Kingdom Hearts II

Kingdom Hearts II

Infobox VG
title = Kingdom Hearts II


caption = The North American cover pictures the main characters of the game, including Sora, Donald Duck, and Goofy.
developer = Square Enix
publisher = Square Enix
Buena Vista Games
designer = Tetsuya Nomura
writer = Kazushige Nojima
composer = Yoko Shimomura
series = "Kingdom Hearts"
released = vgrelease|JP=December 22, 2005|NA=March 28, 2006|AUS=September 28, 2006vgrelease|EU=September 29, 2006|INT=March 29, 2007 — as "Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix"
genre = Action role-playing game
modes = Single-player
ratings = vgratings|CERO=A|ESRB=E10+|OFLCA=PG|PEGI=12+
platforms = PlayStation 2
media = 1 DVD-ROM
input = DualShock 2
picture format = 480i (SDTV)
nihongo|"Kingdom Hearts II"|キングダムハーツII|Kingudamu Hātsu Tsū is an action role-playing game developed by Square Enix and published by Square Enix and Buena Vista Games (now Disney Interactive Studios) in 2005 for the Sony PlayStation 2 video game console. It is a sequel to the 2002 Disney Interactive and Square collaboration, "Kingdom Hearts", which combined Disney and Square elements into an action role-playing game. The game's popularity has resulted in a novel and manga series based upon it and an international version called "Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix", released in March 2007.

"Kingdom Hearts II" is the third game in the "Kingdom Hearts" series. It picks up one year after the events of "". [cite web| url = http://www.gamepro.com/article/features/35541/kingdom-hearts-ii-e3-2004/| work = GamePro| date = 2004-05-12| title = Feature: Kingdom Hearts II (E3 2004)| accessdate = 2008-09-24] Sora, the protagonist of the first two games, returns to search for his lost friends.cite web| first= Andrew|last=Reiner| url = http://www.gameinformer.com/NR/exeres/6385AA1E-9EC1-4F7C-A8D6-14D0545D1C81.htm| title = Kingdom Hearts 2| work = Game Informer| accessdate = 2006-12-15] Like the previous installments, this game features a large cast of characters from Disney films and "Final Fantasy" games. Organization XIII, a group introduced in "Chain of Memories", also reappears to impede Sora's progress.

The game was well-received, earning year-end awards from numerous video gaming websites. In Japan, it shipped more than one million copies within a week of its release. One month after its North American release, it had sold over one million copies and was the second best-selling game of 2006. [cite web| url = http://bestof.ign.com/2006/ps2/38.html| title = News—IGN Best of 06| publisher = IGN| accessdate = 2006-12-15] As of December 2006, "Kingdom Hearts II" had shipped more than 3.5 million copies worldwide.

Gameplay

The gameplay of "Kingdom Hearts II" is similar to that of "Kingdom Hearts", though developers made an effort to address complaints with the previous game.cite web| url = http://www.eurogamer.net/article.php?article_id=68539| title = Kingdom Hearts II Review| first= Rob|last=Fahey| date = 2006-10-10| publisher = Eurogamer| accessdate = 2007-07-31] cite web| url = http://www.kh2.co.uk/?page=NI/1UP-2| title = 1UP—E3 2005 Interview| publisher = Kingdom Hearts Ultimania| accessdate = 2007-06-15] The player directly controls Sora from a third person camera angle,cite web| url = http://www.mobygames.com/game/kingdom-hearts-ii| title = Kingdom Hearts II for PlayStation 2| publisher = MobyGames| accessdate = 2007-06-18] though first person perspective is available. Most of the gameplay occurs on interconnected field maps where battles take place. The game is driven by a linear progression from one story event to the next, usually told in the form of a cut scene, though there are numerous side-quests available that provide bonuses to the characters.

Like many traditional role-playing games, "Kingdom Hearts II" features an experience point system which determines character development.cite book| last = Hollinger| first = Elizabeth| year = 2006| title = Kingdom Hearts II Official Strategy Guide| publisher = BradyGames| isbn= 0-7440-0526-4] As enemies are defeated, the player gains experience which culminates in a "level up", in which the playable characters grow stronger and gain access to new abilities.cite book | author = Square Enix | year = 2006 | title = Kingdom Hearts II Instruction Booklet | publisher = Square Enix] As in the first game, "Kingdom Hearts II" allows a certain degree of character customization through a short tutorial found at the beginning of the game.

Combat in "Kingdom Hearts II" is in real-time and involves button presses which initiate attacks by the on-screen character. A role-playing game menu, similar to those found in "Final Fantasy" games, at the bottom left of the screen provides other combat options such as using magic, summoning beings to assist in battle, or executing combination attacks with other party members. A new feature is the "Reaction Command", special enemy-specific attacks that are triggered when the player presses the triangle button at the correct time during battle.cite web| url = http://www.g4tv.com/xplay/reviews/1143/Kingdom_Hearts_II.html| title = Kingdom Hearts II| publisher = G4| accessdate = 2006-12-15] Reaction Commands can be used to defeat regular enemies or avoid damage, and are sometimes necessary to complete a boss battle. In addition to the main character, two party members are usually present who also participate in combat. Although these characters are computer-controlled, the player is allowed to customize their behavior to a certain extent through the menu screen, such as attacking the same enemy Sora targets.

In response to criticism, the "Gummi Ship" feature of the first game was re-imagined to be "more enjoyable". Although retaining its basic purpose of travel, the previous system was completely redone to resemble a combination of rail shooter and "Disney theme park ride". In the world map, the player must now control the Gummi Ship from a top-down view and fly to the world the player wishes to enter. Worlds are no longer open from the beginning—the player must unlock the routes to them by entering a new level, controlling the ship from a third-person point of view, and battling enemy ships. After the route is unlocked, travel to the world is unimpeded, unless it becomes blocked through a plot event.

