KHII Your thoughts on Kingdom Hearts 2


ShinRa Guard
Sep 9, 2016

I'm just wondering what everyone who's played KH2 thinks of it.. I've played though several times over the years and my opinion has shifted alot. I loved it as a kid, found it very style over substance as an adult yet on replaying on critical + and tackeling the Final Mix content I've again shifted to thinking it has a lot of death but is badly designed overall so tht most players never need to use high level tactics in the original game or are just plan not shown that there is more then hit, reaction command, hit, repeat etc

I'm writing a case study on the game so I'm keen to know what you all think of it, love it or hate it :)
Overall I did enjoy this game, Although story wise it was messy. Then again you look at the series as a whole the story is very messy, really hoping that Kingdom Hearts 3 can clean it up and finally get it a real conclusion that they promised to Sora's story.

Back to KHII though....

I think adding the forms was a nice idea and was very well done, along with most of the battle things they added, sure it might be called "button smashing" but when do you really use a lot of buttons in a RPG? :wacky:

I also really liked the disney world involvement... I do have the problem that each time you visited the worlds for the most part if felt like they were trying too hard at first to try and combined the movies story plot to the game versus trying to get the game to move forward.

Organization XIII was also a really interesting addition (although technically they were added in Chain of Memories, but that's a different game.) The organizations existence is interesting and weird, like I get those with a strong heart become powerful nobodies, but you would think then that the Disney villains would have been powerful nobodies too... but that is just a speculation...

so as far as how I feel about the game versus the whole series...I think if you are going make sequels to games you should be answering questions about what happened or going to happen versus leaving more questions, which is what these games love to do after the first one... each game just makes you question more versus trying to answer anything... which is where I hope KHIII will improve...finally answer a lot of the questions about the series, clean it up and finish it, then if they want they can do a whole new Kingdom Hearts series without Sora.
Having just completed it for the first time very recently, it's the one game that is still fresh on my mind. :D

The combat is the best aspect of the game; it really shines during the boss fight encounters and the myriads of individual mechanics for each. There was something enticing about having to watch for each boss's move sets, learn their patterns and know roughly when was the right time to pull off a combo. So the bosses were one of the main factors that drove me forward through the game and it was always exciting to anticipate what the next boss was going to do this time.

I admit, some designs absolutely got on my nerves. I elected to play the game on Proud mode too and I'm a novice when it comes to the Kingdom Hearts series. Naturally there was a lot of dying and retrying involved. I remember the battle against the Organisation XIII member who liked to gamble being one of the prime gimmicky fights that drove me up the wall. I also was not a fond of how reliant some designs were on reaction commands. The Xemnas series of fights particularly come to mind. Reaction commands to jump from flying skyscrapers? It was the game's equivalent of "Press A to awesome" that I've never really been a fan of. That's not yet mentioning how much abuse I gave my controller at that last boss with the thousands of shots coming at Sora and Riku...

Admittedly I've not utilised the forms as much as I should have, save for Final Form, because grinding it up in the final dungeon of the game proved to be crazily efficient. I wasn't actually sure how it worked, but constantly entering Anti Form particularly during Organisation XIII fights peeved me to no end, serving to only quickly kill me off during an instrumental part of the boss fight. So that essentially deterred me from using Drives until I attained Final.

The maps disappointed me to be quite honest. I haven't properly played through the first Kingdom Hearts game, but I got the impression that the maps in that game had a degree of verticality and exploration to them that was like a puzzle for the player to solve in order to progress. Granted, I imagine the platforming would have been wonky and floaty as heck, but that's besides the point here. There's not really any of that in the sequel. The maps are all rather straightforward and often linear affairs and amounted to little more than boxy rooms that were slightly bigger and more expansive than Birth by Sleep's boxy rooms.

I'm not going to dwell on the story. I picked up 2.5 HD instead of 1.5 HD so I wasn't even playing in the right order. I had to constantly consult a Wiki to even partially understand what was going on and who Christopher Lee's character was. But I wasn't expecting Chain of Memories to be so important, as I hear that it was the game that centred on Organisation XIII and characters like Naminé first. It's just kind of odd to see that what was originally a GBA game is so integral to the experience that Kingdom Hearts 2 winds up looking more than the third full game in the series as opposed to the second numbered one...
I could say a lot about this game, and maybe one day I will in my own review. But for now I'll try to keep it to the more major points that caught me on my last playthrough.

