Frido continues the Kingdom Hearts Countdown with a look at the the second BIG game in the series, Kingdom Hearts 2!
Here it is everyone: the big one, Kingdom Hearts 2! Though it had worse sales than the first Kingdom Hearts, it is definitely a fan favorite. It’s a truly good game; there were quirks, of course, as every game has. The overall layout is a large step-up from the first Kingdom Hearts game. As always, spoilers ahead. Now let’s buckle down and do this thing!
Also, a little premise. I always start my reviews with the game’s story. This is a long game. If you don’t want to read the story, you can skip ahead to the actual review, which can be found under the picture of the different types of Keyblades. There’s not really a reason for the Keyblade picture; I just like some of the designs.
We start in Twilight Town playing as Roxas. Roxas has no memory of his time with Organization XIII. He is, however, still a Nobody. Roxas is finishing up his last days of summer with his friends Hayner, Pence, and Ollette. The gang have an essay to do before school starts and want to know what to write it on. Hayner and Roxas also enter a Struggle Tournament which basically seems to be fighting each other with foam swords. The gang searches for mysterious happenings within the town that Pence has presented as their school project. While doing this, Roxas encounters actual weird things that the others don’t seem to notice.
There are moments where Roxas encounters Namine and DiZ; he doesn’t understand who they are. Namine continues to tell him that he won’t disappear. Roxas is drawn to an empty mansion on the edge of Twilight Town. When he enters the mansion, he finds Namine’s room with drawings of Sora and himself. He then finds a secret room in the basement with a large computer. Roxas begins to remember and either gets confused or angry, but he destroys the computer. Roxas searches the mansion further and finds Sora’s sleeping body in the restoration chamber. He joins with Sora and the game truly begins.
Now that we’re playing as Sora, he does not remember Roxas. People keep calling him Roxas, and he just gets confused or thinks they’re calling him the wrong name. Sora goes to visit Yen Sid, the sorcerer in sorcerer Mickey short, “Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” from Fantasia. Yen Sid explains why they need to go on another quest but doesn’t really give them a lot of information. Sora meets the fairies, Flora, Fauna, and Merriweather who give him new clothes with abilities. Now that Sora is set with his new threads, they begin to travel to different worlds.
There are some worlds from the first game that are in this one as well, but most of the worlds are new. As we travel through the worlds, we learn that Organization XIII are having Sora release the stolen hearts from the Heartless so they can create Kingdom Hearts. Most of the game, however, is going through the different Disney stories and defeating Heartless.
Kairi is back in their home and doesn’t quite remember Sora or Riku. Kairi writes a note and throws a bottle into the ocean and wishes it to reach Sora. The gang continues to encounter Organization XIII and meets with King Mickey. King Mickey informs them that the person who was Ansem in the first game is not actually Ansem; it was his Heartless. Ansem the Wise is posing as DiZ to protect his identity. Ansem’s Nobody, Xehanort, is the leader of Organization XIII. Organization XIII is releasing the hearts in order to become whole and not be shells anymore, but this information is released more towards the end of the game.
As Sora approaches the final boss, he is finally are able to reunite with Kairi. Kairi is now able to hold a Keyblade, making her a wielder, and she helps Sora fight off the Heartless. Sora also finds Riku who has been taken over by Ansem’s Heartless in order to help Sora defeat Organization XIII. The gang travel up the castle in the world that never was and head to the final set of bosses.
After their fight with Saix, they find King Mickey and Ansem the Wise. As Ansem tries to collect Kingdom Hearts as data, he realizes his machine is going to explode. He disappears in the explosion, and Riku is thrown out of his Heartless Ansem form, looking like normal Riku again.
As the final boss, Xemnas, attempts to talk Sora, Riku, and King Mickey out of fighting him, Sora quickly calls him out, saying that Xemnas isn’t sad, he’s a Nobody; he can’t feel anything. Xemnas then pulls Sora into some sort of alternate reality (it’s not really explained where they are, but the others are unable to see him or what’s happening) and they begin to fight. After Sora wins the battle, he falls back where the others are. Xemnas decides that he needs to be absorbed into Kingdom Hearts, using anger and rage to be whole. Xemnas disappears into Kingdom Hearts and a door appears. The world beyond is a warped version of The World That Never Was. The door closes, and King Mickey and Kairi are stuck outside. Sora fights his way into the castle housing Xemnas. When Xemnas is defeated, he says that he requires more rage, more hearts. Sora explains that hearts are more than just anger, they are full of all kinds of emotions (there it is–the Disney lesson! “Don’t let rage and anger fill your heart”).
