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Kingdom Hearts

Action, Rating: E - (Everyone), 1 player, published by: Sony

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Kingdom Hearts Reveals Your Destiny: You Are The One Who Will Open The Door...

  • Aug 11, 2006
  • by
Pros: Great game, wonderful plot, fantastic graphics and characters...

Cons: ...can be a bit challenging, but that isn't exactly a "con"!

The Bottom Line: Kingdom Hearts is a great game, and well worth buying. Now stop reading this, and head on over to your video game retailer!

The mere idea of a Disney RPG game probably sounds ridiculous. But in 2002, Disney paired up with Squaresoft (the creators of the Final Fantasy series and other popular role playing games) and created Kingdom Hearts, a role playing game that combines some of our favorite Disney characters with Final Fantasy and other anime-inspired characters. Still skeptical? So was I, until I went out on a leap of faith and bought the game. I haven't looked back since.

Within the first few seconds you'll realize that Kingdom Hearts isn't your average video game. The plot is so deep and engaging, and for once, I actually welcomed the pauses in the game play for the CGI videos. The game starts off with a video sequence that introduces us to our main character/hero, Sora. Sora seems to be having strange dreams lately and he can't seem to separate them from reality (the video then segues into a short sequence in Sora's dream land, where you are literally forced to choose your own destiny. This part of the game is really cool- there are several different combinations, which means there are several different ways to play the game; your game play varies depending on what you choose during this section of the game, therefore, no one's journey is exactly the same!). When Sora wakes up, we find him at home on Destiny Islands, a small beach that he and his friends Riku and Kairi live on.

Riku (who is older than both Kairi and Sora, and somewhat of the leader of their group), has made a plan for the three of them to travel off Destiny Islands to see what other worlds there are. However, a big storm hits the island that night, and when Sora runs out to the beach in attempt to save the raft that they built earlier, he's dismayed to find that Kairi is missing and that Riku is also gone. Some strange bug-like creatures named the Heartless have taken over their island, and after fighting a boss called Darkside, Sora is whisked away from Destiny Islands right before it’s consumed by the darkness and destroyed.

Meanwhile, we get our first glimpse of the Disney characters at Mickey's Castle. It appears that the King Mouse himself is gone, and has only left behind a note for Donald and Goofy telling them that they must find the holder of the "key". Of course, Donald and Goofy are baffled, but all the same find themselves in a place called Traverse Town, where Sora happens to have been misplaced.

Sora ends up being the one who wields the magical keyblade. Together with Donald and Goofy, they learn that the aforementioned Heartless are slowly spreading from world to world and destroying them with the darkness. The three of them join forces and go about on an epic journey to find King Mickey, Sora's friends, and defeat the Heartless.

As I mentioned earlier, the plot is very intense and complicated. There are quite a few plot complications, and I was on the edge of my seat as the game went on. Half of the fun of the game was seeing what happened next to Sora, Donald, and Goofy as they traveled from world to world.

One of the coolest things about the game is the different worlds you get to go to. All of them are taken from Disney movies; you get to travel to Wonderland from Alice and Wonderland, Agrabah from Aladdin, Halloweentown from Nightmare Before Christmas, and even Traverse Town looks eerily similar to the shops on Disneyland's Main Street. As you travel to each world (via the Gummi Ship, which reminds me of the Nintendo 64 game, Star Fox) you meet some of the characters from the movies and encounter several subplots.

The game is long. As I've said in my other video game reviews, I'm not the best gamer, and I'd been playing fourteen hours (during a two-month span) and was only 3/4 through the game. But the length is actually welcomed; the sub-plots, and other worlds keep you entertained for hours on end and those fourteen hours honestly flew by before I knew it.

One of my favorite things about the game is that it actually seems to have a moral to it (like most Disney movies). More than anything, the story is about Sora's journey of self-discovery; he starts off as an insecure young boy and then matures into a young man who is sure of himself and his destiny. A lot of symbolism is hidden within the plot, and though the storyline becomes very dark (especially towards the end), there is still an underlying message of hope and knowledge that good will always prevail over evil.

