Kingdom Hearts was a game made by Disney as well as Square. The fact that it is Disney based with various themed worlds and characters that are well-known from their films is rather off-putting for some, but I find it to make the game much more fun. Whilst the game might seem like a run of the mill platformer it is the complete opposite, it is a fully fledged Role-Playing Game that has various aspects from Adventure and Platform games integrated into it, making it a very enjoyable experience.
A lot of though has been placed into the story line and it clearly shows. It gradually changes through out the game whereas you set out to do one thing and then this that and the other, which is very similar to Final Fantasy. It has a very deep and involving plot. The inclusion of Disney characters adds comedy to it, in particular Donald Duck and Goofy. It starts with Sora - the main character - and his two friends Kairi and Riku wanting to set off away from Destiny Island and search of Kairi's home. They set about doing this by building a raft. Though in the usual Final Fantasy fashion, not all goes according to plan when a huge storm hits the island the night before they set off, which sucks the three of them into various worlds, stranded and alone. Sora's adventure starts here. You don't have to worry in this game if you are unsure of the storyline because the game keeps a journal of the storyline (which is written by Jiminy Cricket) which you can access whenever you are outside of battle to brush up on it, as well as on characters, enemies, Dalmatian puppies, trinity marks and more.
There are a lot of them. According to the game's CD case there are over 100 Disney characters, which of course is not including the Final Fantasy characters or the original ones made specifically for the game. Nearly all the characters add something in plot or drama. Obviously though some aren't as involved as others. The characters clearly differ from upbeat and positive Aeris/Aerith (Who we may recognise from Final Fantasy Seven) to Donald Duck who is more funny than anything else. Some characters will help you in battle though they are limited to their worlds, these characters are: Beast, Tarzan, Aladdin, Jack, Peter Pan and Ariel. These characters can be placed in your team in place of either Donald or Goofy if you feel the need to. Each of the characters have their own abilities giving variety. The voice acting is well done and certain characters become you favourites, mine for example is Hades for how funny he is.
The graphics in this game are very smooth and clear. The non-Disney characters look realistic and the Disney ones look exactly as you would imagine them if they were to be lifted straight from the films. The spells look pretty good and so do the summons. The spells may not look as good as their Final Fantasy counterparts' do (Fireaga is an example of this) but they still look pretty darn good. The FMV's at the start and the end rival those of Final Fantasy Ten is look ability.
Now being from the creators of Final Fantasy and Disney having very well produced music of it's own you expect something special don't you? And thankfully Kingdom Hearts does not disappoint. Each world has its own unique music and when the some enemies appear on screen the music very cleverly has a change from the normal piece to a faster one meaning each world has its own battle music. The flaw to this which I personally find a bit annoying sometimes is that the music takes pause between changing the battle music and the normal world music with a bit of silence, I doubt however it would annoy anyone else. The song a lot of people associate with Kingdom Hearts is Simple and Clean by Utada Hikaru which in itself is a fine song. And listening to it orchestrated in various games making it sound Disney-esque is really good.
I'm splitting gameply into two halves since the normal game play and battle are significantly different and take place on the same screen.
This is the when the genre of Kingdom Hearts is often disputed, whilst he has a similar menu system to Final Fantasy (where you choose your magic/attacks/items) though you do this with the directional button and move with the analogue and press the cross button to execute the command which is confusing at first because when I have a choice between moving with the directional buttons or with the analogue (I.e. Dynasty Warriors or Final Fantasy Ten) I tend to go for the buttons. You can still run about and slash, though again like Final Fantasy you have to use magic for certain battles where physical attacks are no good.
When you are walking around the towns is a gain where the genre is often disputed because it seems very much like a platform game with well timed jumps often saving the day. The gameplay is simple enough because whereas you had to be quicker with the battle to choose options with the directional buttons, outside of battle you are not limited to time due to fear of being attacked. The camera can be annoying in places though it can be fixed by just taking a step or two in one direction and moving it around again. You gain certain group abilities through-out the game that you can use in and out of battle and they are explained clearly enough in game.
