Gamer tidbits: ‘Kingdom’ has Disney characters fighting evil

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I think it’s soooo strange to see Goofy and Donald Duck running around as formidable forces fighting evil in an epic, fantasy video game.

But as the masses of you discovered in 2002 when the first “Kingdom Hearts” came out, this combination worked then, and it works now, as the sequel “Kingdom Hearts II” lands for the PlayStation 2.

The original “Kingdom Hearts” evolved when the folks at Disney and Square Enix, makers of the classic “Final Fantasy” game series, decided to make a title that tossed in tons of their respective historical characters in a battle of good versus evil. That could have been a mish-mash of epic proportions, but the jingling of cash registers affirmed the game’s success in melding numerous characters and scenes from classic films.

That mix included Donald Duck and Goofy in leading roles as very serious soldiers on a quest to find their lost king, Mickey Mouse.

“Kingdom Hearts II” is a huge game – so large, in fact, that you can play for several hours before finally meeting up with the main character, Sora, the boy who teamed up in the first game with Donald and Goofy.

I missed out on the original “Kingdom Hearts,” but I quickly discovered the sequel is intriguing without prior knowledge of the previous titles, which included a version last year for the Game Boy Advance – “Chain of Memories” – that bridges the gap between the two PS2 games.

And while adults shouldn’t shy away, this game is also a great choice for younger players because of its toned-down violence. You won’t see Mickey Mouse wielding an Uzi here.

You’ll spend the first few hours drawn in to the storyline with compelling flashback footage and interruptions in the game’s flow by omniscient characters from the first game, members of the dark Organization XIII.

You start out as a boy named Roxas, whose role in the game you gradually learn is to help chain together the lost memories of Sora.

Once that is complete, Sora teams up again with Donald and Goofy to find his missing friends.

This game is told through excellent voice acting from such well-known names as James Woods and Geoffrey Rush, and through numerous cameo appearances of other beloved and infamous Disney characters such as Winnie the Pooh, Ariel and Princess Jasmine.

Gameplay visits scenes from all sorts of places like those inhabited by the names I just noted. There are characters from several of the games in the “Final Fantasy” series, including Seifer and the little mage Vivi.

I played this game for hours and feel as if I’ve only just begun.

In all, there are 40 or more hours to see here, and I use “see” with a purpose. It seems that you do more watching than playing. Long video scenes advance the story.

In between them, you fight baddies and lots of bosses, pick up items and distribute attribute points to increase the powers of your characters.

The going is pretty simple on standard difficulty, and I liked that. I ended up wanting more to see what happens next rather than fight another fight, because the battles quickly became familiar button-mashing experiences.

More interesting to me was to see how all these contrasting characters fit together.

Last time I saw Goofy as a kid, he was driving his car slow and steady. Here, he’s helping to save the world.

Man, is that ever weird — and worthwhile.

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