Kingdom Hearts II - Hands on

These forms are fueled by "Drive," a randomly-named energy earned by attacking enemies and picking up dropped orbs, and the moves get stronger with extended use. There are also additional, hidden forms that can be unlocked during the game, so don't be bashful when a new partner subs in for Donald or Goofy.

The Gummi Ship, the first game's much-maligned spacecraft that took you from place to place despite being questionably constructed of suspiciously sticky blocks, also returns. This time it's fun, honest! The first game's half-hearted homebrew horrors have been replaced by a visually stunning rail shooter inspired by cult-classic games like Panzer Dragoon and Rez. Don't know those references? No worries - just understand you zoom about space and blow stuff up.

There are also plenty of distractions that don't require you to leave the atmosphere. Players looking for a break from the main quest can synthesize powerful items from rare items dropped by enemies, challenge any of the surprisingly decent minigames, and even skateboard around several of the worlds.

We'll have more info on Kingdom Hearts II next week, but we're already captivated by what we've experienced. Early on, it feels strong enough to not onlyleave fans of the first game gurgling with Homer Simpson-like satisfaction, but to also convert the few who didn't love the original.