You start the game with just Sora to play with. As Sora you are able to do quite a few things; you can attack, pick up items, jump, use magic, examine or lift things, and so on. Later on, as Donald and Goofy join the group, they become your allies and will help you in battle with their own defenses, spells, and magic. As you travel to different worlds you'll even have the option of one of the characters from that world to join your trio (for example in Deep Jungle, you'll have to swap out either Donald or Goofy for Tarzan to help you out).

Hit Points determine how much damage a character can take. The more Experience Points you get (which accrue according to how many heartless you defeat or worlds you save) determine how many more hit points you receive, though you can also use magic to extend the hit point bar. Magic Points refer to your magical ability. Like several RPG games, you are only allotted a certain amount of magic points and each spell you use takes from that bar. The magic points also extend according to Experience Points. Ability Points give special abilities, like being able to jump higher, or swim and fly in later worlds.

As I mentioned earlier, Sora's weapon of choice is the keyblade. This unique tool is a key with a blade attached to it (wow, pretty obvious, huh?), but as he goes along Sora has the choice to upgrade his keyblade to more powerful ones. The keyblade works well in combat, and it's fairly easy to control once you get the hang of repeatedly hacking and slashing at your enemies. Different spells and magic can be used later in the game to give you a hand up over enemies, but the keyblade is always the best, and most effective, weapon in the game.

Besides combat, there are several levels of puzzle-solving (Wonderland is mostly all puzzles) and side quests (the Olympian Coliseum from Hercules also comes to mind), to keep just about any kind of gamer entertained.

Load times aren't too bad, especially since there are so many video sequences. I can't ever recall being genuinely frustrated with a long loading time, and I'm usually quite impatient. It seems that the CGI videos are strategically placed between some worlds to cut down on load times, which works well.

The graphics here are absolutely wonderful. As I've mentioned, there are several video sequences, and they're great. The videos run smoothly, and it's almost as if they've been taken from a separate Kingdom Hearts movie. The Final Fantasy characters obviously look like the original characters, and the Disney characters look great too. My only complaint may be Aladdin (I'm not sure why, but he just looks a bit different than the cartoon Aladdin), but the animators do a good job of translating cartoons to CGI-animated characters.

Landscapes and scenery look very realistic; the storm at Destiny Islands is particularly impressive. Hundred Aker Wood from Winnie the Pooh is nicely done; the artwork looks similar to the children's books.

Sound Effects
One of the big appeals of the game was the voice acting for the characters. Several big name celebrities signed on to do voices, including Haley Joel Osment (The Sixth Sense, AI, etc.), who voices Sora, David Gallagher (7th Heaven), who provides the voice of Riku, David Boreanz (Angel, Bones, etc), who voices Leon, and even singers Mandy Moore and Lance Bance (Nsync) as Aerith and Sephiroth, respectively.
All of the voice acting was well done; the voices fit well with the characters and the Disney character voices were similar to their movie counterparts.

I also enjoyed the game's soundtrack (which you can actually purchase). Japanese composer Yoko Shimomura does a great job of creating tunes for the different worlds. The combat music is appropriately fast paced and scary, while Traverse Town has a jaunty and light hearted tune (albeit annoying after a few hours). The Disney worlds mostly feature melodies from the movies; Agrabah features some themes from Arabian Nights, while Halloweentown features an instrumental version of This is Halloween.

The game even has its own theme song, Simple and Clean, by a Japanese pop star, Utada Hikaru. The song is played during the opening video, and it's perfect for the game. I love it so much, in fact, that it's currently high on the list of my iPod's most played songs.

Kingdom Hearts is by far one of my favorite video games. It's a bit challenging (however, you can choose from a simple or advanced setting), but that keeps the game fresh and interesting. The story will keep you hooked, and even when you've tired of playing the game you'll still want to persevere to see what happens to Sora and the gang. I don't recommend it for younger players (the simple setting is still quite hard, and the plot line really becomes too dark for kids), but this game is great for everyone else.

