Kingdom Hearts II
Kingdom Hearts II is the third game in the Kingdom Hearts series, serving as a direct sequel to Kingdom Hearts Chain of Memories. Like the two previous games, it focuses on Sora and his friends battling against the forces of darkness. It also offers a number of improvements over the original with many new features, most notably Sora's Drive Form function, an improved camera, and in-battle options called Reaction Commands.
The theme song for the game is "Sanctuary" (Japanese version: "Passion") performed by Utada Hikaru.
Chronologically, Kingdom Hearts II is the eighth game in the timeline, after Kingdom Hearts χ, Kingdom Hearts χ Back Cover, Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep, Kingdom Hearts 0.2 Birth by Sleep -A fragmentary passage-, Kingdom Hearts, Kingdom Hearts Chain of Memories, and Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days.
Kingdom Hearts II begins where Kingdom Hearts Chain of Memories and Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days left off. Sora and his companions have been asleep for about a year, regaining their memories. When Sora awakens, he eventually arrives in Twilight Town, the place where a mysterious boy, Roxas, lived before he suddenly left. Gaining new clothes and powers, Sora began his journey anew, unaware of the events that have taken place in Chain of Memories. Sora continues his quest by unlocking paths to new worlds, learning of Nobodies and fighting the Heartless, as well as facing the remaining members of the mysterious Organization XIII. As the game progresses, Sora learns about Roxas and how much they have in common.
The story begins with the player in control of Roxas in Twilight Town. Roxas has dreams of Sora's adventures while increasingly mysterious activities begin taking place in Twilight Town during Roxas's summer vacation. After obtaining the Keyblade to defend himself from the Nobodies, Roxas comes in contact with a young man in black named Axel. Axel appears to know Roxas, though Roxas has no recollection of him. Roxas eventually makes his way into an abandoned mansion where a girl named Naminé informs him that he is a Nobody, although he did not quite know what a Nobody was at that time. Finally, confronted by a mysterious, red-cloaked man called DiZ, Roxas discovers Sora, Donald, and Goofy sleeping in the hidden basement of the mansion. Roxas seems to merge with Sora. As Sora, Donald, and Goofy awake from their year-long slumber, Jiminy Cricket, who had previously chronicled the trio's adventures, finds that his journal is now completely blank, save for the note: "Thank Naminé" (which was written by Jiminy himself during Chain of Memories).
After meeting Pete, a new villain, and speaking with Yen Sid, the party is informed that they must once again visit many worlds to protect them from both the Heartless and the Nobodies in an attempt to stop Organization XIII. These include both old but greatly changed places, like Hollow Bastion, and brand new worlds the party has never encountered before. In the course of their travels, the Heartless, led in two separate groups by a revived Maleficent and the Organization, regain power, eventually forcing Sora to battle a massive army of Heartless that are attacking Hollow Bastion. Along the way, they learn that the Ansem they fought a year ago was actually the Heartless of Xehanort, and that the Nobody of Xehanort, Xemnas, is the leader of Organization XIII. They also learn that Xehanort was an apprentice of the real Ansem, who is missing.
After the battle, Xemnas appears and leaves with a cryptic note that King Mickey knows where Riku is. When Xemnas leaves, another member of the Organization, Saïx, appears before the group and reveals their ultimate goal: the Nobodies' plan to create another Kingdom Hearts, a doorway to the heart of all worlds that will presumably allow the Nobodies to get their hearts back. After confronting and defeating more members of the Organization, Sora goes to The World That Never Was to settle the score with the Organization for good; he also finally reunites with his friends Riku and Kairi. Sora learns the truth about Roxas as well; he and Naminé are, respectively, Sora and Kairi's Nobodies, created when they lost their hearts in the original Kingdom Hearts game.
In the end, only Xemnas is left of the original thirteen members. Sora and Riku unite to defeat him, and his new Kingdom Hearts is closed. Sora and the others are returned to their homeworld of Destiny Islands. Although Sora has to say goodbye to Donald and Goofy, he knows in his heart that true friends are never gone. However, sometime later, Sora, Riku, and Kairi receive a letter from King Mickey after the credits. They proceed to read the letter, but the contents are left unrevealed.
Kingdom Hearts II offers a number of key differences from the original Kingdom Hearts. While the core gameplay remains the same, new features have been added to improve the experience. The two most notable are Sora's Drive system, which allows him to fuse with one or both party allies and assume new powers, and Reaction Commands, which allow Sora and/or members of his party to perform special maneuvers in the course of battle. In addition, there are new and revamped Abilities, as well as special abilities, such as Glide, that can only be gained by leveling Sora's Drive Forms.
The basic combat and leveling systems have also been redesigned beyond the addition of reaction commands and drive forms. In order to facilitate low-level playthroughs, bosses no longer offer experience upon defeat; rather, they reward the player with boosts to their HP, MP, or AP, or with specific abilities. Bosses can no longer be defeated by mere depletion of HP, and must be finished off with a combo finisher; in fact, many bosses have the ability to break out of Sora's combos if they go on too long. The MP Gauge has also been retooled to ensure that the player is never left without magic while preventing abuse of powerful spells like Cure—instead of being a quickly refillable gauge that is difficult to refill during battle, the MP Gauge can easily be depleted by three or fewer spells, and refills automatically. Several abilities can empower Sora's offensive abilities during this period to compensate for his temporary inability to heal.
