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   Kingdom Hearts II - Staff Review  

Stolen Identities
by Billy "madhtr" Young

BATTLE SYSTEM
INTERACTION
ORIGINALITY
STORY
MUSIC & SOUND
VISUALS
CHALLENGE
Variable
COMPLETION TIME
30 to 40 hrs.
OVERALL

4.5/5

Rating definitions 

   When Square and Disney originally announced that the two companies would be working together on a crossover between Final Fantasy and Disney characters, many people worried about the results. In the end, Kingdom Hearts ended up becoming a success, though people mostly either hated or loved it. The game ended up selling around 7 million copies worldwide, and when Tetsuya Nomura and Square Enix announced that they would be creating a sequel, fans were excited. The original game had camera problems that broke the game for some people; did they fix that this time in Kingdom Hearts II?

   After the first game ended, Sora and friends were still separated from Riku and the King. Coming to a crossroads, a member of Organization XIII gave Sora a chance to claim something dear to him in exchange for something. The path ahead brought the group to Castle Oblivion, in between light and darkness. In the end, Sora was able to defeat the organization and their leader, Marluxia. Sora and friends, however, did not find what they were seeking, and instead were put in a deep sleep to regain the memories they were forced to lose.

   This is where the story of Kingdom Hearts II picks up, and quite the story it ends up being. The first thing players will notice is that the game once again has them travel between Disney worlds, this time unlocking new paths as they move on. The story revolves around Organization XIII, a group of strong Nobodies that tried to use Sora in Chain of Memories and are now just trying to defeat him. The stories in each world are told through episodes that are added from time to time, as players move through the world, defeating more and more heartless, all the while making use of many new battle features.

   Players will notice that the game focuses heavily on reaction commands, though they are used in ways that make some battles seem bearable. Not to say that battles are unbearable, but some of the boss battles are quite tough and the reaction commands go a long way in not only making the game seem more interesting, but easier overall. Players once again take up keyblade, shield, and staff as Sora, Goofy, and Donald travel through classic Disney worlds, as well as new worlds created solely for this series. The new Drive Gauge also adds a completely new approach to battling.

   Sora will receive the ability to use drives, which allow him to fuse with Goofy, early on in his adventure. As time moves on, players will receive new drives and will be able to level each of them up separately from Sora and company. The thing about drives is that each one has a different strength that players must realize when using them. Mastering these forms will give players a chance at dispatching enemies quickly and more efficiently.

Axel 1 Axel - $.50 Toll

   One thing that players will notice after the fact is that this game has a lot more to do than in the original. Like in the first game, there is an arena to fight in, missions to be completed, jobs to make money from, and even extra bosses to battle. While some of these were in the first, players will notice that the feel of them this time is that they are a part of the game rather than just extra things to do. The story ties even side quests together in a neat little package, possibly one that even a grasshopper might carry around with them.

   The soundtrack in this game was once again composed by Yoko Shimomura, with the main theme recorded by pop artist Hikaru Utada. Many will notice that music in the Disney worlds sound familiar, while original tunes fit in nicely. The sound effects in the game are exactly what one might expect when weapons include keyblades, shields, and staves. Enemies include heartless, nobodies, the organization, and even musical composition at one point. Each enemy has their own way to attack and each make realistic sounds while doing so.

Kairi Ain't that the truth

   Each Disney character is voiced either by their original actor/actress, or has a voice actor that is very believable. One of the biggest victims of this is the Pirates of the Caribbean world where everyone is using a new voice actor or actress. Now, that might sound like a problem, but it really isn't at all. Every voice actor does their best to emote and really draw the players in. Sadly, there are a few voices that don't seem to fit, though this may just be a matter of personal opinion so no names will be named. Another thing that was talked about was how the realistic characters in that world would mingle with the other cartoonish characters in this game.

   This title utilizes a new graphics engine that is quite the step up from in the original. Disney characters all look nearly identical to their movie counterparts, and each move and act exactly the way you'd expect. Some of the areas in this game are especially well-done. For example, the Pirates of the Caribbean world where realism mixes with cartoon. Players will notice that mannerisms of characters are present and perfectly done in each world. The original characters that Square Enix created for this game have aged quite well since players last saw them and it shows well both in cut scenes and through game play.

   Getting back to the beginning of this game, players are given quite a few choices that will determine their experiences throughout. Choosing 'New Game' will allow players to choose between Easy, Normal, and Proud modes that determine the difficulty of the game. This is an important choice that can not be changed during the game. Other choices at the beginning include sound - which could be Stereo, Mono, or Dolby Pro Logic II - and vibration - which could be on or off. Those choices may be switched at any point during the game, though. Another choice is during the game play where players are given a choice of Struggle weapon that determines the initial growth of the main character.

   In the end, the game makes very few mistakes in what it accomplishes. The game gives new gamers a chance with the story being explained quite well, but also gives gamers experienced in the series something to enjoy. Many people will also find that after the game is over, they will still have the urge to play. Starting a new game, possibly through a different mode might show the player something they have not seen the first time through. Maybe the player missed a drive, a weapon, or even some scenes. Whatever the case is, players will still have plenty of things to do even if they've seen the majority of the game. Oh, and to answer the question posed in the first paragraph, yes, the camera has been fixed and for the most part does what it should.

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