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A Strange Union
While Kingdom Hearts is an action RPG and battles are mostly lock-on, hack, and slash with a little bit of backup from Donald and Goofy or one of the Disney heroes you meet along the way, there are several useful skills and abilities that turn certain battles into much more. Due to well placed shortcuts, you can easily call upon your favorite set of spells and equiped abilities when needed. You can also jump, glide, block, roll, and sometimes even swim or fly. Thanks to this very nice battle system, there is a lot of variety in the more difficult battles such as boss fights. Since you have to actually think of certain bosses, some battles can be incredibly exciting without resorting to hacking and slashing like most action RPGs. The fraction of an mp system is a little weird, but it works. You can summon too, but not in the traditional sense. Each summon is fairly unique and runs around the screen attacking or whatever it does before it runs out of time and fades.
While most normal battles are hack and slash, and thus rather easy, mid-boss and boss fights can cause you to think quite a bit more as a mistake can cost you a lot. While you generally have some allies to support you, not to mention a large inventory of items, a few bosses can still be fairly dangerous. There are two difficulties: normal and expert, so you can set your choice of difficulty somewhat to your desired level. I played it on expert and didn't find it very difficult except for a few optional battles though, so at most Kingdom Hearts is an easy-medium game in difficulty.
The battle system is good, but it wouldn't get far without the well-designed shortcuts of the interface. All of the buttons are laid out well so that nothing gets in the way of quickly and effectively using commands during battle. The only things that take more than an instant to use are items and spells that you don't have on your shortcut menu. Since you only really need your favorite three spells and rarely need items, this isn't really a problem. All of the other menus are efficiently designed as well. The camera can do some weird things sometimes, especially when you jump. Before you gain special jumping abilities, this can make some parts quite annoying. The only other part of the interface that was slightly annoying was the Gummi ship design. That had some really weird controls.
The music and sound effects of Kingdom Hearts were great. Each area had its own unique theme and battle theme which prevented the music from being repetitive, though it was often so good in most places I almost can't imagine that happening. Not only that, but it was well-tied to the central battle theme or to the Disney theme of the world you were on. The boss music was very well done also. It's often very fast and exciting which is always nice for boss themes. The opening/ending song is surprisingly catchy as well.
Not only does it have good music, it also has beautiful graphics which bring each of the Disney worlds to life. Every character is well-rendered and looks quite nice. There are a lot of different enemies and none of them are severely overused or re-colored. The whole game is beautifully animated as well, especially in battle with attacks flying all over the place. Boss fights are especially impressive with their magic and glowing attacks shooting all over the place. There aren't very many FMVs for a Squaresoft game, but they're nicely done and the game certainly doesn't need a lot of FMVs to look good.
Each world (mostly) has its own unique story. Most of these are based heavily off of Disney movies and don't tie in with the central plot very well. The central plot, while it does have its strong areas, seems to be greatly neglected in all except at the beginning and end of the game. Much more time is spent dealing with previous Disney worlds and events than the new ones created for the game.
While the story may not be very original, full of the casts of many Disney movies, the game is indeed filled with the voice acting casts of Disney movies. Yes, a massive amount of the original voice actors make their appearance in the game and they do a really good job. This is probably the best-localized game I have ever seen with wonderful grammer, spelling, and incredible voice-acting. Since most of the original voice actors appear, they bring the same life to their characters as they did before. It's all very well done.
There's a lot of nostalgia in Kingdom Hearts so there is a good reason to play it again if you want to. If you decided to play it on normal the first time through you might want to try it on expert the second time around. Since you get to somewhat customize yourself, you might try playing through the game with a different setup as well. Plenty of reasons to play it again.
Lots of nostalgia, a well-done battles system, great interface, wonderful localization and a high replay value. Good visuals and music as well. Overall, a very good game. Sadly, the central plot is a little bit too weak for me to give it any higher than an eight, but I certainly recommend this game to any Final Fantasy and/or Disney fan. Actually, I recommend it to everyone. Oh yeah, Kingdom Hearts also has, in my opinion, one of the best RPG battles ever: Platinum match on expert mode. Yeah...that was awesome.
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