Xemnas disappears. Riku is worried about his darkness. As he tries to open a portal to leave, he realizes he no longer has the power of darkness and now belongs to the world of light. Namine appears to open a portal, but because she has been absorbed by Kairi, she is just a figment only Kairi and Sora can see. Donald, Goofy, Pluto, and Mickey head through the portal. Kairi thanks Namine and she starts to talk to Sora. Roxas appears as a figment and the two talk about how they will always be there and will remain part of Sora and Kairi, and therefore, will remain together. Namine goes back to Kairi and Roxas to Sora.
Kairi goes through the portal, and–le gasp–the portal closes and it’s Xemnas again, but he’s bigger and badder than ever. You fight Xemnas a couple more times and finally you defeat him. Riku becomes weak, and Sora must carry him.
The two find a beach and sit along it, listening to the waves, when a bottle appears. Again, le gasp, it’s the bottle that Kairi sent in the beginning of the game. The two are touched by Kairi’s words, and a door to light appears. When the two walk through, it throws them into the ocean off the coast of their original island, Kairi is standing on the beach. A little bit of time passes, and Kairi has another bottle. It’s from King Mickey, and the game ends.
Oh look some nice Keyblades!
Kingdom Hearts 2 is a massive improvement over the first game. There are still issues within the game, but they are much easier to deal with compared to literally getting lost in a bunch of levels. Let’s start with the bad things.
The beginning of the game straight up sucks. The time spent at the beginning in Twilight Town is extremely slow and takes an extensive amount of time; it feels almost three times as long as the island from the first game. The game gets much more exciting once you become Sora and leave Yen Sid’s Castle. Also, if the player hadn’t played through 358/2 days, the beginning of the game wouldn’t make a lot of sense. We wouldn’t know who Roxas is or why we have to play as him, which makes the beginning of the game a real push. The good game is in there it’s just forever and a decade away.
As players venture through worlds, some of them just don’t feel as solid as they could, though the second game really improves on the “not knowing where to go” aspect that was an issue in the first game. However, there are only three worlds that just didn’t feel they were as good or they could have been or that they were good choices, it just feels like there are better choices within the Disney universe for worlds to choose from.
Atlantica is first up. The Little Mermaid level in the first game was decent but was nothing to write home about. This new version of Atlantica just shouldn’t exist. Players must participate in a series of quick-time events such as performing in a musical with Ariel and Sebastian and even facing Ursula as the final boss. There are four times you have to leave Atlantica, level up, and come back when you have certain abilities. Who was this level made for anyway? It seems to play to a younger generation, but the first part of the game is somewhat challenging and doesn’t seem like younger players (5-6 years old) would be able to get that far; it’s grueling.
Pirates of the Caribbean doesn’t fit the art style of the game as the rest of the worlds do. If players look at their HP and MP bars, they’ve changed from a florescent green to a dull baby food pea color.
And as the only world that doesn’t have some kind of talking animal or item, they would be FREAKING OUT at the sight of a talking dog and duck. The whole level feels really repetitive as well, especially on the second trip back. The final boss is also very unnecessary. The fact that their saying a Heartless can transform due to a curse doesn’t make a lot of sense. That, however, can be forgiven. The final boss fight takes a bit if you haven’t really been using magic in the game. It’s easier if you have the magic lock-on equipped for Sora, and good lord, don’t even think of taking Donald out of your party. The whole level just feels like they’re really pushing for Pirates of the Caribbean. The ride is already popular, as are the movies. It’s not like they were hurting for money in the Pirates franchise. Why make developers include another art style?
Lastly is The Pride Lands from The Lion King. A lot of players had some real issues with this level, but it wasn’t horrible. The graphics weren’t great but not unbearable. The way that Simba walks in the menu looks really clunky, and let’s not even talk about Pete as a lion–yeesh. The biggest redeeming factor for The Pride Lands is that Scar is the only boss that turns into a Heartless.
The game all around is much better. The gummi ship system is more enjoyable and easier to control. The drive systems add a nice bonus when fighting bosses. The level-up system for final form is a little ridiculous, and you have to have it to be able to reach some of the puzzle pieces, due to gaining the ability to fly. It’s a nice touch, though.
Tron being included was awesome. The level itself was meh, but for it to be included was cool. As always, the Colosseum aspect is fun as well. The fighting system has improved so much, and it’s much better. It feels more smooth, better put together. You aren’t doing the same button mashing as the first game; you’re actually achieving combos and there’s an actual finesse, almost, to it rather than mindless button mashing. The Timeless River was my favorite world, by far. I really enjoyed the change in music, and I love the old Steamboat Willie art. That level was just an awesome addition to the game. Even though a lot more is explained in this game, some parts are still confusing–which is why there’s a third game!
I highly recommend this game. To really understand the story, though, all games need to be played. It’s still a great game, either way. It’s fun and is a major step-up from the previous games. It has its ups and downs but it’s still worth the time put in.
Keep an eye out for our last review for the Kingdom Hearts series and the release of Kingdom Hearts 3! It’s been 10 years; let’s do this!