Kingdom Hearts 2 ReviewGreg Knoll
Every once in a great while an RPG comes along that you completely have to drain. A game in which you have to find every hidden item, complete every side-quest, beat every hidden boss and find every weapon, simply for the fact that you don’t want to stop playing. Games like Final Fantasy 7, Shining Force 2, and Lament of Innocence are rare. In 2002, SquareSoft released Kingdom Hearts, a mix of characters from previous titles and those from Disney’s most popular films. Although it broke brand new ground, it had some things that hindered it from becoming legendary like the ones mentioned above. Four years later, Square Enix released its highly anticipated sequel, a sequel that took everything the first part did right and fixed nearly everything it did wrong. Is it legendary now?
As with all Square Enix games, what truly captivates me is their ability to tell a story and the amount of mystery they intertwine with their plot. Kingdom Hearts II starts out with a character named Roxas, rather than the main character Sora from the first part. A lot of people complained about this; I actually found it intriguing. The whole time I was wondering who this fellow was, wondering how he would tie in, and thinking to myself how much he looked like Sora.
Don’t worry if you don’t enjoy playing him, he’s only available for the first hour or so before he vanishes completely and you finally have control of Sora, who oddly enough wakes up in a machine. A much older Sora doesn’t rouse to find any answers, only more questions. Rikku, Kairi and King Mickey are all still missing, not to mention Sora has no idea where he is. But at least he’s got his whacky sidekicks, Donald and Goofy, along for the ride.
As the story unfolds, Sora slowly begins to find those answers he was looking for. He is introduced to a brand new type of enemy, The Nobodies, who seem to have the same distaste for the heartless as Sora does, yet they quarrel with him as well. They seem to know exactly who Sora is. They make mention of Roxas; nearly all of them have black cloaks and covered faces and some of them even help Sora out from time to time. This leaves him (and you) to wonder what their true intentions are almost the entire game.
There are brand new Disney worlds for you to explore, like Pirates of the Caribbean, Mulan and Tron. Some of the old favorites, like Nightmare Before Christmas and Hercules, have returned with brand new goals and brand new villains. Some of the less appealing levels, like Atlantis, are no longer worlds for you to explore, but are brief mini-games to break you away from the constant combat.
Another twist on Kingdom Hearts II is Sora’s new outfit. While that may not seem all that exciting, this new fairy-tailored costume has a really exciting ability called “Drive” form. Much like the summons, the other two party members disappear, and Sora gets to fight solo for a while. But instead of a partner, he has amazing powers according to which drive form you use. The Valor Form, which is available when you receive the new duds, allows Sora to wield two keyblades, raises his attack and allows him to pull off air combos and finishing moves a lot easier than normal. The wisdom form will have Sora gliding around like he was on ice and take a step back from melee combat to blast enemies with magic missiles and give his spells more potency. The Master Form mixes both physical and mental aspects, allowing you to do brutal damage while still letting you use spells in tight situations. The Final Form is the hardest to find and level up, but it’s worth it. Sora’s attack sky-rockets, his magic casting time drops exponentially and this form can glide, fly, wield two keyblades, and combo into a brutal, flashy finishing move that drops nearly any enemy within range. These Drive forms were a huge blessing when I got bored with combat, partly due to each Drive’s differences, as it gave me the feeling I was playing with an entirely new character.
I also appreciate Square Enix’s ability to remain vigilant to the Disney counterparts it draws from. The game looks even more amazing than it did in the first part; the artwork in each world matches perfectly to each movie it derives from (especially Mulan and Hercules). Kingdom Hearts II also renders characters from live action movies, like Pirates, flawlessly. Every brilliant facial expression of Jack Sparrow was captured and delivered in incredible detail. Square Enix also managed to hire nearly every voice from the original Kingdom Hearts as well as almost all of the voices from those Disney movies. To some it may be only a minor detail, but it really helps the game’s authenticity.
Square Enix even fixed those little nit-picks I had last time. The camera angles aren’t nearly as obtrusive as they were in the previous installment. The camera is locked onto a set position this time around rather than having you move the right analog stick to find the perfect position. Square Enix also tightened up the controls during certain tasks, like flying, allowing them to be far more responsive and allowing you to go exactly where you wanted to, the first time. The targeting system, as well, has been vastly approved, not only allowing you to lock onto the enemy but actually move towards it whether you’re flying, fighting or slinging magic at it, no matter where you are.
Kingdom Hearts II doesn’t have a flaw. Not a single one, except for the fact that it wasn’t long enough. Eighty hours played and one-hundred percent of it completed, and I still don’t think it was long enough. I could play this game a dozen times and still find reasons to play it a dozen more. A lot of RPGs come out and a lot of RPGs work, but few of them actually have this big of an impact or create this kind of brilliance so as far as I’m concerned, The Kingdom Reigns.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.
May I have the strength to lead with compassion. May I have a resolve strong enough to inspire it in others. May my heart be true, my motives virtuous, my spirit valiant. And whether I fail or succeed, may I at least be brave in the attempt.
About the Author: Greg Knoll
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