Operation Backlog Completion 2024
Apr 042016

Kingdom-Hearts-2After how much I enjoyed the first game and my love/hate relationship with Re: Chain of Memories, I was really excited to finally start Kingdom Hearts II.

Like the others, I didn’t actually play the original version, but the Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix included in the 2.5 Remix.

Kingdom Hearts II left behind the card-based battle system I hated so much about Chain of Memories, and returned to the first game’s action RPG style, with some changes.

I preferred the original’s way of building magic to the new “MP Charge system,” which recharges your MP over time when you expend the gauge, but I enjoyed the new Reaction Commands and loved the Drive Form system, where you take on powerful new forms (and level them up to gain new abilities, like High Jump). The controls and camera felt much improved over the original’s.

The one thing I didn’t like was the way the worlds felt. They seemed more linear, with less exploration. I also missed having a hub world, but overall it was just the straightforward layout of the worlds. I want more exploration, more secrets, more hidden stuff!

Story-wise, though, the worlds were great. While some of the previous Disney worlds return, new ones were also added. There was a nice mix of worlds that followed the basic plot of their movies and ones set elsewhere in the timeline. For example, the Halloween Town/Christmas Town segment is set after The Nightmare Before Christmas, which sets up some amusing character interactions.

They were all fairly enjoyable (except the Tron Light Cycle, which killed me more times than anything else in the game) and most managed a decent integration of their own stories with the main plot.

So let’s talk about the story. The first game had a fairly simple, self-contained story. Chain of Memories expanded the worldbuilding. Kingdom Hearts II sent the plot careening away from its simple origins into something much more epic and exciting, and I loved every minute of it.

When I reviewed Chain of Memories, I mentioned my love of Organization XIII. They’re even more interesting in Kingdom Hearts II, as they take center stage among the antagonists.

Plus, while I loved their black cloaks in Chain of Memories, I didn’t realize until Kingdom Hearts II that several of them can be considered mad scientists. You know how I love mad scientists.

(Okay, so I’m a little crazy.)

Really, though, I love Organization XIII. I love pretty much all of them.

The story kept me guessing, and several excellent twists took me by surprise. I’d also like to say that while I didn’t always like Chain of Memories, I consider it a necessary step in the story. If I started Kingdom Hearts II without already knowing Naminé, DiZ, and the Organization, I’d have been completely lost.

Kingdom-Hearts-MickeyAnd I have to admit, the one thing I never thought would happen, happened.

See, despite my enjoyment of the Disney worlds in the previous games, I just sort of tolerated some of the other Disney elements. In particular, King Mickey.

Mickey Mouse would never be “cool.” All he did was show up and ruin the mood with his squeaky little cartoon voice, and no amount of characters calling him “Your Majesty” and treating him like a powerful person would change that.

…Until I reached a scene in Kingdom Hearts II that forced me to say, “Wow. Yes. Mickey can be hardcore.”

Overall, the game had fantastic scenes, including some exclusive to the Final Mix. This is the bright side of not playing the series until now.

There are also some really great character moments in Kingdom Hearts II, from more lighthearted ones like Sora’s reaction to visiting a world where Santa Claus exists, to darker ones like Roxas’s struggle with what’s happening to him in the prologue.

Click for Kingdom Hearts II spoiler
And while I don’t like DiZ/Ansem the Wise, he’s really a well-written character.

I hated him for his treatment of Roxas and the way he talked about Nobodies. It seemed like every time he opened his mouth, he had something horrible to say.

But his attitude toward Nobodies demonstrates, far more than anything he said in his reports, just how badly his apprentices’ betrayal affected him.

He can describe it, lament it, and even talk about wanting revenge… but it’s far more effective when he coldly dismisses all Nobodies as non-entities not deserving of mercy.

And so far, I more or less understand what’s going on, except for the parts still left mysterious. People say the series’ story becomes wildly convoluted at some point, and I can’t wait!

Although I ignored the Kingdom Hearts series for years, I’m now officially obsessed with it. If you’ve played Kingdom Hearts and Chain of Memories, you definitely should pick up Kingdom Hearts II or the Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 Remix to play the next entry in the series.

As for me, I celebrated my completion of Kingdom Hearts 2 by watching the (quite sad) 358/2 Days cutscenes (which I might still play, since I love Organization XIII so much). I might take a short break so I don’t burn myself out on Kingdom Hearts, but then it’ll be time to dive into Birth By Sleep.

Let me know your thoughts on Kingdom Hearts II in the comments below!

Buy Kingdom Hearts II from Amazon
Buy Kingdom Hearts 2.5 Remix from Amazon
Buy Kingdom Hearts 2.5 Remix from Play-Asia

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