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Kingdom Hearts II Review 116

Posted by Zonk
from the you've-got-to-have-heart dept.
The rich IP backgrounds of Square/Enix and the Disney Corporation were thrown together for the first time in 2002. The Square-developed game, entitled Kingdom Hearts, surprised players with a story that blended two very different flavours into a compelling whole. The extent to which that game drew on the respective company's products made for a breathtakingly large world, and a storyline twisty enough to satisfy even the most jaded RPG player. Unfortunately, weak gameplay detracted from the overall experience of the unique title. The sequel, Kingdom Hearts II, picks up the pieces where the original left off and makes noticeable improvements in both story and gameplay. Read on for my impressions of a solid RPG that does fan service like no other title out there.
  • Title: Kingdom Hearts II
  • Developer/Publisher: Square/Enix
  • System:PS2
The original Kingdom Hearts saw the protagonist, Sora, doing battle with a magical race of evil beings known simply as 'The Heartless'. With the help of Donald and Goofy the young man sought out his friends Riku and Kairi (taken by the villains at the beginning of the tale), as well as 'King' Mickey. When the curtain drew at the end of the tale, there were numerous plot threads left hanging; It was already obvious then that a sequel was in the works.

Four years later, and the next chapter in the tale has been released to the PS2. The title begins in a somewhat confusing place if you've never played the card-battle Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories title for the GameBoy. Suffice it to say that Sora has lost his memory, and the first several hours of the game are spent with an alternate persona for the first game's protagonist. This hours-long ordeal is something of an extended tutorial. You're introduced to the concepts you'll be using throughout the game, and slowly begin to crack into the simply enormous plot that flows throughout the title. If the idea of an hours-long tutorial mode isn't intimidating, you're already set to play this game.

Your patience will be well rewarded, though, because once you're out of the introductory plot there's lot of great story to enjoy. Just as in the original, you'll find yourself traveling with Sora, Donald, and Goofy to various world representing Disney movies. Mulan, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, and The Lion King are among the properties on display. The Nightmare Before Christmas makes a return with the more traditional titles, and two new live-action pieces are introduced to Kingdom Hearts' stable of worlds. The Pirates of the Caribbean, as well as Tron, make appearances at points along the road to your ultimate destination. With so many worlds to explore, it's unsurprising that you'll encounter varying levels of quality. At one end of the spectrum, you have Mulan. The Chinese fable is one of the first worlds you'll explore out of the gate, and happily so: it's fantastic. You'll fight hordes of opponents (ala the Mongols in the movie), and battle alongside Fa Mulan to defeat the Heartless. The gameworld not only retells the story of the movie, it draws you as a player into the events of the film in an enjoyable way. Tron, similarly, does a fantastic job of getting you into the story. While you might at first see the inclusion of the MCP's system as gimmicky, it's explained in a wholly reasonable fashion. It also looks great. Of course, not everything can be perfect. The other end of the spectrum is inhabited by The Little Mermaid's world. It's a very dull, and generally disappointing experience. I'm a fan of rhythm games, but the attempt they muster is lackluster at best. Attempting to mash a button in a timed interval is not rhythm, it's muddling your game experience. Overall, though, the Disney elements in the game are tremendously satisfying.

I wish I could say the same about the Final Fantasy characters included in the title. As in the first Kingdom Hearts, the more staid RPG characters are standoffish in general, aiding you only when it suits their needs. Aerith, Squall, Yuffie, and Cid are important plot drivers, and clashes between Cloud and Sephiroth are fairly important battles in the latter half of the story. Despite that, the Final Fantasy characters are in general not as well treated as their Disney brethren. Many of them have odd or simplistic dialogue, and some characters (like Tifa Lockheart) come off as quite confused. It's very neat to see the FF characters step out of their normal roles, but the blend that I felt worked so well in the original title doesn't seem as polished here. The Disney characters definitely get the better end of the stick here, and for those of us who have outgrown some of the 80's Disney films that's more than a little frustrating.

