Kingdom Hearts review

I just finished Kingdom Hearts by Squaresoft (they weren’t square-enix yet) and I must say it was a very satisfying game. The most important thing that KH achieves for me is breathing new life into Disney characters that have been collecting dust over the past few years, despite the Disney Channel’s best efforts. It seems almost improbable that it took a Squaresoft RPG to reinvigorate classic characters like Donald and Goofy, but they did, and did it magnificently.

While the graphics are obviously dated by now, they still hold up and manage to stay true to the visuals of the Disney worlds that they’re based on. In fact, it’s always a treat to first visit a world just to see what it looks like and which Disney character you’ll be able to use next. The characters are fleshed out in 3D but lose none of their charm, and gain none of the awkwardness usually associated with transporting 2d characters into a 3D world.

The gameplay however, could use a bit of retooling, and I hope to see some of that happen in the next installment of the franchise. The camera viewing angle is average, but becomes frustrating when you want to look around the world, especially during the platforming sequences. You can switch to 1st person view by pressing select, but I wish you could just look around on the fly, using the left analog stick.

There’s also the gummi ship sequences that the game forces you to go through when travelling between world. The control system when flying is incredibly flawed (when you move the target reticle your ship correspondingly moves in that direction) and feels uneccessary. It becomes even more annoying in the last stage of the game that some of the last treasure chests that you stumble upon contain items meant for your gummi ship, which at that point is pretty useless since you can pretty much warp to any world that you need to go.

The battle system is tolerable, but for all the abilities and summons that Sora and friends learn, it’s annoyingly frustrating to select an ability or summon in the heat of battle. You’re allowed to customize buttons to magic spells, so it seems like it’d be natural to allow you to link a button to a summon or an ability. Sadly, this is not the case, and so I was relegated to button mashing the enemy to death for the most part.

Gameplay quibbles aside, it’s really the characters and their interactions with each other that make this game really worth the play through. Every new final fantasy or Disney character or world that you see feels like a treat, and that’ll keep you going until the end.

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