The collection quests for the Trinity Marks and 99 Puppies have been merged with the Treasure Chests present in the first game, and it is now required that the player open every single chest in order to complete the Journal. Item synthesis is also retained from the original game, but has been made more complex by allowing the player to use catalysts in the recipe, as well as requiring the player to find hidden Recipes or training the Moogle in order to create the more powerful items. As with Treasure Chests, the Journal now tracks the player's prowess in the synthesis sidequest.
Gummi Ships also reappear, but are far more divorced from the main quest than in the original. Sora's progress within the main game is only relevant to the Gummi portion of the game by unlocking no routes, and no longer has any effect on the options available to him in building a Gummi Ship; in return, progress in the Gummi quests have absolutely no effect on the main quest. The Gummi routes themselves are less uniform and monotonous, varying from space battles against a massive pirate ship, to flying through floating islands and waterfalls. In addition, many new types of Gummis are available, such as Teeny Ships that fly alongside the main ship, and the Ships can equip abilities similar to Sora's.
Kingdom Hearts II also has a stronger focus on mini-games, as instead of merely rewarding the player with prizes for high scores, the player must meet certain minimum scores in each mini-game simply to fill the Journal. Certain mini-games, like Skateboarding, also appear in many variants throughout the worlds, while Atlantica has been converted into a mini-game world similar to 100 Acre Wood.
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:
Most of the key characters from Kingdom Hearts return, particularly heroes Sora, Riku, and Kairi, as well as constant party members Donald and Goofy. King Mickey also returns, having a much larger role in Kingdom Hearts II than his cameo at the end of the first game. Old foes also return, most notably Maleficent.
A number of characters first featured in Chain of Memories also make comebacks in Kingdom Hearts II; most prominently involved are Naminé and DiZ. Axel of Organization XIII also makes a return appearance, the only member to appear in both games; the Organization members featured in Kingdom Hearts II are all new to the series. Also new to the series are the mysterious Roxas and Maleficent's lackey Pete.
In addition to the Disney characters that return from Kingdom Hearts, there are also characters from several Disney features making their Kingdom Hearts debut, most notably characters from the previously unexplored worlds of Mulan, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Tron, as well as a world dedicated to Disney's older black-and-white works, Timeless River. New but familiar characters have also been added to all of the returning worlds.
Other characters make prominent appearances in the original Kingdom Hearts worlds of Twilight Town and Hollow Bastion. Yen Sid the sorcerer, Mickey's master in the movie Fantasia, makes an appearance, inhabiting a mysterious tower. Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather from Sleeping Beauty give Sora his new outfit. Scrooge McDuck also has taken residence in Hollow Bastion trying to recreate a "salty flavored ice cream". Merlin returns to Hollow Bastion, now allied with several familiar faces from Traverse Town in the original game.
Final Fantasy characters
Seventeen characters from six of the Final Fantasy games make appearances in Kingdom Hearts II. Along with returning characters from Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy VIII, and Final Fantasy X, characters from Final Fantasy VI, Final Fantasy IX, and Final Fantasy X-2 debut for the first time.
It had been stated by game designer Tetsuya Nomura that, although the first game strictly stuck to characters Nomura designed, this time around they were going to "take some risks", allowing characters from Final Fantasy games without involvement from Nomura to make appearances. The involvement of characters from VI and IX are the result.
The omnipresent Moogles, featured in many different Final Fantasy titles, return in Kingdom Hearts II as both the keepers of item synthesis, and also as shopkeepers at various places in worlds. However, because of the dangers of the world, they only appear as holograms, with the exception of the Moogles in Hollow Bastion and Twilight Town. Other constant Final Fantasy reference include Biggs and Wedge, who make appearances as shopkeepers, references to the Final Fantasy job classes in the names of the Nobodies, and the names of various Gummi Ship blueprints.
Nobodies are the main enemies in Kingdom Hearts II, appearing alongside Heartless. They are creatures without hearts, born from the body and soul of a living being who has lost its heart. Organization XIII are Nobodies who have retained their human forms, albeit a bit changed from their original appearance. Another difference between the Nobodies and Heartless are that the Nobodies attack more tactically, and often together, unlike the instinctive nature of the Heartless. Many of the different kinds of Nobodies are named after job classes from the Final Fantasy series.
Like the previous game, Sora can summon certain Disney characters to aid him in battle once he has attained each of their respective items. As summons use the Drive Gauge instead of the MP bar, Sora cannot Drive and summon at the same time. The summoned character will replace the two computer-controlled characters and fight alongside Sora for as long as the Drive Gauge allows. Instead of the summoned character being limited to only one action, the summoned character now has a menu of his own to perform multiple actions, some solo actions and some cooperative actions with Sora. There are four summons total in Kingdom Hearts II, Chicken Little, Genie, Stitch, and Peter Pan with additional help from Tinker Bell.
World Party Members and Assistance
World-specific party members appear in almost every world in the game; there are nine in total, offering a huge leap from the original game's six. Notable among them are Auron, the first Final Fantasy character to be a party member, and Sora's best friend Riku. Also notable are assistance characters, who are not part of the party, but can fight alongside of it; they usually appear during key battles and plot moments.
Worlds and Characters
Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix+
Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix+ is a package containing Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix, an enhanced remake of Kingdom Hearts II featuring more enemies, additional scenes, and many other elements like expanded worlds, and Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories, which gives the player access to more cards if there is a cleared Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix save file on the memory card.
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