The original Kingdom Hearts for the PS2 is a case of First Installment Wins if there ever was one. The idea is brilliant, and it's hard to believe it was conceived between two businessmen in an elevator. As a lifelong fan of the Disney Animated Canon, a Crisis Crossover featuring hundreds of Disney characters is a dream come true for me, and this game does it almost perfectly. The four original characters designed by Tetsuya Nomura (Sora, Kairi, Riku, and Ansem) are all great: they are JRPG archetypes playing textbook Disney roles: Sora the Disney hero, Kairi the Disney princess, Riku the Disney villain, and Ansem the REAL Disney villain. The story is also excellent, with Nomura's concepts and ideas portrayed as to be fittingly mysterious without becoming overtly convoluted, the script and events written well by Jun Akiyama, and the credited "story supervisor" being Keiko Nobumoto of Cowboy Bebop and Wolfs Rain fame, so you know the story's gonna be good! Above all, the idea behind Kingdom Hearts, that it's a Disney RPG by way of Squaresoft, comes across strongest in this first game. The game design, original characters and story, and various Final Fantasy guest stars, are all done by Square, but they're all used to serve what is rightfully the main attraction: the Disney elements. Donald Duck and Goofy feel like natural companions to Sora, with their relationship providing them with interesting Character Development. Each Disney movie-based world moves the story forward, in either big or small ways, and nothing feels wasted. And the overlying themes of the plot, that of light vs. darkness and The Power Of Friendship, connect with the Disney setting perfectly. As for the other factors of the game, most are very positive. The graphics are colorful and vibrant, and because they are so well modelled after Disney animation, they're unlikely to ever feel dated even as graphics for the rest of the series advance. The music is phenomenal; Yoko Shimomura is a very gifted composer. The gameplay (disregarding the Gummi Ship and Atlantica swimming controls) is fun and easily learned though difficult to master. All in all, while it may sound like hyperbole, I'm convinced that Kingdom Hearts is fated to be considered a video game classic in the future. And to me, that's a title well-deserved.
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