Drive Gauge

One of the new features is a meter known as the "Drive Gauge". The Drive Gauge serves two functions: to transform into a "Drive Form" or to summon a special character. While in Drive Form, Sora bonds with party members to become more powerful and acquire different attributes;cite web| first= Stephen|last=Coleman| title = Kingdom Hearts II Gets All-Star Cast| url = http://games.ign.com/articles/686/686944p1.html| publisher = IGN| date = 2006-02-08| accessdate = 2007-06-14] some Forms also allow the use of two Keyblades. While in a Drive Form, Sora's combat statistics are heightened, though one Form reduces certain statistics. Drive Forms also give Sora new abilities that can be used outside of battle. At first, his Drive Forms only combine power with one party member, but as he gains new ones, he can bond with both party members. When allies are used in a Drive Form, they are temporarily removed from battle for its duration. Unlike hit points and magic, the Drive Gauge is not recharged at save points.

Like the first game, Sora can summon a Disney character to aid him in battle. A summoned character will replace the two computer-controlled characters and fight alongside Sora for as long as the Drive Gauge allows. Instead of being limited to only one action, summoned characters now have a menu of their own and are capable of performing solo actions or cooperative actions with Sora. The summon ability and each Drive Form are leveled up separately and by different criteria. Obtaining higher levels allows for extended use and in the case of Drive Forms, access to new abilities.

Plot

etting

The setting of "Kingdom Hearts II" is a collection of various levels (referred to in-game as "worlds") that the player progresses through. As in the first game, "Kingdom Hearts II" allows the player to travel to locales from various Disney fictions, along with original worlds specifically created for the series. In the first game, Disney-based worlds were primarily derived from the Disney animated features canon. "Kingdom Hearts II" introduces worlds that are based on Disney live-action films as well.cite web| date=2005-06-08 | title=Tetsuya Nomura Dengeki Interview #3 | url=http://www.kh2.co.uk/?page=NI/Dengeki-3 | publisher=Kingdom Hearts Ultimania| accessdate=2007-08-02] cite web| url = http://www.kh2.co.uk/?page=NI/Playstation| title = Playstation.com Europe—E3 Interview| publisher = Kingdom Hearts Ultimania| accessdate = 2007-06-15] As in the first game, each world varies in appearance and setting, depending on the Disney film on which it is based. The graphics of the world and characters are meant to resemble the artwork style of the environments and characters from their respective Disney films. Each world is disconnected from the others and exists separately; with few exceptions, players travel from one world to another via a Gummi Ship.

Some worlds featured in the previous games reappear, but with new and expanded areas. There are also new worlds that are introduced and include the Land of Dragons, a fictionalized account of ancient China from the film "Mulan"; Beast's Castle, an 1800s-style castle based on French architecture from "Beauty and the Beast"; Timeless River, a past version of Disney Castle that features "Steamboat Willie"-style animation; Port Royal from ""; Pride Land, a great savanna from "The Lion King"; and Space Paranoids, a digital world within Hollow Bastion's computer network based on "Tron". Twilight Town, an original world first seen in "Chain of Memories", has a greater role as the introductory world. The World That Never Was is a new world that serves as the headquarters of Organization XIII.

Characters

The three main characters in the game are Sora, a 15 year old boy who was chosen as master of the Keyblade, a mystical key-shaped weapon with the power to combat darkness; Donald Duck, the court magician of Disney Castle; and Goofy, the captain of the Disney Castle guard. Both Donald and Goofy were ordered to find and stay with the "key",King Mickey's Note: Donald, Sorry to rush off without sayin’ goodbye, but there’s big trouble brewin’. Not sure why, but the stars have been blinkin’ out, one by one. And that means disaster can’t be far behind. I hate to leave you all but I’ve gotta go check into it. There’s someone with a “key”—the key to our survival. So I need you and Goofy to find him, and stick with him. Got it? We need that key or we’re doomed! So go to Traverse Town and find Leon. He’ll point you in the right direction. P.S. Would ya apologize to Minnie for me? Thanks, pal. cite video game| title = Kingdom Hearts| developer = Square | publisher = Square Electronic Arts | date= 2002-11-15 |platform= PlayStation 2] which was revealed to be the Keyblade. They befriended Sora during their journey in "Kingdom Hearts" and draw strength from this friendship. Other original characters include Riku and Kairi, Sora's friends from his home world, Destiny Islands; Roxas, a mysterious boy who can wield the Keyblade; and DiZ, a man in red robes with a vendetta against Organization XIII.

As in the previous installments, there are numerous appearances of characters from both Disney and Square Enix works. While some make a return from "Kingdom Hearts", new characters from Disney fiction are also introduced, such as Scar from "The Lion King" and Scrooge McDuck. Pete appears as a persistent enemy who works with the resurrected Maleficent. 17 characters from "Final Fantasy" games appear, notably, Auron of "Final Fantasy X" and the return of Squall Leonhart, Cloud Strife, and Sephiroth. It was stated that although the first game strictly stuck to characters Tetsuya Nomura designed, this time around they were going to "take some risks"; implying characters not directly designed by Nomura might make an appearance. [cite web| first= Bryan|last=Boulette| url = http://www.rpgamer.com/news/Q4-2005/112705b.html| publisher = RPGamer| title = Nomura Divulges Kingdom Hearts II Details| accessdate = 2007-05-29| date = 2005-11-27] This led to Vivi of "Final Fantasy IX" and Setzer of "Final Fantasy VI" appearing in Twilight Town.

