Kingdom Hearts II - Hands on

To say the first Kingdom Hearts was unique is an understatement. It wasn't just a success: it was a mega-smashing, world-eater of a success. It wasn't just unusual: it was a sounds-unholy-but-works-perfectly mating of Disney's characters and worlds with role-playing style and flair from Final Fantasy developers Square Enix. It was an Action RPG that atomized the mode - seriously: Goofy is a knight and Donald Duck a wizard? Your spaceship is made of gummi bricks? - and left fans squalling for more. And much, much more is almost here.

There are more Disney worlds and characters, from previously-visited locales like Ariel's undersea home from The Little Mermaid to "new" locales like Pirates of the Caribbean's Port Royale, the black-and-white world of Steamboat Willie, and the virtual world of Tron. You'll also see more Final Fantasy characters making cameos - Seifer and Vivi show up almost immediately.

A deeper battle system now boasts context-sensitive attacks and the ability to literally morph together with another character to gain new powers (more on these later). The graphical pyrotechnics seem to have been ratcheted up a notch, too.

There are also more mysteries. When we first started the game, we immediately noticed that Sora, Donald, and Goofy, the stars of the first game, are entirely absent. Instead, you'll spend time with a host of new characters.