Those (small) frustrations aside, the entire experience of Kingdom Hearts II is an improvement over the original. The plot is tighter, with the older protagonist necessitating a more grown-up story. The ramifications of Sora's actions from the first game are very thoroughly explored, and you get a real sense of connection between the young man and the individuals he encounters on his journeys. The worlds themselves are improved as well. They're a good deal 'tighter', with less meaningless space thrown into the mix. If they built a part of a level in this game, it has a point. This results in the worlds feeling shorter, but more fulfilling. There's no need to wander aimlessly through caverns in the Cave of Wonders; You go there, get what you came for, fight a boss battle, and leave. The level design and story dovetail tightly together. The result is a grand story that is also very approachable; It can be played in smaller bites and more completely understood overall. It's a testament to the team that weaknesses from the first game have been directly addressed here.

One of the big weaknesses of the original title, combat, has also gotten some love since the first time around. In addition to the magic and summons that were possible in the first game, limit breaks, drives, and context-sensitive actions have been added to the battleground. Limit breaks are interesting combo moves you can perform with your partners. Goofy, Donald and Sora can hook up for 'Trinity' maneuvers, and each guest star from the Disney gameworlds offers their own thematically appropriate move to help the spikey-haired protagonist take down the baddies. You use limit breaks by filling up a bar, which is just one of the many meters you fill during combat. Your drive bar also fills as you fight, eventually enabling you to enter a function-specific mode. For example, 'Valour' steals Goofy's strength and turns Sora into a dual-wielding dynamo. 'Wisdom' enhances Sora's magical abilities (by borrowing Donald's) and turns his keyblade into something like as submachine gun. Context actions are new to the game, but have seen use frequently in recent titles, and frequently allow Sora access to the 'Trinity' moves. All of which sounds good ... but at the end of the day these new elements aren't that helpful. They look great to be sure, further fleshing out the fantastic imagery of Kingdom Hearts and giving you the impression of options. The reality, however, is that the air combo moves Sora performs just by bashing the 'X' button are so effective as to make much of this superfluous. Some boss fights can get a little tough, and benefit from use of flashy fireworks, but generally speaking you can achieve victory with your thumb firmly on the attack button. The combat still feels more developed than in the first game, but don't expect God of War complexity to the fighting.

Outside of combat, they've continued the push for improved gameplay. A particularly onerous element of the original game was the 'Gummi Ship' rail shooting sequences. They've been revamped from their utilitarian roots into something a lot more enjoyable. It's not an attempt at a full-fledged game within a game; Holding down the fire button will still get you through relatively safely. At the same time, there's a good deal more to do here. Treasures and mini-bosses abound, and the occasional reorientation of the map adds some stylistic changes to the experience. On foot, the camera has been overhauled since the original as well. Fighting with the often asleep-at-the-switch cameraman was another frustration of Kingdom Hearts. The result isn't a watershed, but it's yet another rough edge that's been smoothed out in this incarnation.

For all the complaints that were leveled at the first game, the graphical presentation was a subject avoided by even the stoutest of detractors. Kingdom Hearts looked great, and its sequel goes about improving on the original in a very calculated way. The PS2 just isn't the graphical powerhouse it once was, in comparison to what we're seeing on Microsoft's new console. What were cutting-edge graphics in 2002 look a little dated. The art team has tackled this frustration by honing in on the 'look' of each character, place, and situation with a dead-on push for accuracy. The original's art style tended to blend the game worlds together; The art direction for Tarzan's jungle was generally the same as Alice's Wonderland. With the sequel, the movies are evoked more fully by conjuring the artistic style of the animation into electronic life. The rocky surrounds of Isle de la Muerte have a fundamentally different stylistic base than Beast's castle or 'The Timeless River', the black and white old-timey cartoon world. The game sounds just as good as it looks, the well-earned reputation Square/Enix has with composition once again reaffirmed. The title piece is the most evocative, in typical Jpop fashion, but the moment-to-moment pieces recall the film soundtracks quite successfully. Aurally, my biggest complaint is one I had with the first title as well: Almost all of the musical elements evoke Disney moments and ignore the sound history written by Nobuo Uematsu for the Final Fantasy series. Whether a deliberate decision or not, I would have preferred more than just 'One-Winged Angel' to make an appearance within the Kingdom Hearts series.

