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Veteran Member - Level 13
Twelve hours into the game, I can't take it. I just CAN NOT TAKE IT ANYMORE. I went into this game optimistic, after recieving several recommendations from friends to try it out. So I borrowed it, played it off and on, stopped a while while I played games like Uncharted, continued, and perserved. And now, twelve hours in as I slog through the ocean in the world of The Little Mermaid, I'm at my breaking point. I must sound rather sensationalistic at the moment, but it is an adequate reflection of what I feel at the moment. So I wanted to do this review, as honestly as I can, as a man who isn't letting nostalgia get in the way of reviewing this PS2 "classic" with an unbiased outlook. So come on in and find out why Kingdom Hearts has left me heartbroken.
Graphics: In another blog I did recently, I compared the graphics of the game to Sega Saturn games. And honestly, aside from some of the cutscenes I stand firmly by that statement. Some of the animations on the characters are terribad, from the spraddle-legged "walk" Sora does to characters talking sometimes just looking like their faces are moving up and down on their heads. I suppose overall, the graphics still manage to do a decent enough job on the traditional Square Enix type characters for what you get, but some of the graphics on the Disney characters are just inexcusable. I was watching a cutscene with Triton and Sebastion, and Triton looked passable, but there are no words to describe how utterly stupid Sebastian looked every time he talked. Worlds are separate cells that have backgrounds that you can clearly tell follow a sort of box on each individual area, whether it's outside or inside, and really takes you out of any sense of immersion you could have in these worlds. If there's anything that can be said good about the visuals however, it's that you can tell they paid special attention to certain expressions on characters faces as well as the opening cinematic. But overall the visuals are just...bad, and that's even compared to the average PS2 game. God Of War, Shadow Of The Colossus, San Andreas, these still hold up. Kingdom Hearts, sadly, does not.
Sound: The music is honestly the only area of the game I came anywhere near satisfied in. Square Enix continues to produce high-quality musical accompaniment, such as the Traverse Town theme, and that meshes with Disney music throughout the levels to provide enjoyable aural stimulation. The sound effects are sound effects, nothing new here. They do the job well enough, but nothing stood out. The voices are passable enough, managing to sound at least semi-convincing most of the time, and it did sound like they either got some of the original Disney VA's back or else managed to find some adequate replacements. Nothing to write home about, but they do their job.
Story: Oh, hell, where do I begin? This kid named Sora, who is living on an island with a girl named Kairi and a boy named Riku wishes to see other worlds. He gets his wish when his world gets swept away and he's deposited alone in Traverse Town, a sort of hub world. He, along with Donald and Goofy go to other iconic Disney locales as they try to find Mickey and Kairi. Simple enough, right? Oh, no, there's also plots with a group of Disney villains, cookie-cutter enemies named Heartless, keyholes that need to be locked before the worlds will get destroyed, and Disney princesses getting kidnapped. It's just already an irritating, convoluted mess. It seems like they were trying to needlessly tie together the worlds with an overarching theme, when the stories within the worlds were enough, such as battling Clayton with Tarzan or Cerberus with Hercules. As for the characters, you may like them, I dunno, but I despised each and every non-Disney character I saw. Is it just prejudice against Final Fantasy? I don't think so, I think it's more the fact that the writing was just bad, as I was even getting frustrated with the cliched, emotionless writing of the Disney characters. Sora annoyed me as one of the big offenders, he just comes off like a bland, goody-two-shoes type. Riku, don't even get me started. We've all seen this asshat in every story ever. Goes over to the dark side because he wants to help the girl with the power the good side can't give him, yadda, yadda, yadda. And he is INCREDIBLY annoying every time he opens his mouth. I just want to reach through the screen and slap him. The only good thing I can say about the story is that a couple characters, in particular Maleficent, were well put-together. Maleficent's just so damn silky-mannered with her evil.
Gameplay: And now we come to the most infamously bad part of the game, at least for me. The controls are some of the worst form of suck its been my misfortune to sit through. Let's start with the simplest action, jumping. Sora jumps like a one-legged frog during mating season, and that makes the platforming segments some of the worst I've ever experienced. In particular, a race with Riku at the beginning of the game and a jaunt up the Hunny Tree was downright infuriating and pretty close to entirely broken. I'd been accused of not liking difficult platforming while mentioning this on Twitter. But it's not difficult, it's just ill-designed. Another big offender was the camera, which while not being the WORST I've ever experienced, definitely earned no marks in Kingdom Hearts' favor. It was on the R and L buttons instead of the thumbstick, and was constantly getting stuck on walls and making me miss a jump. The other big part of the game is the battles. So, this must be better, right? Well yes, and no. At the very base, the game is simple and enjoyable enough, you can jump with one button and swing your blade with the other. Where it falls apart is when you need to do anything else, such as use an item or spell or whatever you may need. The items have you going through several menus to use each individual potion, which usually gets you killed. As for the spells, they're a little better, as you can add three to a menu you can bring up with L1. But overall, the battles are thankless and left me dreading when the next would pop up. Speaking of the menus, you have to set items to each slot in your inventory after you use up the last one, and that involves quite a bit more scrolling through menus. It's just a thankless, menial chore assigning new potions.
Design: I just have to get this out of the way first, the AI is Goldeneye Natalya bad. Donald and Goofy will wait patiently half the time you're being slaughtered and half-heartedly attack enemies the other half. Of course, they can't make it long without losing all health and laying on the ground dizzy. So you're faced with the choice of giving them one of your own potions or wasting your magic on them, or setting potions in their inventory before the battle. But, if you do the last, at even the slightest scratch they'll drink their entire selection of potions and then beg you for help like ten seconds later. The other main complaint I have is with the Gummi Ship portions. At first, I kinda enjoyed them. But the more you progress, the more tedious and out of place they feel, like a side mission that was shoehorned in to pad time. Other than that, there's not really a lot to say about the design.
So, in all reality, is the game THAT bad? Well, it depends on who you talk to. From my experiences with fans of the series, I surmise that the main draw to this game is the novelty brought on by the mixing of Final Fantasy and Disney, no matter how squandered the match-up is in actual practice with Square Enix. So, honestly, yes, I'm quite a bit dissatisfied. It might have been good in its day, I don't know, but it's aged abhorrently. If you're a particularly tenacious Disney or Final Fantasy fan, or even a moderate fan of both, you might enjoy this game enough to pick it up and give it a whirl. Aside from that demographic though, there's not really a lot here to have fun with, just a plethora of issues and a textbook example of all the wrong decisions to make something timeless. I rate it a 6.25 out of 10 on Game Informer's scale, and don't plan on continuing on in one of Square Enix's most popular series any time soon.