Console: Playstation 2
Developer: Square Enix
No. of Players: 1
Publisher: Buena-Vista Games
Release Date: March 28, 2006
3 years after the events of Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts Chain of Memories, we meet a character called Roxas–who vaguely resembles Sora. Roxas lives in a place called Twilight Town with his friends (we don’t see any parents but we do find out that they do in fact go to school as the game takes place during their summer break). Roxas’s is pretty happy with his life, everything is going fine until strange things start to happen. Out of the blue things start to disappear and mysterious white creatures begin to show up. Little does Roxas and his friend know but Roxas is in the middle of all the bizarre things that are happening. Soon Roxas finds himself fighting the mysterious white creatures with a mysterious blade–one that looks identical to Sora’s keyblade, even though Sora hasn’t made an appearance in the game yet. What’s even stranger for those of you that played and remember is that Sora is the only one who can yield the Keyblade. Eventually fighting the white creatures leads Roxas to Sora in some sort of deep sleep. Not knowing who Sora is, Roxas frees him and Kingdom Hearts II really starts.
Sora, Donald, and Goofy wake up in a new world that they have never been to before. Roxas’ world (Roxas at this point is no longer the playable character. “Booo, he had such nice hair!”. They quickly get an update on what’s been happening since the events in Castle Oblivion and the first opening of Kingdom Hearts (especially since Sora lost his memories of what happened) from King Mickey’s magical instructor. The new white creatures that are attacking are called Nobodies. They are result of when a Heartless is destroyed by the Keyblade or when a powerful-strong willed person gives into the Darkness. Nobodies have no hearts but unlike Heartless they have no of an individual conscience. A group of powerful Nobodies have been formed. They call themselves Organization XIII. They control all the Nobodies and have control of the Heartless. They seem to be up to something to collect as many hearts as possible. At the same time Sora, Donald, and Goofy find out that the Heartless are back and causing trouble again.
Sora, Donald and Goofy team up again to defeat the Heartless, save the worlds, and uncover the plan behind Organization XIII and stop them. And on top of all of that they are still looking for Rikku, Kairi, and King Mickey.
Overall the story line this time around is much more Kingdom Hearts focussed than it is Disney. The main plot is around original characters rather than retold Disney stories. Still at the same time Disney is at the corner stone–which has its pros and cons. The game could be split into two separate arches: the Disney Arch and the Kingdom Hearts Arch. Much of the Disney parts in the game aren’t connected to the story very much or at all. Where as in Kingdom Hearts the entire story was about the Diseny Princesses and saving them. Most of story-line development scenes takes place in two towns: Twilight Town and Hallow Bastion–which has had an major upgrade from the old Kingdom Hearts days. So the majority of the parts where you play along Disney Character is purely just for show and doesn’t really have much to do with anything else. At most you play go into Disney world’s to get rare items, fight Heartless/Nobodies, and because you are forced to. I’ve actually reached the end of the game and I neglected Alantis because I hate to swim and fight. This hurts the game in some respects because you begin to feel as if you are wasting your time–when what you do has pretty much no impact on the overall story and you feel as if you are being forced to play a side quest rather than take on the actual story.
Gameplay has changed a lot since Kingdom Hearts. In many ways it has improved the fluidity of gameplay and in other ways it has reduced game play while in battle to button smashing–which isn’t very expected of a RPG.
This is where Kingdom Hearts takes on its most Action genre-face. Battles can be long and require quick thinking rather than strategy. For anyone that can remember the special moves from Kingdom Hearts like “Raganok” or “Archainim” (by the way those are gone to the best of my knowledge), well action commands like that have become crucial to gameplay if not absolutely essential. The “Reaction Command” is probably the most important thing you’ll have to know about Kingdom Hearts II. Throughout battle(s) you’ll see the triangle button flash above your command menu this is telling you that you can do a special reaction to a specific enemy if you press it at the right time. Also combos have become much easier and much more crucial than before.
It’s much more action based than last time. It pushes the real time battle system and it’s good. It makes the game seem more action/adventure than RPG but it’s a good change. Many of the moves from the previous game have been buffed up. For example the “Trinity” ability is more powerful and your spells do more damage; however, the develop in different ways. You can customize Sora, Donald, Goffy and others much more in dept this time. Even designating which ability you want them to use. It’s becomes important in certain battles and it can help you level up in others.
