riostarwind's Kingdom Hearts: Final Mix (PlayStation 2) review

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A review and examination of why I like Kingdom Hearts

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With the third direct sequel to this franchise coming out in less than two months I thought I could use a refresher by replaying some of the series. Gotta start out with the one that started this convoluted storyline of Sora and those connected to him. While this first foray really is just a straightforward story about Sora traveling to different Disney worlds to find his friends, the seeds of what would come of this were already planted. The one thing you can never say is that the original story line in KH is predictable in any way. Which must be one part of why I enjoy this series.

Some of the more unique ways they use the villains from Disney is neat to see.
Some of the more unique ways they use the villains from Disney is neat to see.

Next up the gameplay doesn’t really feel like anything special. It is fairly simple for a action rpg. A standard 3 hit combo is your main offence other than some magic spells that can be used quickly via a quick select. Some special moves are available too as the game goes along like a dodge roll or a special keyblade move. Of course it wouldn’t be a Square Enix game without multiple summon spells. Which allow you to summon certain Disney characters like Simba to wreak some fools for a bit. Although I had access to these other moves most of the game is spent mashing on the standard attack button. Sure a few gravity spells are sent toward enemies in battles but a lot of fights don’t require much strategy. Which is good since it doesn’t feel like you have the right tools to avoid damage sometimes other than parring enemy attacks. While I believe the gameplay has improved over time it remains similar to this first entry. Which is alright but it doesn’t seem like the reason why I would keep coming back for more.

Seeing how Square crafted each new world to match the Disney animated movie it came from has to be a big pull. They do a excellent job of matching the different styles of animation each world is from like keeping the unique look of Nightmare Before Christmas. Which each style is recreated the story is always slightly off to match up with the Heartless being introduced to each new world Sora & Co explore. For example Jack wants to put on a amazing Halloween show so with the help of the doctor they try to make the heartless do their bidding by giving them a heart. This obviously doesn’t go well at all. Some of the unique ways they use the big baddies from each Disney movie is cool even if the big boss battles rely a bit to much on attacks that auto lock on. Which means you’ll spend a lot of time just avoiding damage or healing a lot. This nostalgia pull has to be the main reason why I got into the series. Especially since this is where I get my Disney fix since I very rarely watch any new movies they make.

The weakest part of this game is when it tries to mix things up with a mini game. The Gummi ship sections really feel like a waste of time thanks to how simple they are. Until near the end of the game they barely even provide much of a challenge and crafting a new ship takes a bit too long to make it worthwhile. All the mini games in the Hundred Acre Wood also feel pointless and unfun. Mixing up the main action rpg gameplay is a good idea but either they go by so fast it doesn’t do much or they just aren’t that fun. The way they match up with scenes from the different Disney properties is cool but that is all they really do.

It is to bad we never really get a Final Fantasy world even if some characters show up.
It is to bad we never really get a Final Fantasy world even if some characters show up.

So why do I like Kingdom Hearts? The Disney hooks certainly brought me in and seeing how they use them in the future games is neat. Gameplay isn’t anything special yet it does give off a comfort food kind of vibe since I’ve come back to this first game quite a few times over the years. The original storyline of the KH games go all over the place by the time you reach the present but it is quite intriguing. All of these parts mixed together must be why I enjoy this series. It’s a amalgamation of things yet still comes off quite charming in the end.

As for the first game like I’ve mentioned before with other first entries this is a good start. Yet it feels like one of the weaker entries. It has some odd difficulty jumps and annoying boss designs. Yet the game is generally paced well and for almost all the mini adventures in each world were just long enough to not get bored of them. Plus one of the things all the games have is variety. Unless the combat doesn’t sound that fun to you I think this game is just barely worth playing. At least if you have some affinity for Kingdom Hearts otherwise it might be iffy to come into this series now.

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