“The Godfather Part II,” “The Dark Knight,” “The Empire Strikes Back” — Who doesn’t love a good sequel? These listed movies not only built on their predecessors, but also killed it at the box office. That’s the duty of any sequel to a film, game or series. A good sequel builds on what worked in the original and adds new elements that enrich the overall series. A legendary video game sequel — if you asked yours truly — would be that of Kingdom Hearts 2 (KH2). Kingdom Hearts (KH) is a video game series that combines characters from various Disney properties with the critically acclaimed Final Fantasy (FF), a Japanese video game series. This series has been an odd but successful mix since the first game’s inception in 2002. KH2 is what all sequels should strive to be due to how it builds on everything that was great in the first game and makes it excellent, such as the story, gameplay and music.

The story follows Sora, a young boy who gets separated from his friends. He gets gifted with a mystical weapon, or is separated from his friends. He gets gifted with a mystical weapon, or “keyblade,” and fights dream-like monsters with his two new best buddies, Donald and Goofy. Yeah, that’s Donald and Goofy. The story is simple on the surface. The Disney trio go to various iconic lands and meet characters from various series, ranging from “Alice in Wonderland” to “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” fighting evil monsters and attempting to find their friends. Their journey was fun and engaging to watch in the first game, and the sequel adds to it.

The second game uses the same premise but adds new lore to the world that makes way for really unique and tragic characters. KH2 introduces new enemy types that have unique traits. For example, “nobody” is an entity that doesn’t have a heart. Some of them look like goofy monsters, while others look like socially awkward cosplayers, but this addition is fantastic. It enriches the lore of the world by adding a new type of enemy that has a direct history with the “heartless,” the main monster type of the first game. This relevancy makes this new group feel natural to the world and not pulled out of nowhere. These characters are also entertaining as hell — they’re always tragically brooding on how it hurts their very existence that they don’t have a heart and, therefore, can’t feel. Contradictory? Yes — but it’s cheesy in all the best ways. Eat your heart out, Shakespeare.

The first Kingdom Hearts game had fun and simple combat. There were a handful of upgrades to add to Sora’s melee combat that made the gameplay more fun, but they were very limited. In KH2, director Tetsuya Nomura made it his mission to make the gameplay more expansive. The gameplay has been enriched tenfold in comparison to the first game. Sora has three times the amount of movement and attacking upgrades, making the gameplay the best it’s ever been in the series to this day. The amount of customizability given to the player makes everyone’s play style unique. It’s so unique that there’s a community built around beating KH2 as fast as possible, or a gaming trend called “speedrunning.” KH2 on a first playthrough can take about 30 hours to beat. Hardcore fans have shrunk that down to less than three. If that doesn’t show how crazy the fanbase is for this game’s gameplay, I don’t know what does.

Funnily enough, both Disney and FF are known for their incredible music. FF’s music has been beloved by gamers ever since the 1980s — it’s emotional and extremely memorable, so it makes sense that the game’s successor series would have the same quality of music. The music in KH as a series is incredible and gives off the same vibe as FF’s music. Composer Yoko Shimomura knocks it out of the park every time, but KH2, in particular, is home to the series’ best score. KH has beautiful melodic piano pieces and energetic, climactic synthetic tracks, but the most iconic music from the series is the game’s openings. “Sanctuary” is the opening of the second game, and is iconic to the series and has been reused in many sequels due to how beautifully composed it is. This song goes hand in hand with the series and is inseparable from the second game.

What’s also inseparable from KH2 is the sheer love and passion put into it. The amount of heart and soul in this game is second-to-none. KH2 is brimming with creativity and has a sheer fun factor that very few games can rival. The gameplay is addicting, and the storyline is cathartic and emotional. Am I biased as a critic? Absolutely. I played this game when I was a kid, and I’ve played it more times than I can count on five hands. But I believe that’s what a great sequel — let alone a great piece of art — should do. It brings you back to a simpler time and makes you feel like a kid again. KH2 does that whenever I pick up the controller, and that is an invaluable experience nowadays.

Nicolas Scagnelli is a junior majoring in English.