One of Squaresoft’s masterpieces, taking everything we loved about Final Fantasy and RPGs and mixing it with all our childhood stories and characters that Disney created for us during our youth. A strange combination you may think and how could it possibly work, to be honest I thought the same when it was mentioned to me in 2002 upon its release to Playstation 2. My cousin told me about the game at one of our family parties, we used those opportunities to discuss up coming games and other interesting gaming news. Needless to say I was intrigued so I asked my folks to get it for me for my birthday or Christmas of that year. Christmas rolled around and I got what I hoped for. Opened the packaging and went for it and I was not let down by it, it really was a masterpiece.
You follow the main protagonist Sora in the immediate setting of the Destiny Islands, it’s a very small set of islands and you really do get a feeling of claustrophobia as you explore it. Sora spends most of his days exploring and having fun with his two friends Riku and Kairi, you start to notice the crossover when characters such as Wakka, Selphie and Tidus are also inhabitants of the island, as children. They act as tutorial characters and introduce you to the games mechanics before throwing you deeper into the Disney/Final Fantasy crossover realms. Like any RPG the protagonist has a love interest, hence Sora having a soft spot for Kairi and focuses on her and her friendship at the beginning but Riku starts to feel that there is much more to this universe and starts to question everything and wants to escape this island and explore the world. He inspires Sora and Kairi to do the same thing but they are not as determined as Riku is and you start to sense that Riku knows more than he is letting on. As the story progresses strange things start to happen on the island and Sora starts having weird visions and dreams of Riku reaching out to him while he is engulfed by the ocean waves.
Eventually, a darkness surrounds the island and Sora loses both Kairi and Riku and has to face a strange enemy, which is introduced as the heartless. You try to fight them off with a stick but quickly discover that it is useless and once cornered and overwhelmed you are given a weapon in the shape of a very large key. Nicknamed the Keyblade respectively. You make quick work of the enemies but eventually the islands are destroyed and you drift into space. Enter Donald and Goofy, two of Disney’s biggest names. Donald is introduced as the wizard to the king (Mickey Mouse naturally) and Goofy a respected knight. Sora lands in Traverse Town and is discovered by Pluto and eventually Donald and Goofy who eventually join up with him and become very much inseparable.
This brings me on to game-play, after some story building you discover the universe is built up of many different worlds. All of which are based on Disney films and are now struggling with the heartless. Your task is to defeat this new foe, however to reach each world you have to fly through space between each world in a Gummi ship created in a workshop run by the Chipmunks. The inter-world space travel is hilariously fun, you can create any type of ship with very little limitations and it always ends up looking like a mismatch of strange shapes. Great fun. You eventually meet all of your favorite childhood characters from Aladdin to Hercules while helping them fight off the horde of heartless that are trying to swallow the universe. Final Fantasy story-lines also get displaced into these worlds and you come across Cloud, Squall, Yuffie and many more taking part in their side quests adding an interesting crossover element to the game. Introduction to the combat system, all in real-time, Sora, Donald and Goofy fight continuously as monsters spawn all around you. You really build on your reaction skills as the fights get harder and timing/dodging plays a major factor as the difficulty increases especially in boss battles. Magic and summons as well as techniques are a major aspect of the game, including items, items play a major role like in any role playing game and help you customise and build new Keyblades. Spells are taken directly from Final Fantasy and are self explanatory the only difference is you now have to aim them due to the battles are now in real-time. Summons add another fun aspect to the game, unlike Final Fantasy games they are not Gods or monsters that can command catastrophic destruction, they are characters from Disney that have fun yet helpful abilities to assist you in battle. Techniques are also a nice new addition and they add combos and special attacks that can change the tide of battle and increase MP and HP depending on which abilities you chose and who you chose them for.
One criticism I have is the fact that Donald and Goofy are CPU controlled and can either be rather helpful in tight spots or stupidly annoying and wasteful. You can chose an algorithm in how they act but its vague and not overly helpful. Example, losing a chunk of health choosing to heal yourself only to hear Donald squeal “SORA!” and heal you at the same time, you tend to respond with “… for f**k sake Donald, I got this.” or just sighing in disbelief.
The graphics are a combination of Disney’s high quality 3D artwork and Japanese anime/manga artwork for the crossover characters. Impressive and really brings to life your childhood heroes and villains as well as your favorite Final Fantasy characters you only previously saw as hideous polygons years previous (excluding Final Fantasy X characters). It is very easy on the eyes and is not overly complex, decent for its time but more focus is clearly made on the story and the mechanics rather than the graphics. However, you tend not to mind because the story-line is amazing, I honestly can’t think of anything more fun than teaming up with Disney’s finest to explore and relive my childhood while saving them from heartless demons.
Overall, I give this a strong 9/10, considering it was a massive risk for both Disney and Squaresoft/Square-Enix to team up on a game, it paid off and then some. It has a massive cult following now and is one of the most critically acclaimed RPGs of today. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys Disney and loves Final Fantasy, the nostalgia is amazing.