The second title to bear the Kingdom Hearts name accomplishes exactly what a sequel should set out to do. It recaptures successful elements of the original, and shores up weak elements of the first game's vision. What we're given, then, is a melding of Disney and Square storytelling in a way that recaptures innocent times through a more adult lens. It's very hard indeed to grow up in America without watching at least one Disney film. That cultural building block makes the image of Sora fighting alongside the Beast, Peter Pan, or Jack Skellington a very hard one to ignore; In fact, it lies at the center of Kingdom Hearts' appeal. For all the fighting and angst, any story that features Mickey Mouse is going to have a happy ending somewhere down the line. In an industry cluttered with amoral vigilantes, objectified women, and escort missions, it's nice to occasionally play a game where you know the good guys are going to win at the end of the day. The game does have a prerequisite though: while the GBA title can be skipped you're definitely not going to get the full effect out of Kingdom Hearts II if you don't play the original. Beyond that, Disney-haters and Final Fantasy foes should look elsewhere; Unless you've got the hate on for Donald Duck you're probably going to find at least one moment in this epic quest that will make you smile like a kid again.

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Kingdom Hearts II Review

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  • by th1ckasabr1ck (752151) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @01:39PM (#15206119)
    Play on hard! I played on hard and the game was still way too easy. Significantly easier than the original. I didn't die until the final boss, and I only died once, and it was only because I had no idea what was going on.

    Fun game though, if you liked the first one you'll definitely like this one.

    • actually supposedly playing on normal, is harder than playing on hard, because the requirements for some things are actually harder to complete on normal.
      • Not necessarily. There's a secret extra ending video after the last video of the game. In order to unlock it, you must be in either normal or proud (hard) mode. In proud mode, you just have to complete the story of the game (unlock each world, etc). On standard, you must both complete the story and complete jiminy cricket's journal, which includes finishing all sorts of minigames and side missions, and getting good scores on them. The video is impossible to get on beginner level, so you'll always get t
    • Did you try Sephiroth? He was hard.

      Play on hard so that you can get the secret ending without doing spending hours on stupid quests like "push the garbage up the hill."
  • I've loved both (Score:4, Interesting)

    by merreborn (853723) * on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @01:43PM (#15206162) Journal
    But I swear, this one's 90% cut scenes. Some of 'em stretch on for 10 minutes plus, and the time between cutscenes is as little as 15 to 30 seconds, sometimes.

    It's like watching a bad, low poly CG movie.

    If you're a fan of older Final Fantasy stile grinds, it may start to wear on you a little.
    • Re:I've loved both (Score:3, Interesting)

      by dividedsky319 (907852)
      I agree. There are WAY too many cutscenes. You can skip them (Push start, then select "skip scene") but then you feel as if you're missing out on part of the story.

      However, as a whole, the game is great. I wouldn't say the game is any easier than the first one. Sure, a lot of the battles can be won by mashing the X button... but I'm not necessarily looking for a huge challenge, just a fun game, which it has been so far.
      • At least this game has the "skip scene" option. It was the only thing lacking in Final Fantasy X (I hated this one long cutscene before a battle that I lost about 10 times in a row before I finally beat it). Once you've watched the cutscene in KH2, then any time you have to view the CS again, you CAN skip it.
    • Re:I've loved both (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Yocto Yotta (840665) * <catapults.musicNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @02:14PM (#15206415)
      I'm a big fan of GAME-games that test your reflex mettle like Ninja Gaiden and Mario-esque platformers, but game-"games," particular RPGs like Kingdom Hearts, the Xenosaga series, and action borderliners like the Metal Gears should be approached from a different angle. If you don't care for exposition, stay away, but if you accept these as vast, interactive BOOKS, they're a pretty excellent experience.
      • The writing quality in console RPGs is almost always substandard. I had to stop playing Xenogears because the character dialog was so painfully bad.
  • second? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by minus_273 (174041) <aaaaa AT SPAM DOT yahoo DOT com> on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @01:45PM (#15206173) Journal
    this is not really the second title to have the kingdom hearts name as you own artile points out there is a game in between called kingdom hearts: chain of memories
  • by writertype (541679) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @01:46PM (#15206181)
    It's not perfect. C'mon, best Disney movie ever made.
  • Two things: (Score:4, Informative)

    by Millennium (2451) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @01:49PM (#15206219) Homepage
    The Kingdom Hearts series is many things, most of them good, but "difficult" isn't one of them. If you want a challenge, then only play KH2 on the hardest difficulty level it offers. This holds true for the rest of the series.

