PS2 REVIEW: KINGDOM HEARTS 2
Visually the game is graphical tour de force on the PlayStation 2 and who would expect any less from the artisitic geniuses responsible for the Final Fantasy franchise? These talented folks know how to wring magic out of the PS2, that's for sure. The stunning amount of detail which brings each area to life would make Walt Disney proud. Not only do the environments change dramatically from one world to the next, but as previously stated often the main characters will morph into other forms to complement their new surroundings. One of my favorite new worlds this time is Space Paranoids, the Tron world. You'll appreciate the attention to detail as the characters will be outfitted with the glowing light suits lifted right from the movie. Moving to and fro these worlds once again involves the Gummi ships....groan. I wasn't a big fan of the Gummi ship levels in the first KH but they have been revamped for KH2 and in contrast are quite tolerable.

Unfortunately I was surprised to find that some of the worlds which appeared in the original Kingdom Hearts were reduced in size, only allowing movement within a much smaller area. I'm not sure if this was done to increase the flow of the game or due to size limitations, but it was noticeable. A good rule of thumb in game design is always the give the player more. If you're returning to the same area found in an earlier game, give the player more to see, not less! There is only room for disappointment if you go in this direction. It's not a particularly big issue or one that hampers the overall enjoyment of the entire experience but I question the reasoning behind it.

Featuring a large cast of Disney voice actors (and some decent soundalikes) some of which have been yanked directly from the shows, you won't have any trouble recognizing most of your favorite characters, which goes along way in tying the game together with the wonderful world of Disney. The Square character actors aren't as well known but you'll find Haley Joe Osment ("I see dead people...." er, make that "Disney people"...) as the now, slightly older Sora. For a game that features as much spoken dialogue as it does and requires that a fair chunk of the dialogue be lifted from the movies and then sandwiched into another plot, it doesn't seem particularly fair or prudent to point out when it falters. Some of it ain't great, but I'll take that over reading dialogue balloons any day. I think Square-Enix did a great job of making it appear seamless for the most part.

Where the first KH felt like more like a like an RPG in terms of item use, exploration and experimentation, KH2 feels more focused and linear and definitely falls more into the action adventure genre. Realistically, it's doubtful Final Fantasy purists are expecting KH2 to compete, but the RPG elements which bridged the two genres back in 2001 appear to play a minor role. Whether this will marr the experience for some or not make a lick of difference, remains to be seen. Ultimately Kingdom Hearts II is all about the journey and I really can't see many fans disappointed in what Square-Enix has created. KH2 is an engaging fantasy action title which delivers on its promise of providing a good 25+ epic adventure for Square and Disney fans alike.

Features:

  • Explore both new and familiar worlds from Kingdom Hearts, plus new Disney worlds to the Kingdom Hearts franchise, such as Pirates of the Caribbean, Beauty and the Beast and Mulan.
  • A more advanced battle system that allows for a wider range of commands, powerful new combos, and cooperative attacks with members of your party, introducing another layer of strategy.
  • An all-new "Drive" command that lets Sora change into a variety of new forms, altering his skills and abilities.
  • A revamped camera system that keeps you in the middle of the action.
  • Brand new transportation system that takes Sora and friends from world to world in the style of theme park rides.
  • Cameo appearances by popular Final Fantasy characters.
  • A large ensemble cast of Disney characters and a new cast of original characters designed by renowned artist Tetsuya Nomura.

By Vaughn Smith
CCC Site Director

Rating out of 5
Kingdom Hearts II (PS2)
4.9
Graphics
I don't know if a developer exists that knows its way around the PS2 architecture more than Square-Enix. Everything about KH2 exudes artistic flair and attention to detail.
4.3

Control
Button mashing will only get you so far (no matter what you read elsewhere). Camera is much improved over KH1.

4.2
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The blend of Disney movie plots into this all new story isn't always seamless, but in an industry that gave us text boxes, I'll take it. Music is epic and sound effects are great.
4.8
Play Value
The overall difficulty is in question, but play on Proud. Expect to spend 25+ hours in this magic kingdom.
4.8
Overall Rating - Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.
3
Preview By Vaughn
INTRODUCTION:

Kingdom Hearts 2 is a sequel to the very unique game Kingdom Hearts 1. Kingdom Hearts was unique in the sense that it combined 2 very different worlds of Disney and Square Enix and made it work. And now the sequel looks set to expand on this original idea while keeping intact some of the great concepts of the first game. This in depth preview aims to cover anything and everything that is known right now about this highly anticipated sequel.

