Like most people, I was hooked on the Disney-meets-Final Fantasy game known as Kingdom Hearts, which recieved such a huge cult following. And I was feverishly waiting for the sequel to come out, which has been considered as one of the most highly-anticipated games of the PS2.
Now that it's here, and after playing through it, let me give my thoughts on the aspects of this game:
The game picks up where the Chain of Memories left off as a mysterious being Roxas (Jesse McCartney)unknowingly has some sort of connection to the Keyblade bearer, Sora, who has been kept in a slumber capsule along with Donald and Goofy for almost a year, now. The first 2-3 hours of the game you'll play as Roxas, leading to flashback scenes of the first game and the COM games, which is good news for the newcomers wanting to play this game. Afterwards, the game picks up to speed as you finally play as Sora, back on his feet to find Riku and King Mickey...and Kairi, as well. At the same time, however, he has to defend the worlds by Heartless and strange creatures known as Nobodies led by a strange black cloaked group called Organization XIII.
Mickey, in particular, plays a larger and more awesome role in this game, given the fact that earlier he wears the same black cloak of the Organization.
After playing the game here, I can well say that the storyline is the game's strongest point overall. It asks the lingering questions that were running through our own minds as we played the first game. And best of all, it's all made so we can never constantly expect what's going to happen next.
A vast improvement over the first; more solid animations, and lesser "cheating" facial animations as well. I was shocked to see the game through my own eyes at how excellent Square Enix has done. The camera's problems, in particular, have been fixed to perfection, thereby, moving the control of the camera from the L2 and R2 buttons to the R3 analog stick, giving you the chance to move it whereever you want it to.
There are 15 levels as followed:
Hollow Bastion (returning level from the first game)
The Land of Dragons
Olympus Coliseum (returning level)
Atlantica (returning level)
Agrabah (returning level)
Halloween Town (returning level)
100 Acre Wood (returning level)
The World That Never Was
A few of the worlds here have returned from the first game, but are entirely redone so that they won't play exactly like the first game. Atlantica was strangely turned into a mini-game world, but Olympus Coliseum and Halloween Town are a vast improvement, because they follow directly from their own movies. 100 Acre Wood's book makes a comeback as you fetch the torn pages for it once again. Hallow Bastion becomes a BraveHeart-esque level and answers most of the questions overall from the first game. In addition, Mulan (The Land of Dragons) and Beauty and the Beast (Beast's Castle) recieve their own worlds, and surprisingly, there's a Steamboat Wille-themed world, Timeless River, which adds very well to how Mickey, Donald, Goofy, and even Sora would look like in the 1930s Disney cartoons. This ties in with the Disney Castle world, which Sora will meet Queen Minnie for the first time.
The biggest dissapointment is the Lion King-themed world, Pride Land, which grows so annoying even after the first few minutes. The best level of this whole game, however, is the Tron-themed level, Space Paranoids. This ties in wholly with the movie itself, and looks downright amazing. The trio, in particular, get to wear the cool, blue-lighted suits you see those people wear in the movie itself.
The music is on par with the first game. Some music, in the returning worlds, is still the same (except Antlantica), while the rest recieves some new orchestrations which are absolutely superb. There's plenty more where that came from.
The voices hit more than miss. The roles of Haley Joel Osment, Tony Anselmo, and Bill Farmer as Sora, Donald, and Goofy have returned, as well as the rest of the cast in the returning levels. (I still couldn't believe they didn't get Robin Williams to do the voice of Genie, and have to dig up Homer Simpson.) The Pride Land level has the worst voices overall with almost no depth from the cast in the movie whatsoever; Port Royal doesn't have the same movie cast either, but the guys here sound exactly like the movie's cast. I was really shocked.
The most surprising roll, however comes from Saruman the White himself, Christopher Lee as Diz (aka Ansem the Wise--you'll find out soon enough), the main man of Hollow Bastion. When I first watched his role as Diz, I was blown away at how well he delivered his preformance; I kept asking myself, "How the f*** did they get him to do this?!"
The gameplay, too, hits more than misses. You'll have more combo attacks than the first game, and you'll be able to do "reaction commands" with the triangle button (which seems awful similar to the context-sensitive actions in Conker's Bad Fur Day). The Drive Command is a nice touch, too; You'll mostly need it when you're fighting a boss. In some areas, when Sora bites the dust in some of the bosses, you'll play as Mickey, trying to bring Sora back to life.
The biggest flaw, however, comes from the difficulty presented in this game. What made the first game so difficult was the camera's issues which make it so hard to see where the heck you're going. Now that they're fixed, you can hack and slash anywhere you want to, which makes it a lesser challenge than before.
Luckily, thanks to the addition of an Expert mode, as well as making yourself having to come back to the worlds you've already open paths to for "second quests", this game is almost as long as the first; The first took 30 hours for me to beat and this game took me almost 29 hours. It's safe for me to say, "Close enough."
Despite the difficulty flaws, you'll definitely have a fun time with this game. I certainly enjoyed it and I'd say KHII is definitely better than the first, despite a few of the lackluster reviews on some online sites.