Hey there everyone! My name is Phil Bruno, and I am one of the newest editions to TNH. For the few of you that follow Chicago Independent Wrestling, some of you may also know me as “Future Sight Jack Shatter”. That, however, is for a different time, and that is NOT why I’m here.

I am sure that a lot of the people reading this article are within my age range (between 20 and 30). I think that it is safe to say that all of us are beyond excited for some of these hot new video game titles to be released in 2019. With Apex Legends springing out of nowhere, Anthem about to drop within a couple of weeks, and the highly anticipated release of Kingdom Hearts 3 finally hitting shelves, there is tons to cover.

For us 20-30 year old’s, let’s take a step back.

Let’s take a step back to a time when we were just getting off the school bus and had no homework to do. Let’s take a step back to a time to when the only care we had in the world was what was on our 8 megabyte PlayStation 2 memory cards.

From my childhood up until now, I have always heard a lot of positive hype about the Kingdom Hearts Franchise. I myself have had many positive experiences with Japanese Hack and Slash RPG’s such as Tales of Symphonia and YS VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana. I always find myself entrenched in the story as the main protagonist who works with his friends to achieve that common goal.

With the new Kingdom Hearts just being released, it made me start to think as to why this franchise has eluded me for so many years. With that, I decided to not swing by my nearest GameStop and pick up a copy of Kingdom Hearts III, rather head over to my local Disk Replay and snag a copy of the original Kingdom Hearts for the PlayStation 2.

I assume anyone reading this article has had a childhood filled with this wonderful franchise,

so I will not go into great detail with the story. You play the role of Sora, a young boy who lives on an island with his two friends, Riku and Kairi. From the start, it is apparent that saving and earning the affection of Kairi would be the primary objective of this game. Riku is the much larger (most likely older) of the three and maintains all of the physical traits of a potential antagonist.

Anyways, long story short, this hidden door on the island eventually blasts open, the Heartless swarm all over, all three of the youths are drawn into another universe and are separated. You wake up in the cartoonish land of Traverse Town to fight and eventually befriend Leon and Yuffie. Leon better explains the current story and objectives, you eventually run into your two primary party members; Donald and Goofy, and you proceed to travel via a “Gumi” ship to save all the different lands in the Disney Universe. All of this leads to you saving the world from the Heartless and saving your close friend Kairi.

Okay…I’d be out of breath if I was talking right now. I’m not here to go into detail in regards to the story because like said, you’ve most likely had a childhood filled with this wonderful franchise. Let’s go into how this game from 2002 plays today.

When it comes to the movement and animations, this game has held up surprisingly well for its age.

The smoothness of running and turning is very crisp in comparison to a lot of other PlayStation 2 games that I have played. This mixed with the customizable abilities later in the game to double jump really shows the potential of Squaresoft’s (now Square-Enix) development team back in the early 2000s.

While we are on the topic of movement, here is a little negative: The movement and depth perception of the Gumi Ship AND the Gumi Ship mini-game in general. As far as I know, there is no way to disable the inverted controls on the ship. This never actually ended up with my ship being destroyed throughout the countless hours that I have spent playing this game, but it still ended up being a nuisance. I know that this game played an integral part in a lot of readers childhoods, but let’s be real; this Gumi Ship mini-game felt VERY out of place. The art style was very simplistic, even for a PlayStation 2 game. It seemed to clash with the obviously Disney-esque art style of most environments and characters in this game. On a high note though, there was customization of your Gumi Ship with the items you would pick up from this mini-game. This ended up being pretty entertaining once I figured out the building interface, but seeing that this ended up being mostly cosmetic, there is not much need to dive into it.

As for combat: the combat itself is pretty much unmatched compared to any PlayStation 2 game that I have played. With a lot of the button bashing of X in combat situations, you later on gain abilities to roll, have timed blocks (you can’t just hold block to block everything), and utilize spells you gain from defeating bosses. I love, love, LOVE the simplicity of hotkeys and selecting spells when in real-time combat. I’m not sure if this game was the innovator of using right trigger and a button to cast a spell but dang did it make the combat much more smooth. A little tip although I would assume that a lot of you already know this: KEEP DONALD ON YOUR TEAM AT ALL TIMES!!! Donald is the equivalent of a sorceress in any Japanese roleplaying game and comes in VERY clutch with healing. Overall, this game had me super excited and even on the edge of my seat whenever I saw a mob spawn in front of my party.

So here are the few major negatives about this game…

Camera angles, camera angles, camera angles. Oh my gosh, the number of times I raged because I couldn’t see my enemy in close quarters. Even with locking onto them, sometimes I just couldn’t gauge their positioning, which ended up in them getting the killing blow. Before I only blame this fault on this game, this is a fault of this kind of game. I had a very similar experience with the game YS VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana. This made me come to the conclusion that a lot of JRPG third person hack and slash games have issues similar to this. Nonetheless, I think we can all agree that we have wiped plenty of times thanks to this.

I know that there are some people that enjoy not having a sense of direction in games, and I totally understand where they are coming from. That being said, they could have done a little better with giving you a general direction of where to go or what to do next. There were a lot of times that I spent roaming around aimlessly (Especially in Atlantis, which by the way was easily one of the least enjoyable levels in the game), and wasting time reading and watching walkthroughs. I love a challenge when it comes to finding something, but this was a reoccuring theme in this game that left me frustrated from time to time.

Finally…oh my word. I have to ask…how in God’s name did we play games this hard at 12 years old. There is almost no game of the modern era (with the exception of the Dark Souls/Bloodborne Franchise) that could match the difficulty of some of these bosses towards the end. Given, it could have been because I was under leveled, but I almost threw my controller facing Maleficent in Dragon form. In terms of facing any boss after the dragon….I pretty much lost my mind. Riku was downright unfair, but I beat him…I’m not salty. I just have to say that there are challenging games, and then there is late game original Kingdom Hearts. The one thing I will say is the dopamine hit I received when I finally beat Ansem was unparalleled compared to any other game that I’ve beaten. For anyone that has stuck around up to this point,

I’m sure the much awaited question would be “What’s the Verdict, Phil?”

The verdict is that as a fairly frequent player of Japanese styled roleplaying games like this, I still thoroughly enjoyed this game even with some of the shortcomings that it had. If you are able to look past some of the camera angles and adapt to the minor flaws that this game has, you will be drawn into the main story, side stories, and endless combat that’s ahead. It’s great that all of the voice actors are from the actual Disney movies as it helps truly bring this game to life. Even though it is from the year 2002, this game is definitely worth playing in 2019. Before you pick up a copy of Kingdom Hearts III, pop the original into your PS2, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

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