The various worlds that Sora explores often have an optional party character from the fiction on which the world is based. Such party members include Fa Mulan, the woman who passes as a man in order to take her ailing father's place in the army; Jack Sparrow, a pirate who seeks to reclaim his ship, the Black Pearl; Simba, the self-exiled lion who is the rightful king of the Pride Land; and Tron, a security program in Hollow Bastion's computer network who seeks to end the dictatorship of the Master Control Program.

Unlike "Kingdom Hearts" where Xehanort's Heartless was revealed in the final stages of the game to be the true antagonist, Organization XIII, a group of beings without hearts, was established as the main threat early on. Organization XIII controls both the Heartless, corrupted hearts that have become monsters, and Nobodies, the bodies left over when Heartless are created. Villains unique to the worlds are still prevalent and are often presented as challenges that Sora must overcome.

tory

"Kingdom Hearts II" begins one year after "Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories". Sora, Donald, and Goofy have been asleep for the past year to regain their lost memories. Meanwhile, Roxas is trapped in a virtual simulation of Twilight Town created by DiZ so that Roxas, the Nobody of Sora, [Riku: Because, Sora. Roxas is your Nobody. cite video game|title=Kingdom Hearts II|developer=Square Enix|publisher=Square Enix U.S.A., Buena Vista Games |date=2006-03-28 |platform=PlayStation 2] may merge with his original self to restore Sora's power. [Riku: Will it work? / DiZ: If we can maintain the simulated town until Naminé finishes chaining together Sora's memories. / Riku: What will happen to Roxas? / DiZ: He holds half of Sora's power within him. In the end, he'll have to give it back. Until then, he'll need another personality to throw off his pursuers. cite video game|title=Kingdom Hearts II|developer=Square Enix|publisher=Square Enix U.S.A., Buena Vista Games |date=2006-03-28 |platform=PlayStation 2] This is done as part of DiZ's revenge on Organization XIII. [DiZ: What I need is someone who can move about the realm of light and destroy Organization XIII. cite video game|title=Kingdom Hearts II|developer=Square Enix|publisher=Square Enix U.S.A., Buena Vista Games |date=2006-03-28 |platform=PlayStation 2] [Ansem the Wise: I won't deny there was more. I was...obsessed with thoughts of revenge. My apprentices stole everything precious to me---my research, and my pride. cite video game|title=Kingdom Hearts II|developer=Square Enix|publisher=Square Enix U.S.A., Buena Vista Games |date=2006-03-28 |platform=PlayStation 2] DiZ's plans are threatened when Organization XIII's Nobodies infiltrate the virtual town, but Roxas finally merges with Sora. Sora, Donald, and Goofy wake up in the real Twilight Town and meet King Mickey and Yen Sid, who send them on another journey. Their goal is to find Riku and stop the plans of Organization XIII, who control the Nobodies—the body left over when a heart is turned into a Heartless. Sora also receives a new set of clothes that allow him to fuse with party members to gain special abilities. Afterward, Maleficent is resurrected and joins with Pete to continue her quest for power.

Sora travels to many Disney-themed worlds, and resolves the troubles caused by Organization XIII, the Heartless, Maleficent and Pete, and local villains. Meanwhile, Kairi is kidnapped by Organization XIII. During a visit to Hollow Bastion, they again meet King Mickey, who reveals the true nature of Ansem, the antagonist of "Kingdom Hearts". The Ansem who Sora defeated was actually the Heartless of Xehanort, a student of Ansem the Wise. Xemnas, the leader of Organization XIII, reveals himself to be the Nobody of Xehanort.Mickey: But, what you actually fought was his Heartless. Ya see, he wasn't really Ansem. He just went around telling everybody that he was. cite video game|title=Kingdom Hearts II|developer=Square Enix|publisher=Square Enix U.S.A., Buena Vista Games |date=2006-03-28 |platform=PlayStation 2] Mickey: Now I remember! Xehanort! Ansem's apprentice! The leader of Organization XIII is Xehanort's Nobody! cite video game|title=Kingdom Hearts II|developer=Square Enix|publisher=Square Enix U.S.A., Buena Vista Games |date=2006-03-28 |platform=PlayStation 2] Organization XIII's plan is revealed: they seek the power of Kingdom Hearts, which is the sum of all the hearts that Sora released by destroying the Heartless with his Keyblade. [Saïx: Pitiful Heartless, mindlessly collecting hearts. And yet they know not the true power of what they hold. The rage of the Keyblade releases those hearts. They gather in darkness, masterless and free...until they weave together to make Kingdom Hearts. And when that time comes, we can truly, finally exist. cite video game|title=Kingdom Hearts II|developer=Square Enix|publisher=Square Enix U.S.A., Buena Vista Games |date=2006-03-28 |platform=PlayStation 2] Sora then revisits the worlds to solve lingering problems and new complications, while seeking a path to Organization XIII's base of operations. He is secretly being aided by a mysterious hooded figure whom Sora believes to be Riku.

