Age - E for Everybody
Genre - Fantasy/Action
It's been awhile since the original Kingdom Hearts came about, hasn't it?
And it'll be a whole week or so before I submit my review of the game that bridges the "gap" between this game and the upcoming sequel, Kingdom Hearts 2. That game being the GBA's Kingdom Hearts : Chain of Memories... whether Sony manages to rush a version of this game out for the PSP (since they DID do Kingdom Hearts and will do Kingdom Hearts 2) however remains to be seen....
But it has been awhile since the last game. Two, going onwards towards three years.
Whether you loved it, hated it, whatever, odds are pretty darn good that you've at least heard of this game!
Odds are fair you might have even heard of the yet to be released upcoming sequel (Kingdom Hearts 2) which WAS supposed to have come out this past year (2004)!
However, like the triad of Miyazaki DVDs (Porco Rosso, Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind and My Neighbor Totoro) and Tron 2.0 (PS2) which were also slated (from what I heard) for a 2004 release date it seems that Kingdom Hearts 2 is another one of Disney's no shows.
Mind you Tron 2.0 is already available for the GBA, yet I have not seen hide nor hair of the PS2 version (or was it Xbox?) which was promised for this past year. Go figure I'd want to play it and it never comes out.
This is a game I will review when it comes out, especially since Bruce (Babylon 5) Boxleitner is reprising his original Tron role for this game!
But what is the hype over all this? And by this I mean the original topic of Kingdom Hearts, and NOT Tron 2.0 which I'll talk about when I actually review it.
The Kingdom Hearts franchise is, like it or not, the merging of the Anime fan fave Final Fantasy omniverse with the Disney omniverse... more or less.
You start the game off as Sora, and it seems you've been having some weird dreams lately.
You've been prone to dream about wandering around on huge stained glass looking floors depicting images of Disney Princesses', and getting lots of instructions on how to move and fight and stuff from a mysterious voice echoing from the darkness around you that seems to be teaching you video game moves.
After learning the basics of the game, and setting a few things up to customize your character, not to mention fighting your "darker" half (your shadow) you wake up on your home island of Destiny Island (which turns out to be a world all it's own) and that's where you start off.
You, your friend (soon to be enemy) Riku (no relation to bouncy bubbly personality Rikku from FFX), and friend (soon to be love interest and tormenting image that pushes you forward throughout the game) Kairi live on this island. And, hey, so does Wakku (who sounds Jamaican as opposed to FFX's Wakku who sounded like he was voiced by a local Hawaiian guy), that guy Yuna was looking for in FFX-2. You know, what's his name... though he's way too young for her now in this game... way too young.
Then there's some girl I never saw before from another game I never played who fights with a jump rope and likes to sit on the dock and let people peek up her skirt at her panties. Why they didn't bring Lulu, Yuna or Rikku (other than the fact you might think she and Riku are related when they're not) into this island since it already sports 2 FFX characters remains a mystery.
Anyway it seems that you, Kairi and Riku and planning to ditch the island and leave.
Just as well since it looks like the island isn't going to be around much longer.
But, as you guessed, you don't get off in time. Even after questing for the things you need to build your little raft you still don't make the deadline before all heck breaks loose.
Riku is swallowed by darkness, Kairi is MIA, and you have just gained the power of the "Keyblade" which gives you the ability to fight back against the coming darkness (in the form of strange heart (soul) stealing parasitic creatures known as "The Heartless... hmmm, they must work part time for the IRS).
Once your world dies (after another battle between yourself and your "darker" side) you end up on a small planetoid holding a huge "patchwork" city called Traverse Town. Here you'll meet Donald (the now more milder and not so pissy Duck) and Goofy (sans the family he picked up in Goof Troop). Seems they're missing their king... as in Mickey, not Eisner... and they're looking for both the King and the "Key"... which you just so happen to have. Lucky you.
From there your thrust into a world (planetoid) spanning quest. Image 1 of 10. Click to enlarge
Motivated by hauntingly real visions of Kairi who seems to be pushing you forward (tormenting you at the same time) you plunge headlong into world after Disney world in search of Kairi and Riku, and later a quest to save those worlds from destruction.
