Review by Angelo Heartilly

Reviewed: 04/10/06

Mediocre game backed by two great franchises

Being a Final Fantasy fan it was only natural that I was interested in KHII. The first game was a fairly bland action RPG that was saved only by it's Disney and Final Fantasy worlds/characters/concepts, so I wasn't expecting much out of the sequel. Which is lucky, I wasn't disappointed in the game even though I found it sub-par. The unfortunate thing about KHII is that while it improves on many things from the first game it also has a number of glaring weaknesses the previous game didn't.

The beginning of the game puts you in the shoes of Roxas, a personality-less, weak, slow-as-hell loser that sounds like a herd of stampeding elephants whenever he tries to run. You'll be controlling him for the first three to four hours of play. This was an extremely disappointing way to begin the game, though it built up to Sora's return it was just outright boring, required repetitive tasks and challenged the player in no way, SE will be lucky if a number of people don't drop the game right away because it takes forever to start up. At least it made me appreciate Sora as a character more, even though I still don't like him.

Once you are back in control of Sora, KHII goes off in the same direction as the first game. You go to other Disney worlds and experience their stories, while the main plot is all but forgotten for a while. Basically Sora is still looking for Riku, the King and Kairi while attempting to stop Organization 13 as they are apparently evil, though I was never able to figure out why Sora and friends opposed the Organizations "evil" plan since I can't recall anything about it being inherently bad or destructive. Regardless, near the end of the game the plot picks back up, but SE tried way too hard to make it complex and deep. In reality, way too much confusion was invoked simply because half of the characters are wearing the same black overcoats and there is way too much stupid, unnecessary confusion over identities as characters randomly take up aliases, think they are someone else, steal other's identities, etcetera. On top of that there are some pretty ugly (and pretty obvious) retcons from the first game's story that makes the whole plot seem very contrived.

Of course, I didn't buy KHII for the story so maybe I should move on. Combat has been revamped from the first game. How so? Well, basically they made Sora a combo-god with a myriad of super moves. Though many (including myself) have said that the original KH was a bit of a button masher, that statement is only twice as true for KHII. Sora now has all kinds of abilities to equip and enhance the range, power and effectiveness of his aerial and ground combos, so that simply by rapidly pressing X you'll be throwing out ridiculous combos that decimate enemies. Sora also has Limits (team up with a character to cover the screen with a flurry of attacks), Summons (team up with a Disney character for extremely powerful benefits) and Drives (become a combo/projectile/aerial attack god). These attacks regenerate very quickly, enough so that you can probably use a super attack every other battle. Combined with Sora's already absurd combat ability that requires little help from the player, enemy types lose most of their individuality and all blend together as a bunch of fodder for Sora and friends.

Another new aspect of combat is Reaction commands, where a little prompt onscreen will tell you when you can push triangle and bust out some cool move against enemies. While it is an interesting feature, it is clearly only an excuse for SE to pump more insane attack animations into the game. There isn't any challenge to it, there are several spots on the screen where prompts appear and they aren't hard to get as you are given ample time. Bosses usually have a "combo" reaction ability that requires several presses of triangle, but disgustingly enough you can just jam on triangle and get all of the combo prompts easily, with no consequences for pushing triangle when you shouldn't. Besides a few fun ones, Reaction commands only serve to disrupt the combat and took the fun away from me. For example, while blocking a Large Body's charge and then jumping behind him and attacking gave me plenty of satisfaction in the first game, pressing triangle as one approaches me to knock him away, pushing triangle again to run around him whacking him five times and pressing triangle one last time to smash him away yields next to no satisfaction because I don't feel like I'm actually doing anything that is going on on-screen.

As a final complaint about the combat, it simply has no challenge. Yes, I played on Proud mode. No, I never even touched a lower difficulty. No, I didn't power-level at any point in the game. Yes, it was stupid-easy. The only challenge is found in a couple of cheap bosses who spam huge attacks and undergo lengthy periods of invincibility. Even they take only a couple of tries, if you have even a bit of video game experience KHII won't give you any noteworthy challenges. Managing Sora's abilities is a breeze as well, he learns huge numbers of abilities but at the same time you find craploads and craploads of AP Boosts, meaning you'll never have to go without having to short Sora on more than one or two abilities you wanted him to have.

As it turns out, combat is about all the game is based around. The first game had a sprinkling of adventure and platforming segments as you looked for hidden treasures or ways to get to hard to reach chests, but that isn't the case here. Treasure chests are quite literally laying everywhere, right out in the open and requiring nothing more than one quarter of a brain to go to and open. Though most areas are very big, they also have almost nothing worth making any mention of, just barren landscape to fight through. For this reason partially many of the Disney worlds are disappointing. Pirates of the Caribbean, Tron and Steamboat Willy all were less fun than they looked on paper thanks to their own flaws. Thankfully Lion King, Hercules, Beauty and the Beast and several others all serve up fairly solid worlds.

As one would expect from a game from Square, the visuals and music are top-notch. Unfortunately, while the Disney characters obviously get full-attention given to their VAs, many Final Fantasy characters got screwed over. Cid and Aeris sound horrific, while other characters like Cloud and Squall got only decent voice tlaent. On top of the voices, many FF fans will be disappointed in how crappy some of the characters are portrayed. Setzer is a conniving loser who traded in his cards for a baseball bat, Squall tries waaaaaaay to hard to be aloof and cool, Tifa is a personality-less wench whose only mindset the entire game is find Cloud, and worst of all Cloud and Sephiroth's conflict has been dumbed down to the point where they sound like two kids squabbling. Though there is some Final Fantasy lovin' to be found here, there definitely isn't as much as there should be.

Though I'm going to get all kinds of hatred for saying so, it has to be said. KHII was made for kids. Older Disney and Final Fantasy fans will like it for their own reasons, but the core game was designed for the same kids that enjoyed Elmo's Letter Adventure. Everything is simple-minded and basic. Level layouts rarely intrigue, 98% of the treasure chests are simply laying around out in the open to be picked up unchallenged, combat is ridiculously flashy while requiring next to no input from the player, "character customization" is so underwhelming you rarely have to ponder more than a few seconds over your ability and equipment choice, and to top it all off you simply aren't going to find a challenge in it all. KHII was made to appeal to everyone, which it does more or less. At the same time by doing so SE had to make the game incredibly mainstream and unchallenging both mentally and physically. Obviously if you love Disney or Final Fantasy you are going to want to play KHII, just keep in mind two great franchises doesn't necessarily equate to one great game.

Gameplay -------- 7/10
Story ------------- 5/10
Graphics ----------9/10
Sound ------------ 7/10
Replayability ---- 5/10
Overall ------------6/10

Rating:   3.0 - Fair

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