Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Review: "Kingdom Hearts"

This is a little dated, but I feel that this game deserves its own review. Honestly, when I first saw this game, it was pretty much a turn off. Disney + Square? How can this game be possibly any good? It really intrigues me that so many people around the world seriously thinks it's a great game and a must-try for all FF fans. It wasn't a couple of years later after its release did I managed to get hold of a copy of the game.

What got me at first was the colorful setting and graphics. Everything was bright and Disney-like. It wasn't a turn off. It was pretty. No sarcasm there. Basic controls were smooth, straightforward, and easy for an action game. One button to mash for hitting, a targeting system that includes lock-on, L-analog for movement, R-analog for camera, one button for jump, it's simple and easy especially if you played previous action games.

Colorful world, speech bubbles and...you get the idea

The plot seemed very Disney-like, with mircales occuring, flowers,cheese all over and random happy/silly moments (c'mon your companions are Goofy and Donald). Okay, cheese is subjective, I guess. Anyway, when you put Square into the picture, things tend to get a little over-complicated. It's really not easy trying to explain 'miracles' without being silly, but you must respect them for trying. To sum it up, the setting, plot and story speaks of protecting what's important, sacrifice and all the righteous kind of stuff, which turned out to be rather decent in the end much to my surprise.

So here's the summary: You are Sora, a boy destined to become Keyblade bearer. Yes, Keyblade. I don't know how to defeat monsters with it, but hey it's a fresh idea that somewhat works. You are to travel across worlds with your companions and prevent darkness from spreading with your Keyblade and at the same time saving your girlfriend Kairi.
Of course, that's just the GIST of it, so there's a lot more meat to that.

Holy carp!

Together with Goofy and Donald, Sora travels between different Disney worlds and you will encounter familiar characters from said worlds unless you don't have a childhood. You'll encounter villains like Jafar, Scar, Hades, Shan Yu, Captain Hook, etc as well as 'main characters' like Mulan, Aladdin, Hercules, Ariel and lots more. Traveling to different worlds also gives you a breath of fresh air each time you are done with any of them since most of them are quite different from one another in terms of setting and atmosphere.

The cool thing about traveling to some of these worlds is that Sora and the others will try to blend into the setting. If you go to Pride Rock (Lion King), everyone will become an animal. If you go to Halloween Town (Night before Christmas), everyone will dress up for Halloween. It's quite a nice tidbit. Shows that the developers are willing to go an extra mile for this game.

As you travel, you level up like in a normal RPG. As you level, you gain more HP, MP, abilities, and spells. It's a simple system, but it's what makes players like us enjoy the game, where we wouldn't mind extending the lifespan of the game just to become more powerful. Along the way, you'll find familiar spells and items brought from the FF series like Fire/Fira/Firaga, Esuna, Potions/Hi-potions/X-potions, Elixers, etc.

It's Cloud! And Hades...?

Keep in mind however, that most of the stuff in Kingdom Hearts are Disney-orientated. Sure, you'll meet Squall, Aeris, Cid, Cloud and other familiar FF characters, but most of the content are heavily centered on Disney. FF characters seemed to be nothing more than being cameos. If you are a Disney fan, you'll definitely love Kingdom Hearts. If you are an FF fan only, not so much, but I'm sure you'll also enjoy it. It's quite interesting to see them interact with one another.

One last reason why this game is good, and a big reason at that, is that it is very polished. They even got the lip-syncing part accurate for BOTH the japanese and english versions of the game (youtube it, you'll see). Music is beautiful and can be nostalgic to some. The main theme, 'Hikari', is sung by popular J-pop artist Utada Hikaru. I think a lot of people became her fan after playing this game (guilty here). She sang both the English and Japanese versions of the song.

The characters from Disney made an excellent transition into 3D in Kingdom Hearts. They are animated, full of colorful expressions, and the lip-sync is close to perfect. The voice-acting is outstanding even for the new cast of people. Joel Haley Osment for Sora, David Gallagher for Riku and Hayden Panettiere as Kairi for those who might be interested to know.

Say, that old dude seems familiar don't you think?

In fact, the only part I didn't like particularly was the Gummi Ship portion of the game. When you travel from one world to another for the first time, you'll have to play this really boring flying-shoot-them-up game. For those of you who likes building stuff like Lego, you might enjoy it though. Otherwise, Kingdom Hearts is a great game. My hats off to Tetsuya Nomura who made all these possible and delivering one of the better games I've ever played.

I think the trailer is done really well, take a look:

Read the comments. Should be enough to get you started.

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