Like in Kingdom Hearts you have the ability to summon special character to help you in battle. However, unlike in Kingdom Hearts, summoning is pretty much a waste of time. First of all you will only have 4 characters to summon and all of their abilities aren’t very helpful to you in battle. Along with your summon power you still have magic. Using magic in KHII is much easier than it was in KH. First off once you run out of MP it will begin to automatically replenish itself–which means if you can hold on for a few seconds you won’t have to use an Either or Elixer. Your magic can be boosted by equipping yourself with certain abilities and you also have a ton more synthesis items to boost magic.
All this aside the greatest addition to the battle feature in Kingdom Hearts II has to be the form ability. Early on in the game Sora receives a new outfit–since he outgrew his old one–and with the new clothes come new abilities. The form ability allows Sora to change into a special form other than his default. He still looks the same, although in a different color, but he has more abilities depending on the form he’s in. Each form has a speciality in something and a weakness in something else, and each form requires your partners Donald and Goffy. An interesting twist is that the forms level up differently. It all depends in on the form. One form levels with each heartless killed and another with the amount of special orbs you collect like in that form. You can beat the game without using any of the forms; however, each form has a “growth” ability attached to it that will help Sora (default Sora) in battle. If players of the former game can remember gaining the ability to glide at a certain point in the story, well that’s gone now, you now have to level up your Final Form to glide. It might seem like a waste of time but trust me it pays off tremendously in the end.
I personally think the Gummi Ship feature suffered the most in KHII. It’s pretty bad. First off the camera is horrible and it’s pretty much boiled down to button smashing–in fact that statement could be applied to most of the game however I will retain that information for later. Gummi Ship battles seems more like a old fashion arcade game in 3-D, where all you do is shoot so you don’t get hit. You can only more left, right and dash anyway. The camera is preset to rotate so you don’t have any control of that either. Also, while in the first KH the worlds you traveled in the Gummi Ship seemed bizarre in KHII that feeling in amplified by a 100. It’s just chaotic everything about the Gummi Ship this time. Whatever new feature the developers tried to implement to make it seem more exciting did them no good as the entire process is tedious, annoying and wasteful. Luckily you don’t have to do much of it. All you have to do is clear the original mission (merely make it to the ending) you won’t have to do it again, unless you want to unlock more things but it pretty much doesn’t do you any good.
I can sum up saying that KHII has taken two steps forward and one step back in terms of role playing. While the environment in KHII is much better, visually, than it was in Kingdom Hearts it’s much smaller. You won’t be doing much exploring and having fun leveling up because their simply isn’t any place to do it. The worlds aren’t as large as the others and the majority of space that you have is only meant for fighting. And what there is to explore usually bland and boring. The game seems to be tailored for you to just finish it. The mini games and sidequest all finish up easily and quickly–actually the majority of the sidequest aren’t that interesting.
Many of the sidequest aren’t very rewarded once you’ve completed them, and I’m not even talking rewards as in prizes, I’m talking about you the player feeling like you just wasted your time popping balloons.
The game appears to be making the transition from a Action RPG to a Action Adventure with RPG features. The game really comes down to level up and defeating bosses. However as dull as that sounds the game makes that the level up process interesting by adding new twist such as form changes and other tid bits.
Graphics might have had a bit of a boost since Kingdom Hearts but it’s not really noticeable or much of an improvement. Their seems to be fewer cut scenes so the game doesn’t really get much time to show off the graphics. Still just because the graphics aren’t stunning better than Kingdom Hearts I that doesn’t mean it was bad. Kingdom Hearts’ graphics were amazing and so are KHII.
If you thought it wasn’t possible to trump “Simple and Clean” as the opening song think again. Utada Hikaru delivers another smashing hit with “Sanctuary”. The opening were enough to reassure me that Kingdom Hearts II was going to be a sweet game to play. I guess the saying is right, the right kind of music does set the tone.
Being that Kingdom Hearts is a partnership with Disney you can expect to hear the background music of some of the Disney classic. The “M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E” song made an appearance in the game too. Overall the music isn’t bad. It’s very much like the Kingdom Hearts with a few improvements here and there. Donald’s squeaky voice still makes me laugh though and that’s a good thing.
