It is somewhat amazing that you can still easily pick up a new copy of Kingdom Hearts II for PS2 well after platform has been discontinued. I don’t know how long they kept producing Greatest Hits releases, but there’s still new stock out there. So, last year I picked up a copy after finishing KH for myself, and spent part of this year playing it. It feels like a bigger game, though my time to completion was a bit under the original game’s; I possibly did less work on the side content though (also, I went to slightly longer sessions, so there was less time spent getting going again each time).

The game is pretty much a direct sequel to the original, and entirely follows the same general format. A year has passed, partly covered by the side game Chain of Memories, which I have not played (and it apparently serves as more of a refresher on events of the first game, but it does introduce important elements of this one). The simple action RPG elements are the same, though I found I was button mashing my way through more things and tended to think less about, ‘go this way, hit him, turn…’, so the standard combats felt overall easier with less thinking. The interface definitely got cleaned up and improved a bit.

Naturally, new features were added. The most prominent is ‘reaction commands’, where you can do a special move based on situation and the enemy you’re fighting. It’s a neat idea, but they tend to go by really fast, so I ignored a decent number of them as just not worth the time of my slow reflexes. There are places where they’re important though, and generally needed to get through a fight; but at least it all feels nicely integrated to the game.

There are also ‘quick time events’, where you have to mash a button at the right time while you are otherwise effectively out of control of the game. This is the first time I’ve played a game with QTEs, and they generally worked for me, and I’m not going to join the vocal critics of them. That said, I don’t think I’d care for any game where they become prevalent, and here they make sense as an outgrowth of the reaction commands. However, the fights where QTE and reaction times were a big deal were about an equal split between reasonable, and the most aggravating parts of the game for me. It is a quick route to asking more from me than my reflexes can give.

There’s also drive forms, which are interesting, but I never got around to using them very much. And the usual bevy of small side games, including a rhythm game that was completely beyond my abilities past the most basic levels (which kept me from finishing Atlantica, as that’s all it is).


I’ll try not to spoil anything big here. The early part is interesting as it is definitely designed as introduction to people new to the series, and also has some reminders of key events of the first game if it’s been a while since playing (say, the three years of the original release dates). This turns into a much bigger and more elaborate prologue than the original’s, and has more than its fair share of aggravations. The biggest problem with this part is probably the fact that you’re anxious for the main plot to get going, and the main characters to show up. But, events here are important and have repercussions at the end of the game, though for most of the time it feels less important.

The main set of villains this time is Organization XIII, which you run into time and again throughout the game. An interesting bit is they really do have their own history, and some members are already gone when the game starts. This seems to be because of events in Chain of Memories, which takes some of the neatness out of it, since I like it when worlds have a history outside of the main character walking into them, and having had some infighting purely on their own would have been a nice touch.

The other addition are Nobodies, a counterpart to the Heartless. For most of the game, this is less of a deal than it could have been, as you’re still fighting Heartless the vast majority of the time, and only occasionally Nobodies. However, there are plot reasons for that, and some of the more important… personal events of the plot, and Nobodies, all tie together very neatly to events near the end of the first game. I was really impressed when that all tied together for me, and was very satisfying.

The game’s scope is enlarged in a couple of ways: there’s more worlds to visit than the first game (most, but not all, of the original set are back), and you go through them twice. Events as you start heading into the final acts open further events in the various Disney worlds, so you revisit with tougher enemies, and some really tough boss battles. A real nice touch is that the general plot idea of the relevant movies has moved along here, and events flow fairly naturally from there (also: everyone remembers events from the first game, instead of, ‘who are you again?’). An interesting bit is that the plots of the second part for each world tend to concentrate on lessons of friendship or relationships, with one of the NPCs learning something (like Iago in Aghrabah needing to understand that you don’t have to have something to give to be a friend, just being there and yourself is what you need).

The ending sequence is something of a Final Fantasy-typical mess. Action-wise it flows very well, but there’s a large section where the complications threaten to make the plot incomprehensible. On the other hand,  while playing the first game isn’t necessary, but I think you need the first one for the ending here to mean as much.


There’s a lot of little themes in a fairly large game, and the main story sometimes feels a bit lost in the shuffle, though it never really stops; but it doesn’t really come into focus until the ending sequence. But when it does, it’s well done.

Characters are another thing that get a little lost much of the time. Most of the time, things can be a little flat simply from not enough interaction with some prominent ones. But, when the game concentrates on bringing the characters forth, it really works well. There’s wonderful byplay between Squall and Cloud during a big fight sequence. In fact, the various Final Fantasy characters are generally really well done, and are the main ones to get to interact with the main plot, and several of them are of course as familiar to me as the Disney characters, so the job done with them was a treat (though, Aeris’ voice acting was horrible, compared to decent to good for the rest of the FF cast, and of course very good for the Disney characters).

But those problems aside, it’s direct sequel that lives up to, and just barely surpasses the original game. On the technical end, this is not a big surprise, but writing-wise they also keep everything going where it goes, and it wraps up with an excellent ending. You can play this by itself, but I really recommend playing both, and not letting too much time go between them.