable. I had zero problems with voice acting and find it to all work well. Sound effects are pretty good, not "oh my god, that's so realistic" but it sounds good and nothing sounded dull or wrong. Music wise I'm torn. I don't like Utada's new song for this. The Japanese version is much better but it just doesn't equal up to Simple & Clean which had fit the story as well as being a good song. However, this time around the Disney music is used a lot more and the Little Mermaid world is now a musical adventure.

Control is perhaps one of the weak points in this game. Now, I personally had no problems with control or camera in the first game. Just lock onto an enemy and you were set. However, in Kingdom Hearts 2 you can still lock on but many of the later boss fights are problematic due to the camera not being able to follow the hectic action. Also, the bosses are able to teleport around or dash around so it gets rough every once in a while. Actual control wise I found the game fine. It’s nice to move the camera with the right analog stick. Jumping is easy; going through the menus seemed to be a bit easier this time around during fights. I didn't have any other problems with the control besides the whole camera thing and even then it wasn't that bad.

Game play is the meat of any game and while Kingdom Hearts 2 has some RPG elements going on, it's more of an action game. Let's get the basics down. Sora can attack with his Keyblade (a sword of sorts). He has one attack button. He can jump attack. He can link combos be it ground or air based. The game offers key moments where you need to hit the triangle button to have Sora perform a specific move for that fight or situation. Also, as you level up you can new abilities to equip, if you have the AP, these can affect the square button and adds a new attack button to use.

While the fighting is simplistic at its core, it does get the job done and I found that that was good enough for me. I don't need 500 different moves with insanely cheap enemies who block ect. If I wanted that I'd be playing Devil May Cry but let's not go there.

Now, enemies randomly appear on the screen, more like you activate them by being in a specific place. Enemies rang in style and moves and strength. Some can only be hurt from behind ect. Now, besides being able to attack with your Keyblade there are other ways. On the bottom left of the screen is a menu, you use the D-pad to move up and down this and select the options. Use an item (it must be equipped), use a magic spell, a summons ect. New to Kingdom Hearts are the transformations. You get a few as you go about your journey. I didn't find myself using them all that much but they are useful to level up. They also give you a duel blade (the one you have equipped to Sora plus one that you equip to the form. Really cool idea.

Okay, so we have the actual fighting down so let's move onto the worlds and their layouts. See the problem lies here as well. The levels are fairly linear, you do get to do the worlds in any order that you want but you need to have it available. Kingdom Hearts 2 really doesn't have a lot of platforming this time around or well hidden stuff but as soon as you let your guard down a chest will be in an odd place that you just might not have noticed. It just doesn't feel as lively this time around but there are more worlds to go to.

Returning again is the ship segments of the game. I didn't find them to be that bad last time but I never put a lot of effort into them besides going from world to world. Things have changed though and this time it feels a lot like Panzer Dragoon. You don't get to really move around (like turn to look at the sides or go back ect) but the game does automatically turn you this way and that. As you advance you get new blueprints but this time you don't need the parts. Each stage (there are about 10 I think) has 10 hidden parts to find. You can use them to build your own ship. It's a nice feature but I didn't mess with it because it just isn't something that interests me. Also, each stage has 2 routes and after beating the stage for the first time, both routes open for you.

Leveling up is the same as before. What you get all depends on your choices in the beginning. AP is used to equip new attacks and abilities. Donald, Goofy and Sora all have them. There are items that up them as well. It's all pretty simple but doesn't require a whole lot of RPG knowledge to get the hang of. Plus you can customize each character to your own liking, making the game easier or harder.

I think I've covered the basics behind the game play but the game does have even more to offer. The game keeps track of every chest for you in every world. All maps, characters, plot points ect. Make it a point to get all of the information as this will unlock something for those who are playing on anything but Easy mode. Also, the game has a ton of mini games. I didn't play all of them but the few I played were pretty simple yet fun. The game took me around 27 hours to beat with about 90% of the stuff done. The tournament has return and a secret boss is to be found somewhere as well. The game does offer a lot to do and I'd say it will take about 40 hours to beat the game at 100%.

So, is Kingdom Hearts 2 everything I wanted it to me? Sure, it met every expectation for me. It brought about more plot, redefined the game play more. Fixed most of the problems and is longer. Yes, there are some flaws and no, it isn't a perfect game. It is kind of easy but not too easy. The bosses can provide a decent challenge as do some of the mini games, getting the best time that is which is needed for 100%. Do I recommend this game? Of course but if you hated the original or didn't think it was very good, why bother with Kingdom Hearts 2? It's pretty much more of the same but things have been spiced up a bit more. Rent or buy? I say buy unless you can't afford the $50 price tag, then rent it because you don't want the twists ruined for you. We all know this will become a Greatest Hits title by march of 2007.

Story - 9/10
Graphics - 9/10
Sound - 9/10
Control - 7/10
Game Play - 9/10
Replay Value - 8/10

Final Score - 9/10


Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

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