Imagine, if you will, reading a piece of FanFic. It begins as an Original Flavor, but quickly crosses over with numerous FinalFantasy worlds. To top it off, it then decides that it will be set *in* a succession of Disney movies. This will give you some idea of the game world. The gameplay is almost another MegaCrossover in and of itself; a number of stages of the game have the same run/jump/attack theme as Mario64? or MarioSunshine?, only with a lot more combat. The combat is like a 3D take on SecretOfMana or LegendOfMana; the player controls the main character and the computer controls the other two characters in the party (unfortunately, no multi-player). Enemies simply appear; there's no separate battle engine. When they die, they leave behind life, magic, and money to be picked up. The magic system appears to have been taken from a FinalFantasy or perhaps ChocoboRacing?, and the main character's development takes some pages from SeikenDensetsuThree -- some choices made at the beginning of the game affect which skills are obtained when. There's a synthesist, not unlike the one in FinalFantasyNine. The equipment system is very much like that in ChronoCross or XenoGears (a weapon, plus n accessories). And because someone decided that there wasn't anything unreasonably complicated in the game, there's the Gummi Ship system. Travel between worlds requires a spaceship of some variety. Most games would give the party a spaceship when it became necessary and have done with it. Some games (UltimaI? comes to mind) might require the player to fly that spaceship past enemies in order to reach the destination. However, KingdomHearts allows the player to construct a spaceship for themselves, which must then be flown through a vaguely StarFox?-like stage to get to each planet. And, of course, there's a LegendOfZelda-like "collect all n" quest -- in this case, the 99 dalmatian puppies.
UtadaHikaru did the opening song, translated and rerecorded in English for the US release. It sounds like good, if somewhat generic JPop (or maybe just pop music). The main character, Sora, is voiced by Haley Joel Osment. A number of other names appear, though mostly as cameos. Some of the original voices for the Disney characters return as well, although you have to settle for Dan Castellanetta as the Genie and assorted other sound-almost-alikes for other big names. Interestingly enough, Dan Castellanetta was actually the voice of the Genie in Return of Jafar (the OK Aladdin video sequel). [I was aware -- but Robin Williams was much better].
You might want to avoid looking at the voice credit list in the manual before you've beaten the game.
And then came along KingdomHeartsII?
Somebody has done an amazingly good job here. It would be hard to pick better game-long companions than Donald and Goofy (at least from Disney characters). For some reason, the thought of them beating up bad guys doesn't seem as incongruous as it might. It helps that Goofy (the fighter) uses a large shield as a weapon, and Donald doesn't really flail about with his weapon while attempting to engage in melee. The computer AI tends to go through MP and items too quickly, but otherwise I have few complaints (though it does tend to be less than effective against some of the bosses. I have also not played around with the settings at all). Difficulty, on the whole, seems to be pretty good, with a moderate slope and medium-low intercept (though this depends a bit on what choices you make during the intro sequence). I haven't tried the "Expert" difficulty setting, so I don't know how much nastier the monsters get...
The game does have a jump button, which brings with it a number of the complaints which CurtisVinson makes on the XenoGears node. I don't recall any jumping bits that were particularly hellish, but some of them did get up at least to "annoying".
The camera can be frustrating at times. The item/magic menu is something of a chore to use in the heat of battle, although it's only caused my death once or twice so far. Finally, a couple of the "puzzles" took almost maddeningly long to figure out.
But these are minor things. The music is good, on the whole, and there's a different battle music for each area (on the down side, I thought I was finally over being sick of "Under the Sea"). The visuals are good, including some neat costume changes for a couple of the areas. Although EGM took special time-out to bash the Gummi Ship, I think they really missed the point--you get to put together a spaceship with what is essentially a badly-designed PlasticBuildingBlock? set (including guns, lasers, radar, and other goodies) and then fly it around and blow stuff up with it. I mean, c'mon. Lasers. :-) The insertion of the main plot into the plots of the various movies also manages, somehow, to retain the traces of the plot of the original movie (at least for the original movies that I've seen). And adding the WinnieThePooh? stuff as a side-quest area (with no monsters, just mini-games) was a GoodIdea; the Hundred Acre Wood remains essentially violence-free (though you do get to launch Pooh 40+ yards out of a tree swing :-).
I consider myself a fairly big FinalFantasy fan, so seeing a number of characters from previous FF games is quite a treat. If you disliked characters from some of the games, you may not be quite so thrilled. However, they play minor roles and generally remain confined to the areas separate from Disney movies, so that they don't trample all over the game. And hey, you can beat up Yuffie and Squall in the Coliseum (and yes, Yuffie is every bit as annoying as you might think...)
On the whole, five stars out of five, and I'm glad to see another RPG from Square. Lock On! Now if only Namco would get on with the US release of Xenosaga... --AndrewSchoonmaker
The use of the licenses is quite well done. The Disney characters look and sound like they should, and are mostly used in appropriate roles. In general they picked good characters to have join the party or to fight as bosses. I mean, it doesn't get much better than Malificent if you're fishing for terrifying Disney villains. I also liked how they connected the plots of the movies to the main plot, although by the end I was really tired of the word "heart" and wished Square had hired better writers. The endgame was fun and had a lot of potential for neat fantasy allegory stuff, but this opportunity was mostly squandered by the weak script.
The battle system takes some getting used to, but once you get the hang of it you can ease up on the random button-mashing and actually fight somewhat strategically. By the time you get to the end of the game, you can feel fairly BadAss, especially if you take on Sephiroth, and that's always a good thing. The levels contain a lot of platforming elements which are OK: not really anything terribly special, but not bad either. Some of the level designs really needed more direction though, since it seemed like a fair amount of the time I was just wandering around aimlessly (the Tarzan level especially suffered from this, as well as your first trip to Traverse Town).
On a side note, did anyone else think that the Gummi ship was going to be the airship from Gummi Bears? I mean, Final Fantasy games have airships. The Gummi Bears have an airship. Kingdom Hearts is a FinalFantasy and Disney cross-over with a need to traverse the galaxy in a flying vehicle which is called the Gummi Ship, but it's not THE Gummi Ship and has nothing to do with Gummi Bears. What the hell? Actually the whole Gummi ship concept is a gigantic lost opportunity, but you're not required to put much time into it, so I don't consider it a major blow to the game. --AlexBobbs
I know it's wrong to be complaining about how *broken* Bambi is, but...
This is probably the only project that has been or is likely to be done involving both UtadaHikaru and Mandy Moore... (or Lance Bass, for that matter).
The big shoes! The big hands! The disurbingly blue eyes! WTF?
I admit, it's kind of shocking how cool I find it (though I may just be converting twistedness into cool internally...). Are you basing that on having seen/played the game, or just having read stuff about it? --AndrewSchoonmaker
I have no opinion on the game itself . . . it's the concept I find deeply disturbing (cf. above comment on the brokenness of Bambi).--CurtisVinson
For another opinion, [ToastyFrogJump], the oft-dead, otf-resurrected website, has a brief preview.
In the spirit of adding cruft, here's Penny Arcade's take on the subject: http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2002/10/07/
Note that this is not an opinion shared by Tycho.