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For as much variety as the original Kingdom Hearts’ combat has between the Keyblade, Magic, and Summons, it also comes in one very distinct flavor. Sora’s abilities will gradually expand over the course of the game that really helps create this constant feeling of progression, but when all is said and done, Kingdom Hearts I at the end of the game isn’t much different than at the start.
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Which is by no means a bad thing, but variety is important in any artform, especially one that demands our attention for dozens of hours on end. It’s important that we not only feel our time is valued, but that we have genuine fun along the way. Kingdom Hearts II’s answer to the spice of life is the addition of Drive Forms, transformations Sora can trigger during combat to greatly shake up his playstyle.
The catch is that triggering a Drive Form typically requires sacrificing one or both party members. Some Forms even necessitate specific party members be sacrificed in order to be triggered. It makes party composition a bit more personalized in the long run, and allows for players to essentially invent their own gameplay loop around their Drive Forms. Of course, not all Drive Forms are created equally.
The Drive Form’s make or break mechanic. After a certain point in the story, Sora will randomly trigger an Anti Form. It doesn’t matter which Drive a player chooses (except for Final, but the chances of the average player not triggering Anti before unlocking Final Form are slim to none), Sora has a chance of being corrupted.
His damage and speed increase considerably when in Anti Form, and he’s actually quite fun to play as. Sora zips around the screen, swiping at enemies with a fury. Unfortunately, Anti Sora has no finishing moves whatsoever and cannot use magic, so he can’t finish off any bosses in the game.
Worse yet, Anti Sora can’t be triggered out manually during combat. Players either need to wait out the gauge or run to safety. Anti Sora also doesn’t gain any experience, so while the extra damage is nice, you risk losing EXP. Which doesn’t really matter for a Lv 1 Critical run, though.
The Wisdom Form is Sora’s magic centric Drive Form. Unlocked after completing the Timeless River found within Disney Castle, the Wisdom Form sacrifices Donald in favor of augmented magic. Sora now skates around with ease, shooting magic out of his Keyblade like a gun. All of his spells are stronger as well, and some even operate a bit differently.
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Leveling up the Wisdom Form requires taking out Heartless, which is simple enough, but the Wisdom Form is quite weak. While its magical boosts are very useful, they’re also very situational. There’s no real reason to whip out the Wisdom Form in regular combat except to level it up for bosses.
The fact Sora doesn’t have access to a traditional combo chain doesn’t help matters either. The novelty of shooting the Keyblade like a gun is charming, but Sora essentially does chip damage. The only reason to even use the Keyblade with Wisdom Form activated is when waiting for your MP to recharge.
The first Drive Form players get, the Valor Form is unlocked as soon as he gets his black clothes at Master Yen Sid’s Tower. The Valor Form removes Sora’s abilities to cast any and all magic, but he now moves faster, hits harder, and can access a finishing move right away with square. Not just that, Valor Form gives Sora access to High Jump.
Valor is also pathetically easy to level up, gaining 1 experience for every enemy hit. Not defeated, hit. That alone makes leveling up the Valor form incredibly easy. Triggering Valor sacrifices Goofy, but it’s worth it early in the game. It helps that two Keyblades are fun to play around with.
That said, Valor falls off quite hard as soon as Drive Forms other than Wisdom are unlocked. It unfortunately can’t compete with its brethren.
One of the coolest Drive Forms in the game and the Form players will be gravitating towards the most likely, the Master Form essentially takes the best elements of Valor and Wisdom into one cohesive Form. It does sacrifice the entire party in the process, but Sora’s abilities are amplified so much that it’s worth it, no question.
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Sora is faster, hits harder, can double jump, has new magical properties, and has access to both of his Keyblades at once. He even controls one with magic, leading to some rather unique combo chains. Occasionally weave in magic, and Master Form Sora ends up being quite the beast.
Master Form is unlocked right before the Battle of the 1000 Heartless. Sora unfortunately can’t use the Master Form during said set piece, but it doesn’t take long for the game to give players free reign of one of its coolest forms. Like with Valor, however, it’s outclassed by a similar form. If nothing else, leveling up Master Form requires picking up Drive Orbs, at least ensuring the grinding process is a perpetually fruitful one.
What Master Form was for Wisdom and Valor, Final Form is for Master Form: an even better version of all of Sora’s abilities in one Form. Unlocked randomly after reaching The World That Never Was, Sora’s Final Form is meant solely for the endgame, requiring a full party sacrifice, but allowing him to glide around the screen and use two supremely powerful Keyblades via telekinesis.
Sora’s combos are long and hard hitting here, trapping enemies and rapidly whipping across the screen like a tornado. Final Form can be quite difficult to control initially due to how slippery it is, but that in itself is part of the fun with the Form. It makes for some truly chaotic combat scenarios. Leveling the Final Form requires slaying Nobodies, so get to grinding in The World That Never Was.
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In the original release of Kingdom Hearts II, the Final Form was indeed Sora’s best Drive Form, but Final Mix+ notably added one extra Drive Form: Limit Form. Sacrificing nobody, Limit Form allows Sora to access his Kingdom Hearts I skill set, complete with classic techniques and his old school dodge roll.
This is a super useful Drive Form for just about any occasion, and Sora can access unique Limits that are not only fun to pull off, but do great damage and have the potential to interrupt boss combos. Between Sonic Blade and Strike Raid, Limit Form adds a very dynamic edge to Sora’s solo fights in-game. There’s nothing like taking on Roxas with Sora’s Limit Form triggered.
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