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.
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, during Kingdom Hearts coded and before Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance.
After the sudden and meteoric success of the original game, a sequel went into conceptualization immediately after Kingdom Hearts: Final Mix wrapped development, and the concept was finalized around July of 2003. Most of the original staff returned for this sequel. The original plan was for this game to canonically take place one year after the events of the original. The team also wanted Sora to lose a majority of his abilities gained in the previous game. To offer an in-universe explanation for the ability reset and elaborate on the year in between, an interquel was created to bridge the gap. Titled Kingdom Hearts Chain of Memories, this title was outsourced to Jupiter so the team can have less of a work load.
The team read and considered feedback they received from players of the original game and took them into account when making the sequel. These included tying the camera to the right analog stick and completely reworking the Gummi Ship segments. The combat was also reworked, with no animations from the first game being reused. Nomura explains that he wanted gameplay and presentation to reflect that the characters are older and have matured. Other changes that were initially planned to be in the original game but were scrapped due to time and technological limitations include different forms Sora can take, smoother integration between exploration and combat, and the inclusion of Live-action Disney properties due to new technology that generated the actors' real likenesses into 3D models. One major hurdle the team ran into is their desire to showcase Mickey Mouse more, which required approval from Disney and temporarily slowed down production.
While the original game hinted at the possibility of a sequel, Kingdom Hearts II was officially revealed alongside Chain of Memories at the 2003 Tokyo Game Show. The game also appeared at the 2004 at the Square Enix E3 showcase, where they confirmed that "many mysteries of the first game would be answered." A Japanese website was launched in May, 2005, with an English webiste launching in December of that year. The game finally released on PlayStation 2 on December 22, 2005, with it releasing in the rest of the world throughout 2006.
Kingdom Hearts II begins almost a year after Kingdom Hearts Chain of Memories, and immediately after Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days.
A boy named Roxas wakes up in his room at Twilight Town. Roxas has dreams of Sora's adventures while increasingly mysterious activities begin taking place in Twilight Town during Roxas's summer vacation with his friends Hayner, Pence and Olette. After obtaining the Keyblade to defend himself from strange white creatures, 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, like the strange white creatures, although he doesn't understand at the 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, where they have been regaining their memories since their last adventure a year ago. Roxas merges with Sora, and Sora finally awakens, alongside his friends.
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 Jiminy had previously left as a clue to their adventure in Castle Oblivion. The group begins their journey anew and arrive in the real Twilight Town, instead of the virtual simulation Roxas lived in. The group crosses paths with King Mickey Mouse, who orders them to board a train, before running off. In the station, the real Hayner, Pence and Olette say their farewell to Sora, who cries because of Roxas inside of him, although he does not understand it at the time.
The train takes them to the Mysterious Tower. 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, along with new ones. Sora gains new clothes and powers from Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather, and Yen Sid summons the Gummi Ship for them to use. After Sora, Donald and Goofy leave, Maleficent's Raven brings her tattered cloak to the fairies, who unwillingly remember Maleficent, thus bringing her back from the past as shown from the ending of Kingdom Hearts Union X.
Sora continues his quest by unlocking paths to other 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. He also gets leads that Riku may still be alive and out there somewhere. Meanwhile, it is also revealed Kairi is being dragged into the events by Axel, both of them eventually finding their way to Twilight Town. Although Kairi meets Hayner, Pence and Olette, she ends up being abducted by Axel and taken into a portal.
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 of the Heartless, 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 including Axel, Sora goes to The World That Never Was to settle the score with the Organization for good. Sora blanks out and briefly battles Roxas in his heart. In the castle, he finally reunites with his friends Riku and Kairi, although Riku is in Ansem's body. 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. The group cross paths with Mickey, Ansem the Wise and Xemnas. Ansem's Kingdom Hearts Encoder explodes, apparently killing him and returning Riku to his original form, and Xemnas has disappeared. Maleficent and Pete also appear to hold off a mass of Heartless so that Sora's group can fight Xemnas, and the duo are not seen again.
After defeating Xigbar, Saïx and Luxord, only Xemnas is left of the original thirteen members. Sora and Riku unite to defeat him. Confused how to return, Naminé appears and opens a portal which Mickey, Donald and Goofy pass through. Naminé reunites with Kairi, and a projection of Roxas reunites with Sora. However, it turns out Xemnas' defeat is a false alarm, and Riku and Sora have to finally defeat Xemnas. Afterwards, Xemnas' new Kingdom Hearts is closed. Sora and Riku rest on the Dark Margin. Sora and Riku inexplicably find a bottled letter from Kairi she sent before their reunion, and the Door to Light is somehow opened, which they pass through. Sora and Riku find themselves returned to their homeworld of Destiny Islands. The pair are welcomed by Kairi, Donald, Goofy and Mickey. Sometime later, Sora, Riku, and Kairi receive a letter from King Mickey.
Combat changes compared to first game
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 Trinity Marks and 99 Puppies from the first game have been completely removed. For collecting, there are 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. If the player is playing the Final Mix version, there are 144 Puzzle pieces scattered throughout the world.
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.
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.
Gummi Ships 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. Changes in the Gummi Ship system include:
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 an enhanced re-release of Kingdom Hearts II featuring more enemies, additional scenes, and many other elements like expanded worlds.
In Japan, it was released in a package called Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix+ also containing 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.
The Final Mix version of the game was ported to PlayStation 3 as part of Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMIX. It was later ported to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC as part of Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 + 2.5 ReMIX, this time with the ability to run at 60 frames per second.