Sunday, July 30, 2006

Video Games: Kingdom Hearts

As I mentioned before, when we were in Duluth for vacation a few weeks ago, we didn't have many planned activities. That left quite a bit of free time for me to amuse myself, and I took advantage of that time to play a bunch of Kingdom Hearts.

Kingdom Hearts is a game that has been sitting in my stack of unopened games for a long, long time. I had always been intending to play it, but had just never got around to it. As it turns out, the game was really fun and definitely worth playing.

For those of you not familiar with Kingdom Hearts, it is an action RPG game made through a partnership with Squaresoft (makers of Final Fantasy) and Disney. The game features all sorts of Final Fantasy characters, enemies, and items, along with Disney-themed worlds and characters. If that sounds like a weird combination, you're right, it is. But at the same time there is something kind of fun about having Donald and Goofy or some random Disney character in your party while you explore Agrabah or fight Maleficent (the evil witch from Sleeping Beauty).

The game was fairly well put together, with a story explaining (as much as any Square RPG 'explains' things) why you had to travel to all these different worlds and why all these characters were around. There were lots of cutscenes building the story and characters and advancing the plot. The levels were very fun, for the most part, and definitely looked like the Disney worlds they were supposed to be.

The battle system in Kingdom Hearts was fairly good. Sword play was straight forward and easy to manage. It was easy to fight your way out of a big group of enemies. Casting magic was easy if it was a spell you setup a shortcut for, but cumbersome it wasn't one of your selected spells. Similarly using items in the middle of a frenetic battle was nearly impossible due to the clumsy in-battle menu system and the need to have items pre-selected before a battle for possible use.

I didn't have too many complaints about the game, my primary one was probably the aforementioned menu system during battle. Since everything happened real time, and you couldn't defend yourself while manipulating the menu system, it was very hard to do much of anything beyond attacking with your sword, choosing a follow-up combo, or casting a spell through shortcuts.

My other complaints were minor. I didn't like that the enemies dropped health and items as little balls that flew all over the world and had to go be individually collected. Especially since they disappeared after a short length of time, this made it hard because in the middle of battle I would find myself running around collecting money balls before they disappeared. This problem was somewhat mitigated later in the game, when the characters learned the 'Treasure Magnet' skill, which pulled the health and money to them from a short distance away. I was also sometimes annoyed at the unskippable cut-scenes, particularly when they prefaced a tough boss fight that I had to attempt multiple times and would have to watch a multi-minute cutscene every single time.

The game turned out to be pretty long as well, at least when played at my pace. I didn't quite finish everything, I left the four optional 'super-bosses' unchallenged, but I did complete enough of the rest of the optional portions to unlock the secret ending.

All-in-all, the game was definitely a lot of fun. I enjoyed the easy combat system, and exploring the Disney worlds, and it was also cool to see some of the Final Fantasy characters make an appearance. The only problem is that now I'm going to have to pick up Kingdom Hearts 2 when it goes cheap, so that I can continue the story.

No comments: