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Welcome to Drake Clawfang's review of Kingdom Hearts II!

Story

Well it's been a year since the destruction of Ansem. We go in to find a kid called Roxas in Twilight Town. Also able to mysteriously wield the Keyblade, he eventually finds Sora in an abandoned mansion, and vanishes as Sora awakens from his slumber. Afterwards, we head out into Twilight Town, then Hollow Bastion, and meet up with Aerith, Leon and the whole gang, who are working on restoring the town. A meeting with Mickey's former teacher, Yen Sid, reveals that the Heartless aren't defeated, and that we also have to deal with the Nobodies, the heartless bodies of those that become Heartless.

Our trio travels about, saving the worlds from the Heartless and the Nobodies. During this time Maleficent comes back and starts causing trouble again, and the mysterious "Organization XIII" that controls the Nobodies is also wreaking havoc. We eventually find out that the Organization is made up of 13 powerful Nobodies that want their own Hearts. So they're letting Sora run around killing Heartless to make a dark version of Kingdom Hearts.

As if failing to defeat the Heartless last time wasn't enough, Sora and co have also failed to defeat the big bad, Ansem. Or rather, Xehanort. They only defeated his Heartless, his Nobody Xemnas is still around and, surprise surprise, is Number I on Organization XIII's roster. Sora and co must thus journey to the World that Never Was, the source of the Nobodies, to find Riku and Kairi (again) and stop Xemnas from creating the dark Kingdom Hearts.

Overall, another good story, brings back plenty of old characters, introduces new ones and expands on the stories of the old ones.

Rating: 8/10

Characters

Those who read my original Kingdom Hearts review will remember I gave this section low marks. Why? Because it was too much Disney and not enough Final Fantasy. Well, KH2 solved that problem, or at least took some nice steps towards solving it.

In addition to the Hollow Bastion gang of Aerith, Leon, Cid, Yuffie and Cloud from the last game, we're joined by Auron, Tifa, Setzer, Seifer, Fujin, Raijin and Vivi. And Sephiroth is also back, and this time he just doesn't come as an optional fight, he's actively looking for Cloud to settle the score. Must still be pissed about Cloud leaving him for Aerith. I still want Rydia and more from the FFVI crew in future Kingdom Hearts installments, but we got more characters in the meantime, and they played much larger roles than before. And for the record, I don't see what the problem was with Setzer. Sure he was more effeminate than before, but he was in the game dammit. That's something. At least Nomura tried, give the man credit where credit is due.

And we've also got lots of Disney characters, of course, too many to mention. Among my favs were Hades (James Woods is hilarious), The Beast, and the two Jacks, Sparrow and Skellington. The others were fine too. And this time there's many more original characters, namely Org-13. These guys are running around all the time, screwing with the worlds and it's up to Sora and the gang to set things right. They were the more interesting characters of the game.

This game gave me exactly what I wanted - a mixture of Final Fantasy and Disney with new characters to link them up. So needless to say, the Hollow Bastion and Twilight Town bits were my favorite, especially the Heartless Invasion at the Bastion. That scene to me is what the entire series should be - a perfect blending of Final Fantasy, Disney and new material. Come on, we get to see Cloud fighting alongside Leon, Tifa sparring with Sephiroth and Moogles selling items along side Donald's nephews. What more could you want?

And Xemnas was a very satisfying villain. He's almost tragic. He can't feel emotion, but he wants too, and he's question the world around him because for all intents and purposes, he doesn't really exist entirely. When he was talking to Sora and the gang at the end and they were just blowing him off, you almost feel sad. Then you remember he doesn't feel anything and it's like "right, he's evil".

Oh, and we get to play as Riku, and Roxas. Both of them rocked and Riku's Limit Break...well, I'm getting to that, Roxas dual-wielded twin Keyblades, Oblivion and Oathkeeper. And it's almost a written-law of action that dual-wielding any sort of weapon makes you awesome. It certainly works for Roxas. I hear in KH2 - Final Mix, you actually play the battle between him and Sora. If that's true, they'd better release Final Mix over here, I'd play through the entire game over again for that one battle, I kid you not.

