Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Kingdom Hearts 2 Review (PS2)


The first Kingdom Hearts was without doubt one of the best adventure games to grace the PS2. The strange mix of Square and Disney characters created a number of lush and interesting worlds for players to explore.  After a long delayed release Kingdom Hearts 2 it finally made its way to Europe, but was it worth the wait?

Right from the start the game throws players off by starting you in the form of Roxas, a young boy who lives in Twighlight town. Never fear, Sora will appear later but first we have a mini adventure. This serves to acquaint the player with the games controls and also sets out the themes of the title.

Presentation as you might expect is of an incredibly high order with striking representations of the Disney creations complete with some excellent voice over work. As before, many final fantasy characters appear throughout and as a nice touch most of the characters that appeared in the  FFVII Advent Children movie have the same voice actors. While the presentation of the game may be as excellent as ever the levels themselves are sadly a little lacking when compared to the first game.

Combat is the emphasis for this title with the many puzzles and platform sections of the original all but a memory. Difficulty has also been dropped a touch, though that is not necessarily a bad thing considering some of the insanity present before. As well as the standard physical and magical attacks available there are now new gauge and limit options. The gauge allows a second keyblade to be brought into action containing a whole new set of skills in a sort Disney version of a Chow Yun-Fat double pistol attack.

Limit attacks bring all the characters together to perform a high impact move on the enemy- often with quick time event style button pushes to prolong it. In certain situations the triangle button can be pressed to initiate a context sensitive attack, in boss battles this is always obvious as a very large and clear ‘Press Triangle’ sign appears over a Triangle shaped button. When fighting normal opponents however the triangle command appears fleetingly at the bottom left of the screen on the command menu and is far too easy to miss.

Although having such a wide range of moves is welcome their execution leaves something to be desired. Combat is so frantic and fast that most of the time it is completely impractical to cycle through a couple of menus in order to find the summon or limit break commands. Luckily they are not really necessary to fight your way to victory but you cannot help feel that the control system could have been a little more streamlined.

With the puzzles removed what we get is relentless combat followed by relentless combat, which if played in long sessions does become repetitive. This feeling is not helped by some uninspired level design and locations on occasion. With all the creations that Disney has license to you have to wonder why certain locations are repeated from the first game. They do have new stories but did we really need to go back to the Hercules level? I think not.

That is not to say there is not inspiration at work as well- the Steamboat Willie and Pirates of the Caribbean levels for example. You can’t help but feel that The developers have missed a few tricks here though with so many Disney movies not appearing in either game so far and that’s not to mention other IP’s such as Duck Tales or Darkwing Duck. What we have here for the most part is a very safe choice of levels.

This is the main feeling you get from the title. There are numbers of good and inspired moments but for each one you can’t help but think of something else that would have been better and players will no doubt end up feeling they have seen it before or that could have been handled with a touch more inspiration. Faults aside the title is highly enjoyable and well presented. For fans of the series there are sections here that are worth the entry fee. However, there is no getting away from the fact that first game simply contains more inspiration, more variety and more magic.

7/10

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