"Forget the kiddies on various game message boards who act like they don't want peanut butter in their chocolate; Final Fantasy and Disney are an inspired pairing, and the end result is one of the best games this year."
---from the review
If you like this game, you may want to order the Official Hint Manual.
The Little Details... There are so many little touches to Kingdom Hearts that it would be a whole separate web page, just to list them all. However, here is a top ten list of my favorites:
---Zero, Jack Skellington's Ghost-Dog, doesn't like strangers and will disappear if you get too close upon arrival to Halloween Town. Yet after you save the Town from the boogieman, he will appear when you're close, and smile at you.
---The house of the 101 Dalmatians is several rooms. As you slowly find all the puppies, all three rooms fill with the puppies you found.
---Upon completion of the game, the credits show the FF characters taking up residence at Hallow Bastion. The single shot of Aerith and Cloud together may particularly please Final Fantasy VII fans.
---Upon saving Hallow Bastion, return to the library and see an extra cutscene where beast reunites with Belle.
---The Monstro the Whale level might take you by surprise. It's one of the more ingenious arrivals of a separate "world" to explore...
---Atlantica includes a trip to Ariel's Grotto. Among the stuff in her collection are a few power-ups you may be interested in!
---As mentioned in the review, you can see a special added featurette after completion of the game, if you find all Dalmatians, seal all worlds from danger (including Hundred Acre Wood) and win the Hades Cup in the Coliseum.
---Final Fantasy fans may also enjoy (so to speak) an optional battle in the Coliseum after winning the Hades Cup. Choose the "???" fight and try to defeat the greatest Final Fantasy adversary ever conceived (IMHO).
---Save Gepetto and he takes up a shop in Traverse Town, just above Cid's accessory shop. Visit him often for new ship blueprints, for up to 30 new ships!
---Lastly, I liked how the Winnie the Pooh realm is optional, yet startlingly worthwhile at the same time, even for the oldest adventurer. I particularly liked how the games here are replayable and don't involve scary characters, so big brother can complete the game and let little brother help Winnie get as many pots of honey as he can. It sounds childish, though you'll be amazed how addictive these mini-games are, even for older brothers!
If you like this game, you may want to order the Official Hint Manual.
Feel free to contribute. As always, review submissions are accepted!
Click picture to order this game.
A Techtite Review
Among all the fantasy worlds ever created, there are two masters in their craft: Disney Studios (in films), and Square Software (in games). So, imagine a game where the very fabric between all fantasy worlds is collapsing, causing all of the finest fantasy-realm heroes to join forces to stop the inevitable cataclysm. Forget the kiddies on various game message boards who act like they don't want peanut butter in their chocolate; Final Fantasy and Disney are an inspired pairing, and the end result is one of the best games this year.
The story begins, as with most Final Fantasy epics, with a young hero who has yet to know his true destiny. Sora lives in peace on a small island paradise; his biggest worry is if female friend Kairi likes bad-boy Riku more than him. Those worries are soon dwarfed, when a strange dark portal opens in the sky, engulfing the whole world...and Sora along with it! These portals are because all Disney Villains --empowered by a secret foe-- have joined forces to claim the power of the Kingdom Hearts; the "spirit" of each world. Sora is the Chosen One who will defeat them, story after story, one world at a time. You help Sora in typical RPG fashion, searching for your old friends, fighting hordes of evil minions along the way, defeating their Disney villain "bosses", improving your strength/skills, keeping track of your health, learning magic spells, and (of course) inevitably saving the universe; everything a cool RPG needs.
It's important for younger kids to know, however, that this "Disney game" is a very thorough story. This means that the story slowly unravels as you solve puzzles, defeat villains, and gain strength. There is so much character development in Sora, it may take you an entire night to reach your first "Disney Land" (so to speak), which will probably be Alice in Wonderland (whose whimsical characters are a perfect stepping stone to hone your battle skills). While parents can rest assured that these fights include little more violence than a typical Disney film, parents should equally know RPGs are often intended for older kids, and younger kids could get frustrated by the difficulty level, very easily. Not that the difficulty is tough by Final Fantasy standards; just not what the younger "Super Mario" crowd may be used to. With patience, however, every battle can be won, allowing you to proceed further into the story, and into more and more fantasy worlds...slowly.