Through a passageway in the virtual Twilight Town, Sora, Donald, and Goofy arrive at the World That Never Was, the headquarters of Organization XIII, with Kingdom Hearts looming overhead. Sora finds Kairi and Riku, who reveals the nature of Sora's and Roxas' relationship. Mickey meets DiZ, who reveals himself to be Ansem the Wise. [DiZ: It's been too long, my friend. / Mickey: Ansem the Wise. Why didn't you come to me before things got so bad? cite video game|title=Kingdom Hearts II|developer=Square Enix|publisher=Square Enix U.S.A., Buena Vista Games |date=2006-03-28 |platform=PlayStation 2] Ansem the Wise uses a device that dissipates some of Kingdom Hearts' power, but a system overload causes the machine to explode and kill him. [Ansem the Wise: It's a device to reclaim Kingdom Hearts and encode it as data. / Mickey: Not sure I get it. / Ansem the Wise: I do not claim to know the outcome of this venture, either. After all...Hearts are unpredictable. cite video game|title=Kingdom Hearts II|developer=Square Enix|publisher=Square Enix U.S.A., Buena Vista Games |date=2006-03-28 |platform=PlayStation 2] At the top of Organization XIII's castle, Sora and his friends battle Xemnas, who uses the remnants of Kingdom Hearts to power his multiple forms. [Xemnas: Hear me, Kingdom Hearts! It seems we must begin anew. Ah, but know this: I will give to you as many hearts as it takes. Mark my words! You can no more be complete without me than I without you. Heed me, Kingdom Hearts! Lend me your power, so that we may be complete! The power to erase the fools that hinder us. cite video game|title=Kingdom Hearts II|developer=Square Enix|publisher=Square Enix U.S.A., Buena Vista Games |date=2006-03-28 |platform=PlayStation 2] After Xemnas' death, Sora and Riku are reunited with their friends at their home, Destiny Islands. [Sora: W-We're back. / Kairi: You're home. cite video game|title=Kingdom Hearts II|developer=Square Enix|publisher=Square Enix U.S.A., Buena Vista Games |date=2006-03-28 |platform=PlayStation 2] The game concludes as Sora, Kairi, and Riku read a mysterious letter presumably sent by King Mickey, the contents of which are hidden from the player.

Development

Development plans for "Kingdom Hearts II" began around the completion of "Kingdom Hearts Final Mix", but specific details were undecided until July 2003.cite web| url = http://www.gamespot.com/ps2/rpg/kingdomhearts2/news.html?sid=6076646| author = GameSpot Staff| publisher = GameSpot| date = 2003-10-10| title = Kingdom Hearts II's Tetsuya Nomura Q & A| accessdate = 2007-06-15] Nomura has stated that there were several obstacles to clear before development could begin on a sequel. One such obstacle was the development team's desire to showcase Mickey Mouse more, which required Disney's approval.cite web| title = Kingdom Hearts II Ultimania—Tetsuya Nomura Interview| url = http://www.kh2.co.uk/?page=NI/KH2U| publisher = Kingdom Hearts Ultimania| accessdate = 2007-08-10] The development team consisted of most of the original staff from the first game.cite web| title = 1st Famitsu Nomura Interview| url = http://www.kh2.co.uk/?page=NI/Famitsu-1| publisher = Kingdom Hearts Ultimania| accessdate = 2007-09-20] To explain the loss of all the abilities from the first game at the beginning of "Kingdom Hearts II", Nomura had Sora's memories scrambled in "Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories".cite web| publisher = Kingdom Hearts Ultimania| url = http://www.kh2.co.uk/?page=NI/CoMU| title = KH: CoM Ultimania—The Nomura Interview| accessdate = 2007-06-07]

Many aspects of the gameplay were reworked for this installment. Some changes were made due to user feedback and others were meant to be included in previous games but were omitted either because of time or technological constraints. The camera was switched to the right analog stick of the DualShock controller instead of the shoulder buttons and the Gummi Ship travel was reworked. The combat system was completely redone and did not use any animations from the first game. Because Sora had matured, Nomura wanted his fighting style to reflect that. Other changes included more integration between exploration and battles.cite web| url = http://www.kh2.co.uk/?page=NI/Dengeki-2| publisher = Kingdom Hearts Ultimania| title = Dengeki—Kingdom Hearts 2 Progress Report| accessdate = 2007-06-15] The variations in combat styles associated with each Drive Form and the addition of the Reaction Command were added to give players more choices in battles. The inclusion of worlds based on live-action Disney films was aided by technology that generated the character models from live-action pictures.

Content editing

Besides typical English translation and localization, the English version of "Kingdom Hearts II" differs from the original Japanese version in the content of gameplay and several scenes. The Hydra boss in Olympus Coliseum had its green blood from the original Japanese version (which was taken from the film) changed into black and purple smoke in the English version. An earlier cut scene retains the green blood.

Xigbar's telescopic sight was changed from view with a crosshair and black shading around the sides to three glowing circles. An attack animation was also altered; in the Japanese version, Xigbar combined his two hand-held guns to create a sniper rifle, which was used to shoot the player's party during the telescoping sight sequence. In the English version, Xigbar does not combine his guns, but twirls them around and shoots at Sora with a single gun. The death of Organization XIII member Axel was slightly edited; in the original, he caught fire during his suicide attack.

Port Royal contains the most content edits. Cut scenes were edited to remove some of the violence, such as William Turner threatening to commit suicide while aiming a gun at his head. Unlike the Japanese version, Undead Pirates do not catch fire when affected by Fire magic and their muskets were modified to resemble crossbows, [cite web| url = http://ps2.ign.com/articles/698/698488p1.html| title = Nomura Discusses Kingdom Hearts and Future Titles| publisher = IGN| first=Anoop|last=Gantayat|date=2006-03-26|accessdate = 2007-03-11] though the crossbows still fire with an audible musket shot sound effect.

Promotion

An unlockable trailer in "Kingdom Hearts" and "Kingdom Hearts Final Mix" hinted at the possibility of a sequel. Rumors for a sequel on the PlayStation 2 were spurred in Japan when the video game website Quiter stated that "an internal (and anonymous source) at Square Japan" confirmed that development of "Kingdom Hearts II" had begun. [cite web| url = http://ps2.ign.com/articles/388/388537p1.html| title = Kingdom Hearts 2 on PS2?| publisher = IGN| author = IGN Staff| date = 2003-03-07| accessdate = 2007-06-14] It was not until "Kingdom Hearts II" was announced, along with "Chain of Memories", at the Tokyo Game Show in September 2003cite web| first= Justin|last=Calvert| publisher = GameSpot| title = TGS 2003: Kingdom Hearts sequels announced| url = http://www.gamespot.com/gba/rpg/kingdomheartschainofmemories/news.html?sid=6075893| date = 2003-09-26| accessyear = 2007-06-08] that rumors were confirmed. Initial details were that it would take place some time after "Chain of Memories", which takes place directly after the first game. Other details included the return of Sora, Donald, and Goofy, as well as new costumes. Information about Mickey Mouse's involvement was kept to a minimum. [cite web| url = http://ps2.ign.com/articles/451/451708p1.html| author = IGN Staff| publisher = IGN| date = 2003-09-26| title = TGS 2003: Kingdom Hearts II Details| accessdate = 2007-06-14] Aside from the game trailer and various screen shots, information regarding the game was kept secret for an extended period of time.

