Kingdom Hearts continues to be a hard sell for me. How a mishmash of Disney and Final Fantasy characters manages to be anything but ridiculous is beyond me. However, the formula works, and Kingdom Hearts II delivers a powerful narrative filled with so many beloved childhood characters that it’s tough to keep them all straight. At the same time, it abolishes almost all of the problems of the original, tweaking cameras, menu navigation, inventory management, and the battle system. The resultant gameplay is streamlined and smooth, punctuated by incredible moments of action and interwoven with deep themes of friendship and personal identity. If anything hurts the experience, it might be its incredible length. Like a great movie that could have used some careful editing, this may be one instance where a game should have been more concise. But it’s nowhere near a deal breaker. Memorable, exciting, and incredibly fun, Kingdom Hearts II is exactly what you hoped it would be.