Kingdom Hearts II is an action role-playing game developed and published by Square Enix and released in 2005. It is the sequel to Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, and like the two previous games, focuses on Sora and his friends' continued battle against the Darkness. It also offers a number of improvements over the original with many new features, most notably Sora's Drive Form function, an improved camera, and in-battle options called Reaction Commands.
The theme song for the game is "Sanctuary" (Japanese version: "Passion") performed by Utada Hikaru.
Kingdom Hearts II begins where Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories and Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days leave off. Sora and his companions have been asleep for about a year, regaining their memories. When Sora awakens, he eventually arrives in Twilight Town, the place where a mysterious boy, Roxas, lived before he suddenly left.
Gaining new clothes and powers, Sora began his journey anew, unaware of the events that have taken place in Chain of Memories. Sora continues his quest by unlocking paths to new worlds, learning of Nobodies and fighting the Heartless, as well as facing the remaining members of the mysterious Organization XIII. As the game progresses, Sora learns about Roxas and how much they have in common.
The story begins with the player in control of Roxas in Twilight Town. Roxas has dreams of Sora's adventures while increasingly mysterious activities begin taking place in Twilight Town during Roxas's summer vacation. After obtaining the Keyblade to defend himself from the Nobodies, Roxas comes in contact with a young man in black named Axel. Axel appears to know Roxas, though Roxas has no recollection of him. Roxas eventually makes his way into an abandoned mansion where a girl named Naminé informs him that he is a Nobody, although he did not quite know what a Nobody was at that time.
Finally, confronted by a mysterious, red-cloaked man called DiZ, Roxas discovers Sora, Donald, and Goofy sleeping in the hidden basement of the mansion. Roxas seems to merge with Sora. As Sora, Donald, and Goofy awake from their year-long slumber. Jiminy Cricket, who had previously chronicled the trio's adventures, finds that his journal is now completely blank, save for the note: "Thank Naminé" (which was written by Jiminy himself during Chain of Memories).
After meeting Pete, a new villain, and speaking with Yen Sid, the party is informed that they must once again visit many worlds to protect them from both the Heartless and the Nobodies in an attempt to stop Organization XIII. These include both old but greatly changed places, like Hollow Bastion, and brand new worlds the party has never encountered before.
In the course of their travels, the Heartless, headed by a revived Maleficent and the Organization, regain power, eventually forcing Sora to battle a massive army of Heartless that are attacking Hollow Bastion. Along the way, they learn that the Ansem they fought a year ago was actually the Heartless of Xehanort, and that the Nobody of Xehanort, Xemnas, is the leader of Organization XIII. They also learn that Xehanort was an apprentice of the real Ansem, who is missing.
After the battle, Xemnas appears and reveals their ultimate goal: the Nobodies plan to create another Kingdom Hearts, a doorway to the heart of all worlds that will presumably allow the Nobodies to get their hearts back. After confronting and defeating more members of the Organization, Sora goes to the World That Never Was to settle the score with the Organization for good; he also finally reunites with his friends Riku and Kairi. Sora learns the truth about Roxas as well; he and Naminé are, respectively, Sora and Kairi's Nobodies, created when they lost their hearts in the original Kingdom Hearts game.
In the end, only Xemnas is left of the original thirteen members. Sora and Riku unite to defeat him, and his new Kingdom Hearts is closed. Sora and the others are returned to their homeworld of Destiny Islands. Although Sora has to say goodbye to Donald and Goofy, he knows in his heart that true friends are never gone. However, sometime later, Sora, Riku, and Kairi receive a letter from King Mickey after the credits. They proceed to read the letter, but the contents are left unrevealed until Kingdom Hearts coded.
Kingdom Hearts II offers a number of key differences from the original Kingdom Hearts. While the core gameplay remains mostly the same, new features have been added to improve the experience. The two most notable are Sora's Drive system, which allows him to fuse with one or both party allies and assume new powers, and Reaction Commands, which allow Sora and/or members of his party to perform special maneuvers in the course of battle. In addition, there are new and revamped Abilities, as well as special abilities, such as Glide, that can only be gained by leveling Sora's Drive Forms. Another thing to notice is that in order to defeat a boss, a combo finisher must be executed. Boss fights themselves have been notably revamped from the first game, allowing the player to take more advantage of openings which are now better defined and telegraphed, while punishing players that abuse specific attacks or simply attack a boss too much or too recklessly.
