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Platform: PlayStation 2
Publisher: Square Electronic Arts L.L.C
Developer: Square Co. Ltd.
Style(s): Third-Person 3D Action RPG
Synopsis: Created with the support of two multimedia entertainment powerhouses, Kingdom Hearts provides a new adventure with some familiar faces. This 3D action-oriented role-playing title from developers at Square features popular Disney characters like Donald Duck and Goofy adventuring alongside more conventional Final Fantasy-styled heroes. Tetsuya Nomura, who designed several of the characters in earlier Final Fantasy titles, supervised this game's development. In addition to the well-established Donald and Goofy, Kingdom Hearts introduces several new characters to the Disney universe. The heroes must embark on a long and dangerous quest to rescue lost friends. Players guide thier characters through sleepy city streets and mysterious torch-lit tombs, facing clever enemies and large boss characters. Most of the action is played out in real-time. Though it features characters often associated with children's programs, Kingdom Hearts is designed to offer a thoughtful, serious role-playing adventure for gamers of all ages. ~ T.J. Deci, All Game Guide
Package Contents: Registration Card
The full-color manual is easy on the eyes, but there's not much to it. Fortunately, Jiminy Cricket offers players a journal that automatically keeps track of characters, missions, and enemy info. ~ Scott Alan Marriott, All Game Guide
Each of the Disney characters looks exactly like his or her film counterpart but in 3D. Even more impressive is the amount of characters packed onto the disc. The only drawback is the Gummi Ship stages, which look primitive in comparison. ~ Scott Alan Marriott, All Game Guide
One of the most puzzling collaborations in a console game to date, esteemed role-playing game developer Square has joined forces with Disney in a game that, well, sounds goofy. By gawrsh, it even stars Goofy as a principal character. What's next? Looney Tunes and Zelda? Teletubbies and Baldur's Gate? The unlikely premise merges together Final Fantasy heroes with Disney characters -- not just a few mind you, but in the neighborhood of 100 notable heroes, villains, and supporting casts from the animated studio's colorful history. The game also represents a departure from Square's traditional role-playing series in that all battles are action-oriented as in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. More than a few elements are borrowed from Nintendo's masterpiece, including the perspective, ability to lock onto targets, and the sword (in this case, key) swinging combat. Of course, there are Final Fantasy elements as well. Potions, Hi-Potions, Moogles, Ether, and Summon attacks have made the transition, and players can merge crystals with weapons to make more powerful armaments. Three characters once again form a party, but players are permitted to swap members in or out at each save point. The storyline has past and present Final Fantasy characters working with Disney characters in a quest to save their respective worlds. This is first and foremost a Disney title, so the worlds are all inspired by movies. Players will eventually travel to locales based on Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Aladdin, Tarzan, Hercules, The Little Mermaid, and even The Nightmare Before Christmas, not to mention a few other surprises. The worlds and the characters inhabiting them are the star attractions, and they are incentive enough for Disney fans to keep playing. The main hub, Traverse Town, is the launching point for the adventure, and it is filled with shops run by characters such as Cid (from Final Fantasy VII), Gepetto, Merlin, and Donald Duck's nephews. There's even a faithful re-creation of the house in 101 Dalmatians, which doubles as a side quest: players are challenged to find 99 Dalmatians throughout their travels (locked in chests in groups of three) and return them home. The developers captured just the right mixture of film elements in each 3D world to keep things interesting throughout the journey. Players will literally fall down the rabbit's hole to experience Wonderland, getting a chance to drink a shrinking potion and sit in on Alice's trial. Play then involves searching the woods for clues to Alice's innocence and then presenting the evidence to the impatient Queen of Hearts. Along the way are fights with card soldiers, conversations with the mysterious Cheshire Cat, and a boss battle with a towering creature called the Trickster. Enemies are a combination of Heartless beings, shadowy figures that manifest themselves into different forms, as well as classic Disney villains such as Maleficent, Captain Hook, Jafar, Ursula, and Hades. Alas, there's no Cruella DeVil but there is one Oogie Boogie. Other worlds offer different things to do besides fighting. Deep Jungle, where Tarzan can join the party, has players swinging from vines, sliding down trees, and swimming with hippos; Agrabah has a magic carpet sequence; Neverland has players soaring through the sky; and Atlantica consists of underwater swimming. While none of the worlds are large or as expansive as some may hope for, each are broken down into small areas linked together by doorways or paths, they all feature enough secrets, battles, and challenges to make them worth the trip. It is important to note there's not much of a plot tying the game together, but each world has its own set of problems and the fun of exploring familiar locales in 3D and interacting with beloved characters is what drives the game. The action is patterned after The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Enemies generally pop out of thin air or emerge from the ground, and players can press a button to target an enemy and then move around slicing at it. The camera is not nearly as helpful as it was in Zelda, though, so players must be prepared to have it swirl around quickly as each movement and attack seems to trigger a search for a cinematic angle rather than the most practical one. More often than not you will be staring directly at Sora while he runs away from enemies or jumps to the side, which will likely make anyone watching, including the player, dizzy. The camera should always remain fixed behind the lead character unless players say otherwise, but this has sadly been overlooked, which is especially a pain during jumping and climbing sequences. Battles are fun and can be quite challenging, even though you can't perform nearly as many action-oriented moves as you could with Link in his Nintendo 64 debut. While Sora gradually learns maneuvers such as rolling away or additional combo moves, these must be equipped and take away ability points each time they are used. It would have been more engaging if players could directly control the direction of the key Sora swings or use multiple buttons for different melee attacks to vary the fighting. The targeting system is very basic but functional, and it has the added benefit of highlighting objects in the background players can interact with. The biggest gripe most will have, other than the camera, is traveling to the different worlds. Rather than a simple warping system or a transporter device, players literally have to fly to the worlds inside a vessel called the Gummi Ship. These sequences are jarringly ugly and extremely basic, with graphics resembling the original Star Fox but with much weaker action. The graphics consist entirely of flat-shaded polygons, making enemies, barriers, and helpful items almost indistinguishable from each other. Players are confined to a limited area while they move left, right, up, and down as the screen continuously scrolls. There's even an option to build modifications to the Gummi Ship, which would have been a neat feature had the sequences been anything remotely fun. Fortunately these sequences are short enough to make them tolerable, and those who have already swallowed the bitter pill of mixing Donald Duck and Goofy with Yuffie, Squall, and Cloud will be in for a pleasant surprise. Kingdom Hearts actually benefits from the Disney license and is a better game because of it. The inner child you may have locked away deep into your soul while gleefully mowing down citizens in Grand Theft Auto III or decapitating zombies in Resident Evil will emerge while playing this game, a <i>tour de force</i> in both visuals and sound that will not easily be forgotten. ~ Scott Alan Marriott, All Game Guide
Side quests include finding different summon gems, all 99 dalmatians, pages to a book, and activating multi-colored Trinity Marks, which let Sora, Goofy, and Donald perform magic when surrounding a specially marked symbol. ~ Scott Alan Marriott, All Game Guide
The voice acting is excellent, with Haley Joel Osment voicing Sora and many notables providing talent, including Mandy Moore, Billy Zane, Sean Astin, Gilbert Gottfried, and James Woods. Surprisingly enough, the Disney themes are absent throughout the game aside from a few arranged tunes. ~ Scott Alan Marriott, All Game Guide
The camera could be better as well as the transition sequences when traveling to new worlds, but the developers did a great job in capturing the look and feel of each movie featured in the game. ~ Scott Alan Marriott, All Game Guide
the game requires Joystick/Gamepad.