Summary: Disney characters in a Squaresoft game? At first, you wouldn't necessarily think the two would go together, but that's exactly the formula used in Squaresoft's upcoming game, Kingdom Hearts. Find out what's in store for PS2 gamers this fall in our article.
Estimated Release: Fall 2002
Platform: Playstation 2
A Match Made In Heaven
Square has been long renown and respected for bringing some of the most textually rich, gameplay-intensive, and story-driven games to the console market. In an unprecedented move, Square has teamed up with Disney to create what promises to be a unique gaming production. Such a pairing, at first, may seem to combine rather dissimilar elements. Indeed, Square’s embrace of the anime-medium, both in art and storytelling, starkly contrasts Disney’s own typical style. Despite these apparent differences, Square and Disney succeed in synergistically merging both worlds like chocolate and peanut butter, offering something to gamers of all ages and backgrounds in Kingdom Hearts.
An All-Star Cast
We are in good hands, as Kingdom Hearts is directed by none other than Square’s Tetsuya Nomura, whose name has been established with timeless projects such as Final Fantasy VII, VIII, and X, Parasite Eve 1 and 2, and Chrono Trigger. The rest of the development team reads like a console RPG’ers list of heavyweights, from Yoshinori Kitase’s involvement with Final Fantasy V through VIII, to Yoko Shinomura’s composition of Front Mission, Parasite Eve, and Legend of Mana. In the transition from a Japanese to an American release, American gamers will, in a rare event, be treated to voice-overs which promise to be superior to the Japanese voice-acting. Haley Joel Osment (The Sixth Sense, A.I.) voices the lead character, Sora, while the rest of the voice-cast glitters with Hollywood and American pop stars alike, from David Gallagher (“Seventh Heaven”) and Sean Astin (The Lord of the Rings, Rudy) to Mandy Moore and Lance Bass (N*Sync). SquareSoft and Disney, in turn, offer up their own legends. Cloud, Cid, Aeris, Squall, and Tidus, among many, many others, make cameo appearances along with Square’s ubiquitous Moogles. Disney, for the first time, presents multiple characters and worlds within a single game. Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Donald Duck, and Pluto share screen time with characters from a dozen Disney locales such as Agrabah, Atlantica, Neverland, the Hundred Acre Wood, and Wonderland. Over a hundred Disney characters appear in Kingdom Hearts, a mammoth production, even by Disney’s standards.
An Epic Journey
The premise of the game is simple, yet vast in scope. 14-year old Sora’s island home is struck by a savage storm, separating him from his best friends, Riku and Kairi. As he searches for his friends in a foreign land, he comes across Court Wizard Donald and Captain Goofy, already on their own mission to find the missing King Mickey who had mysteriously disappeared during the storm. Creatures known as the Heartless, named aptly enough for their lack of hearts, are responsible for this storm. Chaos rules the lands as the Heartless invade and destroy worlds while Disney villains take advantage of the tumult in order to fulfill their nefarious ends. Upon realization of all this, Sora, Donald, and Goofy unite in order to find Sora’s friends, rescue King Mickey, and defeat the Heartless.
While Kingdom Hearts lacks the cel-shaded splendor of Nintendo’s upcoming Zelda game or UbiSoft’s XIII, Disney’s characters make the transition into a three-dimensional world flawlessly. Square’s artists and animators obviously spent innumerable hours faithfully studying and translating Disney’s characters into polygonal form so skillfully that it seems like the next natural evolution for Disney’s characters to follow. Square’s traditional anime styling has been glossed over in favor of a full adaptation of Disney’s distinctive presentation. Though the Square characters such as Sora resemble past Final Fantasy characters, the spiky hair and large eyes have been toned down to mesh more smoothly with Disney’s traditional art. Kingdom Hearts’ lush and vivid presentation once again reestablishes firmly that Square is at the top of its game.
As recent successes such as Devil May Cry have shown, three-dimensional games can be as effortless and intuitive to control as their two-dimensional brethren. Square aims to not only provide gamers with a fluid, interactive world, but to further bridge the gap between traditional RPGs and platformers. Kingdom Hearts features a real-time battle system combined with elements that are quintessential Square, such as summon spells. Yet, this time around, Square’s traditional Esper cast have stepped aside in lieu of Disney favorites, featuring a range of effects from Mushu’s fiery breath and Simba’s ferocious roar, to more benign, helpful effects, such as Bambi ‘unleashing’ a massive amount of items.
Square and Disney, in a production team numbering over a hundred, are finishing their localization effort on a game that has already enjoyed immense success in Japan. We’ll be treated to top-notch voice acting talent along with numerous features exclusive to the American release of Kingdom Hearts. Square, in a first for one of its localization efforts, is even reconstructing the facial motions of all the characters to complement the English voice-overs. Playstation 2 owners are in for a real treat this fall, as Kingdom Hearts poises itself to raise the bar on action RPGs.
Tarzan character and Deep Jungle setting trademark owned by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc., images used by permission. Copyright 2002 Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc and Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved. Developed by SQUARESOFT
Final Fantasy character images copyright 1990, 1997, 1999, 2001, and 2002 SQUARE CO., LTD.
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