Item synthesis is again offered; however, Moogles must now be leveled to make more powerful items or use rarer materials, and lists of ingredients can be found in Recipes in the worlds or as Free Development items that open with a Moogle's improving ability. Treasure chests are also abundant, mostly containing synthesis materials and accessories; however, the scavenger hunt-type games of Trinity Marks and the 99 Puppies are gone.
Also notably changed is the Gummi Ship system; instead of a space shooter, the ships now operate more like a rail shooter, traveling along a fixed path while allowing the player to worry only about destroying various enemies scattered along the course. Ships can now be equipped with abilities of their own, new Gummi types such as Slash Gummis have been added, and high-level Gummi Ships may have two companion ships, called Teeny Ships, that can assist them in battle.
There are many new mini-game offerings. Skateboarding is a primary one; it can be used for transport through the worlds or as a mini-game in which certain goals must be met. Many worlds now have specific mini-games of their own, such as Space Paranoids's Light Cycle or Twilight Town's Summer Jobs. Fighting tournaments are also offered again, but now in the Underworld's Underdrome, and through Hades himself. 100 Acre Wood returns and again consists entirely of mini-games; also notably, Atlantica has been changed from a explorable world with combat to a set of musical mini-games.
Most of the key characters from Kingdom Hearts return, particularly heroes Sora, Riku, and Kairi, as well as constant party members Donald and Goofy. King Mickey also returns, having a much larger role in Kingdom Hearts II than his cameo at the end of the first game. Old foes also return, most notably Maleficent.
A number of characters first featured in Chain of Memories also make comebacks in Kingdom Hearts II; most prominently involved are Naminé and DiZ. Axel of Organization XIII also makes a return appearance, the only member to appear in both games; the Organization members featured in Kingdom Hearts II are all new to the series. Also new to the series is the mysterious Roxas, and Maleficent's new lackey, Pete.
In addition to the Disney characters that return from Kingdom Hearts, there are also characters from several Disney features making their Kingdom Hearts debut, most notably characters from the previously unexplored worlds of Mulan, The Lion King, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Tron, as well as a world dedicated to Disney's older black-and-white works, Timeless River. New but familiar characters have also been added to all of the returning worlds.
Other characters make prominent appearances in the original Kingdom Hearts worlds of Twilight Town and Hollow Bastion. Yen Sid the sorcerer, Mickey's master in the movie Fantasia, makes an appearance, inhabiting a mysterious tower. Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather from Sleeping Beauty give Sora his new outfit. Scrooge McDuck also has taken residence in Hollow Bastion trying to recreate a "salty flavored ice cream". Merlin returns to Hollow Bastion, now allied with several familiar faces from Traverse Town in the original game.
Final Fantasy characters
Seventeen characters from six of the Final Fantasy games make appearances in Kingdom Hearts II. Along with returning characters from Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy VIII, and Final Fantasy X, characters from Final Fantasy VI, Final Fantasy IX, and Final Fantasy X-2 debut for the first time.
It had been stated by game designer Tetsuya Nomura that, although the first game strictly stuck to characters Nomura designed, this time around they were going to "take some risks", allowing characters from Final Fantasy games without involvement from Nomura to make appearances. The involvement of characters from VI and IX are the result.
The omnipresent Moogles, featured in many different Final Fantasy titles, return in Kingdom Hearts II as both the keepers of item synthesis, and also as shopkeepers at various places in worlds. However, because of the dangers of the world, they only appear as holograms, with the exception of the Moogles in Hollow Bastion and Twilight Town. Other constant Final Fantasy reference include Biggs and Wedge, who make appearances as shopkeepers, references to the Final Fantasy job classes in the names of the Nobodies, and the names of various Gummi Ship blueprints.