The game is not short on things to do. As well as just playing the game you can search for the lost Dalmatian puppies in order to gain extra magic and items. You can seek out all the Trinity Marks for extra rewards. Parts of certain worlds are optional though it is highly recommended that you complete each world to its fullest. The majority of the Coliseum (Based on Hercules) world is optional though it leads to extra items, magic, challenge and fun to the game with various competitions to enter.
| Story |
Deeply involving and articulate.
| Characters |
Lots of characters and all wonderfully shown.
| Graphics |
| Music |
Wonderfully done music and a treat for your ears.
| Battle System |
A bit confusing at first, but simple enough once you get used to it.
| General Gameplay |
Simple and clean though let down by the camera at points.
| Sidequests |
Very fun sidequests to do and ones that won't be over in seconds, pure class.
| Overall |
A very good game to play and if you can ignore some of the cutesy characters and enjoy the game for what it is then you shan't be disappointed with it. High recommended and a must for fans of action games, Final Fantasy and people who own Playstation 2's!
The story begins with Sora, Kairi and Riku, three young friends who are bored of living on Destiny Islands and are eager to explore other worlds. Unexpectedly the chance arrives when during a wild storm, Sora finds himself separated from his friends, in a new and unknown place - Traverse Town. Here he meets Donald and Goofy who have also lost somebody. The three decide to travel together in search of their missing friends. From that point on, many adventures and new friends await them, as they fight to uncover the truth of the darkness and prevent it from consuming the worlds. The whole idea of darkness and light is the main theme in this game, and how the light that we hold within our hearts is strong enough to overcome darkness and evil. This may seem a bit deep or sentimental but I think it is a charming storyline and the sort of thing you'd expect in a game with Disney's name on. There are lots of original ideas in the storyline which make it unlike some typical RPGs. For example, the enemies, called "Heartless" are normal people whose hearts have been consumed by the darkness and Sora's weapon is a key, which he also uses to seal keyholes in each world and prevent the darkness coming in. I couldn't compare this storyline to any other game I've played and I think it grabs your attention and feels very involving throughout the game. It makes you smile in certain places and makes you feel sad in others. Like a Disney movie, I think Kingdom Hearts has that special magic to conjure up a range of emotions while playing.
Where to begin? There are a huge number of Disney characters ranging from Winnie the Pooh to Beast, nearly all of whom you will meet and befriend on your adventure. Many of these characters are voiced by their original voice actors superbly and despite being 3D they seem spot on with their original cartoon selves, in the way they look, act and speak. You also get the chance to have some of these characters fight in your team at places in the story, which is interesting and fun as they have unique abilities and can be quite useful. Sora and his friends Kairi and Riku are new characters created by Squaresoft. Although drawn in a cute Disney style, with huge yellow shoes and large heads, they are very much like the characters you might expect to encounter in a Final Fantasy game - the young hero Sora, the innocent, happy Kairi, and Riku who just has something about him... These characters are voiced well too, and I think Sora's voice actor (Haley Joel Osment - The Sixth Sense, Secondhand Lions) suits him perfectly. There is also the addition of many familiar Final Fantasy characters, including Aerith and Cloud from Final Fantasy VII, and Tidus and Wakka from Final Fantasy X, along with quite a few more. I thought this was an interesting thing to see, particularly for Final Fantasy fans playing the game. Most of the characters looked really good in the Disney style, and you finally had the chance to hear what the characters of FFVII and VIII might sound like when they spoke! Also most of them seemed to fit quite well in the Kingdom Hearts world and be believable. My only complaint with this is that Wakka's voice sounded odd and totally wrong (although he was supposed to be younger in this game so that could explain it). Also I don't think Tidus looked anything much like Tidus at all. I wouldn't really have missed not having those two in the game.
The music in this game is a pleasure to listen to. It's cute and can get stuck in your head quite easily! Each world not only has it's own music but it's own battle music also, which is like the world music speeded up and changed a bit. I like this because the music suits each area. A lot of the time the music for each Disney world is a mix of the original Disney music from that film, and I think this worked very successfully. The main theme of the game - Simple and Clean - is a catchy, enjoyable song. I don't think it is quite as good as some main themes from Final Fantasy games, particularly because the lyrics of the English translation don't seem to make a lot of sense in relation to the game. But aside from that, it's a pretty good song, and the version of it played at the end is especially good. I bought the soundtrack to this game and just listening to it feels like you are making that journey through the game again.
