Saturday, August 06, 2005

The Start and the Risk

Getting straight to the point: I want to get into the game industry. My main goal is designing my own game, but of course, life never goes by Plan A. Plan B is becoming a Video Game Critic, since I do have a huge love for writing. And so, I have done game reviews for at least a few months. I am broke and whenever I do get money, it is usually buying a new anime DVD or a new game. Now, I am using it to rent games to review. One of my first games that I reviewed is actually my favorite, but I don't let that get in the way. If something sucks, I will say "It sucks". Though a bit more graceful than that. Now I bring you my game review of Kingdom Hearts By Square-Enix and Disney.

Remember, I am looking at this game from a critic's eye, not a fan. Even though it is a great game. The story goes like this: Kingdom Hearts is the story of Sora, a 14-year-old boy who is seperated from his two friends, Riku (15) and Kairi (14), when their island is destroyed by the Heartless, dark creatures that have no hearts. At the same time, King Mickey disappears, leaving Court Wizard Donald and Captain Goofy a letter to set out to find the Keyblade. The two eventually team up with Sora and the three set out to stop the Heartless, look for the King, Riku, and Kairi, while going through massive worlds, meeting Disney and Final Fantasy Characters along the way.
That sums it up.

Let's start out with graphics. I have to say, this is truly what you expect from Square-Enix. The graphics are very well done, details to every setting and world, and even the characters are well done. The best parts are the CG scenes that look beautiful and mezmorizing, while manager to draw you in; mainly the opening and ending scenes. And the lip movements are a lot better than what I saw in Final Fantasy X-2. They don't try to make them move exactly right, but its not horrible. You know what they're saying and it doesn't look bad at all.
Characters from the Final Fantasy Series pretty much all have new looks, even going as far as stealing from other characters that weren't put in the game. Squall Leonhart (Final Fantasy VIII, Playstation 1) has longer hair, lost the fur, and now looks better than you would have thought. Cloud Strife (Final Fantasy VII, Playstation1) has a WHOLE new look, taking Vincent Valentine's cape and claw (to some of our disappointment) and adding bandages to his Buster Blade, giving him one wing, and a whole lot of bolts and things like that. Sephiroth (villain, Final Fantasy VII, Playstation 1) looks sort of the same, but different too, even if you can't tell.

The characters each have unique attitudes, from Sora's cheesy happy-go-lucky attitude to Riku's non-stop determination to help Kairi. All of the characters you recognize too all have that memorable attitude they're known for. And for some of you, Aeris (Aerith in the game) is back! Cheer for some, Boos for some. They even carried over the ancient fight between Cloud and Sephiroth into the japanese version of the game: Kingdom Hearts: Final Mix.
Gamecontrols work very well for this type of play. It allows you to customize your magic shortcuts, dodgeroll with one button, attack with X and still be able to customize it, and lets you work with both the analog and direction pad at the same time. You're always using both, even for different features. R2 and L2 are used for the camera, which you will be messing with a lot, and R1 is used to lock onto your opponents. Yes, there were a lot of problems with the camera angles, specifically on the Halloweentown world. They also gave you a first person view with the select button so you can look closer at some of the things around you. The gameplay is a mix of Hack-and-Slash and RPG, more so than Chaos Legion (1st game I reviewed and worst I ever played). It gives you the same elements that were in Final Fantasy, providing you with Elixirs and Potions and allowing you to level up and get new weapons, and you still have the menu screen too! But the free roam hit aspect of it also gives you the Hack-and-Slash feel. No turn base, alleluia!

The only thing that bugged me more than the camera: summoning can be absolutely useless...They're cutscenes are long too, not AS long as the thirteen minute Knights of the Round, but some seem close. I played the game three times, summoning a total of three times per game. And those three times, were in one single boss battle. Sound was what you can truly expect from Nobuo Uematsu. He and Utada Hikaru (Hikaru Utada for some) worked together to create the theme song for the game, Simple and Clean, which is a perfect mix of happy music with great words that match and a slow song that shows the passion of Utada. Both versions are great. They even transfered it into an orchestral piece that at first, it'll seem familiar and THEN you'll know that its Simple and Clean. There are a ton of different soundtracks for each world and situation that all show how much of a master Uematsu is. And for those Nightmare Before Christmas fans, the Halloweentown theme song is back!

Story is a big part of the game. At 2003's G-Phoria (The Biggest Video Game Award Show) it won best story and then was pretty much killed by a re-enactment of the game, which wasn't even correct. It was painful to watch (especially since for some reason, Sephiroth killed Sora...??? I wonder if that was a hint to the sequel?). They provide you with an intricate story that is full of plot twists and draws the gamer into it, making them want to keep playing to find out what happens to the game's hero and his friends. Square-Enix is the master storyteller of the game world and Kingdom Hearts reflects that gift. Gamers will really find themselves glued to the screen or rooting for Sora all the way through. Hell I was rooting for both him and Riku. And don't be fooled by the Disney logo: THIS IS NOT A KIDDY GAME! The game starts off pretty easy at first, starting you off with a few puzzles and cutscenes after getting passed the very first part with the Darkside Heartless. And throughout the game, it keeps you at an even pace of getting harder and harder, also giving you the choice to level up or not. If you do this, it becomes easier to land some harder hits. But there is a strategy you have to find in each boss you fight. Dragon Maleficent shoots fire, but if you stand close to her, it won't hit you and you can jump onto her back, sending Donald and Goofy to beat the crap out of her with the Triangle Button. The game was a great risk for Square, but they managed to pull it off. WARNING: For those of you who like the blood ang guts shooting more than a story, you might not like this game! It depends on which type of gamer you are. But if you enjoy a good story, lovable characters, and beating the crap out of Disney Villains, I suggest you pick this up. It is a greatest hits, going for $20 now! So what's keeping you!
I'll give you the low-down on the next part of the series, Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, in my next game review.

But for now, I'm giving Kingdom Hearts, the first collaboration between Disney and Square: 8.5 out of 10.


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