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About Traditional Art / Hobbyist Member J. Michael GallenMale/United States Recent Activity
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Today marks the start of my second year as a tricenarian.
Many videogame companies in both North America and Japan have a nasty habit of releasing “director’s cuts” of their major titles a few months after the releases of their original versions, such as the “Game of the Year” editions of the Borderlands titles or the “International” versions of main Final Fantasy titles, ironic considering that their own rereleases tend to remain in Japan. Square-Enix’s Kingdom Hearts II was among the company’s many titles to receive a “Final Mix,” which would remain in Japan until the release in North America late in 2014 of Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMIX, which included Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix, providing a mostly solid experience.

The sequel largely bequeaths its predecessor’s menu-based hack-and-slash gameplay, with the main new feature being reaction commands that dictate the player to press the triangle button to execute effects such as notching an enemy onto the end of Sora’s keyblade for greater damage. Another new helpful feature is the ability to assign items to shortcut commands, sparing players the annoyance in the first Kingdom Hearts of navigating the battle menus to use consumables. Even so, a “Wait” command where the action of battle paused while navigating the battle menu would have been welcome, and there are occasional annoying bosses, not to mention the new inability to switch instantly between targets in combat, but otherwise, the gameplay in Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix very much helps the game more than hurts.

Control is largely solid as well, with easy menus, shopping, and navigation, although it seems that whenever the player opens the main menus, there’s always a “New” indicator flashing at the player to indicate updated inventory or Jiminy Cricket’s compendium. Another improvement over the first game, though, is that battlefields tend to be flatter, often sparing players the annoyance of having to retrace their steps through a field or dungeon if they fall off a high ledge in the middle of combat and lose the progress they made. A minor issue, as well, is that “pausing” the game doesn’t stop the game clock, and the pause feature is unavailable during normal exploration, but cutscenes are thankfully skippable, and overall, interaction is very much a boon to the second main Kingdom Hearts title.

As with most Kingdom Hearts titles, though, the story is a low point, with a noticeable lack of Parental Bonus material for older gamers, a lack of humor, and so forth. The narrative, however, does make some daring moves such as a major retcon of the original game’s storyline, although comically-voice characters such as Donald Duck and Goofy feel very much out of place in a game devoid of comedy, and the members of the antagonistic Organization XIII are largely unmemorable and in some cases exchangeable. The story also has some censored elements, especially in Port Royal, the Pirates of the Caribbean world, although the localization is otherwise solid. Ultimately, the plot isn’t a major draw, but definitely has its share of redeeming aspects.

Yoko Shimomura does a nice job as usual with the soundtrack, with some memorable tracks including those in the Timeless River and Space Paranoids levels, although there are occasional recycled tracks from other titles, along with the vocal track “Sanctuary,” whose lyrics are less hackneyed than those of the first game’s “Simple and Clean.” The voice acting is solid as well, though again, Donald and Goofy with their comical voices feel somewhat out of place in a game lacking humor. Even so, a decent-sounding game.

The visuals are the Final Mix’s high point, improved with the HD port, with beautiful scenery and character models looking neither realistic nor cartoony. The models in the Pirates of the Caribbean world, though, are among the most lifelike in the current generation of games as they were in the last, and there are some gorgeous worlds such as the monochrome Timeless River and the flashy technic Space Paranoids. There is some bland and pixilated texturing when some of the scenery is close-up, but this is otherwise a minor blemish in a superb-looking game.

Finally, the main game will last players around thirty hours, although there are some occasional sidequests whose completion is necessary to view secret movies after the ending credits, and plentiful achievements to keep gamers lasted a while.

In conclusion, Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix is for the most part a superb director’s cut, with plenty going for it such as its enjoyable hack-and-slash gameplay, great control, solid music and voice acting, gorgeous graphics, and plentiful lasting appeal. There are some occasional hiccups such as a few annoying bosses, the infantile plot at times, and some recycled musical tracks from other entries of the series, but otherwise, those that enjoyed other installments of the franchise will very likely enjoy the first and so far only main sequel.

The Good:
+Solid hack-and-slash gameplay with a few twists.
+Great control.
+Nice music and voice acting.
+Superb visuals.
+Plenty lasting appeal.

The Bad:
-Some annoying bosses.
-Kiddie plot.
-Some recycled music.

The Bottom Line:
A great Final Mix.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: PlayStation 3
Game Mechanics: 8/10
Controls: 8/10
Story: 7/10
Localization: 8/10
Music/Sound: 8/10
Graphics: 9/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Adjustable
Playing Time: 25-35 Hours

Overall: 8.5/10
At the turn of the millennium massively multiplayer online roleplaying games would find their place in the gaming community, allowing players across the world to participate in epic RPG experiences. Many popular franchises such as Warcraft and Final Fantasy would receive online entries, and MMORPGs would find a home in popular culture, with an anime coming out in Japan and North America called Dot Hack Sign focused on the subgenre, and after that would come the Dot Hack tetralogy of online RPG simulations, its first installment being Dot Hack Infection, which proves to be a solid online gaming experience without an internet connection being necessary.

Before experiencing the gameplay of the fictional MMORPG The World, the player experiences a simulation of an operating system where they can browse email messages, news updates of what’s happening in the outside world, and peruse the online game’s message board. When the player logs into The World, they control the chief protagonist, Kite, with the first entry of the tetralogy rooted in a pair of hub towns where he can trade items and equipment with other player characters and up to two allies that fight alongside him in enemy-infested fields and accompanying dungeons.