The FMVs in this game, though quite limited are simply beautiful and certainly match the quality of those in FFX. The graphics on the whole are well done, the character models look spot on, and all the characters and worlds have a bright, colourful quality to them. My only complaint is that Square don't seem to have spent as much time on the graphics of the locations as they did with Final Fantasy X. A lot of the areas seem very flat, especially in Wonderland where the trees almost look like they could be made of cardboard. In Final Fantasy X there were a lot of really beautiful touches like the movement of grass and I think they should have spent more time on this in Kingdom Hearts. Some of the areas just felt like boxes rather than large open worlds.
The battle system took me a while to get used to, as I was expecting it to be a turn based affair, similar to Final Fantasy games. I was quite surprised to find it was action based, hand to hand combat. You have commands such as Attack, Magic and Item which you pick using the D-pad. You then use X to implement these commands, eg. choose something from the list such as a potion to cure yourself with, or choose a spell to cast. This is similar to the menus in Final Fantasy battles, however while you're doing this you are being attacked by enemies all the time, so don't take too long choosing! Luckily there is a helpful function which allows you to assign magic spells to a shortcut, and then cast them by pressing L1 and the relevant button. For example you could choose to have L1 and X as cure, so you can cast it quickly on yourself when your health is getting low. You also get Summons but my main problem with these is they took so long to appear, it didn't seem worth using them most of the time. If you are used to turn based battles then this is quite overwhelming at first, but after you get used to it, it becomes easier and if you have played action games then you probably won't find this too different. It's also a lot of fun because the battles are fast paced and exciting, plus you can choose to avoid enemies by just running away from them if you don't want to fight. (With the exception of bosses obviously). Enemies usually appear in the same places, so you get used to where they are going to be. After battles enemies drop various balls, some of which restore HP, some restore MP and some give you Munny. They also drop various items. The ability learning system is interesting, you learn some abilities when you level up, others you gain from completing parts of the game or doing certain tasks. Depending on your AP (Ability points) you can only equip some of these abilities, so you can choose which are the most useful. In battles you only control Sora, Goofy and Donald fight on their own. This is easier in a way because you only have to concentrate on one character, and you get automatic help from the other two. Sometimes early on in the game you might find them dying a lot, or wasting items, in which case you can change their configuration till they act suitably. I find that they can be helpful but sometimes you don't really need them anyway.
The controls can be a little confusing at first, you use the analogue stick to walk around and the D pad to select from your command list. You access the main menu by pressing Start and you can toggle the camera view by using Select. After a while you get used to these controls though and the menu interface is quite easy to use. When controlling the character, you can walk, roll, jump and glide (although some of these you need to gain abilities for). You have to use these a lot to get to certain places and this is what gives the game more of an action element than an RPG would usually have. It's definately fun though and sometimes I'd just roll or glide around for fun, and being able to jump across roofs is great too, you just have a sense of freedom. Gameplay is fairly linear although there are some places you can visit in different orders - although you might make it harder for yourself if you do. You can talk to the people you meet, and there are lots of sidequests and extra things to do. For example you have to find trinity marks from which you gain extra items and abilities, and hunt out the 101 dalmations. There are various mini games in the Hundred Acre Wood, and extra bosses you can challenge if you wish. There's a lot to do, and I got a good 80 hours play out of this game.
| Story |
Original, emotional and involving.
| Characters |
A diverse range of Disney and Final Fantasy characters, making a fun experience.
| Music |
Beautiful, catchy music which you'll be humming all day long.
| Appearance |
Cute and colourful, with amazing FMVs, but something lacking in locations
| Battle System |
The battle system is fast-paced, fun and fairly simple to get the hang of.
| General Gameplay |
Fun gameplay, lots of sidequests, extra challenges and secrets to uncover.
| Overall |
This game is just so much fun, and although I'm not usually a fan of Action games I soon found the gameplay addictive. If you like Final Fantasy or Disney, definately play this game. Even if you don't like Disney I recommend you play this game simply for the superb story and characters and the range of things there are to do. A beautiful, involving, game that'll keep you occupied for hours and hours.