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Why Kingdom Hearts II is one of the greatest games ever made

That’s not to say it didn’t benefit from the tie-ins, though. Kingdom Hearts II was every bit the love letter to Disney films that the first one was, allowing gamers to explore the Pride Land, the world of Tron, and even the Timeless River – a level built to elicit nostalgic feelings of Mickey Mouse’s origins as Steamboat Willy. These, by themselves, would have been enough to force our easily-stimulated brains into overdrive, but the masterful inclusion of Final Fantasy characters provided an exponentially better experience.

The combination of the two completely disconnected licenses was handled perfectly, creating fanboy-pleasing team-ups we’d never even dreamed of. Every conversation had us smiling from ear-to-ear. Hades summoning Auron to fight Hercules is still one of our favorite moments in gaming history, with both original voice actors returning to create one of the most surreal gaming scenes in history. It somehow managed to have a comedic devil-figure meet a stoic Final Fantasy character without betraying either figure’s personalities. We still laugh thinking about that scene, and how amazed we were when it all came together.

Interactions with Mickey, too, were handled flawlessly. He was likely the character altered the most by the Kingdom Hearts series – turned from a smiling mascot of the Walt Disney company into a Yoda-like ninja who bounced around in a mysterious hooded trenchcoat – but the transformation was so wonderful that we couldn’t even pretend to be disappointed when we found out the cloaked warrior darting around the shadows was one of the most memorable icons of all time.

Square also found time, while expanding Kingdom Hearts into its own brand and including some of the best fan service in entertainment history, to improve the gameplay as well. The Gummi Ship segments were completely revamped to the point that we actually fell in love with them, and the combat had been improved dramatically, going from "serviceable" to "impeccable."

Dual-wielding Keyblades and wiping out hundreds of enemies at a time made Sora feel super powerful, and created some of the more entertaining action segments in all of the RPG genre, and being able to summon classic Disney characters to help in battle was a perfect marriage of Disney’s charm and Square’s gameplay style. You could summon Genie from Aladdin to fight against Final Fantasy VII's Sephiroth - do you need more of an excuse to smile today? No. You don't. Don't even pretend that you do.

Kingdom Hearts II is remarkably fun to play, with all the depth and intricacies expected from a Square title, but more importantly it was a fearless sequel in an industry that, all too often, plays things super by-the-books. Instead of throwing out a cameo of two, Square-Enix created one of the best mash-ups of all time. It’s filled to the brim with an undying love for everything it encompasses – which, obviously, is quite a lot – and absolutely earns its spot in our list of the 100 greatest games of all time.

"Why _____ is one of the best games ever made" is a weekly feature that goes through GamesRadar's list of the 100 best games of all time and highlights different titles, explaining why they're on the list, what makes them so amazing, and why we love them so much.

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93 comments

  • cassidy_harharhar - May 13, 2013 9:22 p.m.

    dear derek, RECYLED WORLDS. U WOT M8? 1v1 FITE ME. THIS GAME SUX TITTS. from, cassidy. p.s. lol, i jk <3 p.s.s. no butthurt plz
  • Trade-X - January 4, 2014 9:31 p.m.

    Shut up you damn moron. If you're gonna be a smartass, then first you need to be smart.
  • JTShiro - August 10, 2012 9:34 p.m.

    The answer is no, Kingdom Hearts 2 is not one of greatest games ever made in fact its not the best game of the series. Don't get me wrong it was a fun game, but on a gameplay level it wasn't great it was too easy and there were a lot of elements in my mind that they screwed up coming off the promising original. Granted a lot of the difficulty problems were solved in the final mix (it didn't make it one of the greatest games ever made, but it was far more challenging and had a rewarding post game experience). I can say without a doubt that Birth By Sleep and Dream Drop Distance both played far better and were more challenging games.
  • Nikku7 - July 29, 2012 8:06 p.m.

    The first kingdom hearts had failures in trying to be part platformer, which it was not. The second game tweaked the combat and leveling with awesome additions like the drive forms and the enemy sensitive action commands that made every battle not just a hack and slash with spells thrown in. KH2 is in about every way better.
  • Terrorrizor - July 27, 2012 2:02 a.m.

    KH2 sucked compared to the first one. The mechanics were slightly improved, but not enough to be deemed as better. The first one was better hands down. And Roxas and the Organization were just unecessary and didn't add much for me. Worst 15 bucks i ever spent.
  • ZidaneAlcor - July 26, 2012 11:11 p.m.

    Sigh... I'd very much like to see where everyone comes from in regards to KH. I don't doubt in the least that it's a great game, and have no hate to spew at it, but... I dunno... I just can't get into it. Sora and Riku and so forth are really cool, I honestly think that despite not having played the game, but the Disney characters... -groan- For some reason they just rub me the wrong way. If you'd allow me, good commenters and patrons of the game, a question though: Is the party in KH2 customizable? I think I was turned so sharply from KH1 because the party was locked as Sora, Donald, and Goofy... the latter two being among my least favorite of Disney's 'beloved characters.' Moral of the story, if my party doesn't require Donald and Goofy at all times, I can totally deal with the crossover and will endeavor to invest my time in this apparently stellar game posthaste.
  • soraace7 - July 27, 2012 1:46 a.m.