KH2 is the first game I pre-ordered; that's how much I enjoyed the first one. Every day was a countdown, where my friends and I would loudly announce how many days were left until release, before classes started. I got the game, and immediately completed it over the next three days. I was either sleeping or playing it that whole time. I'd completed it probably another three or so times over the next year, and enjoyed it every time.

Then I started to learn more about game design, balance, storytelling, etc. And the more I reflected on the game, the more I realized that it did wrong. I slowly became so afraid to pick it up that I didn't touch it for probably 8 or so years. I didn't want my fond memories to be spoiled any more. Fastforward to this March, and I got a hold of both KH1.5 and 2.5 for $15. I decided to go through all four games back to back in order. Birth By Sleep was a horrible mess with some great ideas and some of the worst execution for any Square game I've played. KH1 still holds strong because of both its mechanical and narrative simplicity (played it on Proud). Chain of Memories is a game I want to love, because it has a great idea. But it's so bland and repetitive in execution (and descends into poor storytelling once again). I still enjoy it, but only in small bursts (also played it on the hardest difficulty... Proud still I think?).

Then I got to KH2. I was already optimistic because I was so tired of CoM, and knew it couldn't be worse than BBS. Decided to run through it on Critical, and damn I was not disappointed. So here's how I break it down.

Mechanically, I totally agree; the game is a mess on any difficulty but Proud and Critical. There are a few moments that aren't well balanced for Critical during the main story, but overall I think it's the best (and arguably only) way to play the game properly. It gives Sora a nice boost of abilities at the beginning to 'flex your muscles' with, and it really requires you to understand your entire arsenal to complete. When the game actually gives you reasons to use things like summons and such, you realize how absolutely powerful they are; not unbalanced, just powerful. There are only a few abilities that are kind of useless, and it's more because they just need some slight tweaks to things like range. Other than that, it was astonishingly well balanced.

I also messed around with the other difficulties a bit, and the game is just as broken as I remember. I live by the idea that a game should give players challenges and reasons to use all of the core abilities and mechanics they have at some point. KH as a series pretty much doesn't do that at all unless you're on the hardest difficulties. On anything but Proud or Critical, KH2 is an unacceptably bland game mechanically. Your best option for pretty much any situation is mashing X and using Cure when your health gets low... if Donald doesn't get to you first. Forms make it even worse, and their mechanical emphasis' really makes them more linear in strength than they are on Critical. On Critical, each one has genuine benefits and detriments, even if Final is technically overall the best. On easier modes, it's Valor until you get Master, and Master until Final; who needs Wisdom (also... Limit exists...).

On Critical, there were only two major moments that -after giving some time to learning them and genuinely strategizing- felt unfair. The first was the fight(s) against Luxord. In order to win, you have to win the 'X's and O's' minigame at least once. If you lose, you go to critical 'Time', and he gains back like 60%, meaning you might as well reset. The problem is that this hinges your success in the battle entirely on learning to play a minigame that has literally nothing to do with the rest of the mechanical design in the rest of the game. It feels unfair, since it doesn't call upon any skills the game has asked from you before. One could argue the other quick time events are the lead up to this, but they never even get close to as difficult as in this battle; it's too big of a step. It requires much more precise timing, scrolling through the menu to do it, and has to be done four times in a row or you lose.

The other unfair aspect is with the Lingering Will fight. I feel like a few of his attacks seem to put the player into impossible to win situations. His initial attacks seem to be on rotation, meaning if he starts the battle by trying to disable your magic, he'll continue to do so for a few more battles until he moves onto another move. But regardless, an example of a very unfair situation would be that he can disable everything but your magic, and then he almost immediately starts shooting Ultima shots, which can't be blocked without physical attacks, and like to follow you for-freaking-ever. So it's impossible to combo him with magic enough to get access to your other abilities, because you're always being chased by Ultima balls that will deplete your health to 1HP.

