It's all about the adventure!
Visiting Disney Worlds and interacting with the characters who live there is very entertaining.
The real-time combat is a lot of fun and often very challenging.
Visuals are nice and colorful. Enough variation to keep you interested.
The bits of Final Fantasy spread throughout the game are fun to keep an eye out for.
Lots of exploration to be done and secrets to be found.
The exposition and overarching story can be embarrassingly poor at times.
Flying to each level is very repetitive and dull.
I recommend grinding as much as you can, or else you will get really stuck on some parts.
The pacing could really have been better.
The Bottom Line
In Kingdom Hearts
the player takes on the role of Sora, a young boy who spends his day playing on an island with his friends Riku and Kairi. They do typical kid stuff, like play-fighting and racing, but their true wish is to build a raft and explore what lies beyond the horizon. This wish is partly granted when the island is attacked by shadows and Sora is teleported to a city he has never seen. As it turns out, an evil force known as "The Hearthless" has been invading worlds and making them vanish, just like what happened to Sora's island. Furthermore, a mystical weapon known as the "The keyblade" has chosen Sora as its master and thus he teams up with Donald and Goofy to try and stop the world-vanishing shenanigans of The Hearthless and their masters.
As everybody probably knows by know, these worlds are all themed after famous Disney movies, with the exclusion of some later stages and Traverse Town, which serves as a shopping district. These worlds are the game's biggest selling points, as they have the player meddle in the affairs of well-known Disney characters and thus become part of their stories. It's very entertaining to do stuff like training with Hercules or proving Alice's innocence before the unfair rule of the Queen of Hearts. The progression of each stage is also designed to give the game an adventurous and varied feel, often relying on having the player explore areas in order to progress.
There is an overarching plot where famous Disney villains, acting in service of Maleficant, are trying to capture the princesses. This may seem like juvenile villainy, but instead of locking them up in a tower, they wish to use their hearths to open a way into a vaguely explained paradise that is said to grant wishes. This overall plot is alright for the most part, but it gets very cheesy in later stages, when words like "heart(s)" and "destiny" become more common than commas. Most people also played this game at a young age and, like me at the time, didn't really give two fucks about all that shit. Since this game is a cross-over between Disney and Squaresoft, I naturally expected some Final Fantasy
influences, but please keep that stuff limited to side-plots, will ya?
Gameplay is also somewhat of a mixed bag. It's really fun and challenging when you're fighting bosses, but when casually exploring levels or grinding, you start to notice how unpolished it is. Sora can attack enemies with his keyblade by hammering X-button, but the trick is that, in true Final Fantasy
fashion, you have to select your spells, items and abilities from a menu. Since the game is real-time, this means that you have to stop attacking in order to navigate the menu via the arrows or right analog stick. If the right analog stick has to serve menu-duty, then that means camera controls are bound to the shoulder-buttons, leaving you at the mercy of an auto-target function with a serious grudge against crates and barrels.
That's not even the worst part; the AI for Goofy and Donald is very poor and usually only serves to get in the way. I've lost count of how many times Donald wasted all his mana casting the useless Gravira spell on every enemy on the field, or how often Goofy would die by pursuing a single flying enemy while ground-based Hearthless pummeled him mercilessly. Even when taking matters in my own hand, I often noticed the two would cheekily knock an enemy out of my combo or block my view while playing charades with the White Mushroom enemy.
Furthermore, enemies are usually designed to be as obnoxious as possible. One very common trick a lot of them pull is vanishing whenever they want and reappearing somewhere else. This often comes with a brief moment of invincibility, which often caused me to swing at the air before taking an undodgable hit right into the face. Other filthy tricks include jumping around, flying too high for me to see or constantly creating distance while preparing charge-attacks. It's a shame, because the visual design on enemies is very creative and varied, with lots of cute creatures to face off against.
Visual design as a whole is a very strong point. The graphics look nice, characters are modeled very well, there is plenty of color and the level-design is, once again, very good. The music also brilliantly matches the style and feel of each world and it always changes into something more exciting when combat starts, which is a nice inclusion. Facial animations on side-characters is, perhaps, the only visual flaw I could point out.
Of all the Kingdom Hearts
games out there nowadays, I think this one would be the best to start and stick with. It's the only title in the now long-running franchise which actually succeeded in marrying the two cooperating studios in a happy marriage, whereas later entries would reveal the dominating nature of Square (Enix). The story may sometimes be cheesy and the gameplay is not very refined, but fans of Disney will love it and the exploration-heavy stages are going to make a lot of veteran gamers very happy.