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Author Topic: Kingdom Hearts II Review (SPOILERS)  (Read 2874 times)

I Am Not Amused

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Kingdom Hearts II Review (SPOILERS)
« on: 27 Apr 2006, 11:47 »

So, because I am bored as hell, I thought I would write up a little in-depth review of Kingdom Hearts II. This is all my opinion, so if you disagree, I would rather you keep it out of this thread.

So, here goes.

GRAPHICS:
No doubt Kingdom Hearts II doesn't have the prettiest graphics you've ever seen for a Playstation 2 game. At the same time, they aren't anything you could ever call 'bad.' What makes the graphics, in my opinion, is how well the capture the spirit of the Disney Worlds that you enter.

There is much improvement on KH1's graphics, where the boundaries of the area seemed always to be  fifty foot high poorly pre-rendedered mountains or plants that were impenetrable. In KH2 the boundaries seem much less obvious, and more natural. However, there are points (the first zone in Mulan, for example) that do fall into the pre-rendered really tall plant boundaries.

I also like how, even if the characters aren't changing forms as they do in The Pride Lands or Atlantica, they still do change according to the world that they're in (Timeless River, Halloween Town). They're nice touches that just add another dimension to the appearance of the game.

All the Disney characters look like the real thing, and the movements aren't jerky whatsoever, even when in Atlantica where you're a fish, or Agrabah where you're riding the magic carpet.
GRADE: B+


SOUNDS (MUSIC):
This is one of KH2's great strengths, just as it was KH1's. The music in most Disney worlds is a reprise of one of the famous songs from the movie the world is based after ("This Is Halloween" in Halloween Town, "Under the Sea" in Atlantica). If this isn't the case, the music is still entirely appropriate for the situation, whether it be a Disney world, a Square world, or just some cutscene in the game.

The only downgrade I can give is the little dumb pop song that opened KH2, but that's the same thing with KH1. When they do various reprises of the melody of the song, it isn't forced at all and seems to fit the situation.
GRADE: A-

SOUNDS (VOICES):
Overall, there is very good voice acting from Sora, Donald and Goofy. All three voice actors are pretty familiar with their characters, or just with acting and general and don't have any noticably poor moments.

The Disney cast, too, does very well. Usually they find the original voice actors for the characters, whether it be from the original movies or some of those direct-to-tape kinds. If they're not available, well, it's so close that you usually can't tell the difference. I was kind of wary about the Pirates of the Carribean world's voice acting, but the guys put to be Orlando Bloom and Johnny Depp did really well with the characters. The girl who was Keira Knightly, however, was terrible.

Square voices, on the other hand, were noticably poorer. There were some changes in voice actors for some Square characters, which seemed pointless (why replace Mandy Moore? She did really well with Aerith). The Square characters' voices all seemed to be a bit overdramatic, although that may have been the fault of the dialogue.

Overall, though, the Disney characters are the dominating part of the voice acting mix, and if you're familiar at all with the Square characters you're willing to forgive their missteps just to see them in action.
GRADE: B-

DIFFICULTY:
I'll agree on the accusations that, if you just play straight through the game, it will seem very easy to you. On one hand, there's the argument that this is - on some level - a kid's game. Little kids don't LIKE to be frustrated with the difficulty of games. They want to be able to pick it up, play it, beat it. And, for the most part, you can do exactly that. I mean, the learning curve is next to nothing, even for new gamers.

There is a 'Hard' difficulty level, just as there was to KH1 that does seem entirely too difficult. But that's mainly because you have to employ a completely different strategy to the Hard difficulty that you did to the 'Normal' one. You can't go in their, keyblade a-swingin' and expect to survive, much less beat the game like you did doing the same thing in Normal.

For those wishing to strike a balance, I suggest doing the optional battle stuff that is available, such as the Paradox Cups and the fight with Sephiroth. Both are sufficiently challenging without being so hard you want to tear your hair out. Some of the most fun I ever had in a video game was the 49th fight in the Hades Paradox Cup, where you have to fight Yuffie, Tifa, Squall AND Cloud at the same time. If you want a challenge in Normal difficulty, look no further my friends.
GRADE: B-

GAMEPLAY:
This is one thing I really think is underrated about KH2. I mean, there is the argument that you can go through the whole game just pressing the X button madly and beat the game. And that's probably true, I haven't tried it. But with all the different abilities, the various ways you can level Sora up, etc. You can pretty much make the gameplay as unique as you want it.

