June 15, 2008

LTTP: Kingdom Hearts Revisited

I am not really Late To The Party at all with Kingdom Hearts, I played the game when it first came out. It is just, at that time, I still played RPGs in a very peculiar way. Leveling up (powering up, as I called it) 1 or 2 levels after each world/boss/dungeon/town was kind of an OCD-ish necessity that I had to fulfill. Of course, that way I actively destroyed any challange (which there is not much of to begin with in KH) and consecutively any enjoyment that comes from following the game's intended pace. I also had a simlary OCD-ish nature of having to collect every. single. item. that was there to be found. Which took hours away of what could have been actual fun.

So I decided to revisit Kingdom Hearts now, hopefully with a different mindset on how to play and enjoy games.

And I was hooked. The game is outstanding. So great in fact, that I had way more fun with it than I ever had playing GTA IV. So, if GTA IV deserves its 9.7 rating - which it certainly does not - Kingdom Hearts is an 11.

Let us get some of the negative points out of the way first. Kingdom Hearts is not perfect by any means. In some parts it is even ridiculously bad. The story is ridiculous, so much in fact that I am only going say this much about it: I was emberrassed by the cutscenes when there was someone in the room with me, and it was the most embarrassing experience I had in a long time, when I tried to explain the world and concept of the game to someone who had never heard of it. ("Are you fucking kidding me?" is an accurate representation of what he said.) The inclusion of Disney gives the game a certain merit but when combined with Final Fantasy and original characters with HUGE feet and lots of belts and zippers, it accumulates into a big mess. The game should have focused on one of the three groups and thus avoided lots of awkward moments for me.

Ridiculously bad in some parts is also the level design. It does not help that the first two levels are basically the worst part of the entire game. In the first world, Wonderland, you're presented with a fetch quest in a world which is neither structured logically in itself nor is it fun to explore. Great choice. Not.
The second level presents you with a similar objective, only does nobody tell you what exactly you have to find or where to look for it. This makes for some great running in circles and me feeling utterly demotivated to continue. Fun! Again, not. After you struggled through both of these, it definitely gets better, but the level design never reaches a point where it is enjoyable to simply explore the worlds. Most of them are designed true to the reference material of Disney movies though and will generate a welcome sense of nostalgia.

Normally, if you eat a sandwich and the first two bites taste a little bit moldy, you should stop. In the case of Kingdom Hearts you should keep eating because there are lots of tasty surprises hidden between the slightly green slices of bread.

To be continued...

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