Where, oh where did you go wrong, my beloved Kingdom Hearts? You had such potential. You could have been one of the greats! And now look at you—you’re just yet another sequel that absolutely did not live up to the original.
An unusual collaboration between video game giant Square Enix and Hollywood giant Disney, Kingdom Hearts II is an action RPG that came out for PS2 earlier this year. The game puts you in the role of Sora, wielder of the Keyblade (it’s a key…with a blade!), in his journey to reuinte with his long-lost friends, whom he was separated from at the end of the last game. Teaming up with Donald Duck and Goofy, who are on their own quest to find the missing King Mickey, Sora’s gotta traverse some of the most well-known worlds in all of children’s entertainment, all the while battling “nobodies” and “heartless,” the minions of Sora’s true enemies.
The sorrows begin right when the game begins: You’re thrust into a nearly four-hour-long tutorial stage staring a character you’ve never met before, doing such exciting things as hitting a ball into the air as many times as you can before it falls to the ground. The sorrows continues as you gain control of Sora and discover that nearly half the levels in KH2 are taken directly from the game’s predecessor. New worlds include those based on The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast and Pirates of the Caribbean, and they’re so few that fans of the original—which you’ll have to have played in order to understand what’s going on—are left feeling as though they’ve both been there and done that. Which is completely unforgivable, considering how many Disney properties are just begging to be made into a video game (Toy Story? The Jungle Book? Robin Hood?).
And if that’s not irritating enough, about halfway through KH2 the game makes you play through every single level a second time. It’s Square’s way of adding longevity to the title; but you can only visit The Nighftmare Before Christmas so many times before you realize that you’d actually rather be doing homework. Homework! Games shouldn’t make you want to do homework!
If you can find it in your heart to ignore everything that’s wrong with this title, you’ll love KHII. You’ll flat-out love it. Many of the first game’s few problems have been cleaned up—the camera actually works now, for example, and there aren’t any horrendous underwater levels. And beyond that, it’s just fun to whack the crap out of anonymous enemies (and, at times, classic Disney villains) with a giant key. To do so you’re just generally tapping the same button over and over again, but this simplified combat means the game’s accessible to anyone.
One part of combat, though, that the game could’ve done better are the game’s “Reaction Commands.” In which, if you press a certain button at a certain time, you get to watch a movie of your character doing all sorts of super cool things to an enemy. It looks cool, I guess, but I’d rather be the one actually doing the super cool things, not just a spectator cheering on some pixelated hero.
This game could have—easily—been one of the all-time greats. Many other reviewers seem to think it is, and many other reviewers are completely wrong. Kingdom Hearts II, while being a good game in its own right, is a massive disappointment compared to its predecessor, and compared to what it could (and should) have been. My advice is to just pretend this game doesn’t exist. You’ll be much better off that way.