At the 2004 Square Enix E3 Press conference, producer Shinji Hashimoto said that many mysteries of the first game would be answered. [cite web| url = http://www.gaming-age.com/event/2004/e3/12-60| title = Square Enix E3 Press Conference and "Dear Friends" Concert| publisher = Gaming Age| date = 2004-05-12| last= Benson|first=Mike| accessdate = 2007-09-25] Square Enix launched the official Japanese website in May 2005, [cite web| url = http://ps2.ign.com/articles/609/609294p1.html| publisher = IGN| first= Anoop|last=Gantayat| title = Kingdom Hearts II Website| date = 2005-05-02| accessdate = 2007-06-14] followed by the English website in December 2005. [cite web| first= Bryan|last=Vore| date = 2005-12-01| title = Kingdom Hearts II Official U.S. Website Launched| url = http://www.gameinformer.com/News/Story/200512/N05.1201.1418.12472.htm| work= Game Informer| accessdate = 2007-06-14] The websites featured videos and information regarding characters and worlds. Commercials were aired in Japan which highlighted the numerous Disney characters in the game. [cite web| url = http://www.gameinformer.com/News/Story/200512/N05.1202.1259.10506.htm| title = New Kingdom Hearts 2 Japanese TV Ad| last= Vore|first=Bryan| date = 2005-12-02| work= Game Informer| accessdate = 2007-12-12] Although the game was announced in September 2003, a release date for the game was not set until two years later. [cite web| first= Anoop|last=Gantayat| url = http://ps2.ign.com/articles/654/654393p1.html| publisher = IGN| title = Kingdom Hearts II Dated in Japan| date = 2005-12-28| accessdate = 2007-06-14] Nomura stated that the game was announced too early and information regarding the game was not released until a debut period was in sight.cite web| title = Tetsuya Nomura on Everything| first= Anoop|last=Gantayat| url = http://ps2.ign.com/articles/610/610042p1.html| date = 2005-05-04| publisher = IGN| accessdate = 2007-06-14]

Audio

"Kingdom Hearts II" incorporates Sony's "S-FORCE" ATRAC3 decoding middleware. The game is capable of monaural, stereo, and Dolby Pro Logic II audio profiles which allows it to use either one, two, four, or five channel sound. Like the first installment, the game features music by Yoko Shimomura and Hikaru Utada, and an all-star voice cast.

Musical score

The Original Soundtrack for "Kingdom Hearts II" was composed by ShimomuraKingdom Hearts II Original Soundtrack CD insert. Toshiba-EMI Limited. 2006.] and released on January 25, 2006. The opening orchestration and ending credits theme were arranged and orchestrated by Kaoru Wada and performed by the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra. The main vocal theme for the original Japanese release was "Passion", written and performed by Utada. The English version of "Passion", "Sanctuary", was used in the Western releases. Utada's involvement was announced on July 29, 2005. [cite web| url = http://www.gamespot.com/ps2/rpg/kingdomhearts2/news.html?sid=6130068| first= Hirohiko|last=Niizumi| publisher = GameSpot| date = 2005-07-29| title = Kingdom Hearts vocalist returns for sequel| accessdate = 2007-06-15] According to Nomura, the vocal theme ties in even more closely with the game's story than "Hikari" ("Simple and Clean") did with "Kingdom Hearts" and "Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories".cite book| editor = Studio BentStuff| title = Kingdom Hearts II Ultimania| publisher = DigiCube/Square Enix| chapterurl = http://www.videogamesblogger.com/2006/08/11/kingdom-hearts-ii-tetsuya-nomura-interview.htm| language = Japanese| id = ISBN 4-7575-1621-5| chapter = Tetsuya Nomura interview] The CD single for "Passion" was released on December 14, 2005 [cite web| publisher = CD Japan| url = http://www.cdjapan.co.jp/detailview.html?KEY=TOCT-5004| title = Hikaru Utada/Passion (CD+DVD)| accessdate = 2007-06-18] and "Sanctuary" was first previewed on MTV's official website in early 2006. [cite web| title = Square Enix Reveals KH2 Main Theme In English, Plus Interview With Haley Joel| first= Bryan|last=Vore| date = 2006-02-24| url = http://www.gameinformer.com/News/Story/200602/N06.0224.1528.07850.htm| work= Game Informer| accessdate = 2007-06-14]

