I'm a new user, but I've been lurking the thread for the past couple weeks. Just want to add my two cents to the discussion about KH2 and how it was received at the time of release (and what it might mean for KH3). Obviously, this is just my anecdotal experience.
I bought KH1 on launch day, having been a fan of the Final Fantasy series. I loved it, and replayed it several times between the time of its release in '02 and KH2's release in '06. My hype for KH2 was absolutely through the roof, much like it seems KH3 is to most of you. I poured over Japanese scans that were posted to IGN message boards, and watched Deep Dive over and over again.
I do not recall how KH2 was received by critics nor by the fan community. What I remember most about my experience is playing it once and not touching it again for years. Part of the reason is circumstantial: my senior year of high school was wrapping up right when it was released in March '06, and when I went off to college in the fall I fell out of my gaming habit. But years later, when my gaming habit came back, I still felt urges to replay KH1 from time to time, but never KH2. I did try picking it up again around 2013, the first time since my initial playthrough, but I only lasted a few worlds before I got bored and moved on to something else.
I concluded from this that either hype had destroyed my experience, or KH2 just wasn't really that great - or maybe a good measure of both. I thought the storytelling was clunky, the gameplay too flashy, and the game too easy.
Fast-forward to two months ago, when the urge to play KH1 came back to me again. I learned about 1.5/2.5 ReMix collection for PS4 and decided to give it a go. I played through and loved my experience with KH1FM Proud - my first time with the Final Mix version - and tentatively decided to try KH2FM Critical. At first, my experience was similar to what I felt in 2013. A few worlds in, I was bored and felt like throwing in the towel again. But I decided to stick with it, and I'm glad I did. As the game went on, I started to feel challenged for the first time, and the post-game content was tremendously rewarding. The battle with Lingering Will was maybe the most satisfying boss battle I have played, ever. And, just like that, KH2 changed from a disappointing memory to a game I will likely go back to for years to come. I went on to play the rest of the series, and just finished 2.8 last night (Zodiac Phantom Aqua is right up there with Lingering Will as one of the most fulfilling and memorable battles in the series).
A few points I'm trying to make from my experience:
- Hype kills. There are very, very few things in life that will ever live up to the massive expectations you throw at them. Hype can be fun as hell in the moment leading up to release, but beware of how easily it can taint your experience with the actual product. I am now very excited for KH3, but I'm glad that I don't have years and years of hopes and expectations built up against it.
- Little changes can make a huge difference in perception. To this day I still don't think KH2 is a very good game. But KH2FM? Fantastic. And what changed? They made the game challenging and added some truly stellar post-game content. I don't know if my experience with KH3 will be more like my experience with KH1 or KH2, but I do know that if it's more like KH2 it's not the end of the world. I'll probably set it aside for awhile and go back to it if/when DLC content is added to make it KH3FM. But chances are that even if vanilla KH3 is just "decent," a robust DLC could yet make it one of the best games in the series. Always leave the door open to re-evaluation in light of new evidence.
Anyway, I see KH2 touted as some kind of holy grail around here and other KH communities and I just wanted to share my experience as a fan who didn't grow up with it and, consequently, doesn't have a nostalgic attachment to it. Excited to experience KH3 in a few weeks with the rest of you. Thanks for keeping me entertained until then!