Kingdom Hearts II is to the PS2 what Ocarina of Time was to the N64: a powerhouse and instant classic in every way.
DanteKiller wrote this review on .
The game begins with a 3 HOUR tutorial. In the tutorial, you play as Roxas, a young boy living in Twilight Town who is encountered by mysterious white creatures called the Nobodies and people that only he can see, like Sora. When he chases the creature, he soon gains the Keyblade, like Sora. Also like Sora, Roxas wants to find out who is following him and what their motives are. Unlike Sora, though, he is a bit more shy than his friends. Once Roxas finds out the truth, the game proper begins. Immediately after the true intro, you get to play as Sora again as you set out to find Riku and King Mickey, with Donald and Goofy aiding him on his quest. You also encounter old allies, like Cloud, Squall, Yuffie, Cid, Merlin, and Aerith, and enemies, like Malificent and cosplayer favorite Sephiroth, as well as new ones, like Auron, Pete, Setzer, and Johnny Depp--er--Captain Jack Sparrow.
One thing that the Kingdom Hearts series has strived on for a long time is killer action-RPG combat; KHII is no different than before. The game is still the more strategic version of The Legend of Zelda. You can mash the attack button on the weaker enemies, like the Shadows, while they fall to the might of the Keyblade, but with the new additions to the game, like the Reaction Commands (think God of War or RE4) and Drive Forms (can you say Super Saiyan?), why would you want to? Reaction Commands are fast and furious, requiring you to push timed button presses to either defeat or stun the bosses. Sometimes, you need them to survive against tough bosses, including the toughest one ever, Sephiroth (Player: OMG! CHEAP! Enemy: LOL! NOOB!). The drive gauge is used for the classic summons (like Genie) and the brand new Drive Forms. When you use a Drive Form, you go all DBZ and transform with a new costume. When you fuse with Goofy, you go into Valor Form and wield two Keyblades and can hit, run, and jump faster than you can before with some flashier combo moves. When you fuse with Donald, you go into Wisdom Form and fly around like you would on the skateboard and can shoot instead of attack at your enemies. When you fuse with both of your party members (world-specific one or not), you go into the Master Form and have a balance of both the Valor and Wisdom Forms. You can also go into Final Form, the most powerful form in the game, when you fuse with both of your party members (Sora doesn't even HOLD the Keyblades in this form; instead, he manipulates them with his mind). There is also the elusive Anti-Form, where you can momentarily turn into a Heartless; really. The summons are the same as before, but have cool Limit commands. Plus, when you can summon majestic creatures like...Chicken Little?...the magic is just as quirky. Speaking of the Limits, another cool addition is the Limit command, borrowed from the Final Fantasy games. With this command, you can team up with any of your teammates to unleash devastating combos that make for pleasing eye-candy.
Speaking of visuals, the graphics are absolutely stunning. Obviously, Tetsuya Nomura and the KH team are working at the bleeding edge of current-gen character design. Both the characters and the environments make a seamless transition from 2D to 3D, to the point that you may forget that you are watching polygons moving. You can also visit some new worlds based on successful movies like Mulan, The Lion King, Steamboat Willie (!), Pirates of the Carribean (!!), and Tron (!!!). I have to restrain my enthusiasm a little, but I will admit that the jaw-dropping Port Royal looks just like it did in the movie, with awesome lip-synch and animations. I mean, just look at how the drunkard Captain Sparrow walks and talks. Like the visuals, the sound is also beautifully executed. Most of the actors from the first game have made the cut as well as some of the actors from the movies the worlds are based on. Even if they didn't make the cut, though, they are so good, that you won't even recognize that they came from some Sunday night sitcom. Simply put, the production values are absolutely stunning and push the PS2 to new boundaries, as you can see when you have to fight 1000 (yes, 1000) Heartless at the same time.
While I absolutely love this game, there are a few minor problems that I would have liked to seen fixed. The camera control has finally gone to the right analog stick, which makes it more fluid, but sometimes it gets a little wonky, especially during a heated battle. But the camera is still better than the original. The Little Mermaid world is nice, but the rhythm sequences require absolutely NO rhythm at all. Another problem that I found is that to completely enjoy the story, you need prior knowledge of the previous games in the series, especially the Game Boy Advance game Chain of Memories. Sure, there are some flashback sequences every now and then, but sometimes the pacing is a little off every now and then.
But Kingdom Hearts II is so fun that these minor complaints don't keep it from being a great game at all. 10 years from now, people will think that Kingdom Hearts II is to the PS2 what Ocarina of Time was to the N64: a powerhouse and instant classic in every way. The story is much darker this time around, including a scene where many will say "Oh my god! How could they let Disney do this?!" moments before the 1000 Heartless battle. The camera is much more tameable than the L2/R2 configuration. The Gummi Ships, which I barely talked about, go from a derivitave Star Fox rip-off to a Panzer Dragoon inspired shooter. But most importantly, Kingdom Hearts II raises the bar for PS2 games everywhere. Many people thought that, like 2D animation, the PS2 would just die a quick and quiet death right after the release of the PS3. But especially when there are people like Hayao Miyazaki who raise the bar for 2D animation, there are people like Hideo Kojima and now Tetsuya Nomura that prove that the PS2 is far from dead. If this is what you make from the PS2's supposed death bed, then we won't need the PS3 for quite some time now. Now how do I beat that damned Sephiroth?! (Player: OMG! HAXORZ! Enemy: LOL! PWNAGE!)