    On one other note, the GBA game Chain of Memories was not a card-battler. Although cards were used as an interface metaphor, you never once set out for any remotely-traditional card game. It feels more like Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles than solitaire.
    • Agreed. I've played card-battle RPGs, and they almost universally suck.

      Chain of Memories is an action RPG where your deck determines the sequence of your available actions and their strength. It's at heart a game of jumping and swinging a sword, though, and not a stragetic card game. To call it a card-battler means that Zonk either hasn't played KH:CoM or hasn't played a card-battler.

      The challenge level is almost non-existent, though, from after about the second stage until the end if you stack your deck
      • Re:Two things: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Andrew Kismet (955764)
        Here's a quick, mostly offtopic solution for you:
        Build a deck of about 15-20 keyblades, organized in the pattern (9, 9, 0) over and over. This will give you powerful hits and breaks available at the tap of a shoulder button. The last 6 cards should be all basic cure, (9,9,0,9,9,0) again. Use friend cards at the beginning of a sleight to form Cura (Friend, Cure, Cure).
        You can always sacrifice a Cure if you need Curaga on the spot.
        This setup will make Marluxia about 10 times easier.
    • Speak for yourself, it took me hours to catch those fishes :/
  • by EXTomar (78739) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @01:54PM (#15206259)
    Ignoring some of the other elements of KH2 I feel the most distinctive thing in this game is the "brawling" action. There are some parts of the game where you are surrounded by hundreds of opponents that all want to take their portion out of you. Now granted they aren't as burly and strong as you are but that is still a lot of opponents to square off against especially if surrounded with no escape.

    This game shows a refinement of the idea of mass brawling which seems to be a cathartic experience found in many movies and TV shows anyway. The Hero is surrounded by The Bad Guys and some how he fights his way out. Who wouldn't want to play this roll? Hopefully Ninty-Nine Nights and a possible KH3 will refine the idea even farther. The fights in KH2 aren't a "gimme" but I feel with some tweaking it would turn from a "fighting off the mindless horde of attackers" to a more pitched battle which feels more exciting and satisfying.
  • From the review, this looks like a game I would let my 5 year old neice play.
    • Re:A Serious Game? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by 2nd Post! (213333)
      I wouldn't, unless you want her to pick up sticks and beat her 4 year old brother to death!

      Me, I'm 29, and I'm shocked at the amount of violence in this game. It felt like watching the Matrix series of movies!

      Of course if you let your 5 year old neice watch the Matrix series, you're all set!
    • Yeah, I would let my 5-year-old niece play this game too. I'd also play it with her, or even myself. Just because a game features Disney characters, don't automatically assume it holds no other intrinsic value. Statements like, "A little kid would like this game, so I shouldn't" only make yourself out to be an asshat.
  • Darn! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Phoenix666 (184391) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @02:07PM (#15206358)
    I was excited about a new RPG until hitting the line "Just as in the original, you'll find yourself traveling with Sora, Donald, and Goofy to various world representing Disney movies. Mulan, Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, and The Lion King are among the properties on display."

    Disney has over-merchandized itself for years. Just don't have the heart to help them do it some more.

    But, enjoy...
    • If the "over-merchandise" by making an enjoyable game, all the power to them. Don't dismiss something instantly because it involves over-merchandized characters or ideas.

      Buy the good stuff like this game and ignore the crap (and there's a LOT of disney crap), and maybe they'll learn to make better merchandise for their films.

      But they probably won't. But still you get to stop whining and enjoy something.

