Skankin' Garbage's Kingdom Hearts Review
Email the author: Skankin' Garbage
When you were young, did you ever daydream about making a game that combined some of your favorite games together? Or, maybe you played with your action figures from two different cartoons and made a long, drawn-out, awful story which was amusing for you at a young age. Have you ever wondered what it would be like if someone actually made a game based on those concepts? Well, there already is one, appearantly. Its name is Kingdom Hearts; and, unfortunately, it winds up being as uninteresting as you could imagine.
The game starts out with an amazing introduction. The main character begins by delivering a monologue where he ponders his own existance. After a breathtaking CG introduction that promises adventure, excitement, and romance, we're introduced to Sora and his friends, Riku and Kairi. Sora and Riku are rivals of sorts, seemingly competing for the affections of their lady friend, Kairi. We join in as they are only days away from creating a raft and setting sail off their island together to find new worlds. Three best friends going on an adventure - sounds cool, right? Well, perhaps if it had happened, it would have been cool. Instead, the night before they set sail, some mysterious monsters appear on the island, and it gets sucked into some vortex of darkness and doom, or something. You wake up in some random town, and find various Final Fantasy and Disney characters there. You wind up leaving the town with Donald Duck and Goofy to find your friends...and that's pretty much when it falls apart.
You see, crossover games don't upset me, really. I feel the need to explain this before I continue. I didn't wind up disliking this game because it involved Disney characters; the game was atrocious because its execution was just plain terrible. After the beginning, Sora and company simply just travel from one disney-themed world to another. First, you go to Wonderland and try to save Alice; then, you go to Deep Jungle, meet Tarzan, and save some apes. This exactly is how the game proceeds right up until the closing hours of the game. You never meet any new important characters. Almost no character development is present, save for Sora and his rival, Riku. Near the end, it seems that someone realized that the not-Disney part of the story was mostly untouched, and crammed a lot of it into the end of the game. It becomes slightly more interesting, but the effort was too little, too late.
But that isn't all that's awful about this game, no sir. The gameplay was not spared from mediocrity, either. The game's combat is that of a typical action RPG, a la Secret of Mana. The controls are rather awful, and the AI for for your companions is kind of stupid (though, to the game's credit, you can tweak it a little bit). This isn't a huge deal for the first 3/4 of the game, because the combat is incredibly mindless and easy; however, almost every boss at the end of the game has some kind of attack that kills you in practically one shot. It's 'difficult' per se, but not in a fun, challenging way; one shot kills in an action RPG with awful controls is the kind of 'difficult' that makes you want to scream at the top of your lungs in frustration.
The game doesn't seem to progress very quickly, either. Although you can probably finish the game in about 20-25 hours, you can feel every last grueling minute of it due to the poor dungeon designs. A lot of times, progressing through the dungeons is very illogical and hard to figure out. It's a long series of trial and error; almost never are you pointed in the right direction. The end result is a series of dungeons with terrible fighting and frustrating design that will have you wondering why you're even wasting your time.
Squaresoft also decided that it would make travelling between worlds fun if they added a space-shooter minigame, a la Star Fox. You can even spend money on making newer, bigger, stronger ships. The idea is good in concept, until you realize that you can beat just about every level with the default ship by not moving at all, and just shooting continuously. I'm completely serious.
Much to the game's credit, the visual and aural aspects are nothing short of amazing. The graphics were awesome, especially for being released so shortly after the launch of the PS2. The cast of voice actors is strong; the Disney characters are acted out by their original actors. The non-Disney cast consists of some fairly popular actors and voice actors (For example, the main character is voiced by Haley Joel Osment from The Sixth Sense). The music, composed by Yoko Shimomura (Street Fighter 2, Super Mario RPG, Parasite Eve, Legend of Mana), fits the game very well, and there are plenty of well-written, catchy tunes. The game also features songs from various films; for example, in Atlantica, the world based on The Little Mermaid, the popular song 'Under the Sea' plays. The game's main theme, "Simple and Clean" (Composed and performed by J-Pop star Utada Hikaru), delivers a surprisingly strong emotional impact for such an emotionally void game. Ironically, those good qualities are symbolic of the true nature of Kingdom Hearts; an overhyped, beautiful game that quickly impresses, but fails to come through. No depth in gameplay, no depth in storyline.
One last particular thing stands out in my mind about Kingdom Hearts, though: When you finally finish the agonizingly long final boss fight, you're rewarded to an excellent and somehow satisfying ending sequence that simply seems to make sense. It makes you forget for a short moment that the game never materialized into the amazing game that it promised; it's the ending you innately hoped for after seeing the beginning, but the game it fits to is missing. It makes me wonder what Kingdom Hearts would have been like if the entire middle section of the game had been cut out and replaced with something else. There is definitely some vestige of an exciting adventure that could have been.