[i]Kingdom Hearts 2[/i] is probably my most anticipated game of the last 3 years. Since I completed the original Kingdom Hearts I have been patiently waiting for a game to grab my attention and keep it. [i]Kingdom Hearts 2[/i] was that game, almost. Let me explain.
The original [i]KH[/i] thrust you into a game with a very interesting story from the get go and despite a little time spent laying the groundwork (the time on the island) and a very nice CGI intro the game started up rather quickly. [i]KH2[/i] really deviated from this concept and really went in a direction that just couldn’t keep my attention. The story for [i]KH2[/i] is incredibly confusing from the get go which isn’t really a problem since it makes you want to know what is happening. The problem as I see it is that it takes roughly 3 hours of gameplay before you hit the title screen and really get into the bulk of the game. After playing for several nights and falling asleep while playing 3 or 4 times I finally got into the game and I am really enjoying all the new aspects of it.
The first major change is that you don’t start out playing as Sora. Instead you start out as Roxas. Roxas has recurring dreams involving Sora and his adventures. You complete several trivial missions in Twilight Town as Roxas before he disappears and Sora and crew emerge from a Rip Van Winkle light slumber. This is where the new journey begins.
From a gameplay standpoint [i]KH2[/i] is incredible and the camera issues that were overwhelmingly present in [i]KH[/i] are no longer there. The camera behaves like it should and allows you to really focus on the gameplay and the story. Combat is virtually identical with the addition of a Drive Gauge. Drive allows Sora to “fuse” with party members to become much more powerful. 3 of the 5 total Forms that Sora can change into allow you to equip a 2nd Keyblade and dual wield them. The Drive Gauge also powers the Summon spell this time around instead of the MP meter. The 4 character Summons this time around are: Chicken Little, Genie, Stitch, and Peter Pan. Having dual wielded Keyblades I can safely say the combat in [i]KH2[/i] has gone to a new level.
The command menu in [i]KH2[/i] also got a makeover. Instead of a plain menu each world has a themed menu. You do have the option of reverting this back to the plain menu in your game options. The command menu also got a functional change as well. The normal command menu is used for attacks, magic, items, and entering the drive forms. A secondary menu is used for attacks, summons, to switch party members, and perform combo attacks. This might sound cumbersome, but it was hardly noticeable while in combat.
My least favorite part of [i]KH[/i] was the dreaded Gummi Ship. Being forced to play a mediocre mini-game in just to change levels was probably the 2nd dumbest idea in recent gaming history, the first being the idea to bring it back in [i]KH2[/i]. While the Gummi Ship gameplay is revamped, it is still lame and not worth your time. I would suggest to Disney/SE that should they decide to bring this concept back in future games that they go the route of a side scrolling shooter. I could see that being a heck of a lot more fun than the current bland version. That being said, you only have to unlock routes to new worlds one time so time wasted on Gummi Shipping is minimal.
Probably the most interesting item to note in the [i]KH[/i] games are the incredible worlds that you get to visit. Here is a list of the Disney worlds that you get to experience this time around:
[*]The Land of Dragons (Mulan)
[*]Beast’s Castle (Beauty and the Beast)
[*]Olympus Coliseum (Hercules)
[*]Timeless River (Steamboat Willie)
[*]100 Acre Wood (Winnie the Pooh)
[*]Atlantica (The Little Mermaid)
[*]Port Royal (Pirates of the Caribbean)
[*]Halloween Town (The Nightmare Before Christmas)
[*]Pride Land (The Lion King)
[*]Space Paranoids (Tron)
I will admit that the initial 3 hours of the game left a sour taste in my mouth and has slowed the pace at which I am playing [i]KH2[/i], but make no mistake about it, this game is stellar. The improvements over the original game and the engaging environments make it one of the top games of the year and definitely a must have for fans of Disney and the Action RPG genre.