  • Hardly a sterling recommendation: [wikipedia.org]

    Fan service (Japanese simply "saabisu", "service"), sometimes written as a single word, fanservice, is a vaguely defined term used in visual media -- particularly in anime fandom --to refer to elements in a story that are unnecessary to a storyline, but designed to amuse or excite the audience. ... This term is, however, occasionally used in the video gaming community, most notably in MMORPGs. The meaning remains mostly the same, content added for the sake of fans and not fo
  • Is bringing these disparate worlds together successfully in one game a point in favor of a Metaversehttp://games.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid= 06/03/24/1646249 [slashdot.org]?
    • A metaverse based on cross-licensing among a few large companies would cover only a tiny subset of MMOG space. Anything larger would require the support of the U.S. Congress and other national legislatures to roll back the scope of exclusive rights under copyright. Given that The Article is about a game that takes place in Disney's world, and that Disney was the major corporate backer of the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act and has supported all the MPAA's pet legislation, will this happen?

    • There are plot elements that imply that Kingdom Hearts takes place in a parallel universe from the canon universes. The most obvious hints are the fact that characters from the same worlds are completely different ages, species, and art styles. There are also implications that the story in it's entirety may not be real (the first line of KH1 was "I've been having these weird thoughts lately, like, is any of this for real, or not?") and there is a point later on in the game where a character seems to be mak
  • by bbkingadrock (543696) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @02:19PM (#15206471)
    This game pales in comparison to the first, in many ways. Mainly:

    -The level design isn't "tighter", it is a complete phone-it-in effort. You go from one square room to another, with absolutely no element of exploration. Gone are hidden chests or doorways, or anything hidden for that matter You will easily get every single treasure chest in this game without much of an effort. You walk into a room, and you can see them plain as day.

    -The difficulty has been reduced to nill in every manner. Any enemy that would present a challenge is instead defeated very simply by a 'reaction command'. Which means you press triangle once, and watch Sora kill the enemy in ridiculous fashion. Side quests for glory have been vastly simplified and reduced. (Not that I am sure I have encountered everything in KH2, i am not using a strategy guide). The best weapons in the game are quite simple to synthesize, it is extremely easy to get to max out your level due to the incredible amount of experience you gain from basic enemies, the colliseum levels are incredibly easy, and optional bosses are taken down with some simple X-mashing (with the occasional triangle press....when the entire screen lights up green, a triangle appears on the enemy, and your command list adds a new triangle command to the top).
    • I would agree with the level design; but then again, there wasn't much exploration outside of Traverse Town in the original (just as there isn't much exploration outside of Twilight Town in this one). I think in KH1 there were 2 branches in Tarzan, and practically just two rooms in Neverland. I wish that they had spent more time developing a smaller number of worlds.. I mean Mulan and Beast's Castle...?? WTF?

      Tron Sora was fun; and the light-cycle minigame was OK. But then, Square almost never has good

    • by Greyfox (87712) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @04:25PM (#15207394) Homepage Journal
      The original Kingdom Heats levels felt just like Disneyland to me, actually. Disneyland always bugged me because it's designed to give the illusion of being big and full of neat stuff, but explore for a bit and you quickly realize that the various branches off the main path quickly lead to either dead ends or back to the main path. KH1 seemed to be afraid to let you get lost, while other RPGs aren't. Hell in Morrowind you spend a huge portion of the game lost and looking for a tiny mine about the size of a postage stamp in a huge range of mountains! THAT's exporation!

      Oddly though, I actually liked the KH1 old combat system. It was a twitch video game combat system that that wasn't too complex but required a lot of reaction against frequently large numbers of enemies. Sometimes I just want to go clear out rooms of bad guys. I still prefer it to pretty much every other PS2 RPG combat system I tried. The one in magna carta sucked so hard that even though I was interested in the story line I just couldn't play the game.

    • Well at least the triangle key is used. That seriously bugs me about the first one (which I've just gotten around to playing recently).

      This new finding leads me to believe that the control is improved. Cycling through menus is time-consuming and inefficient.

      Also, it seems to me that the D-pad could have been put to better use than doubling the operation of the right control stick. I'd say make the constrol stick move the camera and leave the pad for menu options, but that would *seriously* affect gamepla
    • Then you aren't looking (or maybe playing on easy?) - I've found numerous hidden chests already and I only just unlocked Port Royal and Atlantica.

