Ever since I first played it, I've found the Kingdom Hearts series quite compelling. Maybe it's because of the enjoyable hack 'n' slash action/RPG gameplay. Maybe it's because of the convoluted, yet compelling plotline. Maybe it's because of the gorgeous music. But I'm getting long-winded; in any case, this review is to explain what's good and what isn't about the first game in the Square/Disney crossover; simply titled "Kingdom Hearts", for the PlayStation 2. Let's roll.
This isn't a section I'd normally include in a review, but I felt it needed to be covered. When you first heard of the idea of Kingdom Hearts, you probably groaned and rolled your eyes. And after all, I mean, c'mon. Disney and Final Fantasy? Cloud Strife meets up with Mickey Mouse? Squall Leonhart and Donald Duck fight monsters together? Puh-leaze.
But the concept is handled with surprising skill. The idea is worked fairly well into the story; the story is to be handled in another section, but I'll mention one or two things about it here to better explain things. There are a lot of separate worlds, and none of them know about each other. However, when legions of dark creatures attack, the separation between the worlds is cut off and many of them become aware of each other. Plus, new characters take center stage, and there are few stupid moments like the hypothetical instances I mentioned earlier (i.e; Squall and Donald fight monsters together). It works well overall.
The basic combat of Kingdom Hearts is handled through a hack 'n' slash system. As shown in the screenshot above, there is a command menu of four options, which you can cycle through with the right analog stick, on screen at all times. Attack, Magic, Item, and a varying fourth option. Attack makes Sora, your character, swing his weapon; a keyblade (yeah, I know that sounds weird). Magic brings you to another menu where you can pick a magical attack to use from various options, such as Fire, Blizzard, Thunder, Gravity, Summon, etc. Most of these are staples of the Final Fantasy series, and require MP (Magic Points) to use. Item, like Magic, brings you to another menu where you can choose an item to use, restoring either your HP or MP, usually. The fourth option ranges; if you're in front of a non-enemy character, it becomes Talk. If you're in front of a chest, it becomes Open. If you're on top of a save point, it becomes Save. If you're in the right position near an enemy, it becomes a special attack. It ranges.
For the most part, this system works. It's pretty fun to use, and every enemy drops experience points; all of these work towards leveling up, at which point you gain a stat boost and more special abilities to use. The latter are accessed through the main menu, and can be used by allocating Ability Points, which are gained periodically, to each one. They vary from an escaping roll mapped to the Square button to a passive ability that lets you see the health bars of enemies. It's all pretty well-designed.
But there is one crippling problem; the camera. This abomination, mapped to the L1 and R1 triggers on the DualShock, lands you into the most awkward viewing angles (near impossible to maneuver out of without experimentation) so that I actually have lost a few fights because the camera ended up leaving me unable to see myself or my enemy. The fact that I lost fights I could have (easily) won with a better camera makes this a pretty inherent flaw.
But aside from the irritating camera, the system in place is fun, and the controls are mapped pretty well for the most part.
If this came out today on the Xbox 360, it would be endlessly bombarded with constant jeers and insults about its horrific graphics. But this came out in 2002 for the PlayStation 2, and for that time era, the graphics are fairly sexy. The in-game graphics are as good or better than anything that was out for the system at that time, and cutscenes, despite some painfully inaccurate lip-syncing at times, are pretty gorgeous (especially the opening and ending cinematics).
Overall, great-looking game for its time period.
Yoko Shimomura, composer of games such as Final Fight, Super Mario RPG, and Legend of Mana, has done a fantastic job at composing the game's music. Musical taste does range, though, so I'll let you judge the soundtrack for yourself, but most anyone would tell you this game has some gorgeous tunes in it.
Additionally, the voice actors that have been chosen do great jobs. Haley Joel Osment (The Sixth Sense) sometimes sounds a little too youthful for Sora, the main character, but his voice work is still quite good. Others, such as Hayden Panettiere, Bill Farmer, and Stever Burton, do great jobs.
The voice cast and music are quite up-to-snuff.
The game starts off featuring three teenaged friends, Sora, Riku, and Kairi, building a raft in an attempt to escape their idyllic tropical island home, as they are convinced there is more out there. However, disaster strikes when an army of strange creatures called Heartless arrive, tearing the three friends apart. Riku and Kairi are swept away to unknown locations, while Sora ends up in odd place Traverse Town...
The story is pretty enjoyable overall. The characters are endearing, and I grew something of a connection to them. The plot can grow predictable easily, but one or two surprising twists and turns keep things fresh enough.
In essence, the plot is enjoyable.
This game has its flaws; a terrible camera, off-kilter lip-syncing, a sometimes-formulaic plot, and a couple other piddling things detract from the experience every now and then. But there's a lot to love, and that's hard to deny. In all, this is an enjoyable game that I would recommend.
Thanks for reading! Hope you enjoyed the review. ~Stay awesome