Kingdom Hearts 2
Playing with some of Disney’s most important characters… you love it or you don’t, but if you’re for it this Kingdom Hearts 2 is “the game to play”. Just like in the previous one you’re helped by Donald Duck and Goofy. After “saving” the world in the first Kingdom Hearts it seems not everything is how it should be. King Mikey is still locked up in the shadow world and the heartless (soldiers from this world) are still running around freely.
This sequel builds further on the previous title. For those that can’t really follow when I start about the storyline, I’ll quickly lay out the big lines from KH1: you play with Sora, a little boy that was chosen by “the keyblade”. This is a magical object that can be used as a sword but also as a key to lock certain doors. These have been opened and since that moment the king has disappeared. It’s your duty to find him and bring him back. To make a long story short: Sora finds the king, defeats the ruler of the shadow world, and closes the doors to that awful place. Unfortunately Mickey gets locked up in the dark world where creates without hearts live.
In this game you wake up as Roxas. You undergo some crazy adventures with your friends in Twilight Town but after a while strange things happen. Balls come flying out the wall, your mirror image crawls from the water surface and starts fighting you,… all these things also seem to form pieces of a puzzle that becomes more and more clear. After all, you’re not Roxas but the sould of Sora, locked in a virtual world. After some in-game days you wake up and are completely reunited with your old body, Sora’s that is. Once back in the skin of this hero things become very logical. The shadow soldiers are still roaming the streets of the normal world where they rob people from their soul/heart and also make your life miserable. It’s pretty clear that you have to find out where they’re coming from.
During your quest you have all kinds of things at your disposal that can and will help you finish the story. These items you need to divide within your party members (mostly Goofy and Donal) and they include potions, weapons, shields, wizard staffs, candy and jewelry you can wear or use. The way you get these things depends on yourself. You can clear levels and look for little red boxes or you can go to a shop and spend money on them.
Next to these items there’s also another possibility to upgrade your party and I’m talking about abilities here. These are special moves of abilities that you can give to a character. If you want to block for instance, you’ll need to install that ability. My favorite is the XP-doubler which (as the name says) doubles the experience points you earn by killing an enemy.
All these things aren’t quite different from Kingdom Hearts 1, but this is the sequel… Where is the real innovation? Well, there’s only one I managed to find in the gameplay and that are the forms Sora can take. Indeed, Sora has become a “shape shifter”. Actually, it’s more a changing of colors of the outfit than really the shape, but ok. Each form has its specific means, for instance one for a defensive strategy, one for a more aggressive approach,… Also new, but also part of the forms Sora can take, is the possibility to use two swords. Unfortunately this only works when playing with one of Sora’s transformations. So all in all you have a pretty well worked out system to adapt the main character to your wishes.
Where things aren’t so great is the controls. In the beginning it all looks pretty good with little complication and we like that. However, once you start fighting the problems appear. Try hitting an enemy correctly when you can’t lock your character’s direction. It happened all too often that I THOUGHT I was hitting my opponent while in fact I was hitting the air next to him. That, in combination with the party members that run in your way more than anything else, ruin from time to time the whole combat experience. What I do have to say is that Donald and Goofy are a bit smarter than they used to be.
Beautiful surroundings, very thematic, make for a fun and perfectly placed atmosphere. You’ll be in the jungle when in the world of Tarzan, or our hero reaches a level that perfectly fits in the story of “Alice in Wonderland”… you feel like in a fairytale when going through the gameworlds looking for Mickey.
The texture details of both characters and surroundings are good (considering we’re talking about PS2 here) and you’ll need to look very carefully to find some pixels. There’s also a nice distance blur in the game that adds a bit of depth to everything. Overall the graphics are certainly not bad.
Next to the display of graphics also the music adds to the atmosphere. To give you an idea: a mix of standard Disney movie music combined with Final Fantasy. The great compositions also vary depending on the place you’re at and also the situation.
This game doesn’t work purely on great gameplay, ingenious controls or beautiful graphics but more with its setting and storyline. These latter create a relatively unique experience and I felt like a child again like when I saw my first Mickey movie. Exquisite! This does make this game a small top game.