Voice cast

"Kingdom Hearts II" features well-known voice actors for both the Japanese and English versions. Many of the original voice actors from the first "Kingdom Hearts" reprised their roles; Miyu Irino and Haley Joel Osment as Sora, Mamoru Miyano and David Gallagher as Riku, and Risa Uchida and Hayden Panettiere as Kairi. New voice actors included Kōki Uchiyama and Jesse McCartney as Roxas, Iku Nakahara and Brittany Snow as Naminé, and Genzō Wakayama and Christopher Lee as DiZ.cite web| url = http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0390163/fullcredits#cast| title = Full cast and crew for Kingdom Hearts II (2005)(VG)| publisher = Internet Movie Database| accessdate = 2007-06-14] A special effort was made to preserve the official voice actors from the Disney movies used in "Kingdom Hearts II". Many actors reprised their Disney roles for the game, including American actors Ming-Na, James Woods, and Zach Braff, and Japanese actors Takashi Aoyagi, Kōichi Yamadera, Yū Shimaka, and Hiroshi Fujioka. Some voice actors from the related television series or direct-to-video sequels were chosen over original voice actors where applicable (for example Robert Costanzo as Philoctetes rather than Danny DeVito). Some characters were given new voice actors in the English version; Aerith, Leon, and Hercules, who were originally voiced by Mandy Moore, David Boreanaz, and Sean Astin respectively in the first game, [cite web| url = http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0322968/fullcredits#cast| title = Full cast and crew for Kingdom Hearts (2002)(VG)| publisher = Internet Movie Database| accessdate = 2007-06-14] are now voiced by Mena Suvari, Doug Erholtz, and Tate Donovan (Hercules' original voice actor).

Reception

VG Reviews
1UP = A+cite web| url = http://www.1up.com/do/reviewPage?cId=3149639&p=2&sec=REVIEWS| title = Reviews: Kingdom Hearts 2| publisher = 1UP.com|first=Bryan|last=Intihar|date=2006-04-14 accessdate = 2006-12-15]
EuroG = 8 out of 10cite web| publisher = Eurogamer| url = http://www.eurogamer.net/article.php?article_id=68539| title = Kingdom Hearts II Review |first=Rob|last=Fahey|date= 2006-10-10|accessdate = 2007-06-13]
Fam = 39 out of 40cite web| first= Josh|last=Freund| date = 2005-12-20| url = http://www.gamesarefun.com/news.php?newsid=5915| title = News - Latest Famitsu review scores - Kingdom Hearts II, Mario & Luigi 2, & more| publisher = GamesAreFun.com| accessdate = 2008-10-11]
GI = 9 out of 10
GSpot = 8.7 out of 10cite web| first= Carrie|last=Gouskos| date = 2006-03-28| publisher = GameSpot| url = http://www.gamespot.com/ps2/rpg/kingdomhearts2/review.html| title = Kingdom Hearts 2| accessdate = 2006-12-15]
GSpy = 9 out of 10cite web| title = Kingdom Hearts II (PS2)| url = http://ps2.gamespy.com/playstation-2/kingdom-hearts-ii/698896p1.html| publisher = GameSpy| first= Gerald|last=Villoria| date = 2006-03-28| accessdate = 2006-12-15]
IGN = 7.6 out of 10cite web| first= Jeff|last=Haynes| date = 2006-03-28| title = Kingdom Hearts II| url = http://ps2.ign.com/articles/698/698697p1.html| publisher = IGN| accessdate = 2006-12-15]
XPlay = 4 out of 5
GR = 87% [cite web| url = http://www.gamerankings.com/htmlpages2/915410.asp| publisher = Game Rankings| title = Kingdom Hearts II (PS2)| accessdate = 2008-04-26]
MC = 87 out of 100 [cite web| publisher = Metacritic| title = Kingdom Hearts II (PS2: 2006)| url = http://www.metacritic.com/games/platforms/ps2/kingdomhearts2?q=kingdom%20hearts| accessdate = 2007-06-13]
"Kingdom Hearts II" was generally well-received, garnering positive reviews and sales figures. Within a week of its Japanese release, "Kingdom Hearts II" shipped one million copies, [cite web| first= Anoop|last=Gantayat| title = Kingdom Hearts 2 Goes Platinum| url = http://ps2.ign.com/articles/678/678247p1.html| date = 2005-12-27| publisher = IGN| accessdate = 2007-06-14] selling almost 730,000 copies. [cite web| url = http://www.gamesarefun.com/news.php?newsid=5934| title = News—Japan: weekly software sales from 12/19 - 12/25| first= Richard|last=Brownell| date = 2005-12-28| publisher = GamesAreFun.com| accessdate = 2006-12-15] The NPD Group reported that "Kingdom Hearts II" was the highest-selling console game in North America during March 2006 with 614,000 copies. [cite web| first= Tor|last=Thorsen| url = http://www.gamespot.com/news/6147802.html| publisher = GameSpot| title = ChartSpot: March 2006| accessdate = 2007-05-15] In the month after its release in North America, "Kingdom Hearts II" sold an estimated one million copies.cite web| url = http://www.square-enix.com/na/company/press/2006/0502/| title = TGS06: Kingdom Hearts II Achieves Million-Unit Sales Mark in North America in Four Weeks | publisher = Square Enix| accessdate = 2006-12-15] GameStop listed the game as their best-selling title for the first quarter of 2006. [cite web| first= Jason|last=Dobson| date = 2006-05-18| title = Industry News: GameStop's Q1 Results Up On Xbox 360, KH2| publisher = Gamasutra| url = http://www.gamasutra.com/php-bin/news_index.php?story=9368| accessdate = 2007-07-05] The game was also on IGN's "Top 10 Sellers in 2006".cite web| publisher = IGN| title = PS2 2006 Year in Review| url = http://ps2.ign.com/articles/749/749553p2.html| accessdate = 2006-12-20] As of December 2006, "Kingdom Hearts II" had shipped over 3.5 million worldwide with 700,000 in PAL regions, 1.1 million in Japan, and 1.7 million in North America. [cite web| publisher = GameSpot| title = Kingdom Hearts Series Ships over 10 Million Worldwide| url = http://www.gamespot.com/ps2/adventure/kingdomhearts/news.html?sid=6165399&om_act=convert&om_clk=gsupdates&tag=updates;title;1| accessdate=2007-05-13 | date=2007-02-05] [cite web| title = スクウェア・エニックス、イベントなど追加「Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix+」「キングダム ハーツ」 シリーズ累計出荷本数1,000万本達成| url = http://www.watch.impress.co.jp/game/docs/20070105/khfm.htm| language = Japanese| publisher = Game Watch| accessdate = 2007-03-11]

