I don't often look forward to the release of video games, being more of a developer than a player, but a game is being released tomorrow that I am looking forward to. It's Kingdom Hearts 2, the sequel to the surprisingly good collaboration between Disney and Square. I really enjoyed the first installment because the gameplay was good and the character modeling, animation, and integration were outstanding. The game areas were themed to particular Disney movies, so you could explore the jungles of Tarzan, fight in the arena of Hercules, and even visit Halloweentown from Nightmare Before Christmas (my fave, natch). They were rendered with such detail and care that they felt like extensions of the movies - it's not often that movie-themed video games are fun, so it's quite an accomplishment to make a fun game that uses multiple movies.
I've been looking forward to the game on an abstract level because of this for the last year or so, but tonight was the first time I actually went and looked at some screenshots, and now I'm looking forward to it on a more visceral level. It looks like they did some really fun things with the Disney lands for the second installment.
First, they are keeping and expanding upon Halloweentown, which is, of course, a tremendous bonus considering the interests of yours truly.
Next, they're visiting the world of The Lion King, which normally I wouldn't be too jazzed about, but check out the design on Scar. If the animation is half as good as the character modeling, that character is going to pop.
They're also visiting the world of Mulan, which is a treat, since I really enjoyed the visual design of that movie. They nailed the character design and the humor.
This time, they're even visiting worlds from the live-action movies with an area for Pirates of the Caribbean, complete with flesh-rotted zombies. I've always had a soft spot for the classic dark ride, so I'm happy to see that in there.
But the real kicker is that one of the lands is straight out of the original Steamboat Willie, rendered in black and white with simpler character designs and furniture that rocks to the music. You even get to steer the steamboat. Very cool, and an unexpected nod to the historical roots of Disney animation.
There is other stuff in there, too, like you get to fight in another Hercules level, you get more yawnworthy Winnie the Pooh sidegaming, and we apparently finally get to meet Belle from Beauty and the Beast (who is by far the coolest of the princesses, 'cause she has that dark-side jones-for-the-beast thing going on), so it looks like a lot of gameplay hours. Unless they really drop the ball on the gameplay, I'm pretty sure I'm going to like this one as much as the original.
I'll be making a trip to pick this one up tomorrow.