Following on from our third segment on Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories, we’ll be looking back at Kingdom Hearts 2: Final Mix. Officially the third game to be released in the franchise, it was originally released in 2005 and only two months after the Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children movie. Therefore, there are some character designs recycled from the film that have replaced the designs for the Final Fantasy VII cast included within the game.
Set one year after the events of Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories, we begin the game not as Sora, but a young boy called Roxas. Interestingly, Roxas is viewed as a bit of a troublemaker to the locals of Twilight Town along with his friends: Hayner, Pence and Olette. Along with his day-to-day life, he has dreams of Sora’s adventures in the first game. He begins finding himself steadily isolated from his friends as he continues to see and battle things that his friends cannot see: Nobodies, who he battles with his own keyblade.
Roxas has a hidden past however that even he cannot remember, but he discovers that he was a member of Organization XIII and with the help of Namine realises that he is a Nobody. But not just any Nobody, but Sora’s Nobody. He is led to a hidden lab in Twilight Town where Sora is hidden and Sora awakens to a mysterious voice but there is nobody there but Goofy and Donald.
This is where Kingdom Hearts 2: Final Mix finishes its tutorial and Sora leaves Twilight Town with his friends and is unusually sad when he leaves Hayner, Pence and Olette despite only having just met them. They go to Yen Sid at the behest of King Mickey who is working undercover in Organization XIII. At Yen Sid’s tower, it’s being assaulted by Heartless sent in by Pete and it’s at this point you realise that Maleficent, one of our antagonists from the first game is plotting her return to gain control of Kingdom Hearts. So Sora meets Yen Sid and he explains that the worlds need to be restored and Sora receives a snazzy new outfit with new abilities.
Among the various worlds, Organization XIII is pulling most of the strings in Kingdom Hearts 2: Final Mix, whilst Maleficent had that role in the first game. Sora’s goals of finding Riku to return to Kairi is roughly the same motivation as before, meanwhile Riku has been steadily going through a redemption arc after being sealed into the darkness in Kingdom Hearts: Final Mix and that he was already beginning in Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories.
Adding to the new worlds and the expansion of previous worlds, Sora is given assistance by the Hollow Bastion Restoration Committee, a group set-up by Leon to bring Hollow Bastion back to normal. Along with Yuffie, Cid and Aerith, now in Hollow Bastion are Cloud, Tifa and eventually Sephiroth. There are also a number of new Final Fantasy X/X-2 characters that appear: Auron, Yuna, Rikku and Paine.
The technical aspects of Kingdom Hearts 2: Final Mix feel like a major improvement when compared to Kingdom Hearts: Final Mix. The camera issue that I had in the first game has been fixed for Kingdom Hearts 2: Final Mix and the controls are much more fluid than it was previously. Along with melee combat, the use of reaction commands are important when facing off against Nobodies, boss fights and certain heartless (particularly the Large Bodies).
Magic is still a major aspect of the game, and summons continue to play a rather fun little role. One of the aspects I appreciated was when Sora visits some of the different worlds where he had a summon is that they will remember him when they visit the world for the first time. Two good examples of this is when it happens with Mushu and Simba. You will get new summons in the game, like Chicken Little and Stitch.
You have an easier way to add abilities as well, with items like AP Boosts added to the game to enable you to improve upon your abilities without having to sacrifice certain key abilities like Guard and Dodge Roll. I found AP Boosts really useful throughout the game, particularly when it comes to more difficult enemies appearing.
The worlds of course, have been added to and in some cases expanded upon: one expanded world is Olympus Coliseum which now includes Hades’ Underworld. There are even new worlds added such as Pride Lands and Port Royal, and quite a few more. This allows a bit more exploration than in the first game, with Kingdom Hearts 2: Final Mix taking a bit more time to explore the various levels or at least, the majority of them have more content than what you would expect.
Sora even gets power-ups in this game: his drive form. With Sora’s new outfit, it has magical properties that can be upgraded to give him new additional forms alongside his Valor Form that he is automatically given upon receiving the outfit upgrade. These give him new abilities and more power, of course, the drive form needs to be charged up, but they are incredibly useful when in a tight spot. Along with Valor, there are Wisdom, Limit and Master Forms. All of these can be used as you wish, unlike another Drive: the Anti-Form, which can’t be levelled up and you never know when you will find yourself using it. They can even be levelled up, which I found helpful since you don’t need it when facing small numbers of enemies – but it’s the larger enemies and the Organization that serve to be the problem.
Even the mini-games have improved. Gummi Ship missions feel more entertaining than they were in the first game as they have included more turns than simply an asteroid dodging game. It’s also good that in Kingdom Hearts 2: Final Mix, they fixed the more frustrating aspects of the Gummi Ship customisation process.
Overall, Kingdom Hearts 2: Final Mix is a massive improvement upon the previous two games and is much easier to control. Although the battles have increased substantially in difficulty, they are more entertaining than when compared to boss fights in earlier games.