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Platform

Playstation 2

 

Genre

Role-Playing

 

Publisher

Square

 

Developer

Square

 

ESRB

E (Everyone)

 

Released

Q3 2002

 

- Excellent 3-D engine

- Strong backgrounds (worlds)

- Excellent soundtrack to the game

- Great game for pre-adolescents

 

 

- Shouldn’t have given voices to some SquareSoft characters

- Not a typical SquareSoft RPG game

- Story a tad too thin for some gamers

 

 

Review: Final Fantasy X (Playstation 2)

 

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Kingdom Hearts

Score: 8.7 / 10

 

When the master of the popular role-playing game works with the largest American animation company, Kingdom Hearts is the product. As so cited on the packaging (and in the plethora of commercials), Kingdom Hearts features “walk-on” roles for a number of SquareSoft characters as well as a number of Disney worlds and characters. Kingdom Hearts represents the latest step in the interactive role-playing game that ditches turn-based action in favor of a constant action, 3-D game.

 

kingdom-hearts-1.jpg (68489 bytes)          kingdom-hearts-2.jpg (70407 bytes)

 

Which brings the obvious question, “Does an RPG game work well in a constant action setting?” – to which I respond, “yes and no”. People who want more realistic battles (as realistic as you can get playing a video game featuring animated characters) will be satisfied, but the strategists among us will be disappointed as strategy has a tendency to fall to the wayside.

 

For those unfamiliar with the title, you control Sora (voiced expertly by Haley Joel Osment), a young adventurer who is traveling amongst different worlds while looking for his two friends (Kairi, a young girl that Sora has feelings for; and Riku a slightly older boy whose motives are unclear) as well as helping Donald Duck (a sorcerer with a variety of useful spells) and Goofy (Captain of the Guard and a staunch fighter… i.e. head down and charge) search for their King. Got all that? As Sora, you control the Keyblade – a large key that doubles as a sword and also holds the power to contain the “Heartless” (the Heartless are an army of beings that are overrunning worlds while devouring everything and everyone in their way like an offensive line at Sizzler). Cute and simplistic? Sure is! Thankfully so (What were you expecting from a Disney product? Overt anarchy?).

 

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Unlike other RPGs, you don’t control the additional characters. For the balance of the game, you control Sora, and the only way to manipulate your allies is to adjust their characteristics and which techniques that they can use. (Although at some times, you’re going to yell… JUST SIT THERE! DON’T DO ANYTHING! AND FOR GOSH SAKES, IF YOU USE ANOTHER DAMN ETHER POTION I’M GOING TO KILL YOU!) In theory it should leave you to control Sora well and 

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have someone to back you up, but you’re going to have more benefit out of the characters by having them draw attention and punishment while you strike.

 

As you visit different worlds, you will make friends. Some of those friends will choose to join you in the fight against the Heartless (at least for a little while) and for the most part are a welcome addition in the fight (don’t worry about having Donald or Goofy sit out, they will continue to level up as the battles continue). Besides the obvious benefit of having different characters to look at, the additional characters are usually stronger or at least more adept at fighting on their home turf.

 

kingdom-hearts-3.jpg (69099 bytes)          kingdom-hearts-4.jpg (62062 bytes)

 

The gameplay itself is a real strength of the game – although it does demonstrate how the game is more like an action game than a RPG in its “hack-and-slash” simplicity. Hardcore RPGers will find this an extreme distraction, but everyone else will be happy (especially little kids, who will be able to pick up the title without too much pre-amble). All of the battles can be controlled using 3-4 buttons, but when the game starts to get complex (or difficult) you will have to resort to using the on-screen menu.

 

Unlike most SquareSoft games, you can’t pause the game to look for that cure-all potion or nuclear device, you only get a limited number of items that you and your allies can carry into a battle. (For example: early on, you only have 4 item slots for things to use in battle and they can’t be replaced from your inventory until the end of the fight.) Needless to say, strategy is a big concern, especially in boss battles when you have to decide if you’d rather have ether potions (not to knock people out… it’s to revive magic points) or curative potions. The boss battles in themselves represent the majority of the difficulties in the game – some of them are disturbingly easy, but then there are always a few that will leave you pulling your hair out with their inherent “nastiness”. The downside to losing a boss battle (besides the ulcer) is having to sit thought the same cut-scene again… I’ve seen the scene with Hercules, Cloud, and Cerberus in my sleep. As with all previous SquareSoft games, if a boss is too hard to defeat, you might be best served with going somewhere else and wailing on weaker enemies to level up your characters (nothing like getting to level 99 and walking through all of the battles right?).

 

Traveling between worlds comes via the most poorly designed plot-device in the game. You travel between worlds in a “Gummi-ship.” Yes, it is that stupid. It looks like something out of a beta test for the original Star Fox for the Super Nintendo but plays like something out of a depth perception nightmare. The missions thankfully are easy to complete, but for some reason, it’s impossible to hit anything effectively unless you just jam the “fire” button mercilessly. Your booty for completing these missions is the opportunity to earn more “Gummi-pieces” from which you can build new ships or modify existing ones. But during the course of the game, I never touched my ship other than to add an extra cannon. Once you receive the warp drive system for the ship, you’ll never have to sit through those missions between places that you’ve visited.

 

kingdom-hearts-5.jpg (50372 bytes)          kingdom-hearts-6.jpg (64487 bytes)

 

Visually, the game is a treat; but then again what would you expect from SquareSoft and Disney right? The game reminds me of the first 3-D Ultima game, except the battles are much more realistic (all of the characters interact properly during the course of a fight) and the surroundings are superb.

 

The music is one of those touches that really remind you that this is a Disney property. All of the musical scores for the worlds are either originals or very strikingly similar ones. (That scores big with me to have those great songs playing in those worlds – it’s a great way of building recognition and helps to draw the gamer into the action.)

 

The voice work is a real double-edged sword. The majority of the voices for characters have been reprised or at least expertly duplicated (and those absolutely rock!), but the few missing ones a really counter-productive. It’s a shame to have a great series of Danny DeVito lines as Phil ruined by a horrendous series of readings for Hercules without Tate Donovan. I’m not even going into how disappointed I was to hear that they gave voices to some of the Final Fantasy characters. This despite the fact that they actually tapped some Hollywood talent for some of the duties.

 

All in all, Kingdom Hearts is an excellent game that will appeal to younger gamers and the young at heart.

 

- Tazman

(October 30, 2002)

 

"Isn't it ironic? Those old people are kept alive from the organs of the young people who they ran over."

- Officer Lou (The Simpsons)

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