I have to be completely honest and admit when I first heard news that Square Enix was teaming up with a team from Disney to create a game that would somehow have Disney characters coexisting with the Final Fantasy lore/world, I thought that it would never work. It just seemed way too big of a leap for each side to make to successfully combine. I mean, I am a huge fan of Final Fantasy and have been since VI, and yeah I grew up on Disney and cherish the ole classics I watched as a kid. But, the 2 together..... Well, needless to say it was a brilliant and almost perfectly executed combo.
First off, the story.. How would this ever work or make any sense? Square Enix and Disney did very well in this aspect, creating a fun & addicting journey and manage to create a journey that will surely surprise any RPG fan. The game plays similar to any RPG (with a little more emphasis to hack n slash than most FF's or classical RPG) but in a world full of exploration and guest appearances from countless memorable characters from Disney films that everyone will recognize and remember (at least one). The chemistry the 2 together form is quite surprising and refreshing. Without giving too much away, you play as Sora, a young boy who enjoys nothing more than to spend time with his best friends Riku & Kairi on their beachfront hometown island. While the game does sort of start out slow when you are experiencing the island, it does a good job of preparing players for what is to come and how the game works. It plays simplistically very well, with nice controls but sadly a TERRIBLE camera system. The battles you will partake are memorable and enthralling but would be even more so better if you weren't constantly adjusting your camera angle that almost always leaves Sora in a blind spot. Its quite easy to overlook, however, as there is so much to do and see and the classic RPG element of collecting items/treasure is present and exceeds most initial expectations. The gameplay is comfortable enough and easy enough (on normal difficulty mode of course) for most kids, but still can be just as epic an experience for adults. The character designs are classic Disney styles, and have the child-like innocence of most Disney Films in the past, but do not be fooled, there is fun here for the whole family (Disney fan or not)!!
The story see's Sora separated suddenly from his friends and hometown and it is here where you will truly see Kingdom Hearts beauty and brilliance. Sora finds himself stuck in some other world, and many more will follow, and anyone who has seen a Disney film in the past 50 years will quickly recognize the worlds he engages. Alice In Wonderland, Cinderlla, Winnie The Pooh and many many more worlds will be awaiting Sora to explore and solve the problems each place is facing.. the enemy introduced as the Heartless, mysterious creatures who live in the darkness and possess no emotions or empathy and who thrive to prey upon the innocent and take even the most harmless and purest of hearts for themselves. These enemies will start off quite simple to defeat but there is a well laid out learning curve Square Enix has put in place, and soon returning to previously visited worlds will introduce Sora and his 2 companions (Donald Duck & Goofy) to much tougher and deadlier foes than before. Some will require Sora to level up the party by gaining experience from battles and some require actual strategic planning to defeat, so be warned that the seemingly simple difficulty at the beginning does heat things up as you progress, but does so in a perfect way. Each world you visit will be filled with the original Disney characters who inhabited them in the films, and each will be in need of assistance from Sora and company. Some will even provide support and join Sora for battles, in place of either Donald or Goofy and even grant Sora powerful magical spells and Summons to wield.
One of the greatest features of Kingdom Hearts is the amount of treasure and special & powerful items hidden and scattered throughout the many many worlds. Some can be obtained quite simply, while others require certain abilities to be learned by advancing in experience points and will require you to return later in the game. They are not all easily found and the rewarding feeling of finding 100% of a worlds items & treasures is enough to please any.
The classic Final Fantasy characters that make surprising appearances are fitting and each one lives up to how I felt each would react in the situations. For instance, Cloud from FF7 appears and is almost exactly what you would expect from how his behavior was from FF7, quiet and somewhat distant. Each character is introduced in seemingly fitting locales and situations that do the original characters plenty of justice. And surprisingly, it works very well!
The HD Remix 1.5 of Kingdom Hearts is a must buy for any who enjoyed the original PS2 version, with notable upgrades to the controls and graphical elements. And also included are 2 whole other versions along with the original for the 1st time released in US. While the new modes are different and can be refreshing to play at times, they both faint in comparison to the original Final Mix edition (original). So, for $20.00 for a triage of classical, fun and a moving adventure that will have you spend countless hours (at least if you are a perfectionist & obsess over completing everything there is to do) searching for hidden treasures and fighting fun battles with just the right amount of difficulty to it, you can't go wrong... Kingdom Hearts is sure to please any traditional RPG fan and/or Disney fan!!