So, you're asking, what fantasy worlds do you get to explore? Well, of course, not every fantasy can be represented, though it's amazing how many different lands there are in one game. In addition to Alice's Wonderland, there's Nightmare Before Christmas, Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, Peter Pan, Hercules, Pinocchio, Tarzan, and an optional "secret level" based on Winnie the Pooh. These worlds are startlingly "authentic," right down to Jack Skellington's ghost dog, Zero, who disappears unless friends are nearby. A few additional Disney characters offer cameos, including Merlin and The Fairy Godmother (who hone your magic skills). Donald and Goofy, meanwhile, are your most frequent party members (Donald is an expert mage; Goofy is first knight!), although you can often choose heroes like Aladdin, Tarzan, or Ariel to join your team, while within their corresponding worlds. As for mini-quests: 99 Dalmatian puppies have been stolen, and you must search for them along the way (leading to gradual rewards as you do).
Don't think, however, that this is all Disney characters romping around a Final Fantasy game engine. As I said, all fantasy worlds are threatened, leading to cameos from both Disney and Final Fantasy stories. Near the beginning of your other-worldly travels, you come across Yuffie and Aerith from Final Fantasy VII, and Squall ("Leon") from Final Fantasy VIII. Later cameos include Cloud (also from Final Fantasy VII), and the option to fight who some Final Fantasy fans consider to be the series' greatest villain (I'll leave that as a surprise). Not that Disney villains make bad "boss battles," either (just wait until you fight Fantasia's Chernobog!). Meanwhile, worlds that are not based on a Disney classic all resemble something from a Final Fantasy epic, enhancing the feel that these worlds have "merged" somehow. It's up to you, to save them all!
Regardless, some people have complained that this concept is "unlike" Final Fantasy epics, since it is about separate, smaller lands and stories, while prior Final Fantasies involved "one land." Not true. In my favorite Final Fantasy of all time --Final Fantasy 7-- there is the metropolis Cloud was born in, the island Yuffie was born, the Chocobo village, the wolf-village, and on and on. Each land had its own story to tell, interwoven into the main one. This game is no different. You go to Neverland to defeat Captain Hook, Halloween Town to help Jack Skellington, and so on. Along the way, you help Sora search for his lost friends, leading to the final battle to save all lands as a whole. It's all Final Fantasy, and it's all good.
There's the real-time battle engine to consider, however, which is far different than turn-based ones from more classic Final Fantasies. To a layman adventurer, this means you don't choose what-to-do from a menu, and then fight (turn-based), though rather make decisions like an action game, on the fly (real-time). The bright side: "hot keys" can be assigned to 3 spells, so you do not need to select them from the loooong magic spells menu. Which spells should you choose? That's up to you. This is all strategy, to be sure, though it would have been nice for the game to pause while choosing from the long list of magic spells. On the other hand, real-time combat does make it easier to avoid repetitive battles, when you want to quit for lunch, and just need to get to a "safe zone" ASAP. Lastly, yes, real-time battles mean you do not have full control of your teammates, although their AI assistance in battle will surprise you. At times, they're invaluable.
Disney fans should not be disappointed with the cutscenes, either. To say that Disney contributed big-time in the audio voice-over department is putting it mildly. Many of their most memorable character actors reprise their roles here, from James Woods as Hades to Jodi Benson as Ariel The Little Mermaid, and from Robby Benson as "Beast" to Kathryn Beaumont as Alice in Wonderland. Disney also contributed voices for Final Fantasy's favorite alumni: Christy Carlson Romano (Kim Possible) as Yuffie, Mandy Moore as Aerith, and David "Angel" Boreanaz as Squall (aka Leon). Haley Joel Osment makes a nice title character voice in Sora, while Billy Zane is a perfect choice for the uber-villain of the game. The list of exceptional voice talent could go on and on.
Unfortunately, this review cannot go on and on, so I'll conclude my commentary here. Suffice to say this is one of the best Disney games ever conceived. Is it the best Final Fantasy? Well...maybe not, though it's still one of the Top 5 Best Final Fantasy-inspired RPGs out there, and given the number of Final Fantasy games in the series --the ten regular versions, the spin-offs like Final Fantasy Chronicles, and the Game Boy "Legends" series-- that's a big compliment. Anyone who loves Disney and a great RPG should give the game a look.