Critical response

The game has received numerous awards and high ratings among reviews. It tied with "Resident Evil 4" as "Famitsu"'s "Game of the Year" 2005.cite web| url = http://www.famitsu.com/game/news/2006/04/21/103,1145605197,52094,0,0.html| work= Famitsu| title = Famitsu Awards 2005"大賞は『キングダム ハーツII』と『バイオハザード4』!!| accessdate = 2006-12-15] "Famitsu"'s readers ranked the game 29th on their "All Time Top 100" feature,cite web| url = http://www.edge-online.com/features/japan-votes-all-time-top-100?page=0,0| title = Japan Votes on All Time Top 100| work = Edge| accessdate = 2008-09-24] ten places below "Kingdom Hearts". It was ranked number one on IGN's 2006 "Reader's Choice" for PlayStation 2 games. Eurogamer ranked it 34th on their "Top 50 Games of 2006" list. [cite web| title = Eurogamer's Top 50 Games of 2006: 40 - 31| url = http://www.eurogamer.net/article.php?article_id=71311| author = Eurogamer staff| publisher = Eurogamer| date = 2006-12-26| accessdate = 2007-08-07] Video game magazine "Electronic Gaming Monthly" awarded it "Best Sequel" of 2006, [cite journal| month= March | year= 2007 |title=Best of 2006 |journal=Electronic Gaming Monthly |issue=213 |pages=81 |publisher=Ziff Davis] and "Game Informer" listed it among the "Top 50 games of 2006".cite journal| month= January | year= 2007| title= Top 50 Games of 2006| journal= Game Informer| publisher= GameStop| issue= 165| pages= 55] "Kingdom Hearts II" also received a near-perfect score, 39/40, from the Japanese gaming magazine "Famitsu", known for its extremely harsh grading.

Critics commended many aspects of the game. GameSpy praised the quality of the voice acting and cited the graphics as "on par with the best of Square's productions to date." They also commented on the realistic and accurate character models for the characters based on the "Pirates of the Caribbean". IGN rated the graphics a 9/10 and stated that the "worlds look very much like their filmed counterparts." Japanese gaming site, Gpara.com also praised the look of the worlds.cite web| url = http://www.gpara.com/special/review/06/01/review200601240083.htm| title = Review:大好きなディズニーキャラと、いつも一緒にいられる喜び。『KHII』レビュー| publisher = Gpara.com| date = 2006-01-24| language = Japanese| accessdate = 2007-07-16] G4 awarded "Kingdom Hearts II" "Best Voice Over" and "Best Soundtrack" in their 2006 "G-Phoria" awards show. [cite web| first= Tor|last=Thorsen| publisher = GameSpot| url = http://www.gamespot.com/ps2/rpg/kingdomhearts2/news.html?sid=6155587| title = G4 announces G-phoria winners, books Jack Thompson| date = 2006-08-10| accessdate = 2007-06-15]

Like its predecessors, the gameplay received mixed reviews. Many compliments were directed at the new camera controls and combat interactions between party members. "GamePro" stated that the beginning was "sluggishly slow", but praised the action-oriented combat.cite web| author = Bones| date = 200-03-29| url = http://www.gamepro.com/article/reviews/52943/kingdom-hearts-ii/| work= GamePro| title = Review: Kingdom Hearts II| accessdate = 2008-09-24] GameSpot said that the fixed camera system and new gameplay dynamics improved the experience, but they felt the game was far too easy and that there was too much button-mashing. IGN also commented on the button-mashing aspect of the gameplay and criticized the party member's artificial intelligence (AI), citing it as "absolutely terrible", but praised the story, presentation, and new battle features. Gpara.com had positive comments about the ease of combo attacks and complimented on the steady pacing of the story and gameplay.

Versions and merchandise

"Kingdom Hearts II" has been released in four different versions. The first three are the normal regional releases in Japan, North America, and PAL, which only differ nominally in content editing and localization. The European and Australian PAL releases were reformatted to run at 50 Hz to fit the definition size of PAL encoding systems. [cite web| first= Tom|last=Bramwell| date = 2006-11-09| publisher = Eurogamer| url = http://www.eurogamer.net/article.php?article_id=67490| title = Kingdom Hearts 2 borderless| accessdate = 2007-06-14] The fourth version has additional content and was released under the title "Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix". Like the previous titles, both Square and Disney released numerous types of merchandise before and after the game came out. Merchandise ranged from toys and figurines to clothing items and books. The game has also been adapted into both manga and novel series. Prior to the game's release, an "Ultimania" book titled "Kingdom Hearts Series Ultimania α ~Introduction of Kingdom Hearts II~" came out. It provides extended information on the first two "Kingdom Hearts" games, as well as information on the unreleased "Kingdom Hearts II".Shiro Amano, and a director interview.cite web| work= Famitsu| title = ビジュアルブック『キングダム ハーツ -Another Report-』が予約特典!| url = http://www.famitsu.com/game/news/2007/01/25/103,1169704450,66102,0,0.html| date = 2007-01-25| language = Japanese| accessdate = 2007-07-06] In North America, BradyGames published two strategy guides—a standard guide and a limited edition version. The latter version was available in four different covers and included a copy of Jiminy's Journal along with 400 stickers. [cite web| url = http://www.bradygames.com/press/press_releases_detail.asp?promo=3459| title = The Key to Unlimited Adventures Lies Within Bradygames' Latest Collectible Kingdom Hearts II Strategy Guide Products | date = 2006-04-06| publisher = BradyGames| accessdate = 2007-07-06]

"Final Mix"

Because the first game was re-released, there was speculation whether Tetsuya Nomura would do the same with "Kingdom Hearts II".cite web| publisher = Kingdom Hearts Ultimania| url = http://www.kh2.co.uk/?page=NI/Famitsu-2| title = Nomura Interview Famitsu 2| accessdate = 2007-06-19] In a "Weekly Shōnen Jump" interview with Nomura, he expressed interest in a possible international version of "Kingdom Hearts II," although there were no definite plans. He said that should a "Final Mix" version arise, he had a "trump card" in mind, with such features as the Mushroom Heartless found in the first "Kingdom Hearts" game. In September 2006, Square Enix announced they would develop "Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix", featuring new scenes and gameplay elements. Like the first re-release, this version would combine English audio with Japanese text, and also used the "Sanctuary" theme song instead of "Passion".

