Today I woke up and finished off the last little bit of Kingdom Hearts. All that remained was two more challenge bosses (the desert thing in Agrabah and the flying thing in Wonderland) and the final boss of the game. In what should come as no surprise to anyone they were exceptionally trivial. It turns out when you power up to the point where you can beat the super challenge fight everything else pretty much pales in comparison. It's like how Sephiroth in Final Fantasy VII is a complete joke after you've killed Ruby and Emerald Weapons. I'm just glad Sephiroth finally got some redemption and got to be the challenge boss himself.
The core of the ending video felt very familiar. You've got the female love interest waiting sadly at home wondering if the male hero is going to reappear after his battle with the final boss. Exactly the same as the ending video from Final Fantasy VIII. And the ending video from Final Fantasy IX. And, actually... If memory serves, it's going to be the ending video from Final Fantasy X as well. Huh. I guess it's a good tension device if you're not just going for a full on happy video?
This ending video also had little clips of various worlds getting 'fixed' after the final door was sealed. Pinocchio becoming a real boy, or Aladdin and Jasmine making out while Genie and Abu pretend to not watch. That sort of thing. One of them featured Cid (the one from FFVII) walking into a room where Squall, Yuffie, and Aeris are hanging out. (The four of them hung out together in the main town.) Cid brings in Cloud (who had been stuck in Hercules' arena trying to find Sephiroth) and there's a nice moment where he and Aeris react to seeing each other. If you were playing this game as a Disney fan I'm sure that clip meant absolutely nothing to you, but it was pretty cool from a Final Fantasy fan's point of view.
I also apparently completed all of the challenges required to unlock a special video at the end of everything. You need to rescue all the dalmatians, to have beaten the Hades cup, and to have locked all of the optional worlds. And maybe to have played the game on expert mode too? It's not clear. Anyway it turns out to just be a sneak peek at the start of Kingdom Hearts 2, which is nice I guess. It ended with a clip of a woman standing on a beach looking out longingly. The beach is clearly the one from the island in Kingdom Hearts and the wiki I found says it's the female love interest grown up (presumably indicating the main character never made it back, which is likely since the KH2 preview talks about going to look for him) but I thought the female character here was Rinoa who also looks out longingly from a beach in the intro/ending to FFVIII.
This game was a lot of fun. It had some aspects I didn't like (choosing a class changed the difficulty of the game to an extent similar to choosing a warrior or a hunter in the original World of Warcraft) but overall it was pretty good. The game controlled well, and it looked great, and it sounded fantastic. I don't know how much of the music was actually original but they had such a great library to adapt that it worked out pretty great. I hated the Little Mermaid world because it was 3D underwater combat which didn't mesh well for me, but I liked being in it because the background music was a take on the Under The Sea song.
They had a ton of material to mine for things like minigames and sidequests, and they made great use of it. Having Winnie the Pooh be a full fledged combat zone wouldn't have felt very good I don't think, but having a bunch of comic relief minigames that you unlocked as you progressed through the game was very good. The arena was excellent and sneaking in Sephiroth as the challenge boss there was a stroke of genius. Not everything worked out awesomely (the Tarzan minigame where you slide down a vine was just annoying for me and the gummi ship seemed pointless) but I think you need to accept that some stuff isn't going to work out in order to get a bunch of stuff that does.
Hooking up with Disney really worked out great for characters, worlds, music, and especially for voice acting. Square got a lot of real names for this game that I don't think they ever could have gotten on their own. I just went and looked up Final Fantasy X on IMDB and half of the 'stars' of the game had Final Fantasy X listed in their bio as their most known job. FFX doesn't really have bad voice acting, don't get me wrong, but they don't have anyone on the level of David Boreanaz, Gilbert Gottfried, Dan Castellenata, Mandy Moore, or even Lance Bass.
Where should this game fit on my ranked list? That's a really tricky question for me. I'm not even sure how I feel about this being a Final Fantasy game at all. It isn't a jRPG with turn based combat, though a lot of the other spin-offs I've played have been different genres too. It hardly has any actual ties to Final Fantasy. It uses some characters from FFVII, FFVIII, and FFX (why no FFIX I wonder). It uses the spell names too, I guess. But for most of the game you play a newly made up character teamed up with Donald and Goofy as you go to various Disney planets and play through riffs on Disney movie plots.
Most of the original stuff is pretty weak, actually. The plot tieing all the worlds together works well enough but it isn't very stirring. It's still not clear who Sora is or how he got stuck on an island with some FF kids. It feels like maybe the game was entirely a dream from a kid with an overactive imagination who watches Disney movies and forgot to play FFIX. But the stuff they pilfered from other sources is fantastic and there kept being little things cropping up as nostalgic throwbacks that were awesome and/or just there for the cheap pop.
But when it comes right down to it... This game was fun. The fights tended to have little tricks to make doing them easier which made me feel smart for figuring them out. The sidequests were pretty fantastic. It had legitimate challenge bosses. Awesome music and graphics. And I keep mentioning it, but the voice acting really does bump this game up some notches. But I think the less than stellar original story has to bring it down some, and I'm really not sure if I should be discounting it for not really being Final Fantasy. I don't think I should. Either it shouldn't be in the marathon at all, or it should be ranked on its merits once in. And 2011 me put it in. So I think it gets to go ahead of Final Fantasy IX for sure. How about V and Tactics? Kingdom Hearts is a really good game, but I don't think it's good enough at what it does best to push it over those job system games. So #7 it is!
Next up... Final Fantasy X (HD version) which is likely to push this down to #8. What else will it be pushing down? All?