When you bring together a team responsible for creating the best RPGs and a team behind the most successful animated films, you get Kingdom Hearts. This game is a delightful surprise, as within minutes of playing, you'll find yourself excitedly recognizing familiar characters from both the Final Fantasy and Disney universes.
Don't be misled by its seemingly childish Disney exterior – Kingdom Hearts boasts a serious plot that can captivate gamers of all ages. The game starts off slow but picks up momentum, keeping players engaged. It's a linear game, so you won't get lost unless you're juggling multiple side-quests simultaneously.
The controls aren't as problematic as some people claim. The gameplay is enjoyable and fast-paced, as an action/adventure game should be. The ability to map spells to the L1 menu is a thoughtful addition. Regarding the oft-criticized camera, it is manageable and comparable to that of many other action/adventure games.
The CG cinemas in Kingdom Hearts are astonishing, rivaling the FMV sequences of Final Fantasy X. In-game graphics are detailed, with fluid character movements, accurate lip syncing, and impressive 3D representations of Disney characters. The environments, while cartoony, feature subtle 3D effects like shadows and reflections. Each Disney world is distinctive and evokes the movies they are based on. The summoning sequences, in true Squaresoft fashion, are striking and unique.
The game's voice acting is top-notch, with original Disney voice actors reprising their roles and an all-star cast for the remaining characters. The music throughout the game incorporates elements of the original Disney soundtracks, immersing players in each world. A highlight of the game's audio is the theme song, performed by renowned J-pop singer Utada Hikaru.
Initially, the collaboration between Squaresoft and Disney seemed an odd pairing, and many assumed the game would be lackluster. However, Kingdom Hearts has proven to be a fantastic game that successfully merges two seemingly disparate worlds. It is a testament to Squaresoft's ability to pull off an unexpected yet satisfying combination.