Strangely missing from the
ALL the worlds are Disney owned and created, with the only place you'll find FF characters being Traverse Town (and the Olympic Coliseum where you'll fight your old "friend" Cloud from FFVII).
Image 1 of 10. Click to enlarge
And onboard the Gummy Ship... which isn't as tasty as the name implies... oh, the places you'll go!
Why? Well besides finding your friends (and the King) you'll also have to travel to each world and "seal" it against corruption by the Heartless by locking the "keyhole" of each world, fortifying it's defenses against darkness attack and protecting it from "sudden death".
Sudden death's no fun. People don't like it, disposable characters don't like it, Pikman don't like it. It's bad.
Oh. The worlds! Here's a good general rundown of the worlds.
Wonderland (Alice in Wonderland)
Take a little time to sit in on the court of Judge Hearts (Queen o' Hearts) as she trounces justice and gives the kangaroo bounce to the head chopping block to her victims... I mean cases.
You'll have to play the counsel for the defense and prove the innocence of one Alice, who seems to be have been mistaken for royalty...
Oh. Did I mention there's this plot to collect Disney princesses? And no, it's not for a new Disney' Princesses DVD. Now where was I...
The Olympic Coliseum (Hercules)
Whether you're a hero or a zero, you'll have to sit in and compete in the games... even if Hades tries to kick over the table and deal a dirty hand or three during the different "tournaments" (which end, if you play the game right, in a murderous gigantic Hades Cup tournament).
The African Jungle (Tarzan)
Ah. Did you like the movie where Tarzan vine surfs and all that stuff? No? Tough.
And while Rosie O'Donnel's character from the movie DOES show up, guess what? She doesn't speak!
So if you're hoping for a Rosie guest appearance? You're out of luck.
Me? I'm just a wee bit disturbed that Jane seems so... well... uh... "dressed" kind of killer for an E rated game. I mean she is just... well... you can see for yourself when you play this.
And why is it if I stand in a certain place I can peek up her skirt and see her panties?
Yes, people, apparently the people who made this game kind of left some rather non-E rated material to be found if you look hard enough. But then again why would you stress yourself for panty shots?
When people like me can point them out for you.
After this you return to Traverse Town, fight some baddies, get some upgrades to yourself and your ship, and go off onto a new area and new worlds.
The Middle East (Aladdin)
Yes, this makes sense. Jasmine (the female lead of this story) IS a princess! Alice (AiWL) was an aristocrat, the daughter of rich people.... NOT royalty if I remember right.
Why they made THAT goof I'll never know.
Ah, yeah, find Aladdin and the Genie (voiced by the 2nd person to play Genie) and go on a quest to save Jasmine. You know, the usual. Go everywhere the movie went. Nothing big.
Ah, yeah, the voice of the Genie... while I was hoping Robin Williams would have made an appearance I guess that‘s OK since quite a few of the stars who voiced some of the characters in this game didn‘t make an appearance to reprise their roles for this game.
As for the 2nd Genie? You mainly know the man as Homer Simpson... but you probably don't know him as the voice of Santa Claus from the Frank L. Baum version of the Santa Claus story in which he voiced Santa in the later Politically Correct animated version as opposed to the not so PC stopmotion version.
Eh? What do I mean by that? You know, they changed some things, including the part where they Augwahs (or whatever) did NOT perish (despite the fact they were the evil in this story) and lived through the battle with the forces of good over protecting Santa Claus‘ right to deliver toys... that version.
Halloween Town (The Nightmare Before Christmas)
Huh? Docile obedient Heartless that dance? Eh... looks like the guys finally found a world they liked!
Well, it IS Halloween Town (darkness) and everyone looks "normal" to them so heck... then again maybe it's because they're being controlled by the King of Halloween, Jack.
Of course that doesn't last and eventually you and Jack will have to stomp down on the "out of towners" and beat on old Boogey himself in the process.
I loved this level, but it was way too short.
Under the Sea... (The Little Mermaid)
In an entirely underwater level you'll become one with the ocean as you join forces with Ariel (the Little Mermaid) and fight against the Heartless and the big squid thing... what's her name... Ursula!
I wish this level was short since the swimming was abit to get used to (and not a skill I needed to master since there isn't much swimming done in this game).
Of course all of this is just a warm up for the end, and the big battles to come. Image 2 of 10. Click to enlarge
But then again even IF you think it's over? It's not over.
