Role Playing video games are about much more than just the moment to moment gameplay. Story, characters and world building are equally important to the experience as the combat system and level progression mechanics, and for this gamer in particular, Kingdom Hearts II delivers in each of these areas by a large degree. For these reasons and many more, Kingdom Hearts II is my favorite game of all time.
Kingdom Hearts II is one of the first video game stories that I remember being truly and thoroughly invested in. I previously enjoyed the stories from games like Sonic Adventure 2, Pokemon Crystal and especially the original Kingdom Hearts, but Kingdom Hearts II was on an entirely different level as far as I was concerned.
You’ll never hear me argue that the writing on display in any of the Kingdom Hearts games is incredibly deep or well written. But in spite of this claim, myself and millions of other Kingdom Hearts fans love every little story detail about the series, flaws and all.
There’s so many things I adore about Kingdom Hearts II’s overall narrative. I love just how grand Sora’s adventure feels this time around, and having a dangerous group like Organization XIII constantly lurking in the shadows really does a great job of raising the sense of tension.
My favorite thing about the game is the portrayal of the characters. Sora, when compared to his original Kingdom Hearts self, has a more defined personality. He comes across as much more mature and confident, and is able to effectively take charge of his group.
Other characters like Riku and Roxas are super enjoyable in the story as well, but I especially love how much development the game gave to Kairi. She was just a damsel in distress during the events of the first game, and while that is still true of Kingdom Hearts II to an extent, she does much more than just sit around and wait for Sora and Riku to come rescue her.
The ending to Kingdom Hearts II will likely always be my favorite of any video game, and is honestly one of my favorites in any storytelling medium. Many games have followed Kingdom Hearts II, but I’ve always said that Kingdom Hearts, Chain of Memories and Kingdom Hearts II all come together to serve as a nice little trilogy, one that Kingdom Hearts II wraps up with a genuinely beautiful and heartwarming finale.
I’ve talked so much about loving games with deeply rewarding systems and mechanics that I’m practically a broken record at this point, and Kingdom Hearts II, in conjunction with multiple Sonic the Hedgehog games is responsible for this.
Kingdom Hearts II has what is easily one of the most underappreciated combat systems in all of gaming, but I can’t say that this is unjustified. The mechanics that make the game truly shine are best represented in the game’s Final Mix version, which wasn’t available outside of Japan until 2014.
In addition, these same mechanics only really work on the higher difficulty levels like Proud and Critical. Most people are going to experience the game on Normal difficulty, and this, in conjunction with just how many powerful abilities Sora gains access to, is almost entirely why the game has the negative stigma of being a mindless button masher.
Boss encounters are without question the best thing about Kingdom Hearts II’s gameplay, more specifically the human sized ones. These fights test your reflexes, reaction time and ability to watch for, observe and adapt to attack and defense patterns.
Kingdom Hearts II’s boss fights manifest themselves not too unlike traditional fighting games, with many fighting game terms being applicable to Kingdom Hearts II. Spacing, active frames, recovery frames, all of these terms and more are necessary to have a solid chance against some of the tougher opponents.
A large part of what makes the combat so engaging is the staggering amount of viable options Sora has available to him. Physical Keyblade attacks are what you’ll normally default to, but there’s also drive forms, summons, magic attacks and limit breaks to consider. Each of these mechanics have their own utility for different situations, and it’s a ton of fun experimenting with different loadouts to see what works best for individual play styles.
From story to gameplay and everything in between, Kingdom Hearts II is an absolute treat in my eyes. There’s practically nothing I don’t love about the game. Certain characters and story moments that were shown in this game have stuck with me for years, and have had a huge influence on the types of stories I enjoy to this day. Kingdom Hearts II truly does have that Disney magic, a magic that can be plainly seen in each and every area of the game.