Nobodies are the main enemies here, appearing alongside Heartless. They are creatures without hearts, born from the body and soul of a living being who has lost its heart. Organization XIII are Nobodies who have retained their human forms, albeit a bit changed from their original appearance. Another difference between the Nobodies and Heartless are that the Nobodies attack more tactically, and often together, unlike the instinctive nature of the Heartless. Many of the different kinds of Nobodies are named after job classes from the Final Fantasy series.
Like the previous game, Sora can summon certain Disney characters to aid him in battle when attaining each of their respective items. As summons use the Drive Gauge instead of the MP bar, Sora cannot Drive and summon at the same time. The character will replace the two computer-controlled characters and fight alongside Sora for as long as the Drive Gauge allows. Instead of the summoned character being limited to only one action, the summoned character now has a menu of his own to perform multiple actions, some solo actions and some cooperative actions with Sora. There are four summons total in Kingdom Hearts II, Chicken Little, Genie, Stitch, and Peter Pan with additional help from Tinker Bell.
World party members and assistance
World-specific party members appear in almost every world in the game; there are nine in total, offering a huge leap from the original game's six. Notable among them are Auron, the first Final Fantasy character to be a party member, and Sora's best friend Riku. Also notable are assistance characters, who are not part of the party, but can fight alongside of it; they usually appear during key battles and plot moments.
Besides typical English translation and localization, the English version of Kingdom Hearts II differs from the original Japanese version in the content of gameplay and several scenes:
- When Sora battles the Hydra in Olympus Coliseum, green blood gushes out whenever Sora harms it. The green blood was changed to black and purple smoke in the English version, though the cutscene where Hercules was fighting it retains the green blood. The reason for this change is unknown, as even the original movie had the green blood.
- Xigbar's telescopic sight was changed from view with a cross-hair and black shading around the sides to three rotating circles.
- An attack animation was also altered; in the Japanese version, Xigbar combined his two hand-held guns to create a sniper rifle, which was used to shoot the player's party during the telescoping sight sequence. In the English version, Xigbar does not combine his guns, but twirls them around and shoots at Sora with a single gun, holding the other at his side.
- The death of Axel is slightly edited; in the original Japanese version, he bursts into flames during his suicide attack, and the flames are consuming his body as he fades away. In the English version, the flames erupt around him, and he fades away in smoke.
- At Disney Castle, while chasing Donald around for missing a date, Daisy pounds him on the backside in the Japanese version, while she simply tells him off inaudibly in the English version.
- Port Royal contains the most content edits, most of which are moments from the movie Pirates of the Caribbean.
- When Will Turner threatens to commit suicide, he aims the gun at his head in the Japanese version, while he merely holds it at his side in the English version as he verbally threatens Barbossa.
- Undead Pirates do not catch fire when affected by Fire magic, though the Grim Reaper still does (trying to light pirates on fire results in them running around smoking instead of burning). The pirate's muskets were modified to resemble crossbows, though the crossbows still fire with an audible musket shot sound effect.
- In the original Japanese version, the blood on the cursed medallions remains throughout the game, but disappears after Barbossa and Will drop them into the chest.
- In the Japanese version, when Jack Sparrow is stabbed by Barbossa, the sword sticks out of his chest as he staggers back into the moonlight. In the English version, the sword has been removed.
- Dialogue in Port Royal was also edited in the Japanese version: when Barbossa tells Elizabeth of their curse, he mentions lust and women, which is replaced by the dialogue actually used in the movie, which says "pleasurable company".
Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix+
Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix+ is a package containing Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix, an enhanced remake of Kingdom Hearts II featuring more enemies, additional scenes and many other elements like expanded worlds, and Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories, which gives the player access to more cards if there is a cleared Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix save file on the memory card.
- In the English version, Sora's Final Form varies from the official Guide from the pattern on his pants. If the player looks closely, the pattern resembles Sora's Master Form rather than its own design.
- This was the last Kingdom Hearts game to be dubbed into various European languages. Future European releases in the series would use translated text with English voices.
- In a short cinematic video after the end credits of the North American version of Kingdom Hearts II that features Sora, Riku, and Kairi on Destiny Island, the sound is off-sync with the animation, most noticeably when Kairi shows Sora a message in a bottle.