Kingdom Hearts is the amalgamation of the Disney world and the Final Fantasy world. Characters from FF VII, VIII and X make an appearance here (along with Cid), but FF is a notable absence. At the heart of it all is the Disney characters. Donald Duck and Goofy are main characters and a plethora of other characters also make an appearance.
The voice talent for this game is phenomenal. Haley Joel Osment is the voice for the lead character Sora. He really nails the acting for Sora. Disney has brought in many of its voices for the same characters they played in TV series and movies. It is obvious that if Disney did not back this game that Square would never go the extra mile to get someone of Osment’s talent for the lead character. I would rank it up there with Metal Gear Solid 1 and 2.
This game really pulled me in. The story is that the Final Fantasy worlds and the Disney worlds are actually in the same universe. Mickey Mouse is the king of the universe, but each planet does not know that there are other planets in the universe with people living on it. A group called the Heartless have come in and started destroying worlds in the universe. Mickey decides to go and get down to the bottom of why all the stars are disappearing. Donald goes into the throne room and finds that Mickey is missing, but a note is left talking about a “key” that will open everything. Donald gets Goofy and they go off to find the “key”.
Meanwhile, on the Final Fantasy X world (around the time when Tidus and Wakka were young) we are introduced to Sora and his friends Kairi and Riku. It seems Kairi came from a far away place, but has grown up with Sora and Riku. Sora gets all the items for a raft they are going to use to sail far away. A large dark circle comes and starts to destroy the world. It seems Riku is allowing the darkness into him so that he can get off the planet he is on. Sora is also sucked into the darkness, but he is dumped in Traverse Town. The Heartless start to come and Sora eventually meets up with Donald and Goofy, who figure out that Sora is the wielder of the key. They join up in a partnership to save the universe and find their friends as well.
The game takes you to many worlds in the Disney Universe. From the beginning you can go to Wonderland (Alice in Wonderland) or Olympia Coliseum (Hercules). You also go to such places as Nightmare Town (Nightmare Before Christmas) and Atlantica (Little Mermaid).
Kingdom Hearts is a departure from the controls/gameplay of the Final Fantasy series. KH is more akin to the Square games Brave Fencer Musashi and Threads of Fate with the party dynamics of the Mana series. Anyone thinking they are getting a Final Fantasy type game will be sorely mistaken. This game is all action with RPG elements contained within. Gone are the turn-based battles of Final Fantasy. In their place are real-time battles where you jump, run and inflict damage on enemies. You can also lock onto enemies using the R1 key. The lock-on technology is not as refined as Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, but it does a decent job. The lock-on technology is especially useful in the boss battles from what I have found so far in battling them. The boss battles are huge and in most cases the bosses themselves are huge.
There are 2 potentially fatal flaws in the gameplay area of this game. The camera is horrendous in this game. If you thought Super Mario Sunshine‘s was hard to control, wait until you get a load of KH’s camera. The camera loves to switch itself around a lot and you have to be dependent on your L2 and R2 buttons to turn the camera correctly. When you are in the heat of battles is when you will really curse the camera. If you lock onto a certain enemy when there are a plethora of Heartless on the screen, the camera can go all wonky on you. You are left rapidly pressing the attack button and running around like a chicken with its head cut off. In this game the enemies keep coming and coming, there really is no stopping them. You can get a momentary rest, but soon enough you will be fighting the Heartless again.
The other possible fatal flaw is the Gummi Ship. You actually run through a StarFox like shooter. Every time you choose a new place to go you have to fly through this horrible 3D shooting section where you get parts for the Gummi Ship. From these parts you can build a more powerful Gummi Ship to be able to take on the enemies more easily. Thankfully you can eventually warp between worlds and not have to use the darn Gummi Ship.The graphics are very good. They are not up to Final Fantasy X standards, but they do a good job here. There is a bit of clipping here and there in the game, but it is not so bad
The music is phenomenal. I own the Japanese Original Soundtrack. There are many tunes that have been refined from their Disney originals by Yoko Shimomura. Yes, the music repeats itself a lot, but the tunes are easily going to get stuck in your head.It is easy to control Sora in Kingdom Hearts. The only trouble you will find is the occasional camera problems. The score for gameplay is brought down by the camera and fighting engine. In some ways I wish Square would have left turn-based battles in this game. I would love to choose what Donald and Goofy do in the game instead of just controlling their tendencies. You will fight the camera a lot in this game. Where this game excels is in the boss battles. Some of the bosses are huge and they bring a sense of strategy to the game as a whole. I beat this game in just over 30 hours. This is a far cry from Final Fantasy X, which I am still in the process of beating after 40 hours. The action nature of this game makes the length shorter as there is little to no strategy as there is in turn-based games. I doubt many will want to go through this game again, but for the first time through the game was quite rewarding.