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Kindgom Hearts Developed by: Square-Enix Published by: Square-Enix ESRB Rating: E For: PS2

As a fusion of two of the most prominent publishers of role-playing games, Square-Enix consistently produces some of the most beautiful and complex games in the genre. But there is little doubt that more than a few eyebrows went up when the company announced an action RPG that brought Final Fantasy characters and Disney characters together under the same universe. The very idea seemed such a mishmash that many wondered if it could be pulled off. Certainly it was, and Kingdom Hearts now stands as one of the most unique and greatest  RPG's of all time.

GAMING EXPERIENCE: Game Play:

One of the biggest misconceptions about Kingdom Hearts is that it?s a little kids game, given the abundance of Disney characters. Quite the opposite, Kingdom Hearts can be a steeply difficult (and sometimes dark) experience, although there are big payoffs for your efforts. Kingdom Hearts is also one of the longest action RPG's currently on the market; most gamers will spend between 40 and 50 hours journeying through its many Disney-themed locations. The first couple of hours in the game can drag a little bit, but after that the story and the gameplay really takes off. Gameplay in Kingdom Hearts is that of an action RPG, mixing Zelda-style elements with Final Fantasy-style leveling up. The player controls the character Sora, a Final Fantasy-looking character who wields a "keyblade". (This may seem strange at first, but with time it becomes less of an issue.) Sora is often accompanied by two AI-controlled companions, and the net effect is that you will often feel as if you are part of a larger combat group. The AI in the game is generally good. The enemies can be relentless and at times will even try to outflank you. Your comrades, likewise, generally hold their own and can even be customized with specific strategies, although they are not always as judicious with the healing items you place in their inventory as they should be.

Graphics

Square-Enix has a long-standing reputation for great graphics engines, and Kingdom Hearts lives up to that expectation. The graphics in this game are some of the very best on the PlayStation 2. All of the characters are detailed and colorful, and the Disney characters look and move just like their animated counterparts. Often the action can be enormously frantic, with Sora, two allies, and a dozen enemies battling out on the screen, and if there are framerate hits they are not really noticeable.

Sound

The music score is, on the whole, good, and most of the pieces feel appropriate to the Disney universe they are set in. The voiceovers, though, are simply brilliant. Nearly all of the Disney characters are voiced by their actual voice artists, lending an authenticity and believability to the game, and their voice work is impassioned and well-directed. The other characters in the game, including Sora, are equally well-cast and really help to immerse the player in the story.

Appropriateness Issues: Violence:

There is a lot of fantasy violence in Kingdom Hearts, but no blood; vanquished enemies disappear into a ball of light.

Language

There is no language in the game that I am aware of.

Sexuality

Being a Disney production, the game keeps things pretty clean sexually. A few female characters, such as Aladdin's Jasmine, are a bit underdressed, but those are rather minor gripes given the fact that the game does a great job of steering clear of overt sexuality.

Occult Themes

Although by no means a theological treatise, the game is centered around a religious system of sorts that combines the mythos of Disney movies such as those found in Aladdin, Snow White, and Peter Pan with the idea of the power of the heart. The central evil in the game is a group known as the Heartless, a mysterious band that appears to have lost their souls to darkness. There are some virtues to the religious elements in the game. While not Christian in its perspective, the game does take a hard and fast look at good and evil and the war between them. The ideas of sacrifice, redemption, and love are all powerful themes within the game, and as a whole there are a lot of great moral themes within Kingdom Hearts. However, it should also be noted that some may construe some of the elements to be occultic, or near-occultic. There is a lot of magic and lots of spells in Kingdom Hearts, ranging from the Final Fantasy staples like Curaga to darker incantations invoked by the witches and wizards of Disney films past.

Moral/Ethical Issues

Sora is by and large a morally righteous individual, and is often contrasted with some of the more sinister characters in the game. In general the game encourages respect for authority and moral decision-making, and Sora is offered many opportunities to help those around him who are in need.

Closing Comments:

This game shouldn't work. It just shouldn't. The premise is too weird, the game too complex given the characters, and to top it all off your primary weapon is a giant key. But somehow this game does work, and it works brilliantly. Kingdom Hearts is one of Square-Enix's best productions, and if you like action games or RPG's, do yourself a favor; and run out and get this title, especially now that it can be had on the cheap. A word of warning, though: a lot of parents of young kids might be inclined to get this game for them, given the Disney theme. Be aware, though, that there are some dark thematic elements in the game and some scary game environments, not to mention that this game is actually rather difficult. Also, some parents may take issue with the use of magic in the game, which is roughly the same as that found in many Disney films. Overall, this is probably a game that is best-suited for gamers 10 and up.

Final Ratings

Gameplay: 19/20 Graphics: 10/10 Sound: 9/10 Control: 3.5/5 Stability: 5/5 Gaming Experience Total: 46.5
Violence: 7/10 Language: 10/10 Sexuality: 8.5/10 Occult Themes: 4/10 Moral/Ethical Issues: 10/10 Appropriateness Issues Total: 39.5/50

Overall 86%

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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