VIDEO GAME REVIEW

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“Kingdom Hearts II” is a superbly crafted role-playing game with an intricate plot that weaves three characters – Sora, Donald and Goofy – through different worlds. With Disney and Final Fantasy characters at their side, they battle their enemies: the Heartless, Nobodies and Organization XIII.

The real-time battle system made me look like a genius with all the combo and team combo attacks.

Special attacks called reaction commands allowed Sora and his friends to do some over-the-top cinematic moves against their enemies. Drive commands gave Sora new abilities and allowed him to use two Keyblades, without one or both of his teammates.

When things got really tough, I summoned special characters like Chicken Little, Stich, Genie or Peter Pan to help me.

As Sora, Donald and Goofy gained more experience, they learned better fighting moves, obtained better weapons and protection and improved their abilities. When it came to improving my skills, I was selfish. The best equipment went for Sora until something better was found. Donald and Goofy received my hand-me-downs.

Magic? As Sora, I didn’t need any stinking magic, except maybe to heal myself. Most of the time, I would reach out and bash a bad guy over the head with a Keyblade. I left the magic to Donald, while I mashed the controller buttons until my thumbs became sore.

Traveling between worlds meant using the Gummi Ship. Opening these travel routes involved a bit of arcade action that was easy to complete, although I saw little need for completing the extra missions or retooling the ship manually because it had no bearing on the story line.

The worlds were beautiful, rich and detailed. Sometimes before going on to the next room I would walk around and pan the camera, for example, to the pixelated sky of Tron’s world or look at the chandelier in the ballroom at Beast’s Castle.

The storybook world of Winnie the Pooh touched my heart because of its simplicity, its innocence and its message of friendship. Winning the mini-games helped cure whatever troubled Winnie’s mind. I felt good every time I took Sora to this world.

The same could not be said for Atlantica, the world set in Little Mermaid. I wasn’t under the sea, I was in a two-section aquarium. Unlike other worlds where I battled Heartless and Nobodies, I was reduced to playing musical games that required tapping a button at the right moment to score points to clear the level.

Most of the character interaction was natural and conversational. However, I found the final boss’ performance to be wooden and unemotional in the climactic moments of the game, and that nearly ruined my suspension of belief.

It didn’t. Overall, aside from a few flaws, “Kingdom Hearts II” is quite entertaining. Fans of role-playing games will come away deeply satisfied.

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