September 23rd, 2002
There's a reason why Kingdom Hearts immediately made its way onto my favorite games list after I started playing it: It's fun, plain and simple. I haven't had this much actual fun playing an RPG since... well, I've never had this much fun playing an RPG. When I first heard this game announced, I was psyched. Being a huge fan of both Square and Disney, this was like a dream come true. Needless to say, I had very high expectations for it. Thankfully, those expectations were not only met, but they were exceeded by so much more than I could have hoped. To put it simply, Kingdom Hearts is amazing.
Graphics - 10
The graphics in this game are absolutely beautiful. You have to actually see it in action to really appreciate how nice this game looks. Pretty much all the cinemas in the game make use of the in-game graphics. The only CGI sequences were in the opening of the game and in the ending (if there were others, they blended in so well that I didn't even notice them.) This is one of those games that could never have been pulled off on an SNES, and probably not even the PSone. Everything looks breathtaking. All the Disney characters look great in 3D, and the Final Fantasy characters all look really, really sweet. The locations were pulled off very well; Halloween Town inparticular is a great showcase of just how much attention to detail was paid by the game designers.
Sound - 10
Square did an incredible job with the voice casting in this game. David Boreanaz and Steve Burton are dead-on as Squall and Cloud (words can't express how cool it was every time you'd hear Squall speak; it was eerie how well Boreanaz fits his personality,) while Mandy Moore, Christy Romano, and Lance Bass are the perfect fits for Aeris, Yuffie, and Sephiroth. Wait a second... Did I just say that pop stars did a great job doing voice acting for two of our beloved Square characters? Yep, that's right. If you've got any bias against those two, set it aside right now. They did a tremendous job voicing their characters, so don't be petty about them being involved just because they're famous and all the members of your opposite sex want to get them in bed. As far as the Square characters go, the only one whose voice I had a problem with was Wakka. Selphie's was a bit annoying, but when did Wakka become hispanic? Last I checked, he was from the islands.
As for the Disney characters, pretty much every single character made use of the voice actor who portrayed them in the movie they came from. It was such a relief to hear the familiar voices of James Woods, Scott Weinger, Jodi Benson, Jim Cummings, Bill Farmer, and Gilbert Gottfried (although my eardrums are still healing from that last one) rather than voice actors who were just hired to imitate them. The only character who they should have considered hiring a different actor for was Alice, simply because Kathryn Beaumont was 13 when she did that voice, and that was 50 years ago (so the voice in the game ended up sounding like a 60 year old woman trying to sound like she was considerably younger.) Oh well, by all rights she deserved to do the voice, so I won't complain about it. Sean Astin did a fine job replacing Tate Donovan as Hercules, and Robert Costanzo is a perfect match for Danny DeVito (Costanzo also did Phil's voice in the TV series, which I just noticed had an ungodly amount of celebrity guest stars.) So have no fear, the Disney voices all sound authentic.
Lastly, there's the original characters. And guess what? They all sound great too! Haley Joel Osment is perfect as Sora (I don't think it's even possible for him to have a bad performance) and Hayden Panettiere is great as Kairi. Of the three main characters, though, I'd have to say that I was most impressed with 7th Heaven's David Gallagher as Riku. He plays the part so incredibly well, it's like he was born for that role. And Billy Zane as Ansem? Can't go wrong there. It's freakin' Billy Zane, for crying out loud!
Music - 9
The music's great. You'll hear all sorts of familiar themes depending on which world you're in (everything from Under the Sea to Winnie the Pooh's theme.) They all sound great in the game, and it's much more fitting than just having some generic music to fill in the worlds. For Final Fantasy fans, there's a version of One Winged Angel in there. The original music in the game is all very good as well; it's not quite Suikoden level music, but I wasn't exactly going into this game hoping for a tremendous soundtrack of original music. I wanted to hear my good ol' Disney themes! But the best part of the Kingdom Hearts soundtrack? Utada Hikaru! I was thrilled when I heard that she was doing the main theme for the game (Hikki rocks!) And "Clean and Simple" is one of the coolest non-Butch Walker songs that I've heard in a long time. Honestly, that song is reason enough to go buy the soundtrack (which I will be doing soon, incidentally.)
Gameplay - 8
The battle engine is fun. Fighting never gets repetitive, and the battles aren't totally random; they're triggered when you step in certain parts of the area, so you can avoid them if you want (they won't trigger again until you've left the area and return.) There is zero transition time from the map to battles, because all fighting takes place on the actual map. Besides that, this is probably the first game I've played where it actually makes sense that your enemies are appearing out of thin air. You only control Sora during the battles, which is something I originally had reservations about. However, after playing the game a bit, I was glad that I didn't have to control the other two characters; the battles are so fast paced, it'd be damn near impossible to keep track of all three characters at once. While it was really cool to have characters like Aladdin, Jack Skellington, and Beast in my party, I really would have liked to have been able to put Squall or Cloud in my party at some point. It didn't detract from my experience at all, but it definitely would have added to it if I could have used them.
When I started up my first game, I saw a choice between Normal and Expert difficulty. I figured since this was a game aimed at a younger audience, I'd better choose Expert. Eh, wrong. Expert is hard. I played on that one for about ten hours, and kept having to redo things because I was getting my ass handed to me. Eventually I decided to start over on Normal difficulty, and even that isn't simple by any means. Square didn't dumb the game down for its regular audience, which should make a lot of people happy. And the time to complete the game is right where I like it, around 35 hours. Not too short, and not so long that you just beg for it to end soon so you can get on with your life (very good for this game, because I've barely stopped playing it since I got it.)
