Reviews: Kingdom Hearts II

Kind of a Disappointment, unless it's Final Mix.

The first Kingdom Hearts game was a diamond in the rough, so to speak. It had a certain charm and the basics of it worked, but it was very flawed in a number of areas (the camera, level design, etc).

Kingdom Hearts 2 fixes a number of these problems but takes a number of steps back too.

The gameplay received a lot of polish and a number of options. The camera is much better now, you have access to the cool Drive mechanic, combos are flashier than ever, the reaction commands add some versatility and are cool to look at, the world design has been streamlined, the gummi ship sections are more lively and suck less, etc.

On the other hand, all of these additions basically make you way too powerful. Most players don't even use magic or summons (besides cure) because there's simply no need. The gameplay just gets mind-numbing a lot of the time, it's just a mish-mash of triangle and x that gets kinda repetitive.

The fact that they streamlined the awkward level design is good, but the problem was they didn't replace the bad platforming with anything. The worlds are just sterile and lifeless and have little to no exploration, you are just moving from one setpiece to the next.

As far as the writing department's kind of a mess. The use of Disney worlds is very inconsistent with many of them feeling like filler, and the attempt to juggle both Organization XIII and Maleficent as villains fell completely flat and made both of them suffer. The latter has no reason to be in this game, and the former is mostly filled with bland one-note characters. The decision to focus on the original aspects of the series was kind of a misstep because the people working on KH honestly aren't very good writers.

The dialogue in KH has always been bad, but KH 2's script is phenomenally awful. So many of the lines are just pure Narm making it impossible to take the game remotely seriously.

Of course, sometime later SE released the Final Mix version of KH 2. It basically fixes most of the issues with the original game, adding an actual challenging difficulty mode in Critical, a number of Bonus Boss encounters, additional scenes with the Organization, a new Drive Form, new keyblades, a new secret ending, etc. If you wanna play this game, get 2.5 HD Remix.

Better in Different Ways then Kingdom Hearts 1

All though it follows Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories (Which makes the story very confusing for those who haven't played it) It is the true successor to Kingdom Hearts. It does have a more complicated story that can be hard to follow if you don't pay attention to the cutscenes. Another thing that improved was the battles. They added more "special" move type things and awesome reaction commands. The graphics are also much better. They also made the worlds less confusing to navigate. Overall I find this a better game than Kingdom Hearts.

The Flawed Masterpiece

Kingdom Hearts II is the last installment in the original Kingdom Hearts trilogy, and also the most controversial. My thoughts on it vary.

First off, I think the game's plot is a really good one, especially it's ending, which wraps everything up beautifully. However, the story, how that plot is dissapointingly weak. This actually stems from three big factors.

One: the Kudzu Plot elements kicks into high gear and Nomura's concepts, which has much more free reign over than in the original Kingdom Hearts, become absurdly, needlessly convoluted, and they don't serve the Disney elements nearly as well as they used to.

Two: the writer hired for this game, Kazushige Nojima, freely admitted that he was "not a major staff member" on the first KH and only wrote some scenarioes at the very end (post Hollow Bastion), and thus he doesn't quite "get" how KH works and thus creates many awkward or pointless scenes, missed opportunities, moments where characters act out-of-character, and....well, he generally creates a mess and was just not the right man for the job.

Third: the Disney elements are portrayed much more inconsistently. Half of the time, they're relevant to the overall original plot. Half of the time, they're Filler. Half of the time, their plotlines are original but with elements from their movies (like in the first KH). Half of the time, their plotlines are ripped entirely from their movies. Half of the time, the stuff in them are really run. Half of the time, they're lame. It all becomes a roller coaster of quality that can be very frustuarting.

However, there's alot that's done right in KH2 as well. The gameplay is actually better than the original game's, fine-tuning all the kinks. Even the Gummi Ship segments are fun! The graphics are still colorful and Disney-esque, the music still fantastic, and for all it's fault, the story still has plenty of moments that entertain. If the original Kingdom Hearts was something of a genuine masterpiece, then it's successor is a flawed masterpiece. It's got alot going for and against it, but the pros far outweigh the cons. I've recommended KH, I've recommended KH:COM, and I sure as hell recommend KH2 to all Disney and Square Enix fans.

Not Up To Par With The First

Let me start by saying I used to be a big Kingdom Hearts fan. The first game was wonderful, and Chain of Memories was a lot of fun to play through (aside from the card system). I anticipated Kingdom Hearts 2 for years, and while I had fun playing it at first, I was ultimately disappointed in the end. First, let's talk about the game play: the reaction commands are way cool to look at, and the drive forms are pretty awesome, too. Unfortunately, I NEVER used magic (except for Cure). Unlike the first game which required you to use magic quite often (Ursula's first boss fight, Ice Titan, Clock Tower Phantom) this game requires little use of magic; almost all work can be done with the X and triangle buttons. The same goes for summons; I only ever used them just to see what they looked like. Also, I never died. Especially if someone like me never dies, the game's too easy. One gamplay improvement, however, is the Gummi Ship. The Gummi Ship was way better this time.

Now let's move on to the story: this is the game's biggest problem. I love Disney, and that's what drew me to Kingdom Hearts in the first place. The Disney worlds had importance to the plot in the first game, but this time around, it's just as if Sora is like "Hi, guys! Just wanted to come visit. What's that? Organization 13's causing trouble here?! Let me help!" Also, the less said about Atlantica, the better. The Organization also seemed less threatening as villains than Xehanort's heartless. And what was the point of Maleficent coming back alive? I totally forgot about her until she was either shown or mentioned. Lastly, that whole Cloud and Sephiroth subplot was just pointless and very out-of-place. Oh yeah, and the voice acting really sucked at certain parts.

I'm not saying "don't play this game", but if you've just discovered Kingdom Hearts and want to play all the games, don't set your hopes up too high for this installment.

Definate Downgrade

Where should I begin? Kingdom Hearts was a excellent game that blended together excellently two entities that people thought could never coexist. Now with the second one SE couldn't go anywhere but up right? WRONG. Kingdom Hearts 2 completely trashed what made the first one a great game. First of all this game is very linear and easy. You can finish this game in about a day or so. The levels are very linear and little exploration can be done unlike the first game which had you looking for clues or having to find a certain objective. Never backtracking or having to find your own way because this game has a thing with holding your hand. Fighting in general has been made super easy even with the most basic items. Boss battles can be summed up as: wail on boss, press triangle, and win.

Now on to the story. The story itself is a downgrade from what the original game was about. At first it was a fun romp through classic Disney worlds and meeting Final Fantasy characters. Now it has become Final Fantasy: Kingdom Hearts. Instead of incorporating Disney and Final Fantasy characters into the story Square decided to focus on original characters, which is a misstep on Squares part. The original characters come in three different flavors: cheery, jerk, or emo. The organization is pretty much a group Final Fantasy fan fiction rejects who the fan girls all clamor over. The story's pacing in general is just all over the place. When you first start the game you are introduce to a new character and spend about two hours with him, THEN you play as Sora through the Disney worlds, then almost abruptly the story shifts focus to the uninspired Organization 13 crap.

In sort. KH 2 is defiantly one of the weaker games in the series. Everything that made the first game great is almost nonexistent here.