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Simple, Clean & Beautiful
Before Squaresoft merged with Enix, they created a masterpiece by teaming up with a well-known movie and animation company that everyone knows by name. Kingdom Hearts is a beautifully made game that combines Square’s RPG genius with Disney’s classics in a surprisingly great game.
Kingdom Hearts ignores the Active-Time/Turn-Based battles of Final Fantasies past, and introduces a new “third-party” system. All battles take place on the field map, and enemies “emerge” from empty space. Although it seems confusing, it’s easy to get used to the basics and advance into more complex combos. The only controllable character is Sora, as your other two teammates will continually aid Sora, attack the enemy, or use items. Walking/Running is used with the left-analog, while the right controls the menu. Attacking/magic/item consumption involves mashing the X button. Time does not stop, so decisions must be made in the blink of an eye. The “Lock-On” feature ensures greater accuracy with attacks. Three separate magic can also be saved as “hotkeys” for quick access when you need them. In all, the battle system is pretty easy to master and creates a more of an “action” appeal to the game.
Interaction is done quite well. The battle menu is easy to use as the complexity is not really needed until later in the game. The main menu is really simple and easy to navigate. Customize may allow the equipping of Sora’s hotkey magic, but it allows for different options for your teammates. Actions of your fellows can be set to your choosing. The only downside is that when selecting items in stock, you must scroll past the playable characters to access them. Localization is superb, as I’ve yet to encounter any errors or mistranslations.
Yoko Shimomura composes the soundtrack for the game, and I must say it is beautiful. Familiar music from their respective Disney movies provides the background in some of the worlds. Even Uematsu’s famous “One-Winged Angel” will be heard in a particular battle. The music flows very well and two or three songs will be played again with a different feel. “Simple & Clean”, the main vocal song, seems very “popish” at first, but it fits the mood of the game. Voice-acting is perfectly done, and the voices fit the characters. Even the Final Fantasy characters’ voices seem to fit the personalities we all loved and hated.
The battle system in Kingdom Hearts is one-of-a-kind blending action elements to the RPG menus of yore. The blending of Square and Disney Characters add to the fun and uniqueness of this game.
The story itself doesn’t seem new at first. A quest to find people while beating up the bad guys sounds overdone, but that’s not the whole point of the game. Along the way you’ll run into Disney and Squaresoft allies and villains who’ll help you or try to hinder your progress. Even the minor characters play a big role in the game. When you think you’ve figured out the real bad guy, twists and turns change your perspective throughout the adventure.
Kingdom Hearts offers some of the best graphics on the PS2. Facial expressions match the emotions that are trying to be conveyed. Although there are only two FMVs, they are breathtaking to say the least. Tetsuya Nomura, character designer of FF’s VII, VIII, and X, returns as director as well. Even the Disney characters look remarkably like their classic counterparts. The in-game renders are stunning as well.
Timing and precise button mashing play a major role in the game. Not only must you focus on your tactics, but you also have to keep an eye on enemies and allies around you. The complexity evolves with you, and enemies later on will prove quite a challenge when fighting while flying, swimming, or from a distant. Luckily, when faced with a game over, you can just continue from the last area before the battle. Leveling up can happen during battles without you really paying attention. Of course this will not occur unless you answer certain questions right in the introduction. If the game seems too easy for you, a “difficult” option is available when starting a new game.
The game can be beaten in at least 20 hours, but doing so misses the chance to find all the games secrets and a special ending. Yes, there’s a special ending available! It took me about 90 hours just to find and acquire everything in the game. Final weapons, magic upgrades, and optional boss battles are only the tip of the extras found within Kingdom Hearts, but the end result is well worth it.
In closing, the Square-Disney partnership is one of the company’s greatest decisions. Although it looked “kid-targeted” at first, the game has a great heart and is definitely worth the Greatest Hits low, low price. The graphics are very pleasant to look at, while the music is great to the ears. It’s a change in traditional RPGs, but it’s a change for the better. It’s been mentioned before, but the battle system is just plain addicting. Even if you’re not the biggest fan of Disney’s work, even a rental is worth every second you play. Like a certain Q&A host, this game has also captured my heart.
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