Kingdom Hearts II
Kingdom Hearts II delivers all the nostalgic Disney fantasy and gorgeous action of the original in a grand new adventure. Enter the magic kingdom!
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Like its predecessor, the game is sluggishly slow to start, building up the story and weaving an absorbing fairytale universe for you to explore. But after playing through the several hours long introduction/tutorial, things quickly pickup and you are thrown back into a struggle against the wicked sorceress, Maleficent, as she uses her army of Nobodies to conquer the free worlds. Because the narrative picks up where the original left off and because the story rewrites large parts of Disney and Final Fantasy continuity by combining numerous, separate franchises, plot comprehension will depend largely on your knowledge of the first game and careful reading of your journal entries. This might deter some potential players and confuse the hell out of others, but gamers willing to shrug off some of the mysteries and forge ahead will be in for an awesome RPG ride.
One of the budding series' trademarks is the awesome action-combat system. In Kingdom Hearts II, the fighting has been beefed up with a series of new reaction commands and cool team-up combos that make every battle interesting and preserve the fun throughout. Sora's awesome transforming Overdrive and Limit abilities also provide him with a killer advantage in tight situations and provide hours of entertaining eye candy. Visually, the game shines with beautiful graphics and superb cinemas that accurately capture the look and personality of the beloved Disney and Squaresoft cast members, while proving the PS2 still has a palpable pulse. The rousing and often subtly beautiful orchestral soundtrack also helps build the illusion, and the voice acting is second to none. Happily, the steadfast, responsive control remains intact from the first game, and makes battling hordes of creatures in furious real-time fights seem infinitely superior to the typical turn-based genre combat.
Long Live the King
By any measure, Kingdom Hearts II is an outstanding adventure made all the more spectacular by its uncanny ability to weave disparate strands of fiction into a single, engaging conglomeration of iconic characters and settings. The Disney cutesiness might seem geared toward younger players, but any gamer able to recall the cartoon pop-culture of their childhood will instantly appreciate the waves of nostalgia emanating from this title. If you missed the first Kingdom Hearts game, don't make the same mistake with this excellent sequel.