Kingdom Hearts review
I feel it could've been MUCH better
Kingdom Hearts is nothing more than a confused beat em up RPG hybrid. It tries too hard to be like those two genres, and while it works for a while, it gets too repetitive for my own liking. Among repetition, the story felt just a bit on the cliched and boring side and the graphics are just mediocre at best. The only real standout feature is the soundtrack and a pretty good one at that. In other words, Kingdom Hearts was a pretty mediocre game.
I thought the story had a lot of potential. It talks about these three kids who want to leave their world and explore other words. Now, what I was expecting was that they actually got through with it, and they fought evil monsters with better weapons. Only the latter came true, and barely at that. Once their home world gets destroyed, the three kids get seperated and the main guy, Sora, has to find them. He bumps into Donald and Goofy, and he also gets tangled in some sort of supernatural warfare bullcrap about the Heartless, an evil species that takes peoples' hearts away, and a mystical weapon known as the Keyblade, which can supposedly kill off the Heartless in the most efficient way or SOME CRAP LIKE THAT. The quest then expands to a sort of "search, rescue and save the world" storyline...
...which is nice and all, but in the end, it becomes riddled with cliches, and honestly, if you didn't see 9/10 of the twists coming at you, then you just haven't experienced storylines yet. This is a basic, cliched storyline made to appeal to everybody...which isn't to say that it sucks. Its just that it felt like reading a mediocre book - who cares? This is pretty sad for an RPG, seriously. RPGs crave on storylines, even the more action real time oriented ones. Why the hell is the story so bland? I stopped caring halfway through due to predictable plot twists and boring execution, especially since the cutscenes are unskippable and some of which are as boring as sin.
Eh, screw it, the gameplay should make up for it... right? Well, unlike the story, I'm not nitpicking it to death. There are BLATANT problems that stand out like dog's nuts. So... let's go for it!
For one, if you like simplistic combat, you'll eat this one up. Kingdom Hearts is a simple button masher... not unlike your typical beat em up, such as The Bouncer (a game I'd rather be playing right now). Its simplistic approach, its 1-2 approach, it might seem like a concept that doesn't work, though it actually does. Unfortunately, when you look a little further into it, combat is TOO simple. Most techniques rely more on distance than a combination of attacks. You want a stronger sort of sweeping attack? Better come closer.
Its not quite overkill, because there are techniques that make you navigate through the ingame menu. Just press up or down on the d-pad to the bottom and, if you have that technique equipped (and if you're at the right distance, just in case you have more than one of them equipped - yeah, more distance stuff), just select that command, press X and you'll use it. At least its a slight change, and it is pretty simple.
Speaking of the ingame menu, you can access magic and items from there. Magic ranges from offensive fireball shots and thunderstorm conjuring, to healing and defending yourself...at the cost of some magic points, whereas items just heal up the hit points and magic points of you and/or your allies, depending on the items you have equipped - which means before you get into a fight, you may want to stock up on some items to help yourself. This helps make fighting flow faster, because its such a pain having to go to the menu in the heat of battle just to heal up, and Kingdom Hearts solves this by allowing you to heal while keeping the flow of battle going and not turning you off.
As for allies... Wow. I can barely call them allies. They're more like suicide bombers. They rush into battle, which is nice, but they get destroyed out there, as they take hits like cushions...while Sora annihilates them without any mercy. Equipping them with items 95% of the time is a mistake, as they waste them on each other, and the really stupid part is that when they die, they revive after a minute or so. So, let me get this straight... why should I heal their HP when they can revive after a while? This is not a bad thing, per se, but kind of a stupid idea, especially when they use precious items on one another. Sure, they share with Sora, but that's not only if he gets slaughtered. He could scrape his knee, and get given a freaking Elixer, the best item that money can buy! Thankfully, it only seems to happen with Donald and Goofy. The other allies, like Tarzan and Aladdin, seem to be smarter...well, they die less, that's..something... I know there's configurations and whatnot, but its like dressing up turds - they're still turds in the end, but with frills!
While we're on the subject of AI, the enemies are fairly unbalanced. Some enemies are easily destroyed if you let Donald and Goofy perform their kamikaze strategy, or if you just bumrush them, but some are so damn cheap, that if you're bending over to pick up that shiny penny, you're dead in an instant. The enemies are a bit of a mess in that way! You're either fighting super intelligent enemies or enemies that are on a disability pension. It can get that bad.
