Kingdom Hearts II

Kingdom Hearts II is easily one of the most popular titles of the year, and has been focused on tremendously by critics and fans alike during its run through Japan, North America, and now Europe. But has this game lived up to its hype? Is it worth buying at full retail price? Find out inside...


Kingdom Hearts II, obviously, takes place after the original Kingdom Hearts game. However, a new wave of characters have been introduced, and once again the story starts off throwing an array of unsolved mysteries at you. Additionally, the development of the story remains heavy in the beginning of the game, and as you progress through the events and scenarios, you're left in a state of mind feeling that there could have been more exposure in the telling of the story. Furthermore, the characters will feel more isolated than ever before, as most of them are mere props for the story, and unfortunately manty of them don't even get any type of development. The sad part about it is these characters are more interesting than your average base of characters you always encounter.

One thing great about the story in this title is, if you played through the entire Kingdom Hearts game, you will be able to understand more of the story, but still have many surprises come at you in this game about the original Kingdom Hearts that you never knew. And if you haven't played through the entire Kingdom Hearts game, the key points of that game will be revealed to you when the time is right for the progression of the Kingdom Hearts II story. The biggest flaw in this, however, is that the ending to Kingdom Hearts is never really explained in a manner that would substantiate the references made Kingdom Hearts II. Additionally, this risk will leave many gamers in a state of confusion when connecting the links between the characters. So there is strong execution in the story, but lackluster development.


Of course, Square-Enix knows how to deliver a well done, experience enhancing presentation in their video games, and Kingdom Hearts II is no exception. There are few pre-rendered CGI full motion videos in the game, when compared to other Square-Enix franchise titles, but when you do see them, they are impressive. Most of the cut scenes you see in the game--more than 90 percent of them--will use the in-game graphics engine, with minor improvements, which can get very boring to look at in a short amount of time since you know Square-Enix can do much more. The battle animations look good and run smoothly, however a lot of them are choppy and some moves are so fast paced that you don't even hit the enemies you were intending to attack. And once again, Square was able to make some nice looking creative logos for different areas of the game.


What makes this game so different from most Action-RPG's, is the gameplay. Why? Well, you can either make this game a button mashing marathon, or an abstract and strategical spellbound game. During battle events, you are given a few different options; you can use magic and see pretty animations, you can use summons and fight along side them using special attacks, you can use special forms (which will be explained more later), you can use reaction commands (which will be explained more later), or you can just use basic attacks. Even on the hardest difficulty, you can pretty much run through nearly the entire game just using basic attacks, with the exception of being forced to use reaction commands. Very rarely will you have to use summons, items, or magic for enhancing your chances in battle. When you are surrounded by a large group of regular foes, all you really have to do is just slap the "X" button and eventually they'll all be dead, and the amount of life you have lost will be minimal.

A new addition has been added to the battle system: Reaction Commands. Essentially, when something in your environment changes, or an enemy performs a certain attack, you will see the triangle button appear above your menu with a word next to it. If you press triangle, you can do a special attack that will utilize the change in your environment or the attack your enemy used, and react to it in a way that will turn around what should have hurt you into a boost for you to further assault your foes. The biggest flaw to this is the Auto Limit command, which will show up as a triangle button as well. So sometimes, if you mean to do a Reaction Command in battle, instead you and a partner of your's will use your team limit break instead. This can get very annoying very quickly, and will only further lengthen your battles with enemies.

Another new addition that has been added to the battle system is the Form system. Basically, you "fuse" with a party member (or both), and enhance your speed, your strength, your defense, etc. and you are given a special attack you can use. Each form also has its own fair share of disadvantages as well. It's a very risky move to use in certain pinches, because the effects can vary based on your foes and your environment. Furthermore, you can level up each form and strengthen each advantage that every form has. There is a special event in the game that will grant you the Master Form, which gives Sora two keyblades and turns him into a rabid assault machine, however Sora becomes the only party member in battle when this form becomes active. So even the "Master" Form has it's big disadvantage. The form system can be very helpful, and sometimes can be troublesome.

The biggest difference in gameplay from the original Kingdom Hearts game is exploration. In Kingdom Hearts II, the game is very linear; you go from point A to point B, and have very little exploration to do. There are only a few special paths you can take in areas to find new hidden areas that provide special story events or allow you to find special weapons or synthesis items. After playing only a fourth of the way into this game, it's evident that Square-Enix focused more on the story and the battle system than the gameplay of the in-game events. This becomes even more evident at the end of the game, during your final battles.


The music in the game varies as far as fitting to the mood of the events, and the settings involved in the game. The most popular song is, of course, the opening theme song, which in Japanese was called Passion, and in English is called Sanctuary. When you first start the game, you watch a music video set to this theme song that not only entices you into the story of the original title and this one, but leaves you to expect a lot from the game. Most of the voice acting is well done as far as the standards, but there also some characters that could have used more enthusiastic voice actors. There's over 30 different songs that you will hear countless times in the game, and some songs even have different variations so you don't think it's the same song, but it is. Once again, the sound effects for battle are well done, and are just the right volume for the music and other sounds going on during the game.


Once again, there are a new wave of characters you're introduced to for the whole game, starting from the very beginning. And unfortunately, the characters who come across as the most interesting don't get any development compared to the other characters from different worlds. You will see different outfits on some of the characters from the past--the best looking ones being Sora's new outfit, and all of the FF7 characters taking their Advent Children outfits. So unfortunately, don't expect much in this department except for what you had in Kingdom Hearts and then a little more.

Kingdom Hearts II is a great storytelling game, and will be able to keep you interested for just that. However, it does lack in the gameplay fields, and may get boring quickly to some gamers.


Kingdom Hearts II is a great storytelling game, and will be able to keep you interested for just that. However, it does lack in the gameplay fields, and may get boring quickly to some gamers.


Reviewed by Depu Techiikue on 22 September 2006.