The game overall is a lot of button smashing so being able to smash those buttons is essential. Kingdom Hearts does this okay. Your command menu (located in the bottom left corner of the screen) and there are “two” sides to it each side has different options and while it’s just a button away to turn to the other side that’s a second you can put somewhere else. The difference between using your Limits and your Drives could decide a battle for you. However if you’re just going to be smashing the X-button to attack you might actually be okay.
The camera is pretty standard. You have a wide view, so you can see a lot of the battlefield. The camera also rotates very smoothly so you can quickly find enemies that slipped away. Also when you lock on to a target the camera will automatically shift and fallow that enemy. This is good and bad depending on the amount of enemies you are facing. Also you might not target the enemy you want to so that might mess up your Mo-Jo.
An amazing game overall. Their were some draw backs. The most obvious being how easy this game was beat. I’m the type of person that takes a while to finish because my overall gameplaying ability is rather sluggish, but I had no difficulty. It’s possible to beat this game on level 40-50, which is pretty pathetic compared to the 50-60 range needed to beat the last game. Also there aren’t that many enemies to defeat, and, if any, as your progress and get stronger they offer less experience. Nobodies are a good way to level up but after a certain point it gets repetitive going back to the same place doing the same thing. While KH was a difficult game for some (e.g. myself) this game is way too easy and goes by very fast because of it. However just in general the game is very easy and quick. I was surprised how fast it all went by.
Now many fans will like to hear this: the game overall is more Kingdom Hearts as its own story arc than it is focused on Diseny. If fans can remember the original story in Kingdom Hearts was focused on the Disney Princesses (Jasmin, Belle, Snow White, Cinderella, etc) not so much Sora’s own story, although that was the focus later on in the game. Since the story in this game is mostly about Sora reconnecting with his friends Riku and Kairi the Disney Arc takes the back seat. The majority of actual story development happens in Hallow Bastion and Twilight Town (a new town to this game); however, to ensure that Disney characters remains a main part to the game is setup to make it that the other (Disney) worlds are means of unlocked pieces of the story. So for example you’ll have to finish Olympus, Agrabah, and Pridelands to each the next point in the story.
A lot of the Disney story lines are original story lines that would happen between the sequel and original story of a Disney movies, for example the Pridelands story line happens between The Lion King and The Lion King II and somewhere between The Lion King 1/2. So maybe it’s The Lion King 3/4 I don’t really know, but I hope you get my point. This is cool because you feel as if you are having a part in the actual story. There are also other worlds/storylines where’s following the actual story line of the movie. And finally there are some story line lines in Disney worlds that are totally original.
The main draw back to how the story is developed is the fact that, to be honest, the Disney story lines become somewhat bothersome. Sometimes it feels as if you are being forced to go through a stage. This is mainly because the story line in the stages aren’t very interesting and you really don’t want to play through them but you have to.
Okay I’m going to stop being a “debbie-downer”.
What makes this game great? Hmmm
Well for one the battle are much more interesting than in Kingdom Hearts. The new form changes are really interesting to develop and the make your overall kickass experience much more, well, kickass! The new features and enhancements makes you want to try them out all. Also this is a small new feature but still a very cool one, if you put it to good use: the synthesis feature. Synthesis, while it might not seem like the greatest thing in the world, really makes the game much more interesting because you basically go hunting for items and gems. And you get a much larger array of items to make. It’s easier to use and much more useful than it was in Kingdom Hearts.
And finally the one thing that makes this game great is the story. The story is radically different from Kingdom Hearts. Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories would help you understand the general story line a bit better but it’s not necessary. There are a lot of plot twist that change the story and characters from the original Kingdom Hearts. KIngdom Hearts II story line is also interesting because of the fact that it has its own characters and own storyline, not a glump of different story line’s from Disney movies thrown together. Introducing new beings like Nobodies gives the game a breath of fresh air while still remain the same game with the same original core characters.
Do I think this is the best game ever!? Nope, but it’s a great sequel to Kingdom Hearts and the few flaws that exist aren’t major ones, and the new features are all really good.