"Kingdom Hearts II" was re-released in Japan on March 29, 2007 [cite web| title = 『キングダム ハーツII ファイナル ミックス+』が3月29日に発売!| url = http://dol.dengeki.com/data/news/2006/12/28/b347257ab8fed8b41cc749267ca81a6a.html| publisher = Dengeki Online| accessdate = 2008-09-24] as a 2-disc set titled "Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix+". The first disc contains "Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix" with a new secret movie and additional battles and items. [cite web| language = Japanese| title = 『キングダム ハーツII ファイナル ミックス』に新要素が!!| url = http://www.famitsu.com/game/coming/2007/03/23/104,1174620771,68873,0,0.html| work= Famitsu| date = 2007-03-24| accessdate = 2007-07-06] The second disc contains "Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories", a 3D PlayStation 2 remake of "" with extra scenes and voice acting. The battle system maintains the card gameplay, with the addition of Reaction Commands from "Kingdom Hearts II".cite web| url = http://www.gameinformer.com/NR/exeres/51ae7e30-ccfe-4dc2-9a46-47b0e7fd29b0.htm| title = TGS06: Dissecting The Square Enix Trailer| work= Game Informer| accessdate = 2006-12-29] The two games serve as a canonical update to the series. The book "Kingdom Hearts -Another Report-" was included along with the game for those who reserved a copy. Based on Amazon.com figures, "Final Mix+" was the number one PlayStation 2 game in sales during the week of its release in Japan. [cite web| first= David|last=Jenkins| date = 2007-03-30| title = Industry News: Puzzle Quest, C&C 3 Jump High In Amazon Charts| publisher = Gamasutra| url = http://www.gamasutra.com/php-bin/news_index.php?story=13306 | accessdate = 2007-07-06]

Printed adaptations

A manga series based on the game started its serialization in the June 2006 issue of the magazine "Monthly Shōnen Gangan", published by Square Enix. The artist is Shiro Amano, who also did the "Kingdom Hearts" and "Chain of Memories" manga series. The first volume was released in Japan in December 2006. [cite web| url = http://www.amazon.co.jp/exec/obidos/ASIN/4757518323/250-3568433-3689859| publisher = Amazon.com| language = Japanese| title = キングダムハーツ2 1 (1) (コミック)| accessdate = 2007-06-11] Tokyopop licensed the manga and released volume one in North America on July 3, 2007.cite web|url = http://www.amazon.com/Kingdom-Hearts-II-Graphic-Novels/dp/1427800588/| title = Kingdom Hearts II Volume 1 (Kingdom Hearts (Graphic Novels)) (Paperback)| publisher = Amazon.com| accessdate = 2007-07-29] The game has also been novelized by Tomoco Kanemaki and illustrated by Shiro Amano. The first volume, titled "Roxas—Seven Days", was released on April 22, 2006 [cite web| url = http://www.amazon.co.jp/exec/obidos/ASIN/4757516797/happyhour08-22| title = Game Novels キングダム ハーツII Vol.1 Roxas-Sevendays (単行本)| publisher = Amazon.com| language = Japanese| accessdate = 2007-06-18] and covers Roxas' story to when Sora wakes up and leaves Twilight Town. The novel depicts extra scenes that were added in the "Final Mix" version, such as interaction between Organization XIII members and between Axel, Naminé and Riku. The second book, "The Destruction of Hollow Bastion", was released on July 16, 2006, [cite web| title = Game Novels キングダム ハーツII Vol.2 The Destruction of Hollow Bastion (新書)| publisher = Amazon.com| url = http://www.amazon.co.jp/exec/obidos/ASIN/4757517157/happyhour08-22| language = Japanese| accessdate = 2007-06-18] the third book, "Tears of Nobody," revolving around Roxas' past, was released on September 29, 2006, [cite web| title = Game Novels キングダム ハーツII Vol.3 Tears of Nobody (新書)| publisher = Amazon.com| language = Japanese| url = http://www.amazon.co.jp/exec/obidos/ASIN/4757517920/happyhour08-22| accessdate = 2007-06-18] and the fourth book, "Anthem-Meet Again/Axel Last Stand," came out in February 2007. [cite web| title = Game Novels キングダム ハーツII Vol.4 Anthem-Meet Again/Axel Last Stand (単行本)| url = http://www.amazon.co.jp/exec/obidos/ASIN/4757519648/happyhour08-22| publisher = Amazon.com| language = Japanese| accessdate = 2007-06-18]

References

External links

* [http://www.square-enix.co.jp/kingdom2/ Official Japanese site]
* [http://na.square-enix.com/games/kingdomhearts/kh2/ Official North American site]
* [http://www.kingdomhearts2.eu.com Official European site]
* [http://www.square-enix.co.jp/kingdom2fm/ "Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix+" Japanese Site]
* [http://www.artificialwisdom.com/GameRatings/tabid/52/Default.aspx?gameid=58e38b6a-199a-4c2f-8bd7-bd1d00b84ca7 Article on "Kingdom Hearts II"'s educational benefits]


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