Combat commences whenever the player approaches swirling yellow portals that either reveal a treasure chest, trapped or not (with Fortune Wires being necessary to disarm trapped boxes), or a few enemies against which the player controls Kite, while the A.I. controls his two allies, with a number of menu-based options dictating things such as whether his confederates attack different enemies or the foe that he’s currently attacking, the menu also allowing the player to execute SP-using commands, with elemental weaknesses adding some degree of strategy, and thus it’s a good idea to keep equipment on hand allowing the player to use skills of any of the six elements.

Kite also gets the ability early on to “Data Drain” enemies to gain a piece of equipment or Virus Core needed to hack into locked addresses, with excessive use bearing penalties for the player’s party and an eventual Game Over and trip back to the title screen in case of overuse, with the death of the entire party also resulting in conveyance back to the game’s initial screen. That the game is harsh on players when they die is a main write-off to combat, alongside the constant need to reselect A.I. commands to make Kite’s allies do as he desires, although the game is definitely beatable so long as the player gives his friends plenty of healing items usable through the execution of the First Aid order, and ultimately, battle helps the game more than hurts.

The game interface could have been better, however, with character management being somewhat burdensome given the inability to view ally stats or equipment unless they’re actually in Kite’s party, with this player, for instance, needing to keep a written chart of all party members’ equipment levels to determine which new pieces of gear to acquire through trading with player characters, with his confederates automatically equipping weapons and armor of higher levels once they’re given as gifts or traded to them. A brighter spot is a general linear structure that keeps the player moving in the right direction, although the first entry in general could have definitely been more user-friendly.

While news updates and emails from Kite’s allies provide for a decent MMORPG simulation, that the game’s events remain entirely confined to The World somewhat detriments the narrative, and while the anime disc included with the first entry gives some idea of what’s going on concurrently with the events of Infection, some actual scenes in the real world within the game itself would have certainly been welcome. Granted, trading equipment and items with allies sometimes causes them to email Kite to discuss their various interests and selves, but the main goal of bringing Kite’s friend Orca out of his game-induced coma never seems urgent.

The translation, though, is largely above average, with believable dialogue and the rare grammar errors being somewhat excusable since the game is a simulation of MMORPGs where users don’t always use proper grammar. There is, however, some minor censorship regarding the chief antagonist’s weapon, and ultimately, while the plot has its flaws, it certainly isn’t bad, the localization largely redeeming it.

The soundtrack is decent for the most part, the high point being a piano-based “sad” theme that plays during certain events, although many tracks, particularly on the field and in dungeons are somewhat forgettable and too ambient, although there is decent diversity in terms of the battle themes, which are somewhat faster versions of the tracks that play when the player is exploring and not in combat. The voice acting is top-notch, with performances available in both English and Japanese, and overall, Infection is largely easy on the ears.

The first entry is no eyesore, either, with beautiful environments sometimes stained with binary digits and simulated screen glitches that really give the experience of an unstable MMORPG, the character models looking believable as well in spite of no lip movement or expression during voiced dialogue outside the FMVs, which are the graphical highlights. There are some pixilated portions, but the visuals definitely help the first game more than hurt.

Finally, the primary entry is fairly short, lasting from ten to fifteen hours, with plenty to boost playing time such as a postgame dungeon and the endless keyword combinations leading to diverse battlefields and dungeons.

Overall, Dot Hack Infection is for the most part a solid simulation of MMORPGs, with plenty going for it such as its enjoyable gameplay, good localization, great voice acting, pretty graphics, and a good deal of lasting appeal. There are some flaws, however, such as the inability to save on battlefields or in their respective dungeons, taxing inventory management, a weakly-narrated storyline, minor censorship, and the ambient or absent soundtrack at times, although those yearning for a good online RPG experience without the need to connect their consoles to the internet will be in for a fun experience.

The Good:
+Great online RPG simulation.
+Solid localization.
+Good voicework.
+Pretty visuals.
+Plenty lasting appeal.

The Bad:
-No saving on fields and in dungeons.
-Inventory management can be taxing.
-Story is somewhat weakly-told.
-Some minor Bowdlerization.
-Music can be absent or too ambient at times.

The Bottom Line:
A nice start to the Dot Hack series.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: PlayStation 2
Game Mechanics: 8/10
Controls: 5/10
Story: 6/10
Localization: 8/10
Music/Sound: 7/10
Graphics: 8/10
Lasting Appeal: 9/10
Difficulty: Hard
Playing Time: 10-15 Hours

Overall: 7.5/10
One day until my birthday!
  • Mood: Yearning
  • Reading: Alcatraz Versus series by Brandon Sanderson
  • Playing: Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMIX - Kingdom Hearts II
A heads-up to anyone who wants to do gift art for me.

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jmg124
J. Michael Gallen
Artist | Hobbyist | Traditional Art
United States
I'm mostly a writer and RPG critic, but occasionally an artist.
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xTeckuilla Featured By Owner 2 days ago  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thanks for the watch!
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Thank you for the watch!
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You're welcome.
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Thank you for watching me!
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Thanks for the watch! :)
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jmg124 Featured By Owner Jan 20, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
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Thank you! ^^
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