Preview: Kingdom Hearts II (PS2)

Publisher: Square-Enix / Developer: Square-Enix / Genre: RPG / Release Date: 09-14-05

In 2002, the gaming industry was introduced to the child of rather unexpected parentage. However, unlike the mutant giraffe-platypus offspring featured on the covers of various tabloids (and I’m not talking about Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin’s baby), Kingdom Hearts was a beautiful start to the Disney Interactive and Square Enix family. Now the family is expecting again and die-hard fans couldn’t be more excited. However, they will have to wait patiently for the day (hopefully in Fall 2005) when they can see whether their anticipation has paid off.

Donald, Goofy, and Sora return along with a whole new cast of Square and Disney characters.

Square Enix certainly did not let visually-oriented gamers down in Kingdom Hearts, and although not much is known about Kingdom Hearts II, a two-level preview can boast that this game, even in its rough form, will not lack in graphical detail — in both settings and in character modeling. Players can expect a return to some familiar locations, but they can also look forward to exploring other territories from the Disney empire. Apparently one of these locations will be the Underworld itself, which will be a challenging alternative to the first Kingdom Hearts, since players will be meeting Hades on his home turf. However, the Coliseum is expected to return, filled with mini-games and an environment that is useful for leveling up. Also, to the dismay of Kingdom Hearts players across the globe, Cerberus WILL be making a return, and he will be much larger and more vicious (why, god, why?).

In addition, players will be visiting the exquisite Gothic castle from Beauty and the Beast (which is not Hollow Bastion from the first game, by the way; if you remember, Kairi lived at Hollow Bastion until she relocated to Sora’s island), and there are rumors that Mulan’s world will be accessible also. The latter of the two should provide a nice mingling of Japanese depictions of Japan and Disney’s portrayals of the country (or, at least, its stereotypes). Another interesting tidbit is that this game’s alternative to dark, starry Traverse Town will be the complete opposite, dubbed Twilight Town, and highly expansive. The signature feature of this city is a large clock tower, but more demanding of the player’s attention is the brightness of the environment. The sky in Twilight Town is vivid gold, orange, and pink, apparently to mimic a naturalistic sunset. In all honesty, however, it looks more like sunrise than sunset. Either way, Twilight Town is really a misrepresentation, though it was likely given the alliterative name to draw parallels between Twilight and Traverse Towns.

Donâ┚¬Ëœt be surprised to see a certain cloaked mouse King join your adventure.

In terms of story, Kingdom Hearts II sets out a year after the first Kingdom Hearts game ends. Sora makes a return, obviously. However, puberty has hit our blue-eyed, baby-faced hero since we encountered him last, and he looks more like a slightly modified Final Fantasy X character model than the Sora players are familiar with (and, as a matter of fact, Auron from FFX will be featured in KH2. Hmmm.). Furthermore, he will be clothed almost entirely in black, a fact that rumors suggest is highly significant to the game. Players can also look forward to the return of familiar comrades, like Donald and Goofy, and the addition of new characters; King Mickey will have a much larger role this time around. It is unknown how often Kairi will be seen, but a year is sure to have changed her enough to have pedophiles salivating.

For the most part, this game’s plot is still heavily shrouded, but the Heartless are guaranteed a return, and this time they are accompanied by “Unknowns”, a creepy, cloaked branch of the Heartless family tree.

The audio in the game is far from being completed (as it is in Japanese). However, players will find variations of familiar and new melodies which are thematically appropriate and aurally pleasing (and everyone knows there’s nothing better than oral aural pleasure).

In terms of gameplay, it is virtually the same as in Kingdom Hearts. Sora will still be controlled by the player and viewed in third person. However, some improvements have been made that will both appease the player and help in battle. For example, the camera issues will be resolved which will help greatly in combat and the triangle button will be more useful. In addition, there are several interesting features, such as the “Drive” ability, which allows Sora and another member of his party to merge into a formidable opponent. In this case, there is a new outfit for Sora (to signify he’s in Drive mode…and to make him look pretty.), he is able to perform oodles of new combos and wield two massive swords of death (rar!).

Even though the list of things known about Kingdom Hearts II is very short, the game promises to be a compelling follow-up to its older sibling. Keep it here for all the latest details.