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Kingdom Hearts II - Hands on

In light of this, there's clearly only one way to save the universe, rescue the lovely Kairi, find King Mickey (main characters Sora, Goofy, and Donald's unfinished tasks from the first game) and solve the mysteries of how all of these groups of heroes and enemies intertwine. Pass the buck to the first game's heroes, who must then embark upon a whirlwind travelogue of the Disney galaxy.

In his search for his missing friends (lover-girl Kairi and the buddy-turned-baddie-turned-missing Riku), Sora returns to several of the first game's themed planets. These include the worlds of The Nightmare Before Christmas, The Little Mermaid, Hercules, Aladdin, and Winnie the Pooh. Don't worry about things seeming redundant, though. Old worlds have entirely new places to visit; Hercules' Olympus, for example, now focuses on Hades' Land of the Dead instead of the first game's Coliseum.

Of course, there are also entirely new worlds: Mulan, The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast, and the "Timeless River," a monochrome world based on 1930's Mickey Mouse cartoon shorts like "Steamboat Willie." Two live-action film worlds round out the additions: Pirates of the Caribbean and Tron.

Sora's arsenal of keyblade moves has been seriously upgraded. Guards, counters, combos, and finishers make even those countless fights against regular foes entertaining. The skilled use of context-sensitive attacks adds welcome flavor to the chops-busting stew - for example, a flying, bat-like enemy may suddenly become susceptible to "Bat Battery." Hit triangle, and Sora will stick his keyblade into the bat and fly around the screen, damaging all of his opponents.

Sora also now has the ability to transform into different "Forms," temporarily increasing his attack or magic capability. Merging with Goofy unlocks the Brave Form, which is focused on laying a physical beatdown on the enemy; merging with Donald gives the Wisdom Form, which spurts all manner of magical mutilation. Merging with both of your comrades at once unlocks the uber-powerful Master Form, which basically just stomps everything.

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