Okay, so gameplay is sounding like a sort of mixed bag, right? Well, yeah, it is. It depends on your tastes. But no amount of "ITS MAH OPINION" will change the fact that the Gummi Ship sequences are unlikable and had millions of dollars worth of potential.
The Gummi Ship sequences are boring as hell. They play out like the most watered down shoot em up you'll ever find. Your ship moves slow as hell and the enemies are easy to destroy, provided you buy or find some decent parts whenever you can. And even if you stick with the basic blaster, you could still get through all the sequences. Oh, sure, the last few can be tricky, but more in a THIS IS UNAVOIDABLE BECAUSE THIS IS UNAVOIDABLE sort of tricky; in other words, cheap. But as I prefer to keep my reviews as a sort of review where I play up until a certain time, I won't explain, as those last few occur around about at the game's last legs.
And no self respecting gamer would like the camera controls. Okay, shoulder buttons? That's it? What does the right analog stick do? Navigate the menu? What is this bullshittery!? Why!? Why is it this way!? It's especially a big middle finger right in your face whenever you're flanked and taking it from behind, and the goddamn targeting just switches to the next enemy in front of you instead of moving the camera (as target switching and camera control are the same buttons...smooth move guys), and you just got assraped. Awesome...that these camera controls are FREAKING TERRIBLE!
But through all its simplicity and bad Gummi Ship sequences and some of the absolute worst camera controls I've ever experience, the game is still fun. Honest to god, still fun. Not kidding around. The flow of battle sells it for me. As I mentioned, I prefer not to have to pause the game, no longer feel like battling just to heal. As far as I know, its the sort of game where if you're bored and want to kill time, you'd just play this game and get somewhere in like half an hour, all that jazz. Honestly, it feels more geared to a casual gamer due to its simplicity. That menu may look complicated, but give it five minutes... you'll have that down.
Now, is it just me, or do these graphics feel pretty ordinary? I understand they're anime inspired and I understand this was made in 2002, but still, they look ordinary. The character models look nice, but the textures of the surroundings kind of feel late-PS1-ish, like prior to the PS2's release sort. Nothing that really rocked my socks. It didn't really push the PS2's hardware or anything, but I guess that's okay when you consider that framerate is consistent, no lag whatsoever.
Another consistent element is the soundtrack. I love this soundtrack. Easily one of my picks for top thirty best PS2 soundtracks (might be debatable but who cares). I don't care if THIS is cliched or stereotypical or prententious or whatever word you want to spit at it - it still kicks the living hell out of many soundtracks, as the orchestra arrangements both match the level the song is played on, the situation a song plays during, and...yeah, you get it.
Voice acting is a mixed bag. Disney characters seem to have their original actors (if not, people who do a great job of recapturing what they sound like), and they sound as good as they always have. See, the thing with the Disney characters is that they actually have some emotion behind them, especially when you consider the fact that Disney characters are the polar opposite of the other end of the spectrum - the Final Fantasy characters. Yeah, the guys you'd expect to have some emotion in this area, but unfortunately, they sound like bloody robots. Sounds like the Disney folks steal the show here, right... Well, only in the English version. In the Japanese version, the Disney characters sound like they're getting *bleep*. And honestly...do I really care for Sora and company's voice acting? The original characters of the game... Well, guess I should... Sora's voice is mediocre, a bit too whiny for my liking, but not too bad. The rest of the original cast are pretty good. Not English Disney good, but close.
Story: 3.5/5. Simple in many ways, though way too predictable and cliche for my liking. Oh, and too easy to nitpick.
Gameplay: 3/5. Plays like a beat em up RPG hybrid, but more emphasis on beat em up aspects. Simplistic gameplay which may turn some off, but it keeps itself fast and furious. However, the Gummi Ship sections... just.. no.
Controls: 3.5/5. The absolute shittest camera controls you could ever ask for. Not bad for a beat em up-ish control set up though.
Graphics: 3.5/5. The FMV cutscenes look nice, but the ingame graphics look pretty ordinary.
Sound: 3.5/5. A pretty good soundtrack. Definitely one I have on my iPod and listen to consistently. Would be perfect, had it not been for mediocre voice acting.
Overall: 3.5/5. Unfortunately, I remember liking this a lot when I first bought it 6 years ago in 2003, but I was 10 years old, I knew no better. At 16, I found it too easy to nitpick. If you're just looking for something to kill time, look into this game. If not, look elsewhere.
About the author
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