Kingdom Hearts 2 characters confirmed

Auron, Hercules and Beast join Mickey and co. on the list, as we look forward to E3 by recapping everything we've seen and heard of the Square/Disney RPG sequel to date.

The latest issue of Japanese Shonen Jump magazine has shed a bit more light on the cast of Square/Disney-themed RPG Kingdom Hearts 2, revealing that Hercules and Beast (of Beauty and the Beast) will return, and that Auron (of Final Fantasy X fame) and Hercules' main squeeze Megara will also make an appearance. They join the likes of Mickey Mouse, Goofy and Donald Duck, all of whom have been confirmed since the first Tokyo Game Show trailer appeared last year revealing a much darker looking adventure.

Kingdom Hearts 2, announced in 2003 and due out this year, is expected to appear on Square-Enix's E3 stand next month alongside associated GBA title Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, although the publisher has yet to announce its final E3 line-up. First seen at TGS, Kingdom Hearts 2 is stylistically very similar to the original, generally enchanting KH RPG, and takes place one year after its events (and reportedly after the events of in-between title Chain of Memories), leaving main characters Sora, Riku and Kairi struggling with the twin burdens of having to save the universe whilst coping with their troublesome teens.

In past interviews, the game's director and character designer Tetsuya Nomura has revealed that Sora's much darker outfits will play some sort of key role in the Kingdom Hearts sequel, that the new Twilight Town (where light remains dim throughout the day) will be a key location, and that the battle system will be a tweaked version of the original, but other than that a lot of questions still remain unanswered. Few of the game's original areas have been sighted (although the Coliseum will return with more mini-games), and we're still left wondering who the hooded figure is behind the legions of shadowy enemies seen in the trailer.

Hopefully a big E3 showing will answer some of our questions, and perhaps confirm rumours that the original game's voice cast have signed on for the sequel. Last time out Lance Bass (of all people) put in a surprisingly neat turn as Sephiroth, with Haley Joel Osment as Sora and David Boreanz as Squall, and a number of Disney voice actors including Brian Blessed and Dan Castellanata also reprised their film roles and made a big impression. Given that the first game shipped more than four million units worldwide (including more than 820,000 in Europe), we're guessing it may have the muscle to lure them all back. We certainly hope so.

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