      I agree that there are portions of it that are simpler (such as the quick reaction moves), but I don't think you are giving credit to the points where it's due.

  • Cut Scenes (Score:4, Insightful)

    by RickPartin (892479) * on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @02:25PM (#15206521) Homepage
    Dear god please stop with the cut scenes. A cut scene is a crutch used when you are not creative enough to mix story with gameplay. Silent Hill is another great example of this where you do little else than kill stuff and find items to view the next non-interactive cut scene. Seems like they finally got it right and made it into a movie like they should have in the first place.

    Half Life on the other hand never once in either game takes you out of your character. You are a part of every cut scene. While it seems impressive they didn't really have to change much.

    Silent Hill and Half Life are two different extremes, but the game industry should try incorporating these together a bit more.
    • Hit pause and "Skip Scene"

      Do that for the whole game, however, and you'll quickly discover that the cut scenes are important. They are the impetus for playing the game!
      • Re:Cut Scenes (Score:5, Insightful)

        by cduffy (652) <charles+slashdot@dyfis.net> on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @04:41PM (#15207542)
        Well, yes -- that's his point. The plot movement should be in the game itself: If skipping the cutscenes stops the game from being compelling, then the plot isn't sufficiently well-integrated with the rest of the game.
        • Having played the game, I honestly don't see HOW you could do that.

          How do you integrate into gameplay the scene where Axel goes, "Silly, some of us don't have next lives," or where Sora cries and says, "You know, I'm sad,"?

          Movies and text are legitimate story telling mechanisms; games that utilize movies and text are richer than games that do not utilize movies and text, though not necessarily stronger.

          Of course all that means is that KHII is a vehicle in which you play the game in order to see the movies;
          • How do you integrate into gameplay the scene where Axel goes, "Silly, some of us don't have next lives," or where Sora cries and says, "You know, I'm sad,"?

            Just because the player retains control doesn't mean NPCs can't engage in scripted actions, so one can have scenes where NPCs express themselves effectively.

            Movies and text are legitimate story telling mechanisms; games that utilize movies and text are richer than games that do not utilize movies and text, though not necessarily stronger.

            Yes, t

      • But the cut scenes are horrible. I agree, skip them and you have no idea what's going on, but they are so painful to sit through. Long, tedious, and for the most part with horrible voice acting and writing. I wish there was a way to turn off the voiceovers and just have the text pop up on screen where I could accelerate it by hitting X. In all honestly, they'd be much more bearable if the pacing of the cut scenes was sped up a tad. I often find myself waiting tearing out my hair as I wait for the frick
    • The problem with games like Half-Life and Halo, which do the "cut scene" dialog while you're playing, is that frequently, I can't focus on the dialog (or even hear it) because I'm too busy gunning down aliens. There has to be a happen medium.
      • Re:Cut Scenes (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Firehed (942385)
        While I can't say I really had that problem, I know what you mean. I think the Final Fantasy series really has it figured out (or at least with VII and VIII, X seemed to overdo it a little) - use a cutscene to glorify an important event, not force along the story. Think all of those small subtle moments with cutscenes - first time you see the Highwind, for example. It didn't need that five-second CGI clip, but it glorified something that becomes quite significant. When cutscenes become something that li
    • Re:Cut Scenes (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Temposs (787432)
      I actually like cut-scenes greatly if they're well-done, and I do look at games like this as sort of an interactive movie or book. You simply will not get the same type of experience if it's interactive all the time, and being interactive constantly should not always be the highest goal for a game to have.

      And until games start having sophisticated linguistic and other communication involved, constant interactivity will always be second rate.
      • You simply will not get the same type of experience if it's interactive all the time, and being interactive constantly should not always be the highest goal for a game to have.

        Well, wait a moment.

        One can have the player's character scripted to talk with someone else on the radio, speaking a precanned conversation, without removing the player's control of his character for the duration of that conversation. Keeping the player in control doesn't mean requiring the player to control everything down to the PC's
    • Silent Hill is another great example of this where you do little else than kill stuff and find items to view the next non-interactive cut scene.

