Kingdom Hearts II is the sequel to a very succesful first game Kingdom Hearts - produced by Square Enix and Disney. Hopefully this review will tell you reading it just how good this game actually is, and will make an attempt to sum this game up in words.
So then, Kingdom Hearts II carries on from it's prequel, answering the question 'What the hell happened to Sora?'
But not quite the way you'd expect. Rather, the first character we meet is a guy named Roxas - living in the relatively quite Twilight Town and enjoying the last of his summer holidays with best friends Hayner, Pence and Olette.
But something is bothering Roxas. The strongest guy in the town, Seifer, has blamed him and his friends for thefts that have spread across the town. Wanting to clear his name, Roxas searches Twilight Town to find the real thieves, and prove Seifer was wrong. But then, just like things couldn't get any worse, strange white beings attack him, and go on to steal Pence's camera. Roxas goes on to follow the beings to the Old Mansion passed the woods, and successfully defeats the creature. The story continues on, Roxas inevitably ends up back at the mansion after encountering his so-named best friend Axel and being chased by more white beings. It is within the mansion Roxas meets a girl named Namine. Namine tells Roxas that he is half of a boy called Sora, and wasn't even supposed to exist. But before Namine can tell Roxas just what he is, Diz - a man who later explains to Roxas that he has been kept in a hologram for his own safety- and another man named Ansem take her away. Further within the mansion, Roxas comes face to face with Sora - the person who he is said to be half of. So we have finally met Sora, and now that Namine has finished piecing his memories of his other journey together, he can wake up. He's been sleeping for roughly one year, and now he has to carry on finding Riku. Little does he know he's going to end up destroying more Heartless and fighting the same beings that attacked Roxas called 'Nobodies' - beings that are the empty shells left behind of people who have lost their hearts.
So this long, slightly confusing but well made story aside, what is the actual game like?
If there was a button for 9 and 3/4 I would've hit that one, since neither 9 nor 10 quite hits the mark. The graphics have most certainly improved since Kingdom Hearts, thats for sure. There is now a wider range of expressions and poses for characters to perform while actually playing the game, rather than only being able to do the more interesting and complexes poses within the in-game movies.
Which leads us on to the in-game movies neatly. Comparitively since the first game, again there has been large improvement. Clothes and hair seem a little more free and natural (though how characters poses some of their hairstyles is a question still unanswered) and there appears to be a bit more work gone into the shading and lighting of faces and objects, giving a more 3-D look in general.
Again I'll say that a 9 isn't the right scoring for this, but neither is 10. There are still areas of the game that appear rather... Well, blocky for saying how good the rest of it is, or parts of the game that look a little more neglated than others. Hence why I won't rate this 10/10 but am not enjoying rating it a 9/10 either.
There is neither much improvement, nor any fall in the quality of sound. In fact, Kingdom Hearts II has a new sound effect avalable on particular televisions, which I find rather unique. Why unique? Well most games are usually fitted for either stereo or mono compatibility. So this new feature (I believe it incorporates surround sound, which is always nice) is quite a nice little bonus.
Whoa, I cannot under no circumstances rate this under 10! Gameplay hasn't changed much since the first game, so gamers who enjoyed Kingdom Hearts' real time battle system are sure to enjoy this game. New improvements have made gameplay even better; we now have reaction commands to use in battle, which became rather useless when in battle in the first game. We have new and impressive combos to perform with Sora and "world special" characters (these would be disney characters mostly, such as Simba or Cap'n Jack Sparrow) which both look impressive and can deal good damage at the same time - essential in particularly nasty battles. To add to this, Sora has Forms that he can use in certain situations, making the best of one party member, or perhaps both. For example - Valor form does require Goofy to be in your party, and then to use it the form actually removes him from the party. But it provides Strength rather than Magic, and can prove very useful against the many Magic Resistant enemies that crop up throughout the game. Wisdom form 'uses up' Donald and gives you Magic, and the Master form you get from Mickey is the ultimate form that you get naturally through storyline. For those gamers who unlocked the incredible Final Form, it should be quite obvious which out of the latter is the best. This is a huge improvement to gameplay, and at least gives gamers a challenge to train up their forms and gain the abilities to use in normal form if they ever get bored. But to add to this really good gameplay, the producers have ballanced out the good with the bad. Too much use of your forms, and you turn into 'Anti-Form Sora' (usually known as Anti-Form) - a really, pathetically useless forms that only excels in speed, uses all your drive gauges and has stupidly low defense.
So you can at least give the slightly editted battle system credit and forget about the rather new (and improved and better, if you ask me) storyline or the new worlds that you can go to. And of course we mustn't forget the fact that we now have 2 worlds without Heartless - Atlantica and the 100 Acre Wood. Both of these worlds are now worlds that require more intelligence and good timing (doesn't the rest of the game anyway?) than Sora's strength or Magic, and are now Mini-Game worlds. They still have a storyline of course, but are worlds free from the troubles of the Heartless and the newer Nobodies. Hurrah, a break!
Well if you're anything like I was, this game could be played within a week, roughly 40 hours give or take depending on what side-quests you might go on. But still, 40 hours? Run it together and it adds up to around 2 days, so it isn't exactly a short game. And with optional and available extras (and a secret ending to prompt you do these) gameplay lasts longer, and is far more entertaining.
Hence why this game is a 10/10 - it's a game that gives you available extras aside from the storyline, and therefore gives you the choice of extra gameplay, rather than games that only have the one storyline and variety in gameplay time only occurs when someone decides that a bit more training is needed. A game that gives you the choice of either following the one 'big' story, or making the 'big' story 'bigger' with the 'small' stories is deserving of a high score, and when game quality is extremely good as well, you can't ask for much more.
Great graphics, good sound, deep and very well thought out storyline packed full of good gameplay that requires timing and tactic, and even gives you a choice as to how long you play it, this game is very, very good. And what I personally like more about it is that there is still room for improvement after such a great game. It's no fun going back to the 'perfect game' time and time again, because after a while it'll just get generally boring. Games that require improvement always keep you busy, and in the case of games that you know are going to have a sequel, always keep you waiting to see how much better the next game is. Can't get much higher than 10/10, but hopefully KH III will score a good 11.
Final Score: 98%