And remember; don't be afraid of the darkness, for you are the one who will open the door...


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More Kingdom Hearts for PlayStation... reviews
review by . December 13, 2008
In 2002, Squaresoft (now Square-Enix) released Kingdom Hearts.  At the time, it was a risky endeavor.  A game which threw many of Square's beloved Final Fantasy characters with many of Disney's beloved characters.  It was risky because of Disney's involvement which made many Final Fantasy fans speculate that it would turn out to be a children's game.  To the surprise of the gaming community, Kingdom Hearts became a huge success!      You play as Sora …
review by . August 13, 2008
If you're anything like me, then you grew up totally into all things Disney. As a video game fan, my mouth was watering as soon as I heard Square was teaming up with Disney to create an action/adventure RPG. The best part is - THEY DELIVERED. The game play is fantastic, the characters are pheonominal, and the story is compelling. There were actually times when my eyes would glisten because I was so drawn in to the story along with characters I had known a lifetime. Kingdom Hearts is definitely a …
review by . March 01, 2004
This is a fun, cute game that offers many hours of enjoyable play. The basic premise of the game is the standard stuff... the world is coming to an end, bad people have taken the girl, and YOU are the chosen one who has the "Gift" to make it all better. See pretty standard stuff.However, there is some non-standard stuff here too! First of all, the game is fun. Sure it is cheesy and it was (mostly) made for 12 year olds but it is still playable. Second. the blend of Disney characters adds a nice …
review by . April 01, 2003
When I first saw the television commercials for this game back in October 2002, I knew that one day I would buy KINGDOM HEARTS and play it (even though I didn't even own a PS 2 at the time). Fast forward six months and I finally have a PS 2 and have purchased KINGDOM HEARTS, played it, and beat it.All I can say is that I found the game amazing. The graphics are great, the soundtrack memorable, and the plot unforgettable. The plot of this game is what really sucked me in. I found myself playing and …
review by . January 18, 2003
posted in Siliconera Bounce
Pros: Disney and Squaresoft? Where do I sign?     Cons: The Little freakin' Mermaid section! UGH!     The Bottom Line: The world's greatest animation producers meet the world's greatest RPG producers. Need I say more?     Think for a moment, if you will, about the meanings of such terms as breathless, breathtaking, takes your breath away, et cetera. You think about them, you would normally think of a beautiful woman or some sort of natural …
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Brittany Brown ()
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My name is Brittany. I'm 23 years old. I love life, and sometimes, life loves me, too.
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Ever wondered what would happen if the worlds ofFinal Fantasyand Disney collided? It’s an odd concept to be sure, but from the most schizophrenic of acorns the mighty gaming oak ofKingdom Heartshas grown. Legendary role-playing game makers Square have been given unprecedented liberties with the entire Disney universe and have created a game featuring everything fromThe Nightmare Before ChristmastoThe Little Mermaid. This is odd enough in itself when you have characters as disparate as Tarzan and Donald Duck teaming up, but becomes majorly freaky when Square thrown in a variety of their own characters such as Cloud, Squall, and Aeris from the variousFinal Fantasygames. But this incongruity has one side benefit in that the storyline behind the game is by necessity rather vague, which seems to have stopped Square from filling three CDs full of their usual New Age whining about Mother Earth. Instead they’ve spent even more time on the graphics, and the end result is a quite stunning 3-D cartoon.

As for the gameplay, it may come as a surprise to learn that it doesn’t actually feature, as all the Final Fantasy games do, turn-based combat. Instead it's essentially a scrolling beat-'em-up-cum-platformer with exactly the kind of complicated Square-style knobs you’d expect. The game may be a little shallow, but it’s an impressive artistic achievement and to be quite frank any title that allows you to magically summon Bambi out of thin air to ...

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ESRB: E - (Everyone), Violence
Publisher: Square Electronic Arts/Disney Interactive
Developer: Square
Console: PlayStation 2 Games
Genre: Action RPG
Release Date: September 17, 2002 (NA);
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