The beauty of 'Kingdom Hearts' is not in its game play; instead it makes you love the story it's trying to tell.
The game is introduced with an incredibly beautiful cut scene, however don't be fooled this is one of the two best looking sequences in the game; the other comes at the end. Other cut scenes look good but won't take your breath away; however they are fully voice acted and it is always a pleasure to hear the garbled voice of 'Donald Duck'.
'Kingdom Hearts' has you start in a dark area, where you learn the basics of the game; this is a tutorial level and informs you of the basics within the game. It is executed well and the boss fight is not intimidating, and is not frustrating. What you stand on throughout the tutorial is various stain glass window that depict 'Disney' princesses.
'Disney' is a key part to the game, but before you meet the 'Disney' characters, you are introduced to the main characters of the game. Without revealing too much you will become emotionally attached to these characters. This introductory level can be tedious if you don't now what you are doing, it is merely two fetch quests and has no benefit to the plot. As well as Disney and Kingdom Hearts you will find appearances of 'Final Fantasy' characters such as 'Cloud'.
If you stick with the game for the first hour and a half you will find yourself introduced to various 'Disney' characters. These characters are classic 'Disney' characters such as 'Aladdin', 'Pinocchio', 'Jack Skellington' and many more. Meeting these characters feels nostalgic, and you can't help but enjoy their presence. Levels are also designed around the 'Disney' universe and exploring places such as 'Wonderland' is enjoyable as the level design is good. The game took me 23 hours to complete the overall story without doing side quests such as finding all 101 Dalmatians; there is a lot of exploring to do if you wish to do so. In those 23 hours I didn't notice a dip in quality and it was consistently a positive experience with no glitches or slowdown; this was being run on a PS2.
The game play is the downside of the game; it feels like a good RPG with a levelling system and equipment. The levelling system feels great; I could feel myself and my companions getting stronger with each level. The equipment is less so, accessories seem to be of less value than upgrades weapons and I never felt as though buying an accessory from the store would benefit me in any way despite the games currency 'munny' being dropped with every enemy killed.
Platforming in the game is awful, up to the point in which you obtain various abilities which benefit platforming. Coping through levels without these abilities can be incredibly frustrating, I found myself making sure each jump was perfectly lined up and I crept to the edge of object to make sure I could make jumps. It redeems itself later on but you will likely be heaved off with platforming before that happens.
Despite platforming being bad the camera doesn't benefit it either, the camera tries to follow your character and most of the time does a good job, however if you wish to control the camera you will have to use R2 and L2. The problem with using R2 and L2 is that it doesn't feel as natural as the right stick; you can't look up and down unless you go into first person mode, and the camera is just too slow to manoeuvre. It's incredibly frustrating in points when you are trying to get through a platforming section.
Combat feels good, but gets repetitive fast, in some cases you will run because you're bored of fighting battles. Games such as 'Devil May Cry' will give you a much better combat system than this game. 'Kingdom Hearts' comes down to mashing the X button and occasionally casting a cure spell or using a potion. Some boss battles feel cheap and the difficulty changes dramatically between each boss. I found 'Jafar' to be incredibly easy; but the mini-boss before him was difficult and felt cheap.
The 'Gummi Ship' is your means of travel within the game. When riding in the 'Gummi Ship' the game is lacking in graphics, it begins to look like a PS game and 'pop in' is apparent when objects appear in front of you. I wouldn't mind as it is a mini-game, however making it essential to play is annoying, you get warp drive later on that allows you to skip the mini-game. However you will still have to suffer the mini-game if you are travelling to a world you have never been to before. There is also an option to upgrade the 'Gummi ship' but because the mini-game presents no challenge it seems pointless to waste your time doing so. I would have preferred if they had taken this out and put a kind of animation when you are travelling between worlds such as in 'Ratchet and Clank'.
The game is really good fun and the personalities of the characters is great. Meeting old 'Disney' characters is nostalgic.
Story is brilliant, the tale it tells is emotional and powerful, and you become attached to characters throughout.
Boss battles can feel cheap; fighting is repetitive and usually comes down to button mashing.
The camera throughout the game is bad and platforming suffers because of this.