Damn. The final battles are massive, hard,
So take your time traversing the worlds, and build up your supplies and experience levels... you'll need every last trick and all the levels you can muster before Endgame.
Image 2 of 10. Click to enlarge
As for the gameplay itself? Gameplay is straightforward.
Instead of the turn based combat of Final Fantasy games you have realtime combat.
In other words when creatures appear you don't freeze, the screen doesn't shatter, and combat turns dealt out. You just start swinging or blasting or whatever, with your two allies backing you up.
You start with Donald and Goofy, but can add one person into the mix as the game progresses.
HOWEVER that person only joins you on their own world, and you'll have to meet them first and get them to join you before you can access them (which isn't too hard).
Problem is that means you'll still have either Donald or Goofy with you at all times (as I remember it except for a few times here and there when things change). Also all the characters you team up with are on the Disney side of the coin, there seem to be no Final Fantasy team ups here (hopefully Kingdom Hearts 2 will change all that... maybe).
You also have Summoning gems to bring powerful allies to battle with you, but don't hold your hopes out for powerful creatures from the FF games to help. It's all Disney grown and nurtured "allies"... some of which make sense (Genie, Simba) and some don't (Bambi... what good is Bambi anyway)!
Also the lack of FF creatures is a downer. Which, again, I hope is fixed as of Kingdom Hearts 2.
Yes, you WILL meet a few FF characters, briefly. But interactions are short, and not very fulfilling.
Also they seem to have either cut out some of the more... ahhh... harder to censor characters... from the mix. No Tifa, but then again since Cloud is messed up in this game I guess he's being motivated to find Tifa which explains why he's the way he is when you first meet him..
No Rikku and her minimal clothing, no Lulu and her... well... you know.
And those character who do show up? They have been altered to achieve the E rating... which is kind of odd since there's several incidents of panty flashing here and there in the game, so they kind of missed a few things in the whole E-formation plot.
There's Aeris (who is called by her rightful name as Aerith) which is one good sign of the changes.
Well, the only good thing is that she's ALIVE (after being killed in FFVII). Otherwise she wasn't much of a worrisome character to begin with.
Then there's Cid (another FFVII alumni) who gave up smoking for chewing on straw... or something.
Yuffie (FFVII) is there as well, but she seems to dress a little more... conservatively. In other words if you loved her outfit from FFVII then forget seeing it here, it's not there.
There's also Leon (from a FF game I never played) is there and voiced by Angel star David Boreanaz... didn't even notice until I read the credits.
Come to think of it there's little star power here.
While I would have thought the game would be sporting at least a dozen or more quality "star" power shots, especially on the Disney side of the equation, I was disappointed to see few names I recognized.
Haley Joel Osment is the voice of Sora... so THAT explains why at times I see "dead" people...
Robby Benson (Prince Alexander in King's Quest VI) reprises his role as Beast, while Dan Castellaneta is the Genie and Gilbert ("AFLAC!!") Gottfried is that parrot from Aladdin (forgot it's name).
We also have, strangely enough, an appearance by Billy Zane (The Phantom) as one of the major nemesis of the game (the seldom spoken of Ansem). Mandy Moore is Aerith (Aeris), and Lance Bass is Sepharoth (for starters). Curiously missing, however, is some of the other major voices.
Danny DeVito reprising his role from Hercules... though the voice actor who did it does a bang-up job as the role nevertheless.
I can't remember who did the voice of Jack Skellington past the fact that Danny Elfman did the singing voice for him... but he didn't do the voice for this game.
Of course since Mr. Castellaneta did the Genie, that meant Robin Williams is NOT in this game.
What else I remember... Hmm... I can't remember much else namewise.
But that's not important anyway. The voice acting is right on, even if you dislike some of the series in this game. Me? I liked the fact they had The Nightmare Before Christmas in this game. That was cool.
As for the rating? Breakdown time.
Kingdom Hearts Breakdown the 1st Image 3 of 10. Click to enlarge
What's Hot? - Let's face it. It's all going to be a love/hate relationship with this game.
You are either one of the fans on the series who loves this game, or you are going to be one of the critics who hate it. It's much like when Tuxedo Kamen dressed up like Santa Claus in Sailor Moon S the Movie... you either thought it was cute, or wanted to beat him into a coma for defiling the mantle of Santa Claus.
