Perhaps the hardest game one can be assigned to review is Kingdom Hearts. When you?re in your mid twenties like me, attending graduate school, thinking about marriage the last thing you want to write about is a morality tale involving an overgrown mouse and a duck with a sailor shirt.
So, you might ask, how can a jaded New Yorker and cynical scientist like me possibly begin to comprehend the popularity of the Kingdom Hearts series? After all, most of the fans of this series aren?t even old enough to know what yaoi is (don?t worry kids, you?ll learn someday.)
As much as many of us older gamers want to deny it, Kingdom Hearts is a success. Its ability to put a controller in a nongamer?s hands rivals that of Final Fantasy 7. These days, as the star of Final Fantasy increasingly shines in the domain of - if not the sophisticated gamer - then the older gamer, we must wonder where the little ones went.
Where did the kids go? This isn?t simply a question we should ask of the next generation but of ourselves, of our own hearts.
Kingdom Hearts II?s gameplay, as any of the many video game sources probably already told you, is kind of meh. It doesn?t improve on Kingdom Heart?s gameplay by much. There are too many functions that are initiated by pressing triangle (key to beating the game ? mash triangle and X until the cartilage between your aging digits scream). The strongest moves are initiated through a fusion technique where Sora fuses with one of his team members and changes his clothes (think FFX-2).
The dynamic camera is a headache to control especially with all the jumping, gliding and air gymnastics Sora habitually performs. Sora?s duel wielding capabilities (which for me was enough of a reason to play the game) were severely underused. It looks hella cool, if anyone?s eyes are sharp enough to catch what?s happening. The sidequests are annoying but can be skipped.
It is undeniable that the story Squaresoft concocted for Kingdom Hearts II has soul. We?re familiar with the epics, the boy who must save the world by harnessing the world around him, whether they are the aloof princess, the rogue wanderer or the white haired teacher. Kingdom Hearts II is all of these things, and yet it is more. Its story contains what many fantasy novels, games or movies lack. It looks inward instead of outward for the answers which will save the world.
The newcomer to the series, The Land that Never Was is a dreary dark places but not without its allure. Twilight town, although nostalgic, promotes a feeling of eeriness. Beginning the game in Twilight town is a strong contrast to the beginning of Kingdom Hearts, on Destiny Island, which from first to last impression was and is a paradise. The Final Fantasy characters make a return. In addition many make their first appearance such as Auron, YuRiPa, Tifa, Vivi, Seifer and disciplinary committee. New worlds include The Lion King, Tron, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Steamboard Willie.
"Our most precious memories lie deep in our hearts, out of reach." - Chain of Memories
By now you are probably wondering why I haven?t addressed a key component of the Kingdom Hearts II world. Final Fantasy characters and gameplay are not what makes Kingdom Heart II what it is. The first thing that comes to most people?s minds, the factor that turns most people off, or rarely ? draws them in ? is the Disney component. It is really the use of the Disney characters that makes this game different from Mickey?s Funhouse or Donald?s Dreamboat.
From the beginning to the end of Kingdom Hearts I was cheering for Riku. He seemed like the only sane one in world full of cliché³® From Sora who believes in the power of ?friendship? to Kairi who stays with Sora in her ?heart? it was all barfalicious. I expected Sora to prevail and to beat Riku into the dirt of the Northern Crater. Then he would go home to a perfect Destiny Islands with his new chums Donald and Goofy to live happily ever after knowing that he is indeed the center of the universe. However, at the end of Kingdom Hearts when he leaves Kairi and seeks Riku in the world of shadows, I began to wonder if there was something more to this game.
In that respect, Sora?s quest, Kingdom Hearts II does not disappoint. It explores the rift between light and darkness more thoroughly. The meat of the game is devoted to realms of lost possibilities and most importantly, solving the mystery that is the Nobodies.
Perhaps in the end, if Sora can be so open-minded as to love an enemy who he can neither tolerate nor understand ? perhaps it is not too much to ask us adults to do the same in return. So, as the Organization XIII members tells us, in the quote above, search for the memories deep in your heart. Search deep for them. Yup those. The ones you?ve forgotten along with the tin cartoon lunchboxes, the lazy summer vacations and those popsicles that made your lips turn blue.
We can be too old to enjoy Disney, but to forget what it was like to have once enjoyed Disney is a tragedy.
Title: Kingdom Hearts II
Publisher: Square-Enix, Buena Vista Games
Platform: Playstation 2
Release: March 2006
Kingdom Hearts 2