Kingdom Hearts is an epic action RPG developed by Square Enix, creators of the popular Final Fantasy franchise. Instead of playing in turns like most Square Enix RPGs, Kingdom Hearts offers players real-time action with exciting hack 'n slash combat. The game follows the story of Sora and his friend Riku and Kairi, three children living on the idyllic Destiny Islands. One day, their fate brings them into a new world, where Sora uncovers his destiny. Besides being a fun RPG, Kingdom Hearts also stands out as being one of the only major Disney crossover video games. Kingdom Hearts features dozens of characters from Disney films, mixing them with original and Final Fantasy characters. It's a lighthearted adventure with some poignant themes, and entertaining but challenging gameplay that keeps you coming back for more.
The main story of Kingdom Hearts focuses on Sora's destiny, which involves wielding a weapon known as the Keyblade. After being separated from Riku and Kairi, Sora winds up in Traverse Town. This bustling village is home to many unique characters, and Sora winds up meeting Donald Duck and Goofy. Donald and Goofy are searching for their King, Mickey Mouse. In an effort to aid Sora's search for Riku and Kairi, Donald and Goofy join the team. The trio set out to explore a number of unknown worlds, risking their lives to seek out those they care for.
While the story is interesting enough, the main draw of Kingdom Hearts is its exciting gameplay and world design. Sora's journey takes him to several unique worlds, all modeled after memorable Disney films. Each world has its own share of problems, which Sora, Donald, and Goofy always attempt to help out with. Some worlds recount the events of the movies they are based on, while others play into the larger story at hand. The game takes you to a variety of fun worlds, including those based on movies like Hercules, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and more.
Surviving these worlds is no easy feat, as most are infested with a dangerous enemy known as the Heartless. The Heartless try to battle Sora at every turn, but using his trusty Keyblade, he's usually able to thwart their attacks. Combat is a mix of button-mashing and strategic magic use, as Sora's Keyblade is able to cast spells. Players have a variety of options, including elemental magics, offensive special moves, and more. On lower difficulties, simply spamming the attack button will usually result in victory. On higher difficulties, you'll have to implement a decent amount of strategy if you want to survive. As you progress through the game you'll find new gear to equip, as well as grow more powerful in strength. You're able to unlock new abilities for Sora by using experience points earned in battle, and you can equip your new gear on all three team members.
Overall, Kingdom Hearts is a complex but cheery game that's full of Disney charm and challenge. The gameplay can be either hack 'n slash or strategic, depending on how much challenge you want. World design is varied, as is the environments you'll explore. There's plenty of replayability as well, thanks to unlockable modes and hidden collectibles. By modern standards, a few of the game's leveling and combat systems feel a bit dated, but still remain very playable. Kingdom Hearts stands as one of the most celebrated RPGs on the Playstation 2, and has gone on to spawn many sequels. It's a popular series for good reason; it combines grand storytelling with Disney nostalgia, and it delivers on satisfying and quick gameplay.
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- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
We haven’t seen a combination this potent since Mr. Reese got chocolate in his peanut butter. Disney, probably the most recognizable name in the world when it comes to animation, and Square, the most successful RPG publisher on the planet, working together on a video game is like a dream come true for a lot of gamers. And the track record of these two powerhouse companies makes it hard to believe that Kingdom Hearts will be anything short of spectacular.
But games based on Disney properties are nothing new. In fact, they’re commonplace. So you might be asking yourself why you should care about this particular title.
We’ll tell you why. This is the first Disney game that’s not limited to a specific setting or movie. You will get to travel through and interact with a bunch of different Disney worlds. Swing vine-to-vine with Tarzan, fly through Neverland with Peter Pan, hunt for hunny with Pooh, and even visit Halloween Town with Jack Skellington-you’ll see over 100 characters in all. And as you go from one setting to another, your questing companions Goofy and Donald will actually morph to better adapt to their surroundings-one example is Donald’s transition to a half-duck/half-octopus hybrid in the Little Mermaid’s domain. Normally anyone taking such creative license with one of Disney’s characters would get a love letter from the big-D’s legal department. But the house that Mickey built seems content to let Square take liberties here and there in the name of good gameplay.
As Sora-one of the four original characters in the game designed by Tetsuya Nomura (Final Fantasy VII, VIII and X)-you team up with Donald and Goofy on a quest to find your two friends Riku and Kairi after a freak storm separates the three of you. On top of your personal crisis, King Mickey has gone missing, and chances are it has something to do with the Heartless. These little buggers are going around to each world and recruiting the local villains (think characters like Aladdin Jafar or Hercules’ Hades) to help them steal people’s hearts and ultimately plunge the land into darkness.