One or the other...
Image 3 of 10. Click to enlarge
Same with this game. You are either a die hard fan, or you hate it with a vengeance.
But the game is solidly made, no questions asked. You can't take away from the makers of this game the fact that it's well done, and nicely made. And you can't take away from the makers of this game that the game is one that created quite abit of buzz, and is well known amongst gamers everywhere.
So what can I say about it that hasn't been said before?
Gameplay wise? Kingdom Hearts is quite solid, and boasts quite abit to do, and lots of places to explore which is a plus. Also there are tons of hidden things to discover, and unlock, as you play which only makes it that much better.
Of course the slant between Disney and Final Fantasy is swayed way to much on the Disney side, with not much to speak of in terms of the Final Fantasy side of the equation at all. But, still, if you are willing to overlook that and see this game for it's potential then you might find yourself as one of it's newest fans.
What's Not? - That depends, of course, on whether or not you're that forgiving!
As I stated a few times above the game is dreadfully slanted, and seems to be a cavalcade of Disney characters! In fact you see more Disney characters than Final Fantasy characters in this game!
The ratio is probably... maybe 1 to 5 give or take a few.
So is this really a cooperative crossover game, or a giant Disney "commercial" with the occasional Final Fantasy bit here and there to draw serious gamers in!
So, bottom line? You came here to be drawn into a combo world between Disney and FF only to find that Disney hogs up most of the show. Can you forgive that and enjoy what touches of the FF universe you find here regardless of the tall slant? Some can, some can't, hence why this is a game you either love or hate (no in-betweens).
If you just came here to find old Final Fantasy worlds and friends to meet again then you will be dreadfully disappointed with what you find. True, SquareEnix (then SquareSoft) should have demanded abit more space for their side of the equation but I guess they did the best they could under the circumstances.
If you are a little forgiving of this game and it's failings you might find it worth playing after all. Maybe.
Moments to Remember?
Admittedly there is quite abit to remember. Depends on your taste.
If you are a fan of Disney, or have a respectful admiration of it's works, then you'll enjoy going to each and every world mentioned above (and then some) and enjoying the "trip" as it were.
I remember HalloweenTown the best. My favorite level despite the fact it's rather short.
What to Ignore?
HOWEVER if you were hoping for balance and some trips to old familiar FF stomping grounds (like your favorite locations from FFVII, X and so forth)? then you'll be disappointed.
Is the game too one sided? Maybe. Yeah, yeah, Disney is part of the equation but did it have to be an OVERPOWERING part of the equation? Show me some variety why dontcha!
But then again we have a sequel coming up, and abit late at that since it should have been out by now, so what'll Disney/SquareEnix do for an encore? Guess we'll see soon enough.
Maybe this review if we're lucky.
The game is well done, and that is not the problem here.
The problem, for me mostly, is that it seems to be all about the Mouse.
If you are a fan of Disney, or find it interesting enough to play even with the Disney aspect, then you have yet another compelling reason to get this game.
If you are a fan of Final Fantasy, and can forgive the rather slanted disposition between Disney to Final Fantasy influence in the game, then you'll be buying this.
If not? Well then you won't buy this no matter how much I tell you it's worth checking out.
At least rent it. Give it a chance before declaring it obsolete.
And that brings us to the present day. Two years going on three.
Between then and now SquareSoft became SqaureEnix, and Disney/Pixar began to "divorce" each other.
But FINALLY, after what was supposed to have been a 2004 launch (from everything I heard on the topic of said release), the next installment of the Kingdom Hearts trilogy is coming... that is, unless, you count the GBA's Chain of Memories (see review next week).
So where does Disney go from here? What new worlds can they go to?
I checked the Playstation site for any early clues as to what KH2 would hold...
What did I find...?
Nothing. Oh I found out there's a sexually explicit Playboy game coming.
Found out Final Fantasy XII is coming the first quarter of 2005.
Found out Playstation hasn't figured out yet Acclaim is bankrupt and the games they have listed are probably not coming out anytime soon.
But haven't found out yet when Kingdom Hearts 2 is coming.
I do know one thing... it's not during the first quarter of 2005!
Stay tuned for updates.
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