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December 6, 2002
Kingdom Hearts - Review
Release Date Distributor Developer Players Rating Difficulty
22/11/2002SonySquare1G8+Medium
Save Size Sound Format Vibration 60Hz Mode 50Hz Border Widescreen
?KBStereoYesNoSmallNo

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Typically stunning Square CG.
Squaresoft have had a tremendous run in recent years. Thanks to the might of Final Fantasy VII on PSOne this company almost single handidly made RPG's mainstream in Western market. But imagine a game that combines the RPG making talents of the Japanese developers and the characters and personalities of Disney characters from many different movies. If you have a Playstation 2 you no longer have to imagine it, you can live it. Kingdom Hearts is the result of a deal between the two companies which was announced at the Playstation Festival way back in February 2000. Over the last 2 1/2 years this game has been shown off, promoted, and certainly developed well. As you would expect the storyline is fairly engrossing as well.

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The three heroes together.
Kingdom Hearts follows the story of 14-year old Sora, who, while searching for his friends Riku and Kairi, in a strange and mysterious land, meets Court Wizard Donald and Captain Goofy, protectors of the Disney Castle. Donald and Goofy are on a mission to find King Mickey who has disappeared. The three learn of ominous creatures known as the Heartless - beings without hearts derived from an unknown dimension and the perpetrators of the devastating storm. Upon discovering the link between the Heartless, the storm and the disappearance of King Mickey, Sora, Donald and Goofy join forces to recover Sora's friends, return the King to his rightful position and save the universe from the Heartless.

This game sees the heroes travelling through 9 different worlds. Each of these is based on a Disney property such as Aladdin, Tarzan, Pinocchio and The Little Mermaid. Square have stated that the game includes more then 100 Disney characters including "Court Wizard" Donald Duck, Dumbo the Elephant, Pluto and "Captain" Goofy as well as characters from the movies Aladdin, Tarzan, Hercules, Alice in Wonderland, The Lion King and The Nightmare Before Christmas. Kingdom Hearts also includes several Square developed characters, many of which were designed for this game including the lead character Sora, a 15 year old boy, and his friends Riku, a 16 year old boy, and a young girl named Kairi. Other Square characters making an appearance include Cloud from Final Fantasy VII, Squall from Final Fantasy VIII, Tidus and Wakka from Final Fantasy X.

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Simplified battles, but still fun.
One of the most immediate things about Kingdom Hearts (well, after the first hour or two of play) is that this is a much more action oriented RPG then traditional Square games. Movement through the analogue stick is quick and responsive while the battles allow you to "lock on" to enemies in much the same way as Nintendo's Zelda games on N64. Much like Square's other RPG's Kingdom Hearts usually has a main quest to travel through but includes many smaller side quests to keep yourself busy. As with all RPG's the combat system include weapons and magic. But rather then lay it all on you in the first hour of the game Square space out the enhancements to the characters nicely so you can get used to using all the new features. It's also possible to summon help which includes Bambi who will drop items to help you and Simba from the Lion King who will help you in battles.

One of the problems which I had with this game was the Gummi ship (or should that be Gammy ship) which is used to travel between lands. This slow shooter is very annoying and actually distracts rather then adding to the gameplay. Something else that troubled me slightly was the difficulty. With such cute Disney characters I was expecting something relatively easy, but it's not - and that's something which potential purchasers should be aware of. It's sad to say that the biggest problem with Kingdom Hearts is that the cameras are among the worst seen this year in video games. No matter where you're heading you're almost expected to manually rotate the cameras to see where you're heading. During most of the quest you will also be accompanied by Donald Duck and Goofy, which while fun is also one of the problems. While in battle the camera tends to lock onto yourself and the enemy which you have locked onto leaving the other characters hidden from view.

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Yet more stunning visuals.
Having said that the graphics in this game are very impressive overall. The characters are all superbly modelled and the animation second to none. It's a true delight to see so many well known Disney characters brought to life in a 3D game such as this. The backgrounds are predominantly plainly textured but have a very clean look to them, which is more then adequate for this title. There were also very few moments of slowdown except for the odd battle with over a dozen enemies on screen.

Square have gone all out to ensure the voice acting in Kingdom Hearts is second to none, and the results are amazing. Although there is still a lot of text based conversation in the game Square have enlisted talent such as Haley Joel Osment (The Sixth Sense, A.I.) to voice the lead character, Sora. The other main voice actors include David Gallagher (Seventh Heaven) as Riku, and Hayden Panettiere (Ally McBeal, Remember the Titans) as Kairi. Kingdom Hearts includes plenty of great secondary character voices including Sean Astin (The Lord of the Rings, Rudy), Lance Bass (from *NSYNC), David Boreanaz (TV's Angel, Valentine), Mandy Moore (A Walk to Remember, The Princess Diaries) and Christy Romano (Even Stevens, Kim Possible). In addition, many of the original film star voice actors are reprising their roles for this project.

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Swimming in the sea.
The music also has a terrific quality and style to it thanks to composer Yoko Shimomura who takes the common Disney themes and blends them with a common theme composed for this game. It works splendidly well and is a credit to the developers to ensure such importance was place on the music. Even Danny Elfman, the composer of movies such as Spider-man and Men In Black, has provided a musical piece for this game in the form of "This is Halloween" from the movie The Nightmare Before Christmas. The sound effects are equally impressive with great weapon and magic effects during the battles.

It's not hard to see why Kingdom Hearts has sold over 900,000 units in Japan surpassing Square's expected sales figure of 500,000 units. While the game may include cute Disney characters, hardcore gamers are likely to get just as much, if not more, out of this title then younger gamers. As I said in the preview this game is no lesser an RPG then Square's Final Fantasy X and I still stand by that statement, although it's a slightly different style of RPG with more emphasis on the action rather then strategies. This game is definately worth adding to any collection.

GRAPHICSSome splendid characters, but a little plain in the backgrounds.
87%
SOUNDVoice acting is professional, music is nice and the effects good.
91%
GAMEPLAYThe combat system builds nicely, but what's with the Gummi ship?
94%
VALUEAround 30 hours completion time with more difficulty then expected.
90%
OVERALLWhile Kingdom Hearts includes a lot of Disney characters, don't let that put you off. In fact it makes the game all the more interesting. Strangely although obviously targeted at a younger audience this isn't an easy game, and seasoned RPG gamers will still find plenty to enjoy about this title. This is a great title and well worth consideration.
88%

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