Kingdom Hearts II
Platform: PlayStation 2
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Genre: Action RPG
Format: DVD-ROM
Release: US 2005
Japan 2005

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Here come the M.I.B.
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Axel in action.
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Hades and Auron talk.
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King Mickey is back in action.
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Chris Winkler
Preview First Look
Chris Winkler

Unlike its Game Boy Advance cousin, Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, the announcement of Kingdom Hearts II during Square Enix's Tokyo Game Show press conference last year did not surprise a lot of observers. While negotiations with Disney might have taken longer than expected, the four million copies sold of Kingdom Hearts were the best argument to bring a new game in the series to PlayStation 2.

While Kingdom Hearts II is being developed internally by Square Enix's first production team, the key figures behind the project are basically the same people who were responsible for the development of the popular prequel. Tetsuya Nomura is acting as director and character designer; executive director Shinji Hashimoto and Yoshinori Kitase, head of the first production team, are again assuming their roles as co-producers; Kazushige Nojima, who quit Square Enix for Stella Vista last year, retains his position as scenario director; and Yuuichi Kanemori returns as battle director. Whether Yoko Shimomura will compose this sequel's soundtrack, however, remains to be seen.

Just like Chain of Memories, Kingdom Hearts II lets players assume the role of returning protagonist Sora. His two trusted mates from Kingdom Hearts, Donald and Goofy, are back, and so are a wide range of other beloved Disney and Final Fantasy characters. Square Enix has been very tight-lipped as far as specifics in the story and character departments are concerned. Mickey Mouse, who is shown wielding a keyblade in one screenshot, will play a major role in the game and screenshots have confirmed the appearances of Final Fantasy X's Auron, Mulan, the heroine of the Disney movie by the same title, and Axel, the red-haired kid dressed in black in the game. Like Mickey, Axel (who will also appear in Chain of Memories) is set to be one of the key figures in Kingdom Hearts II.

On the villain side, the Heartless and Disney villains like Hades are complemented by a group of men in black. While Will Smith won't be among them, one certain character from Kingdom Hearts will be part of their powerful group. On the field, Sora will also encounter an enemy more lethal than the Heartless; a large white body, capable of changing its form.

As far as the setting is concerned, players can look forward to seeing some familiar Disney worlds used in the first game, such as the Colosseum, but new additions will be present as well.

Unlike the card-based battles of Chain of Memories, Kingdom Hearts II will stay closer to its fast and furious roots, in offering the same action-oriented real-time battles as its prequel, albeit with an improved camera. The development team is apparently working to give players a greater variety of strategies during battle, for instance by revamping the system of using magic and summoning friends to aid you.

Kingdom Hearts II will be available in Japan and North America sometime next year.


© 2004-2005 Square Enix Co. Ltd.
All Rights Reserved.

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