But the more unfair thing is that you can utterly break him with a specific setup. It relies on using Donald's Fantasia to gain I-Frames for the first attack, then juggling him until it runs out. Along with removing certain abilities, if you equip the Negative Combo abilities and the Fenrir (which also has Negative Combo), and then jump attack him repeatedly, you effectively can't lose. Lingering Will works a bit differently from other enemies, in that he has a HUGE Revenge Value maximum, meaning you can hit him a lot before he'll counter. This was set up specifically because he's also unique in that the longer your combo is on him, the more damage you do. Strength doesn't matter really, because Sora will basically double the damage he does for each attack until it resets. The thing is, since his revenge value is so high, and a jump slash keeps him staggered, you can keep doing the attack indefinitely until he goes down. No joke, you can beat him without him being capable of retaliating.

As for the rest of the game, the rest of the normal world bosses are a difficulty rollercoaster. Some are a genuine challenge, and others that come later are so easy that you might not even get hit. Quite a few of them feel like they were designed around mashing, and don't take advantage of your ability sets.

The Disney worlds also feel like a step back in terms of narrative. I like the worlds themselves more, because KH1 is rather cramped. But the stories feel like lazy rehashes of the main plot of the movies they're from, whereas they were rather well integrated into the KH story in KH1. So it feels less like a grand adventure, and more like a checklist of places to visit.

Gummi Ship missions were also massively improved, and were arguably so fun that they could be their own game... although they also had wild balance spikes, and their own major flaw that renders a ton of Gummi missions painfully easy (Dohnut Ship).

Most of the side content is fairly fun, including the Final Mix additions. KH1FM utterly ruined its masterful completion flow. The original could be completed in about 50-70 hours in its entirety. But because of the mushroom enemy minigames they added and the Synthesis changes, KH1FM turned that great balance into a massive slog of grinding and frustration. KH2FM likewise offered mushroom enemies and battles that really challenged the core mechanics much better. They still had some frustrating issues, but it's still complete-able. Other than having to repeat literally every minigame multiple times to fill out the journal, it felt complete, and like there was very little disrespect of the player's time spent.

Finally, the narrative in KH2 is rather poor. The mess started in KHCoM, but KH2 just accelerated it, with subsequent games forcing it straight into a brick wall at mach 5. Don't get me wrong; the acting, scene composition, most of the dialogue, and the character interactions are usually fantastic. I absolutely love the banter between Sora, Donald, and Goofy. But that plot and those holes it creates... horrendous. I can only really like it for superficial reasons, and it does absolutely nothing to excite me for KH3. Part of that is also because games like 3D, BBS, and 358 are significantly worse in the narrative department. But even on its own, KH2 is a mess held together with duct tape.

Oh, look at that... I said a lot about the game anyway. Still not near everything I could say. But I think I covered my thoughts. The last thing I suppose I'd add, is that speedruns really do a lot to clear up how useful 99% of Sora's arsenal is. From the interesting keyblade abilities trumping the stat boosts in terms of useful-ness, to the power of Reflect, they really make you realize how well balanced (perhaps accidentally) that game is for Proud and Critical. Though I only finished it about two months ago, I can't wait to go back just for that reason.
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Well the gamepaly to this day has not been succesfully replicated. It's still the most enjoyable action RPG battle system I've played to this day. I do agree that on below proud mode the game is way too easy, but remember that the series is targeted for younger kids, and at this point the people in their 20s and above are technically the periphery demographic. As for reaction commands, I don't mind them. They're in the game for the awesome-factor and they do a good job at it, much better than traditional QTEs. Although the way the super bosses are designed have gotten worse as the series goes on, with the mysterious figure beign the worst offender. The super bosses most of the time require gimmicky or cheap ways to beat that require you to completely forgo evey gameplay mechanic so far.

The side content hasn't been KHs strong suit, but BBS did much better at it thanks to it's multiplayer styled minigames: combat arena, racing and the board game. But they are ultimately just a distraction most of the time.

Narrative wise, yeah the series is convoluted and plagued by constant retcons. But despite all that I kind of like the overral story. It has that sort of B-movie so bad it's good kinda charm to it. And I guess the ever present element of mystery is pretty compelling to me, and I do enjoy the series' myth ark. Overall the games have a feel-good atmosphere that I can't really be mad at.

Simply put the game is much more than just the sum of it's parts.