      Uh which Silent Hill did you play? SH1-3 at very least have very few cutscenes, not a lot of dialog (as there's almost no one to talk to!), and really very little killing: you don't get anything for killing a monster, and you're more likely to get hurt.

      Instead, you get a very creepy interactive atmosphere... there's a door. What's behind it? If you go thr

    • I think one of the issues here is the definition of "cut scene". It sounds like it's being used here to mean what we called FMVs back in the PSX's day. That is, scenes that were specially rendered to really show something off (like the Highwind, as someone mentioned above).

      But that's not what they're being used for or even what they are, here. I don't even know if I've seen a single scene rendered outside of the normal game graphics except for the very beginning (and I think when Sora wakes up) and, I

  • Utada Hikaru's music (Score:4, Interesting)

    by courtarro (786894) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @02:28PM (#15206547) Homepage
    The theme song for the game by Utada Hikaru, titled "Passion", is awesome as well. I recommend everyone find a way to listen to it if you're open to Japanese music. If you like the song, check out the music video.
    • by Parham (892904) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @02:53PM (#15206695)
      The one thing I took out of Kingdom Hearts 1 was the main song for it by Utada Hikaru ("Simple and Clean") and the same thing has happened with "Passion" in Kingdom Hearts 2. The game might not be up to par with other, more familiar RPGs, but the music is definitely worth a listen.
      • She is my favourite japanese artist for a reason ;)

        It makes me glad that more people are being introduced to her music. Try Google Video for the japanese version of the song, it's excellent :)

  • Especially at the beginning. Every once in a while you would have a brief break from the cutscenes, where you might be given the choice to walk into the right area (and no other area, lest a text box come up saying, "no not this way!"), and just as soon as you walk into that area, BAM, new cutscene.

    It honestly feels like you have absolutely no control whatsoever. As has been stated earlier, it's also a little too easy. All that said, this is still a pretty good game. Just a warning to those who don't like
  • For some reson I can't see Disney doing a game with loads of T&A shots it in.
    Does anyone else remember the _White_Fang_ disaster.
  • Nice review (Score:2, Informative)

    by Dacmot (266348)
    Overall this is a nice review, and I agree with most of it.

    The new worlds are very fun but Atlantica is my worse nightmare of boredom coming true. I really thought they would take advantage of the new right-analogue-stick floating movement and make us use it in a "real" world... but no. Instead we get "finny fun". Thanks for nothing.

    Combat for me is hit and miss. I like the drive forms and the limits. The summons are awkward compared to KH1 though. As for fighting, just mashing the X button usually does the
    • The new worlds are very fun but Atlantica is my worse nightmare of boredom coming true. I really thought they would take advantage of the new right-analogue-stick floating movement and make us use it in a "real" world... but no. Instead we get "finny fun". Thanks for nothing.

      Not to be a nitpicker, but you actually do use the right analog stick to control altitude in one very large part of Agrabah, while flying on the carpet. And it's not just in the minigame, you can go there and fight like that anytim
  • by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @03:10PM (#15206814)
    And how can you hate a game that lets you teleport directly into Belle's bedchamber (from Beauty & The Beast)?

    I'm so lonely. :(

  • The 3 hour (playable) intro was WAY too boring. Everything you do in the 'intro' is pointless. None of the mini-game scores are kept and you don't actually have to even play them.

    My friend's girlfriend (he's not a geek, sadly) bought KH2 without playing KH1 at all. She was bored stiff and I offered to buy the game from her. She accepted, but then I had an idea. I'd buy KH1 again and trade for a while, instead of buying KH2. She LOVES KH1. And after the first 3 hours, I loved KH2.
  • The gameplay between the first and second game is dramatic. The first Kingdom Hearts had a very solid gameplay, and some very difficult levels. The second Kingdom Hearts is more like an interactive movie. So far, I am in the Atlantica level, and I feel I have had more cutscenes than gameplay. The gameplay is overly simplistic, the first game required strategy on most of your oponents, the second game is a button masher. You equip your abilities, and then just lay on the X button. While the story is great, t
  • by Brian Kendig (1959) on Wednesday April 26, 2006 @03:58PM (#15207178) Homepage
    (1) I'm carrying around this HUGE FRIGGIN' KEY that can BASH enemies who have THREE HEADS and can unlock PATHWAYS between WORLDS, and yet I'm stopped by locked gates?