    The only time you could have a different party member in the games was when you visited another world and you could swap donald or goofy with that character.
  • Japanaman - July 26, 2012 8:59 p.m.

    Kingdom Hearts is one of the few games I have ever played where I don't feel like I am playing a game. Not like Stranglehold where it feels like a movie. Kingdom Hearts feels like a real world I just lost in.
  • lazer59882 - July 26, 2012 6:07 p.m.

    what a HUGE percentage of you assholes are failing to realize is that I'VE NEVER PLAYED KINGDOM HEARTS. it may very well be the best game of all time (doubt it, though). all i'm saying is that this is a completely shitty article, saying absolutely nothing. all i learned about this game from this article was that it's better than kingdom hearts 1, which, again, to someone who's never played either, is useless fucking information. by that logic, they might as well have written an article about why superman 64 is the best game of all time, but then only talk about the ways in which its better than it's 80's arcade predecessors. really, anyone who can't understand the validity of the point i'm making, i can only assume is just a hardcore fanboy of KH2. i didn't say anything bad about the game, just this article, but yet i still get replies from idiots defending the game, and saying i'm some variation on "retard". if you read my comments and your first instinct is to call me a moron and say KH is the best game ever, please, do us both a favor and fuck off. your comment is absolutely useless.
  • ParagonT - July 26, 2012 7:38 p.m.

    So... Your upset because this article isn't good enough for you? Or is "misleading"? Or are you upset because your not getting the big train of haters behind you ready with their pitchforks and torches? I see your point, but it's childish. You seem more occupied about your point being "accepted"/"acknowledged" than the point itself. You don't like the article? Good for you, but I do. So what? What do you want? Should the world burn or something from this grave injustice? But hey, what would you expect.... from a follower..
  • GR HollanderCooper - July 27, 2012 10:36 a.m.

    At the top of the page there's a tab for the review - if you're interested in a more technical breakdown you can head there. This is more about why the game was good, but also important - something that, a the time, couldn't be commented on.
  • Gamer_Geek - July 28, 2012 9:24 a.m.

    If GamesRadar has developed a Youtube or Facebook "Like" button then I would instantly like your statement. I've played like a level of Kingdom of Hearts a few years ago, and to be honest, there is nothing special about the game at all. In simple terms, the game is a pile of shit in which is very overpriced.
  • ACardAttack - July 26, 2012 3:01 p.m.

    They can't be serious? This was a disappointment of a game. Weak combat (weaker than the first), weak and disconnected story and recycled worlds. This was such a set back. The first is far superior in every way other than graphics. And I never had any issue with the camera either, I was fine with shoulder button controls. Rather have that and abilities like dodge roll which were stripped out. And then reaction commands, it is just bash triangle, why not make them actual Quick time events like God of War or Shenmue, make the player actually have to pay attention and think
  • tehtimeisnow - July 26, 2012 5:16 a.m.

    this gane is just garbege no one cares about stuped disney games for kids cuz we play real games insted seruoisely this is the kinds of games that is desotrying the game industy
  • JKHarleyQuinn - July 26, 2012 5:32 a.m.

    I'd be able to take you seriously if you could spell properly, and for the record I completely disagree with you. It's games like Call of Duty that are killing the games industry not Kingdom Hearts which actually has a storyline and heart-felt characters.
  • Rambo 11 - July 26, 2012 5:56 a.m.

    PLEASE DON'T FEED THE TROLL.
  • gabrieliam - July 26, 2012 10:07 a.m.

    Ah yes. Hello again, tehtimeisnow. Back for another round? Gentlemen (And ladies), let me present to you a classic specimen of the Internet Troll. Loudmouthed, obnoxious, annoying, uninformed/misinformed, lazy, and just generally stupid. Now, since the general public seems to enjoy this, in my opinion, truly EXCELLENT game, clearly the contrary opinion is to badmouth it. However, this fine troll here can't simply insult the game in a coherent manner. Perish the thought! Instead, he (or she) simply has to insult the game in a way that not only provides no support or evidence towards their point, but also is detrimental towards the view others will gain of him/her as a result. Clearly that was an excellent use of a comment, tehtimeisnow. Bravo, sir (or madam), bravo. Also, people, (even though I'm not providing a very good example of this), just ignore the troll. That or just provide a rebuttal that is too solid to be rebuked with some poorly misspelled words and impotent rage over a computer screen.
  • slimjim441 - July 26, 2012 2:28 a.m.

    I'm not going to say KH2 is under appreciated, because it has a huge fan base and is an awesome game. But I will say that I have noticed the KH series, but mostly KH2, receives a lot of unwarranted hatred. I don't know what it is that sets people off, but... really, Kingdom Hearts 2 is f***ing sweet. Also, I can't wait for any kind of news on KH3. I'm hoping we get it before next gen.
  • NanoElite666 - July 26, 2012 12:36 a.m.

    Attempting to bring back the weekly features now are we?

Showing 1-20 of 93 comments

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