STORY:

KINGDOM HEARTS 2’s story will take place one year after the events of Kingdom Hearts I. Sora will be again joined by a vibrant cast of characters both new and old, including the king himself. Countless dangers will await them in worlds both old and new. It seems the Heartless still exist. A new villain also awaits – but is it an old foe behind the mask, or a new menace? This mystery and others will be solved as the story unfolds in a grand adventure.

Anyone who has played Kingdom Hearts 1 knows that it featured a huge cast of characters, which included characters from the worlds of Disney Animated Movies, the Final Fantasy Games and some original ones. Keeping with this tradition Kingdom Hearts 2 is will also feature some new characters plus characters from the Disney Animated Movies and some Final Fantasy characters.

ORIGINAL CHARACTERS:

Sora: The protagonist of Kingdom Hearts will reprise his role as the main character in Kingdom Hearts 2. It’s been 1 year and Sora is still on a journey looking for the door to the light and in addition clean the universe of the Heartless who have also returned. Also in the game Sora will continue to cross paths with The Organization and probably have his first face-off with the leader of The Organization, Ansem.

Unknown Character #1: This character resides in Twilight Town. It is still very unclear as to who this character really is. There is a scene with this character where he shouts at Axel, "You cannot see Sora" which show's that both characters are connected with each other and in general this character will have a very big role. The general belief is that this character is the other side to Sora's heart an idea mentioned during Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories.

Kairi: One year prior to the events of this game, Kairi was separated from Sora and she was returned back to her homeland of Destiny Islands. She still resides in Destiny Islands, presumably waiting for Sora and Riku.

Riku: At this moment of time, I am unsure of Riku's appearance in Kingdom Hearts 2. I only know that he is in the game because the voice of Riku in Kingdom Hearts, David Gallager said he was in talks about doing his voice in this game. A big part of Kingdom Hearts 2 will revolve around whether Sora will have a chance to see Riku again.

Final Fantasy Characters: Just like Kingdom Hearts, the sequel will have numerous characters from the Final Fantasy series and will interact with Sora in some way or another. At least 5 characters from the Final Fantasy series have been confirmed who will make an appearance in Kingdom Hearts 2 including Auron from Final Fantasy X.

Disney Characters: The following Disney characters are set to make an appearance in Kingdom Hearts 2:

Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Donald, Captain Jack Sparrow, Jack Skellington, Pete.

Mulan, Mushu and Shang (from the movie Mulan)

Aladdin, Jasmine, Jaffar, The Genie and Abu (from the movie Aladdin)

Beast, Belle, Cogsworth, Chip, Lumiere and Mrs. Potts (from the movie Beauty and The Beast)

Hercules, Meg, Hades, Pegasus (from the movie Hercules)

Since there is still more than a month before the game is released I’m sure that more characters will be unveiled and confirmed for this sequel.

The Organization:

The Organization is a group of 12 members (and possibly more) who seek to discover the secrets of the heart. The members of this group each have their own unique role or power. The names of some of its members have been unveiled and they are as follows:

1 Possibly "The Superior" aka DiZ
2 Enigmatic Man // "The Unknown"
3 Unknown
4 Vexen
5 Lexaeus
6 Zexion
7 Unknown
8 Axel
9 Unknown

10 Unknown
11 Marluxia
12 Larxene

THE WORLDS:

Similar to Kingdom Hearts, Kingdom Hearts 2 will feature a wide variety of different playable area's to explore in. Currently there are 10 confirmed worlds that will be playable in Kingdom Hearts 2 and they are:

  • Twilight town
  • Hollow Bastion
  • Disney Castle
  • Destiny Islands
  • Deep Dive
  • Olympus Coliseum
  • Fabled Countryside
  • Agrabah
  • Ancient China
  • Halloween Town

Twilight Town: Twilight Town will be the hub of all activity in Kingdom Hearts 2, much like Traverse Town was in Kingdom Hearts. Kingdom Hearts 2 will begin in Twilight Town with Sora & Co. making there way into Town via the train (covered in the Transportation section of this preview). A tutorial will be on offer in Twilight Town for new players and even for old players who just want to refresh their memories on the basic gameplay mechanics of the game.

Hollow Bastion: With the supposed deaths of Ansem and Malficient being defeated, Hollow Bastion has remained deserted and as time has passed the Heartless have slowly began to tear the castle apart. During Kingdom Hearts 2, Sora & Co. hear about the amount of Heartless now surrounding the World and decide to return.

Disney Castle: In the original Kingdom Hearts we were only given a glimpse of Disney Castle, the home of King Mickey. With no chance to play it in Kingdom Hearts, fans longed for a chance to explore it as a world in Kingdom Hearts. I am happy to report that fans won’t be disappointed, as this time around Disney Castle will be playable. There is currently very little information on what will take place within the world but one can presume it'll involve Mickey.

