Kingdom Hearts 2

Kingdom Hearts 2

Developer: Square-Enix
Publisher: Square-Enix
ESRB: E10+(Ages 10 and up)
Release Date: March 28, 2006

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The Happiest Sequel on Earth Nears Release

It's quite possible there's only one place you could ever get away with talking about the Little Mermaid and Sephiroth in the same sentence. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the Disney-backed, Square Enix-developed follow-up to the original Kingdom Hearts has almost arrived. It has been roughly three and a half years since players were introduced to perhaps one of oddest, yet most successful, collaborations in recent gaming memory. Square Enix, the undisputed console RPG master, paired with the animation giant Disney to produce an original RPG that can now only be described by the press as "a wild success." They've returned once again, and it appears a considerably more polished version of what we've already seen, complete with new worlds, a fresh story, and a wider array of characters will be on its way to the US soon.

"Square Enix has promised a multitude of Final Fantasy characters, and many of the same Disney characters that graced the original will be returning once again."

Sora is back, as are the dastardly heartless. Under the command of their new leader, a mysterious mummy-esque figure, the heartless have a new plan to ruin the magical worlds in which they live. Sora will be joined immediately by Donald and Goofy and will meet up with a number of additional characters, to include Riku and Kairi who were key players in the original outing. Square Enix has promised a multitude of Final Fantasy characters, and many of the same Disney characters that graced the original will be returning once again. A list of characters as well as their voice actors has been released and can be examined here .

The game's plot begins right around where the plot for Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories left off. The story begins one year later. Sora and friends find themselves in Twilight Town, not being able to remember what happened in Chain of Memories. This conveniently allows for those unfamiliar with the series, or at least the previous installment, to play without any real confusion. Word is, once the party gets to Twilight Town, they meet another individual who has twin key-blade powers similar to Sora. How this character relates to the overall development of the plot will unfold as the game does. It also appears that Sora's end goal of sealing off the heartless from a number of different Disney worlds will remain a prominent factor in this next installment.

The battle system will remain largely similar; however, a few improvements have been made. Battles still occur in real time, meaning there is no "blurry" transformation from overworld to battle. Sometimes the music may change, but usually once the enemies appear, it's on. The largely annoying camera from the first installment has been worked on, but whether this solves the problems that were experienced before remains to be seen.

Camera work aside, a brand new element has been added to the battles that promises to mix things up. The transformation drive is a gauge that fills up as the player collects the small orbs dropped by enemies as they are defeated. It allows Sora to fuse with another character in the party, effectively combining their abilities. Through this fusion, Sora becomes considerably stronger, faster, and dons a new outfit. The character he fused with becomes unusable for the time, but the benefits appear to considerably outweigh the losses. Third, a new combo system has been implemented that allows the player to attack a number of enemies more easily than they could in the first game. Included in this new system is the ability to juggle enemies up in the air with a continuous combo. These juggles will not only add some style to Sora's fighting but serve the functional purpose of letting him avoid being attacked by other enemies while he's flying through the air. Lastly, there will be weapon-specific combos available to the player. All of these new additions will leave Sora with a considerably wider array of means to deal with the minions of the heartless.

The graphics of Kingdom Hearts 2 appear to very closely resemble those of the first game. A feature original to this series is the use of fully animated scenes actually from Disney movies that are spliced into the story elements of the game. Thus, it will not be uncommon to be playing through a part of the story, view a scene from a Disney movie, and have that tie directly into what the player is doing. The many different worlds of Disney, from Pride Rock of the Lion King to the Little Mermaid's underwater paradise Atlantica all are stopping points along the plotline. Along with these different worlds come a bevy of new gameplay challenges. The creator of the game, Tetsuya Nomura, has indicated that the characters will be unable to get around in the world of the Lion King as they are. They will all have to assume animal forms and make-do from there. In Atlantica, Nomura told interviewers that there will be no combat, only musical interactions and other mini games that require timing and thinking in order to progress. All of these differences promise to give gamers a fresh new RPG experience. Finally, on top of these new experiences, Nomura hinted in an interview that the plot for the sequel is roughly 2.5 times longer than any of the previous titles.

Sora has already been tearing his way across Japan and promises to continue doing so once he reaches North America. Kingdom Hearts 2 will be shipping on March 28th and will retail for $49.99. Interested RPGamers can check out the official KH2 website to build up any additional needed hype while they wait over the next two weeks.

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