Kingdom Hearts is an action-RPG, so you won’t find any turn-based, random battles here. Well...you will find random battles, but you’ll need to depend on your reflexes and computer-controlled companions for victory rather than a lot of strategy. Elemental summons, however, will play a part in the battle system. As you progress through the game, you’ll be able to call on characters like Dumbo, Bambi, The Lion king’s Simba and Mulan Mushu in order to dish out some extra hurt (note Sora riding Dumbo in the screen to the left). We figure Bambi will simply sicken his enemies with his cuteness.
Square and Disney are counting on a good reception for Kingdom Hearts. In fact, Disney’s so into this game that they may parlay any success it enjoys into a movie or television show. Square-created characters like Sora and the Heartless could become household names one day. In the meantime, we just wanna play.
When older gamers (older being teen and above) hear the word "Disney," the typical instinct is to run in the opposite direction. On the one hand, this reaction is understandable, since the typical Disney game (Monsters, Inc., The Emperor's New Groove, etc.) is little more than a 3D adaptation of their most recent animated feature. Sure, these harmless platforming excursions might warrant playing by all age groups, but let's face it--they're aimed at a younger crowd. And that's the challenge Kingdom Hearts faces-- escaping the image that Disney games are strictly for the Teletubbies set.
To keep things in perspective, remember that this is a joint venture between Disney and the RPG masters at Square. And Heart's director (and famed Final Fantasy character designer) Tetsuya Nomura came into the project with a good idea of both what he wanted and the Disney-game stigma he was up against. "I wanted to create something original," Nomura told us. "This was not going to be Square's next Final Fantasy, and I didn't want this game to carry the same image that Disney games usually have: soft, cheery, kiddy, family.... Using the traditional Disney characters and worlds, I knew we could make something that would wow everyone." After some hands-on time with a near-final English version of the game, I'm happy to report myself officially "wow"ed. Nomura and his team have crafted an action-RPG with enough hardcore gameplay to keep experienced gamers busy for weeks. Contrary to popular assumption, this is not kid stuff.
Kingdom Hearts puts you in control of the hero, Sora. With the help of Donald Duck and Goofy, you must traverse a head-spinning selection of Disney-themed worlds (Peter Pan's old London, the Little Mermaid's watery habitat, Jack Skellington's nightmare world, etc.) in order to find and rescue Sora's friend Kairi. While gamers might be reluctant to take up arms with Goofy and Donald (there's that kiddy thing again), these two allies definitely earn their keep.
Goofy, with the help of a large shield, is the muscle, barreling into every enemy he can, causing a commotion that gives Sora breathing room to cast spells or enter the melee himself. Donald, on the other hand, lends support with healing spells or harries the enemy with elemental attacks. But the best part about having these two around is that they're low-maintenance--the computer plays them. During the real-time battles, you only have to worry about controlling Sora. Occasionally you can substitute in another Disney character--like Aladdin, Tarzan, Ariel, Peter Pan and more--for Donald or Goofy. And of course, what would a Square RPG be without some flashy summon spells?
In Kingdom Hearts, when things get heated, Sora can call upon an unlikely stable of allies (Dumbo, Bambi and Mushu to name a few) to launch a special attack or soothing healing spell. Although this is a virtual 'Disney's Greatest Hits' mooshed into one convenient location, there is one category of Disney films sadly missing: the recent CG hits. Eagle-eyed readers might notice that the computer-generated cast of Toy Story and A Bug's Life are nowhere to be found. Contractual difficulties kept Pixar's popular personalities out of the final cut, but we have it on good authority that if Kingdom Hearts generates a sequel, the Pixarians (not a real word) might yet be included. With this game, Square has awakened the Disney fan inside all of us. Yeah, we like Bambi. Is that so wrong?
Kingdom Hearts is a nice mix of fantasy role playing and cartoon action, and the unique combination delivers an outstanding game for the whole family.
You play Sora, voiced by Haley Joel Osment, as he searches for his friends. Sora teams up with Donald Duck and Goofy, who are trying to find Mickey Mouse, to stop the evil Heartless from destroying the different Disney worlds. At first, this may sound completely ridiculous, but it really works.
Kingdom Hearts offers some amazing graphics. The cut-scenes are very well done, and I was impressed with how perfect all the Disney characters look and move in the game. The real time action is exciting and clear, and the Heartless henchmen and bosses are awesome. The sound and voice talent are top-notch. Gameplay is very easy to learn, using menus to interact with environments, cast spells and utilize your inventory.
There is one big downside: To travel between worlds, you fly a 'gummi' ship, which feels like some old arcade game got slapped into the middle of this beautiful universe. These travels become tedious and the extensive system of collecting parts and customizing gummi ships detracts from the main adventure.
Despite the gummi ship craziness, I found this game to be completely addictive and I continue to play it in hopes of completing the secondary goals, like collecting the lost 101 Dalmatians or finding all of the 'trinity' marks. These extras add tons of value and make Kingdom Hearts a perfect addition to your library.