Destiny Islands: This was the world where for the very first time we were introduced to Sora, Riku and Kairi. All of them used to journey to this island on little boats where'd they play all day. On this island the gang decided to build a raft to go out and explore other worlds, but well you know what happened to that plan!

Basically, due to its huge importance in Kingdom Hearts, it was only natural for it to return in the sequel. At the moment very little is known about its role in-game but the island has been featured in every Kingdom Hearts 2 trailer to date.

Deep Dive: Deep Dive is the infamous video that plays at the end of Kingdom Hearts: Final Mix. Its importance in Kingdom Hearts 2 is huge. But what is this importance? With nothing confirmed we I only state what I see. Within the world I have been witness to 5 members of the Organisation.

Olympus Coliseum: The popular Olympus Coliseum from the animated movie Hercules makes a return in Kingdom Hearts 2. In Kingdom Hearts, Olympus Coliseum was the training grounds on which Sora could become stronger by participating in competitions and fights against powerful optional bosses. As promised the Coliseum returns in Kingdom Hearts 2 but with a much bigger role. The main storyline for this world will take place in The Underworld where Hades resides. This time around the world will feature more characters from the original movie.

Fabled Countryside: A new world to Kingdom Hearts 2, based on the classic Disney film, Beauty & The Beast. It is the world where Belle and Beast reside. This Beast has imprisoned the entire castle's staff in a dungeon. Belle is obviously concerned and pretty scared, which leads Sora to offer help. Then you head to the prison and talk to the dresser (the only member of staff not locked up) who tell's them where the staff are located. After some further exploring, the demo end's with battling a boss who prevents you from entering a door.

Within this world will be the presence of one the Organisation members who taunts Beast and causes him to act the way he is when exploring the world. Beast still desires to return to his human self and the Organisation use this to there advantage to use Beast as they please.

Agrabah: First featured in Kingdom Hearts, the sequel will also have the world of Agrabah to play in, based on the Aladdin movies. One of the larger worlds in Kingdom Hearts because of the fact it included the Underground and the area surrounding the palace. But this area surrounding Agrabah was very limited. In addition the Aladdin trilogy gave reason for the world to return in Kingdom Hearts 2.In Kingdom Hearts 2, Sora & Co. return to Agrabah to catch up with Aladdin and Jasmine, but soon find out that Pete has found Jaffar's lamp and is prepared to bring him back. Thus Sora & Co. try to prevent Pete from doing this. In addition we'll see Sora & Co. join Aladdin & Abu as they try and steal a huge diamond. But as the trailers show, not all goes to plan.

Ancient China: A new world to Kingdom Hearts 2, based on the popular Disney movie. Mulan’s dark tone, epic battles and story all set perfectly within the Kingdom Hearts 2 storyline. Ancient China as its known in Kingdom Hearts 2 features wide battle areas and many areas to explore.
Due to the characters and locations based on the film that have already been shown in Kingdom Hearts 2, Sora & Co. apparently appear to be helping out on Mulan's quest. In other words the storyline for this world will be more focused on the films storyline that a newly constructed one, but of course it has been changed to fit more in with the Kingdom Hearts Universe.

Halloween Town: In Kingdom Hearts, we saw the inclusion of Tim Burtons "The Nightmare Before Christmas" as one of the playable worlds. The sheer quality of it and atmosphere made it the majority of Kingdom Hearts Fans' favorite world. This caused a lot of hope for it to return and prayers of the fans have been answered. Very little information is known about Halloween Town but it is safe to say that this time around the world's story will be more focused around the actual film, in which Jack pretends to be Santa Claus and brings Christmas to Halloween and "Christmas Town".

GAMEPLAY:

I am excited to report that Kingdom Hearts 2 will feature a brand new battle engine that should ensure battles are more exciting and more engaging than those in Kingdom Hearts 2. With the new battle engine several new abilities have also been added to Kingdom Hearts 2 and the following is a list of confirmed new abilities:

- Mawarikomu-This ability lets you turn behind the enemy for a sneaky attack.
- Wall Kick – Allows you to kick off wall's to keep in the air
- Safe Landing- With safe landing you can land safely when hit mid-air
- Full Swing
- Teleport
- Air Juggle

THE DRIVE SYSTEM:

Kingdom Hearts 2’s most innovative addition in combat has to be the Drive System. What happens is that as you defeat enemies they drop yellow balls that fill up the “Drive Gauge.” Once it reaches its maximum, Sora will go through a short transformation sequence that is in fact a sort of fusion. Throughout the game Sora will gain the ability to fuse with various other party members, like his ability to fuse with Goofy called Brave Form that allows him to wield 2 keyblades. During this period, Sora will gain new fast and furious combos to dismiss your enemies with.

