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Retrospective: Kingdom Hearts • Page 2

Extremely Goofy.

But when they finally meet up, suddenly it becomes clear why people might care about this game, and those that followed. Suddenly it changes gear, remembers that a third-person action adventure needs to have some action and some adventure, and begins you on a journey exploring your way through a remarkable selection of Disney classics.

It never stops feeling like a The Fly-style mutant result of an experiment gone wrong, where an attempt to teleport a Final Fantasy character was subverted by the accidental inclusion of Jiminy Cricket sneaking his way into the pod. The two universes don't so much co-exist, as simultaneously occupy the same space.

But wow, it's hard not to be overwhelmed by the scale of Disney that's on offer here. The voice cast alone is breathtaking. These aren't approximated voices, sound-a-likes or the people who did the straight-to-DVD sequel. These are the same people who originally recorded the characters. Sure, they don't get Robin Williams to voice the Genie, but when the replacement is Dan "Homer Simpson" Castellaneta it's hard to sniff. I found myself frequently checking IMDB to see if this latest voice really was him or her, each time being astonished that it was.

The realisation of some of the areas is equally magnificent. While small, the Wonderland planet (because of course you're flying from themed planet to themed planet via a very ill-conceived spaceship shooting sequence) is packed with brilliant ideas. A room you use to enter the Queen's court becomes a repeatedly used location, as you find ways into it to explore via its walls and ceiling. It reminds me a little of Psychonauts, in fact.

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James Woods is endlessly marvellous, including here.

So you've got Tarzan, Alice In Wonderland, Winnie The Pooh, Hercules, Aladdin, and so on, each really impressively realised in 3D, but while still maintaining the original design. Perhaps the poorest effort is Hercules, where Gerald Scarfe's distinctively angular design is mostly lost, but most are pleasingly reminiscent of their source.

I think what surprises me most as I explore the game is quite how varied it is, and how involved it gets. As you discover more magic powers, start needing to carefully manage your inventory to ensure you enter boss battles perfectly equipped, select characters to be in your party, craft items, solve puzzles, improve fighting skills, get involved in complex conversations, and find the central story seemingly darker and darker, it's not nearly the game I was expecting.

Sadly, what I was expecting appear to be the weakest aspects. Having had the impression this was more of a platform-orientated third-person adventure, it's here that it's at its absolute worst. Sora's inability to jump on a thing is infuriating.

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It turns out the limit to the number of waves of Heartless I want to kill is 23,943.

The game seems to have been specifically designed to have him mysteriously sloop down and away from an object, in the manner in which such games would usually indicate you shouldn't be jumping there. Not so here. Repeated attempts to land on a box will eventually work, shortly before you're knocked back off again by one of your party clumsy shoving you out of the way. Particularly egregious are the sequences in Tarzan's jungle, where falls mean restarting long, boring jumping sequences.

And that's if you can see what's happening. The camera adores hiding behind objects, or getting stuck on scenery, as if you're being filmed by another character in the scene. Again in the Deep Jungle, there's one remarkably stupid moment where you're sliding down a long tree trunk, and the camera insists on putting one of your party members at the fore, such that your character is completely hidden.

I'm not sure that the Disney meets Square thing really comes off. But there's no doubting that however disjointed it may feel, the result is a game enormous in scope, and just plain bizarre in concept.

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