    (2) People who live in RPGs like to own small treasure chests. In one they'll put a healing potion, in another they'll put a ring of fire protection, etc. I'm glad they still don't mind me wandering through their homes and looting them.

    (3) This game's a real button-masher. The battles are fast-paced and well-animated, and the battle engine allows for jumps and attacks and blocks and spells and special moves; but when there are ten characters dukeing it out in a small space, I find it really hard to see who's doing what. There's many a time I've ended up standing a distance away swinging my keyblade at empty air until the camera swings around to show me I'm not part of the action.

    (4) The plot is interesting, but I'm getting tired of the pointless side-quests. Not just in KH2, but in *all* RPGs. "Yes, I will give you the combination to the safe so that you can recover the Amulet of Quendor, but first you must journey through that dark mountain cave in which lives a terrible dragon, because I want you to fetch me a sandwich from the little deli on the other side."

    (5) The voice acting in KH2 is a mixed bag. Christopher Lee is good, really good. Most of the rest of the actors are obviously just reading lines from a script without any real emotion. The pause between lines is really awkward - even when a character is interrupted in mid-sentence, there'll be a second or two before the character who's interrupting him says anything. But the real nadir of the voice acting in this is Mena Suvari as Aerith - she's just hideously terrible; she sounds as if she's reciting lines while she's doing her hair. I'd much rather imagine Mena Suvari in a bathtub with rose petals.

    I beat the game, and I wish I'd played it on the hardest difficulty level instead of on Normal; it was just too darned easy. Gameplay consisted of cutscenes followed by wandering around fighting random attacks until I reached the next cutscenes. None of the treasure chests were any difficulty whatsoever to find. I hardly made any use at all of the synthesis Moogle; I never had enough stuff for him to make much with.

    And neither KH nor KH2 ever reach the emotional heartaches or plot complexity that any of the Final Fantasy series reach, but the original KH's ending was wonderfully bittersweet, whereas KH2's ending kind of fell a little flat for me. Tacked-on opening left for KH3, anyone?

    • Ok. You're a MMORPG or Morrowind-type person, right?

      (1) Point conceded. Do you have a better way of keeping people away from places they aren't supposed to be, or are you advocating that all games should be Daggerfall / Morrowind?

      (2) It's this way in most RPG games. You didn't even mention that enemies are carrying money and valuable jewels!

      (3) Did you experiment with the helper character AI? You can make them fight someone other than the enemy you are fighting ("team battle" I think?).

      (4) I don't remem
  • Why, oh why, did they not release a version for the gamecube? Fire emblem was great, but one good RPG just ain't enough (Crystal Chronicles hardly counts). I thought Nintendo and Square Enix "resolved their differences"?
    • If you like Old-school RPGs, check out Skies of Arcadia: Legends on the GCN. It's a remake that fixes a lot of the problems of the original DC Version (which I also bought).

  • This Kingdom Hearts stuff is a bit of a poison pill for fanart, isn't it?

    Square's one of the most fanart-friendly companies out there, and suddenly they're collaborating with one of the absolute least friendly. It's inviting trouble.
  • I really wished that games with optional difficult levels, such as Kingdom Hearts 2, actually described them the way Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3 did. It's clear from a lot of the reviews and a lot of veteran gamers' complaints that their biggest problem with the game isn't the game itself, but the fact that they were somehow convinced that "Normal" was their choice. The game should've said:

    Easy - "Are you a young child? Is this the first video game you've ever played?"

    Normal - "Are you a very casual gamer? Is
  • Sorry, not really interested in reading a review from some crackpot who thought the first Kingdom Hearts suffered from gameplay that was "weak". The fighting was extremely fun, and relied on quick reflexes. It feels a lot like a 3D Secret of Mana, with special moves and abilities thrown in.

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