|In September 2002, Square released the original Kingdom Hearts game for the Playstation 2. It was a great success, so, naturally, Square released the sequel “Kingdom Hearts II” in Japan late last year. In only the first three days, the game sold over a million units. Gamers in North America will not have to wait much longer for it, because the highly anticipated sequel now has a definite release date of March 28, 2006.
In KH II (Kingdom Hearts II), Sora is looking for his friends Kairi and Riku who he separated from after the events of the first game. Donald Duck and Goofy are still in the picture of course, and they are still looking for their missing king, Mickey. Also joining the crew is the mysterious boy Roxas.
It has been a year since the events of the original game and this time around, Sora and friends are joined by a new cast of characters (and old) from the Disney universe, Final Fantasy, and original characters created by Tetsuya Nomura himself. There are many mysteries to be unfolded, including the Heartless enemies from the first game and a new villain who wears a mask.
Kingdom Hearts has sold over 4 million units worldwide. The game not only attracted young Disney fans, but older gamers as well with its dark take on the Disney Universe. The story became very compelling and even though it had its darker moments, it was not done so in a
manner to scare away the younger gamers. SQUARE ENIX got very creative by mixing the Disney universe with a touch of Final Fantasy, which included the use of some of their major characters.
It is no surprise that Tetsuya Nomura reprises his role as the Director and Main Characters Designer in Kingdom Hearts II. Nomura was also the creator of many well known Final Fantasy characters from Final Fantasy VII, VIII, X and X-2. This would make Nomura the father of the ultra popular fan favorites; Cloud Strife and Sephiroth. Joining Nomura is Yuichi Kanemori as the Battle Director. While the first Kingdom Hearts battle system was simple,
it was also challenging and very entertaining. Kazushige Nojima acts as the Scenario Director, who is responsible for the many emotional twists and turns of Kingdom Hearts II. Final Fantasy fans will recognize his name for his work on Playstation titles Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VIII.
Like the original, KHII will have an all star voice cast.
The all-star ensemble voice cast is led by Haley Joel Osment (“The Sixth Sense,” “A.I. Artificial Intelligence”) as the main character Sora and is joined by David Gallagher (“7th Heaven”) as Riku, and Hayden Panettiere (“Racing Stripes,” “Raising Helen”) as Kairi. KINGDOM HEARTS II will also feature the voice talents of Jesse McCartney (“Summerland,” Recording artist, “Beautiful Soul” CD) as the mysterious boy Roxas, Brittany Snow (“The Pacifier,” “American Dreams”) as Namine, Christopher Lee (“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “Lord of the Rings : The Fellowship of the Ring”) as Diz; Steve Burton (“The Last Castle,” “Taken”) as Cloud, Rachael Leigh Cook (“She’s All That,” “Josie And The Pussycats”) as Tifa and Mena Suvari (“American Beauty,” “Rumor Has It”) as Aerith, all characters from FINAL FANTASY® VII; and Hedy Buress (“Boston Common,” “If These Walls Could Talk”), Tara Strong (“Fairly OddParents : Shadow Showdown,” “Teen Titans”) , Gwendoline Yeo (“Desperate Housewives,” “24”) as the popular female-trio Yuna, Rikku, Paine from FINAL FANTASY X-2. In addition, many of the original Disney film star voice actors are reprising their role for this project, including Ming-Na (“ER,” “Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within”) as Mulan, James Woods (“Be Cool”), returning as the villain Hades and Zach Braff (“Scrubs”) as Chicken Little.
KH II will feature a new and improved real-time battle system which will provide an increased selection of commands, allowing players to perform special and cooperative attacks with members of your party. Little things like this will add some strategy to the gameplay. One of the most interesting improvements will be the “Drive” command to transform Sora into various forms that will alter his skills and abilities. An example would include the Brave Form, where Sora absorbs Goofy’s powers, which allows Sora to use duel Keyblades. Another form would be the Wisdom Form where Sora absorbs Donald’s powers, increasing Sora’s magic power. Interesting enough, Sora can also combine both Donald’s and Goofy’s powers which is called the Master Form. This should definitely create some new additional challenges and excitement to the gameplay.
In KH II, players will travel through the worlds of Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King (where Sora actually transforms into a lion), Mulan, Steamboat Willie, Tron and even Pirates of the Carribean. There will also be revisits from the original such as Aladdin, Disney Castle, Hercules, The Little Mermaid, Winnie the Pooh, and The Nightmare Before Christmas. There will be over 100 Disney characters in total, including some unexpected characters like Chicken Little. Disney fans will be more than happy to know that one of Disney’s most popular villains ‘Pete’ will be joining the cast.
Japanese pop artist Utada Hikaru returns to sing the theme song for Kingdom Hearts II. The song is titled “Sanctuary,” the English version of its original Japanese release “Passion,” was written specifically for Kingdom Hearts II.
Kingdom Hearts II will ship to North American retailers on March 28, 2006.