Kingdom Hearts for the PlayStation 2 represents what every cross-over should be, an exciting game that captures the best qualities of two franchises.
The combination of the Final Fantasy characters with silly-looking Disney characters is one that I’ve never expected. Just thinking about it seems ridiculous and unlikely, but in fact, Kingdom Hearts proved me and many other people wrong. This RPG appeals not only to Disney fans, but also Final Fantasy fans blending the spirits of both franchises really well. The gameplay is good but not perfect and the story tends to be incoherent at times, but the familiar settings and likable characters are attractive to anyone that has the slightest interest in the game.
The plot is quite simple, an evil force is taking the life of the different worlds using dark beings known as Heartless. In Kingdom Hearts you assume the role of Sora, a child that is looking for his missing friends: Riku and Kairi. Sora joins Donald and Goofy In their quest armed with a trusty keyblade as he visits familiar (and some unfamiliar) places both taken from the Final Fantasy and Disney universes.
Kingdom Hearts is the collaboration between Disney and Square, a mixture of characters from both franchises are featured, as well as several new ones. During the adventure, you’ll find memorable characters like Cloud, Leon, Jack and of course a guy named Cid, among others. In fact, there are much more Disney characters than Final Fantasy, so if you are a fan of the latter you may be disappointed. If you like Square games though, you’ll love Kingdom Hearts as there are many side-quests, secrets and mini games for you to find and solve.
Nevertheless, this shouldn’t be confused with a complex and intricate RPG like Final Fantasy X, but it has enough RPG elements to keep you entertained. Your characters will gain levels, face epic bosses, use items and visit dozens of places. What’s interesting about Kingdom Hearts is that it all happens in real time, even the combat, as you’ll need to fight monsters, jump and solve puzzles restlessly. Kingdom Hearts is pretty linear but you’ll have the choice of where to go first during your quest. The game is neither hard nor long, but there are enough secrets to keep you engaged for more than 40 hours.
There are many worlds for you to explore and visit. Most of them are themed after a specific Disney film, for example Agrabah represents Aladdin, Monstro represents Pinochio and so on. Each mini-universe has its distinguishable features that make them stand out, but most of the times you need to perform the same actions in every world. First, meet the main characters, then recover a particular item fighting a lot of enemies along the way and finally beat a boss so you can move on to the next world.
The gameplay in Kingdom Hearts is both simple and addictive and you may fight for hours and it still a thrill as there are various types of Heartless to face. The camera though, can be an enemy in itself. It usually tries to stay behind your character, but when you are fighting in small rooms or corridors it’s really uncomfortable. You may use L1 and R1 and quickly try to change it back to a more comfortable spot, but still this is not intuitive enough. Objects and obstacles will get in your way and certain jumps seem impossible as the camera is so imprecise.
You unlock combos later in the game and are really easy to use and you also have magic and multiple abilities that let you fly, swim or roll. Donald and Goofy accompany you on your adventure though other characters may join you (like Peter Pan). Both of them act independently and help you occasionally. Each character can be personalized or you can customize their behavior according to your necessities during the fights, so you can set Donald for casting spells and curing and Goofy to attack. Defeating enemies grant you munny (the currency) and experience and this usually means that you have to attack unceasingly until they disappear, but fortunately, you may also summon characters like Dumbo, Genie, Tinkerbell and Simba among others. At times, it’s easier (and safer) to dodge the Heartless and move on to the next area. Bosses in Kingdom Hearts are awesome and there are a lot of them, though some of them can be really difficult to defeat. Sometimes it’ll be necessary to cast certain spells or you’ll need to attack certain objects on screen to find out their weaknesses. These fights are not really difficult or complex but you’ll need to use different tactics to be successful.
Sometimes it’s hard what to do next and as usually the answer lies in that level you are at, you’ll to revisit and fight hundreds of enemies over and over until you find the solution. Exploration can be frustration when this happens even if you like the world you’re in. Maybe this is the price to pay when you try to create an action adventure game that has strong RPG elements. Exploration is not terrible, but at the same time is not excellent or addictive.
Your characters have their own ship to travel from one world to the other. The trips are represented as a sci-fi shooter sequence and unfortunately are boring and unbearable. In them, you have to fight waves of strange enemies in space. Most of them take several minutes and look similar to Star Fox, the only problem is they don’t control nearly as well. Your ship never responds and the controls are extremely imprecise. During these sequences you obtain parts to improve your ship or build a new one. I finished the game without even knowing how to build one from scratch as I never felt the necessity to do so. Still, after you complete a sequence once you may warp instantly to that world instead of travelling through the same stage once again.
The graphics in Kingdom Hearts are outstanding as the Disney characters look accurate and terrific. Disney animators are well known for being the best in the world and this game demonstrates why. The 3D characters designs are great and fully detailed from every possible angle. The sound is extremely good too. The voice acting is excellent as all the dialogues are in full speech. The rest of the sounds are quite simple and you’ll get tired of listening to Sora, Goofy and Donald repeat the same lines over and over again during fights. The music is catchy and each world has a particular and suiting tune for it.
Kingdom Heart is a great game as it combines a little bit of Final Fantasy and Disney successfully. It has some flaws, like the tedious Gummi Ship sequences and some camera issues but the visuals, the combat, the soundtrack and the animations are simply amazing. Not only is this a terrific RPG but it also happens to be one of the best cross-over games ever created.