Well, that all seems really positive... So, why the 8 score? Because of the camera angles. That is the only big complaint I have about this game. The camera is insane, I swear. You're probably going to be moving it throughout the entire game, because it always seems to draw towards the worst possible angle. You get used to it after a while, but it's still a bit problematic and can get a little frustrating if you're in a battle with a ton of enemies or you're trying to make really precise jumps. But like I said, you get used to it after a while and learn to compensate for it. The only other bad thing about the gameplay is the use of the gummi ship which you need to travel from world to world. Fortunately, after a while you get Warp drive and are only forced to use the gummi ship to travel to new locations. So if you don't like the gummi ship, you don't have to use it that often. And if you do like it, then I guess you've got one more fun thing to do in the game.
Plot - 9
Yes, I know that the plot sounds like a bad crossover fanfic. But it's pulled off so well. There's good reasoning for why you're going from one game world to another. In fact, that's what the basis of the plot is: that the universe is composed of different worlds. With a little suspension of disbelief, the whole thing sounds just as plausible as the plot of any Final Fantasy game out there (and in some cases, even moreso.) One thing that I was happy about was the fact that Square didn't pull their usual thing of making the final boss someone you never even heard of until about five minutes before the game ends. Granted, the plot isn't anywhere near the same level as a Xenogears or Final Fantasy Tactics, but if you were actually expecting that, you should probably look into your sanity a bit. The plot is good; it's well thought out, and it fits the game perfectly for what it is. As long as you don't go in expecting something that it isn't (it's a game that's aimed at a slightly younger audience and is meant to be fun), you'll like it just fine. Oh, and it's probably the most humorous RPG I've ever played. A lot of RPGs attempt to be humorous and usually fall flat; Kingdom Hearts doesn't.
My only plot complaint is that I wish the Final Fantasy characters had played a slightly larger role. Squall is a pretty major character, and Yuffie and Aeris rank up fairly high as supporting characters, but Cloud is only in the game for a few minutes (and Tidus, Wakka, and Selphie are hardly in it at all.) Sephiroth is really cool for the time he is there, and even though his role is pretty major, it doesn't last nearly long enough. This doesn't make the game any worse, but it would have made the game so much better if they had played a larger role. Oh well, maybe Square's characters will play a larger role if they make a sequel (which seems like a very good possibility, given the secret ending movie which YOU MUST SEE BECAUSE IT IS SO FREAKING COOL.)
Characters - 10
You've got Disney and Final Fantasy characters. What's not to like? This is the poster child for nostalgic gaming, because you will get a little tingling feeling everytime you run into a character from one of your favorite childhood movies, or one of your favorite RPGs. The personalities of each character is pretty fitting to their game/movie personality. I'm sure nobody was concerned about the Disney characters acting out of character, but I know there were plenty of people on the forums complaining that Cid wouldn't be himself because he didn't curse. Well, no, Cid didn't curse. But that doesn't make him any less of himself; he was still grumpy and irritable, with a soft heart at his core. Besides it's pretty stupid to get worked up over the fact that you can't see random &*#**@ symbols. Squall still acts exactly the same as he did in FF8, right down to his downtrodden attitude and his infamous "..." quotes. All the characters got a bit of a remodelling for the game, and they all look really sweet. Cloud looks downright badass (for those who haven't seen the picture, they gave Cloud some of Vincent's features, such as the claw and cape.) And I actually like Yuffie more after playing this game.
The original characters are all likable. They may be young, but they're not idiotic or naive at all (unlike the characters of some other games I've played recently, like Grandia and Saiyuki.) Sora is a main character who I could actually relate to, despite the fact that he's six years my junior. Kairi is another interesting character, who has more to her than meets the eye. And Riku was just damn cool. For a 15 year old, he's definitely a badass. The further you get in the game, the more he develops. He's not a two dimensional character by any means; throughout the game you see how many levels he has to him, and how much he changes. Ansem is a great original character with depth as well, and a backstory that's really quite neat to unravel.
Overall - 9.5
This game is right up there with Suikoden II and Final Fantasy X as my favorite RPGs of all-time. It's fun to play, and you'd be doing yourself a disservice not to buy it. I know there are a lot of people out there who are pessimistic about it, who refuse to play it because it's a "kiddie game." To everyone who refuses to play it on those grounds, I've got two words: Grow up! Don't be so worried about what people will think if they see you playing a game that stars Disney characters. It's fun! I'm 20, and I love the game. Stop worrying about your image and give the game a try. And to everyone who refuses to play it because Square "sold out", all I have to say is that you're an idiot. Square is the largest console RPG developer in the world; there's nobody for them to sell out to! You can't say they sold out to Disney, because Disney just licensed some characters to them for a video game (if you're going to call anyone a sell-out, you'd be better off saying it about Disney, although you'd be wrong about that, too.) If you don't want to play the game for a reason such as that, then you're being really close-minded and just need to open yourself up to new possibilities. The game is good, and it's fun. Give it a fair chance, and you'll like it. And by fair chance, I don't mean you should go in hating it, because if you do that you're going to hate it because of a close mind. It's like saying "I really hate this air thing. I'm going to stop breathing because it's for immature people" *dies* See? Same thing. Kind of. It's 5:30 AM, and I've been writing this for the last two hours. As you can see, I'm starting to rant. So my final verdict: Kingdom Hearts rocks. It's a must have game if there ever was one.
Kingdom Hearts Reviews
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