KINGDOM HEARTS II FINAL MIX
PlayStation 4 (also available on PC, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch)
One year after the events of Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, Sora, Donald and Goofy awaken in Twilight Town. Bent on the quest to find Riku and King Mickey Mouse, the three begin their journey. However, they soon discover that while they have been asleep, the Heartless are back. Not only that, but new enemies also showed up during their absence.
We picked up Kingdom Hearts II immediately after we completed its prequel, Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories. And by immediately, I mean on the same day. I had been anticipating this instalment for a long time, seeing as my friends that are hardcore KH fans consider it to be the game where ‘the series gets good’.
Kingdom Hearts II throws you into a confusing situation from the moment it begins, as expected of a video game series known for its complicated storyline. Instead of seeing the familiar faces of Sora, Donald, and Goofy, we are greeted by a new character called Roxas and his group of friends. The player controls Roxas for the first portion of the game, learning about him and his relation to the characters that we already know. While confusing, I found this exciting as it set the scene for an original plot that would be less driven by Disney’s heroes and villains. The story and writing of this game feel much more mature and grounded, with characters that are more fleshed out. That said, I did find myself making notes to keep track of some of the relationships between them.
In terms of gameplay, I also noticed a significant improvement compared to its predecessors. Thanks to the improved camera and controls, the combat is a lot more fluid, and the inclusion of reaction commands (the KH name for quick time events) makes fights against different enemies feel more distinct. There are also more combo abilities that give Sora powerful—and flashy—finishing moves. The difficulty of Kingdom Hearts II is definitely lower, which allowed me to breeze through the most boring bosses while still feeling challenged by the most interesting ones. The difficulty can always be increased from the game settings, and allowed me to enjoy the game without having to retry any boss more than 10 times, or making me want to tear my hair off. Compared to how ridiculous some boss fights were in the first game, this was a win in my book.
Of course, Kingdom Hearts II also has an amazing soundtrack and many nostalgia-filled moments that made me feel like I was 12 again. The next stop in our journey will be Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days, which serves as a prequel to Kingdom Hearts II but told from a different angle. Although I’ve played this game before, I can’t wait to give it another go after having learned more about the main cast of characters.