I play it with all of the additive abilities (ones where you have to press circle or square) I can, just because they can help you out to get out of an pinch, to continue a combo, or to recover from a particularily nasty hit. You can play it almost a total mage, taking out enemies from a distance, you can play it as a healer type, letting Donald and Goofy take out most of the minor enemies while you stand back and keep them healthy.

So I really dig the customization options, because it kind of makes it up to the player to turn the game into more than just hacknslash. I also really like the reaction commands, when I played against Twilight Thorn in the beginning with Roxas, it was incredible to be dodging between and around all that shit, even if all I was doing was pressing triangle. That's one thing about the reaciton commands that I think they did exceptionally well at, they turned the simple pressing of the triangle button into something infinitely more cool, and you don't FEEL like all you're doing is hitting a button at the right time.

The gummi ships are VASTLY improved in this game. It no longer seems dumb and pointless, but is actually quite fun and challenging. I've seen reviews that claim that this portion has no replay value, but I don't think that's the case at all. I had a lot of fun with the gummi ships and would play them over and over if I ever got bored of running around trying to get 100% completion. (Which I didn't really, a testament to the fun of just running around in the game).

The variety of the minigames is also terrific. Just like in the first game, the 100 Acre Woods is a series of minigames, none too challenging or too long, but all of them with their own replay value and fun. The type of games you could see on addictinggames.com and play over and over.

The Atlantica minigame can seem kind of dumb and pointless, you're only asked to trigger buttons at certain times, but if you like the Little Mermaid's songs it seems worth it just to listen.

Other minigame type events in the various worlds pop up to help spice up the gameplay a little bit, keeping it intentionally away from hacknslash gaming. Look to the portion of the final battle where it almost seems as if you're fighting gummi ship style.

Overall, I think the gameplay, while it can be simplistic, is underrated for the variety you can extract from it, if you only choose to. However, the ease of simply going to mashing on X does detract from this grade in the tiniest bit.
GRADE: A-

STORYLINE:
Here's a tricky one, because it all almost totally depends on how you enjoyed the storyline from KH1. If you weren't a fan, you definitely will not have your mind changed by KH2. If you WERE a fan, you'll enjoy it just as much.

In my opinion, the storyline in KH2 is the smallest bit weaker than the one in KH1. The Disney worlds went about in much the same fashion in KH1, following the movies in a vague sense, while still incorporating Sora and company without forcing either to take too much precedence over the other.

The storyline in KH1 seemed a bit more epic and mysterious. The twists in KH1 were better set up (see: Kairi's heart) than the ones in KH2 (see: Ansem, err, Xenmas, errr, Xehanort). KH1 also carried its emotional weight and 'heart' idea a little better than KH2, where it occassionally turned cheesy.

I wish the 'search for Riku and Kairi' would have been a little more at the forefront of Sora's mind, and I also wish his dilemna with using the keyblade had been a bit more fleshed out. These were interesting ideas that were touched on occassionally and then ignored.

The good stuff, however, is very good. As previously stated, the Disney worlds go about the same way as in KH1, and I think they may be a bit stronger. At times it seemed like the Disney character's dilemnas seemed more pressing then the dilemnas of the entire game. Which, to me, is a plus. You get so wrapped up with helping Simba against Scar that, when you're reminded the worlds are still in danger, it makes your seemingly huge accomplishment look small in comparison, and makes you want to accomplish it all the more.

The Square charcters' mini-story arcs are exciting if you're a fan of the games (TIFA! YES!). However, they do have a penchant for the overdramatic. At the same time, if you're a Final Fantasy fan, you can forgive this. Melodrama is something you have to deal with playing those games.

The over-arching story of Kingdom Hearts and the Nobodies, varies in quality. Dealing with Roxas and Axel, Roxas and Namine`, Sora and Kairi and ESPECIALLY Sora and Riku, the game thrives. I almost cried when Sora and Riku were reunited. Yes I am a big sissy. On the other hand, dealing with Kingdom Hearts, the Nobodies' motivations, DiZ, King Mickey, etc, the game has both its share of poignant moments and dialogue duds.

The ending, however, ties everything together pretty well and makes you glad you played the game the whole way through. Which, for an ending, is pretty much all you can ask for.

Overall, the storyline is flawed, but the high points in it are more than enough to make up for the low points and, overall, you feel glad for having played the game.
GRADE: B

OVERALL:
The summary for the storyline is about the best I can say for the game as well. Yes, it is a flawed game, but the highs are better than most of the highs I've experienced in playing RPGs, even if it does have its share of poor moments. And, when you're finished, you feel like you've done something with the game and you aren't at all averse to playing it again.
GRADE: B+
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Zac Efron wants a sourcebox lulz.
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