September 7th 2010
This was my first ever Kingdom Hearts game, for the uninitiated, this is sort of a mix between Final Fantasy and Disney, and although that sounds like a strange combination that would be too childish, it’s really not, and the story does become serious at points, but is usually lightened a bit with Mickey walking into the room. You play as three characters through three campaigns all playing the same story, but from different perspectives. These three characters are called Terra, Ventus and Aqua, (and the canon is in that order too). The three of you are keyblade wielders, essentially the Kingdom Hearts equivalent to Jedi, and you’re tasked to find the imbalance in the light (force anyone?).
You travel from world to world trying to find this imbalance, and they take you to many different Disney worlds, like you can help Cinderella make her dress with her mouse friend Jaq while her evil step sisters try to foul everything up, or you can protect the Lost Boys of Peter Pan from Captain Hook and his first mate Smee. As you go through each character’s story you piece together the Disney stories as well. It does sound a little confusing but it works, and the fact that mostly everyone has seen these films helps you feel at home.
The overarching story is actually well conceived and I did enjoy all the characters that were presented, especially Master Xehanort, played spectacularly by Leonard Nimoy, (Spock from Star Trek) Master Eraqus, played by Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker from Star Wars) and Hades from the Hercules world, played by James Woods, just like in the movie. Overall the voice acting is great in this title, and having all the original voice actors from the Disney films doesn’t help either, although I’m sure some of them are replaced from the originals, because Snow White was originally released in 1937, they still sound the same though.
Overall the story in this game is great, and well worth playing through, there was one problem though, at the end, if you play the game on standard mode, be prepared to do some backtracking to get the “Final Episode”. After already playing 34 hours or so, I was left with no resolution to the story, and had to search over the other campaigns to find arbitrary letters before I could play to the finale. This soured my experience with the story somewhat because it really cuts the narrative to ribbons, especially considering these letters don’t even help your characters solve anything to get to the finale. It’s like at the end of a movie them saying, I’m not going to show you the last 15 minutes until you go back over the rest of the movie and count the exact amount of squirrels you see, if you don’t have the same number as me you’ll have to do it again. Thank God for Gamefaqs in this regard, and shame on Square Enix for pulling such a moronic stunt with a great story.
This is probably the best aspect of the game, as you play through the three campaigns you get exposed to three different types of combat, a strength style for Terra, a speed style for Ventus and a spell style for Aqua. Now this Keyblade gameplay is a brawler type with spell combinations, and through the first campaign I found it a little difficult (because I was destroyed by some early bosses) but as I continued to play I realized that the combat is incredibly deep and varied, and once I figured out I could even go to the Mirage Arena ( a special training world in the game) to level up my character against challenges, I found myself doing that just for the fun of it. It is probably the best brawler action you can find on the PSP second to the God of War franchise, (although this game has no blood).
There are tons of great mini-games to play as well, like racing games rhythm games, scavenger games etc. They help break up the gameplay a bit and give some great variety, there’s an online component as well, that includes many of these video games, and challenges you can do in the Mirage Arena, with multiple friends to add to the fun.
The gameplay in this one is great, and didn’t get boring, even while playing through the three campaigns. The controls were great, although the camera was a little wonky, it doesn’t feel like there was anything that broke the flow of combat, and when you get the hang of it, it’s a great game to sink your teeth into gameplay wise.
Now this is another stand out aspect to the game, the animations of all the characters are spectacular, and the Disney characters especially look just as you’d expect them to, PSP or not. It’s hard to explain but I was blown away by how good the character models are in comparison to some other PSP games out there. The combat looks great too and it flows really well. You can also go into the options menu and tweek how the PSP runs the game, I ran it in the highest settings, (which takes up a bit more battery life) but it was worth it, everything was smooth, and the colours were vibrant and
The cinematics are all top notch, with the great voice acting and great music this game is a looker. Once again only the God Of War franchise really wowed me more on the platform, but this one will still amaze you, and it really draws you into the experience.
Is it Worth it?
Certainly I would recommend this game to anyone who has a PSP, although sadly not everyone will be able to play it. Square Enix for some foolish reason decided they wouldn’t release this game Digitally, now there has been no official reason as to why this is but that means that anyone out there with a PSPgo will be left out of the party. This is a terrible shame because this game overall is some of the most fun I’ve had on the platform despite a few hiccups like the story getting a little cut up at the end and the long load times (even after installing the 600+ megs of game data on your memory stick it is still slow…). If you have the chance pick this one up, it will get you interested in the Kingdom Hearts Series and because it’s a prequel you won’t be left out of the loop story wise. Over the 40 hours of gameplay I was thoroughly entertained, and will be interested in future iterations of this franchise.