I just want to start off saying that the original Kingdom Hearts is in my opinion one of the best games ever made for the PS2 and is probably the greatest crossover ever achieved.
Secondly I would like to say that Kingdom Hearts II is the most disappointing sequel I've ever had the misfortune of slapping $40 down for. I should have seen this coming with Chain of Memories being the kick in the balls it was but I kind of hoped that it was more due to the poor technology of the GBA and going over to a Nintendo platform and generally getting lost in the transition. I was not correct however, Kingdom Hearts II has one mission and one mission only: to drag the once amazing plot down endless winding corridors of bad game design and mindless droning until every fanboy from here to Tokyo has been appeased.
Lets start off with the characters. Everyone is slightly older now in the gaming world as they needed an excuse to use different voice actors. At first this might seem realistic but after a while it begins to feel shallow, like it's not really Kingdom Hearts II but like a fan remake of Kingdom Hearts. And for all intents and purposes it may as well be, you go to the exact same places in the exact same way meeting the exact same people with enough deus ex machina to rival the average fan fiction. The only difference is the original Kingdom Hearts was an Action-Adventure-RPG where as this is an Action-RPG, the difference being every single item is laid out in plain sight and there's absolutely no need to explore, that is if you even can explore. All use of a strategy guide is flung out the window by the extremely linear levels and mindless combat that can be achieved simply by mashing X and Triangle.
To make matters worse they messed with a working magic system and made it, and this is a recurring theme in this game, more complex with less utility. There's more magic spells now but they don't have different levels of potency and they all do different things than they did in the previous game. That mixed with the asinine magic system makes the entire point of having the spells moot. You can more easily bulldoze your way through hordes of enemies with your keyblade than you could using spells and strategy. Probably the most annoying part of combat is the fact it's interrupted constantly with cut scenes and little info boxes that tell you to kill all enemies or some other blatantly obvious game mechanic. This tears away any fun of figuring fights out and makes the game feel like it was meant for an younger audience than the original. The various forms Sora takes are pretty useless as well. It's nothing short of god mode for about a minute, and since the average encounters can be picked off relatively easily the only reason to do this would be to watch Sora dart to and fro in a new outfit.
I am a bit bias against the gummy levels in Kingdom Hearts II. Personally I thought the originals were pretty cool and fun, even though most hated them. These new ones however are just plain shit. It's a rail shooter and while you can still make your own ships it's rather pointless. You get new blueprints that will get you through whatever you need to get through every level. The minigame is better for people who like getting achievements but it takes a lot away from the RPG aspect as upgrades to your ship are less dramatic than before. There's also the fact the gummy levels are meant for people with the reflexes of a 9 year old with ADHD, namely 9 year olds with ADHD.
Because the game is so ridiculously easy the RPG part goes out the window. You don't really need to do much customizing beyond switching keyblades and equipping new abilities. The ability point system was carried over but unless you're an idiot and waste the things on your party members you can equip damn near every ability as you level.
The new lands you can explore seem to pander to fandoms. There's the Pride Lands where Sora is a cute little lion, Jack Sparrow is in the game, and there's more final fantasy characters than before. Even the Gullwings are in it, though in chibi form. The level designs compliment this in every way, being used only to show off the fandom pandering.
Storyline, what can I say. They took the old story line, attached some bull about heartless byproducts and an evil organization and basically just crap you'd expect from a Fox TV series 4 seasons in. The story is far from gripping this time though and the "intro" is a 3 hour long bout of dicking around as Roxas. It doesn't help that none of the Disney worlds actually progress the story line, it's about 25 hours off filler with absolutely no content added. I kept showing up on new worlds hoping I'd see something about the Nobodys or the heartless but instead all I get are the same stupid plots from the last fucking game.
The entire game is a disappointment. I would have expected such were it not for all the hype and high expectations for this to be an amazing sequel to an amazing game. Instead it suffers in the hands of the fans who write terrible crossover fanfics and have a thing for yaoi. This is the kind of game you'd find an emo middle school kid buying after getting a new pair of girls jeans to wear with the cotton candy thermal he got at Hot Topic with mom's money.
P.S. My review brought up many valid points but after proof reading I feel it wasn't angry enough to express the rage I feel against this game. The following is highlighted points I find particularly irritating.
A 3 hour intro. 3 Fucking hours as a guy you've never seen before doing, guess what, SUMMER JOBS AND SCHOOL REPORTS. I shit you not you spend 3 hours hanging with friends, doing various odd jobs, and researching a school report. What were they thinking? Were they gonna make a mini game where you wait for the bus? And the fact that Sora spends 25 hours 25 MOTHER FUCKING HOURS without advancing the storyline is unforgivable. Every disney world is just a piss fuck waste of time. The entire game feels disorganized and cluttered like they took a page from... nothing comes to mind, I don't own a game that's this schizophrenic. I would say Lord British but I've never actually played an Ultima game and I'm pretty sure it'd be an insult to the series. Also WHY CAN'T ANYONE MAKE A FUCKING GOOD LIGHTCYCLE GAME. Christ Jesus they didn't even try. Rock paper scissors? WHAT WENT THROUGH THEIR MINDS!? What happened in their lives for that to be a GOOD idea?