Published by Square Enix
Developed by Square Enix
By Diana Poulsen
Almost four years ago, Kingdom Hearts surprised gamers with its roller-coaster pace, challenging levels, and enjoyable characters and story. It took advantage of our nostalgia for Disney characters and passion for Final Fantasy. For many gamers, Kingdom Hearts II was one of the most anticipated games of 2006.
KH I is actually the third in the series and picks up after the events in the second game of the series: the GBA title Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories. The GBA game featured its heroes battling newly introduced Organization XIII, however at the end of the game Sora, Goofy, and Donald’s memories of the events that transpired in the game are erased. This helps explain what happened in the year between KH I and KH II and why Sora, Riku, and Kairi’s voices have changed, as all the voice actors have gotten older. In KH II, Sora will have to face the Nobodies of Organization XIII, without knowing that he has done it before, and he will once again have to confront the Heartless.
For the first four-to-five hours of KH II, you play as Roxas, a boy who dreams Sora’s memories and is a Keyblade master like Sora. Unfortunately, this part of the game drags on with endless cut-scenes and mini-games, causing the game to initially lack the roller-coaster pace of the first. Once you gain control of Sora, however, the game rapidly picks up and you’re whisked away to new and familiar Disney worlds. My favourite is the Tron world (Twilight Town a close second), as I finally I got to experience my childhood dream of light cycle racing, and fighting alongside Tron. However, the colour scheme is a little hard on the eyes.
Game play has been improved upon by adding Limits, Drives and Reaction commands. Limits are attacks that are performed with your “friends” (Goofy, Donald, etc.), and require all of Sora’s magic. They are impressive and a recognizable staple of the Final Fantasy series. Drives are transformations that cause Sora to attack using two keyblades, but require the absence of at least one friend. Popularized by games like God of War and Resident Evil 4, Reaction Commands are used in battle to make fighting easier, though in KH II they are not used to spice up cut-scenes as other games do. The new additions make the fighting intricate, visually pleasing, and dizzying, but ultimately satisfying. The Gummi Ship has had a complete overhaul, making it fun and not tedious like the first incarnation. It is easier to construct a new ship and more control is given while flying the ship, making the action fast-paced, even if is still pure button-mashing.
My complaints are as follows: if you only complete the world quests and a few side missions, at thirty hours the game is pretty short for an RPG. The standard (normal) mode of game play is far too easy, whereas in the original you really needed to gain experience or Sora would die frequently. I am currently playing the game in hard mode and it seems that you simply have less hit points. The one serious challenge of the game is completing Jiminy’s journal, which you have to do if you want to unlock the secret ending. You can either do this by completing the journal in standard mode, completing the game itself on hard mode or simply downloading the secret ending from the internet. Also, KH II has a severe problem with painting a situation black or white, when it’s really not that simple. At times I had an exceptionally hard time relating to and understanding Sora’s ease of selecting who was evil and who was not. While I agree that Organization XIII methods were not correct, I sympathized with their reasons for doing what they did, and had a difficult time strictly labelling their actions as evil.
Complaints aside, if you like the previous editions of Kingdom Hearts, you will love this one. If you’re new to the series, you’ll enjoy running into old childhood friends (who didn’t turn out to be creepy miscreants).