|Kingdom Hearts II (2006)
Publisher: Square Enix
Available for: PlayStation 2
You know how people will often say a movie’s sequel is often better than its original counterpart? Sometimes, this is often the case with video games as well. “Street Fighter II” was better than “Street Fighter,” “Ms. Pac-Man” was better than “Pac-Man,” and so on. These days, if you have a huge hit you’d damn well better be ready to outdo yourself the next time around. Fans of series such as “Final Fantasy” and “Metal Gear” expect nothing but better than the best every time out. So you’d think that the sequel to “Kingdom Hearts,” one of the most original RPGs to ever come around, would really give up all the goods in its second installment. You’d be right to think that. But you’d be wrong to actually expect it.
For all of its exceptional hype and glitzy advertisements, “Kingdom Hearts II” is an average failure when compared to the debut game. Some things, such as the absolutely crappy game camera of the original have been fixed, but overall, the game focuses too much on its grand story and too little on the gameplay. Don’t expect to sit down with this game and start kicking ass and having a good time as soon as you pop it in. This game is all about making you wait. And wait. And wait.
It’s no lie when I tell you that the game’s prelude alone takes no less than a little over three hours to complete before the big flashy “Kingdom Hearts II” title screen splashes in front of your eyes. That’s right. Over three hours. During this time, you’ll be playing as a character named Roxas who hangs out with three of his pals, whittling away summer break. Everyone keeps talking about how they all should go to the beach, but no one has any money to do so. So you start doing some menial tasks, such as delivering mail on a skateboard, or pushing a heavy sack of junk on a car up a hill, or killing swarms of bees. No sooner do you make your money and head off to the train, when some cloaked figure bumps into Roxas and takes his money after an annoying conversation. Oh yeah, it’s that grating, kids.
Roxas is somehow tied into the original game’s character Sora, and the two are somehow connected via a digital sort of witch named Namine. Namine in turn is controlled by some shadowy figured who wishes to destroy some evil Corporation XIII. During the first three hours of gameplay, Roxas is being “reconfigured” until he is almost at 100%. He constantly has dreams about Sora and apparently his world is a fake creation and he is what is known as a Nobody. It’s all very convoluted and most players will undoubtedly become increasingly bored by the whole thing. It would all be really tiring if not for the fact that the whole thing plays out like some unintended bad drug trip. Every time something big is about to happen, you just know that Roxas is going to start tripping between two worlds. It’s the perfect kind of thing for some serious pot smoking or acid dropping fiend to get into and enjoy. Everyone else will find their patience is seriously tested.
Anyway, after dragging yourself through Roxas’ prelude, the real game starts. We find that Sora has been in some sort of stasis, along with Donald Duck and Goofy. They all awake to find themselves in Roxas’ world, with King Mickey Mouse on his way to find them. Along the way, you’ll meet up with such characters as Jack Skellington and Captain Jack Sparrow, while playing in such environments as Tron’s world, as well as a vintage black and white Steamboat Willie landscape. Hey, the visuals and music are excellent once again, it’s just that damn presentation is getting in the way. Well, that and the completely boring and all too easy battle system. Ready to button mash, folks?
If you feel you absolutely need to own this title, then go ahead and drop the 50 bucks. However, you’d really do better by just renting it or waiting for a while until the price comes down to get into “Kingdom Hearts II.” The whole thing could have been so much better, but what we really get here is a big-ass movie with a bit of gameplay here and there that doesn’t do anything to expand upon the original game. So much for those sequels. Still, Square Enix isn’t out of it yet. There’s “Final Fantasy XII” right around the corner, and you know that’s (probably) going to rock really nice.