However, this mode will last only for a limited period of time. After you transform, the drive gauge will become gray with a 5 next to it. The gauge will gradually decrease until it reaches 0, upon which Sora will turn back to his own self. But while in Drive mode, if you continue getting the yellow balls it will add to your decreasing drive bar thus keeping you in Drive mode for as long as you keep collecting the yellow balls.

GOOD NEWS FOR FANS:

Fans of the series will be delighted to know that Square Enix has not taken a different twist with the series gameplay wise. Given the current state of the game, it's clear that not much has changed in the gameplay of Kingdom Hearts 2. There are a few differences, but none of the alterations have a severe impact on the game mechanics. In the sequel you're on the same kind of explorative quest, killing the enemies known as the Heartless.

GUMMI SHIPS:

Gummi Ship's were used as transportation in the original game, although this way of traveling around has now been replaced with a bunch of trains, Gummi Ships will still be making a return in Kingdom Hearts 2, although this time they'll be more for amusement or an extra mini-game.

CHANGES IN SPACE:

Personally I think the gummi ship sequences in Kingdom Hearts 1 were boring, unexciting and a complete waste of time. It was a section of the game that left much to be desired. Kingdom Hearts 2 looks set to make these sequences better with the following changes.

1. Your ship will now have auto aiming. This will make it easier to pilot the ship at a fast speed plus allow you to hit enemy targets in front of you and those behind you as well.

2. Also available in Kingdom hearts 2 is the inclusion of ally ships. They seem to only be extra guns, but they could be computer controlled. It isn't known how helpful these ships are, but they sure look cool!

3. Another new addition to the system are 3 radars. These could prove very helpful because enemies will be coming at you from all directions, though it may take a while to get used to.

4. In Kingdom Hearts 2 you will only be able to hover above a track (similar to a racing game like Wipeout). However there will be multiple routes that can be taken.

5. Boss battles will also be a part of the Gummi ship sequences in Kingdom Hearts 2.

6. The original Kingdom Hearts only allowed you to use one extra attack. In Kingdom Hearts 2 you can have multiple attacks, which are selected by scrolling through the Reaction Menu Wheel using the L2 and R2 buttons. Different attacks are represented by different symbols. Once you've selected the attack you use the attack with the Triangle button (as in the rest of Kingdom Hearts 2)

7. A new concept of scoring will make its debut in these sequences too. This time around you gain points for destroying things and collecting items. Points vary depending on what you destroy as different enemies have different point values. As you gain points a meter next to the score bar fills up. Once it is completely filled you get a ship upgrade. The upgrades may only last for the remainder of the level.

8. Besides the above mentioned improvements the following changes have also been made:
-The speed of the ship's and whole pace of the mini-game is a lot faster
- In addition to Heartless ships, you can fight Nobody ships
- An improved score system, and the ability to pick up mid-flight bonuses
- You can turn your whole ship around

The HP and MP bars return in Gummi ship sequences of Kingdom Hearts 2. If you take damage you will loose HP, loose all of your HP and your ship is done for. MP is used up when you use the auxiliary attacks, unlike the original Kingdom hearts your MP reloads overtime. How fast the MP reloads still has to be seen

TRANSPORTATION:

In Twilight Town there will be a train station, which will be used by the gamer to travel across the many worlds of Kingdom Hearts 2. The game starts with the train first traveling into Twilight Town.

With so many new additions and the promise to bring back elements from the prequel Kingdom Hearts 2 is shaping up to be a worthy sequel.

Preview by Staff

Donald, Goofy, Sora and that giant key return to the PS2 in the sequel to the popular Kingdom Hearts, Kingdom Hearts II.

It's been a few years since the last adventure. Sora is looking for his friends Kairi and Riku. Donald and Goofy are searching for the king. The game will feature a new cast of characters including the king himself. If you think real hard you may be able to figure out exactly who the king is.

Together, the gang will encounter countless dangers in worlds both familiar and brand-new.

It seems the Heartless, or at least some form of them, still exist. A new villain also awaits, hidden by a mask. Is it someone familiar or a new opponent to be confronted? This mystery and others will be solved as the story unfolds in a grand adventure.

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Review Rating Legend
1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid
2.0 - 2.4 = Poor
2.5 - 2.9 = Average
3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
3.5 - 3.9 = Good
4.0 - 4.4 = Great
4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
5.0 = The Best