All-around an excellent roster of characters. Again, could have used some more Final Fantasy, specifically IV and VI, but I'm still fairly pleased.

But, as a final note - can Demyx and Axel please come out of the closest, Axel was obviously in love with Roxas, and Demyx...well alright, maybe he wasn't gay but the way he acted there was no way he was totally straight, he's at least gotta be bi.

Rating: 8/10

Gameplay

KH1 was hack and slash. KH2, still hack and slash, but much less.

The start, we have Limit Breaks, special super-attacks you can perform with other characters at the cost of all your MP. These kick-ass. Auron, don't know who he is but Bushido rocked. The animations for them all look great and flashy and were unique. But some were kinda inconsistent. My LB with Tron was like, 300 + combo, which is pretty overpowered. And Riku's break with Sora, totally awesome, it rocked, was flashy and ruled, much like Riku and Sora themselves.

Next, Form Change lets us swap out our other party members to take on their power. Goofy lets you use Valor, Donald gives you Wisdom, both give you Master, and after meeting Roxas you can access Final Form. Wisdom was useless to me, as was Master, I used Valor the most and it was all I needed. Final Form was also great. My one gripe with the Form Change mechanic was the Dark Sora Form. It reminded me too much of Megaman Battle Network, with Megaman's DarkSoul, and was just an annoying thing to have happen. But these forms overall added much more fun to the battle.

And then, Reaction Command, the Triangle button lets you do a special move against certain enemies and bosses, usually doing massive damage with some flashy animation - if you can time the button pressing correctly, of course. These variables gave every battle something new and exciting, as now every boss and many enemies had their own custom strategy and action requiring the Reaction Command. You never quite knew what was gonna happen or when, but when that command appeared, you knew it was gonna be cool.

Oh, and now the Gummi Ship segments are fun. Still repetetive and pointless once done, but more fun.

The magic system was horrible though, actually worse than the first game, besides Reflect and Cure there were no spells worth casting, and the MP meter ended up more along the lines of a Limit Break meter that I happened to have to give up to cast cure. Future installments need to make spells a more viable choice of combat. The dependency of Limit Breaks on MP made casting spells a bother when you had Limit Breaks. That's something to be fixed too. Cast Fira, or Limit Break, it's a no brainer.

Overall, with so many new features and abilities, the battle system is still repetetive, but much less so and it's fun to mix and match the above three new powers to devestate enemies. And when in doubt, you can still hack and slash your way to victory.

Oh, and for future installments, since Kairi has her own Keyblade now, she has to join in the fray. That would have been awesome this game, letting Goofy and Donald take a break while Riku and Kairi battle alongside Sora. That would rule, but I suppose they'll have to save that for another game. They'd better, anyway. At least they let us team up with Riku for the final battle, that's something I enjoyed at least.

Raying: 8/10

World

The worlds of KH2 were basically in the game format as before, which is where this game loses its score. It works again, of course, but still, it's more or less the same pattern as before - enter a world, recruit the resident hero, beat the villain, come back later to help them out some more. My one other real grip was Atlantica. I really could have skipped that world.

But, while the format for exploring the worlds is the same, there's more to explore. There's still stuff I haven't done, magic I never upgraded, worlds I never totally explored. So the world of the game itself is much more vast with much more to do and see.

Rating: 7/10

Final Rating

In every sense of the word, Kingdom Hearts II is everything Kingdom Hearts I should have been. Everything was improved upon from the first game, most of the flaws repair and what didn't need fixing was enhanced or left alone. A very solid game and, unlike the first one, I don't think it would be a strech to call KH2 a Final Fantasy spin-off or crossover. Because this game has earned that honor, but the first one did not.

Final Rating: 31/40

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