Developer: Square Enix | Publisher: Square Enix | Played On: PlayStation 3 | Price: $39.99 | ESRB: Everyone 10+ [Fantasy Violence]
The Kingdom Hearts series has become one of the most well-regarded RPG franchises. Spanning over 10 years and seven unique games, it’s safe to say blending Disney with Final Fantasy has worked out well.
With the release of Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix on the PlayStation 3, gamers can relive the earliest adventures of Sora, Donald, and Goofy all over again in glorious HD! Featuring complete versions of Kingdom Hearts: Final Mix and Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories, as well as nearly three hours of cinematic storytelling taken from Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days, HD 1.5 Remix is a compilation of games for newcomers to the series as well as a beautiful retelling of stories for series veterans.
Of the three games, you’ll likely spend the most time with Kingdom Hearts: Final Mix, an updated version of the original PS2 release. Final Mix features the same campaign but now includes some bonus content like extended story segments, new items and boss battles. For Kingdom Hearts newbies, travelling from world to world, battling countless Heartless, and unraveling the complex story is as much a joy now as it was then. If you’ve already played through Sora’s first adventure then Final Mix will act more as a refresher, since the new content alone doesn’t justify a repeat playthrough.
The gameplay and story hold up well. I found myself entranced once again in Sora’s quest to save his friends, and I still sensed the same excitement each time I ran into a familiar Final Fantasy face or Disney character. Unfortunately the same problems from the original release persisted throughout the decade, particularly frustrating camera issues.
Even though you can control the camera with the right thumb stick now, it still gets stuck behind objects and positions itself awkwardly when fighting in a corner. The frantic combat has you running around the entire stage defeating enemies, but when you need to target one specific foe and control the camera at the same time the aggravation gets worse.
Re:Chain of Memories is the updated PS2 version of the original Game Boy Advance game. The story takes place directly after the events of the first Kingdom Hearts and utilizes a unique card-based battle system. Battles still have you defeating Heartless with the Keyblade, summoning powerful Disney characters, and performing magic attacks, but everything is governed by which cards you have in your deck. Throughout the game you constantly earn more cards, edit your deck, and form the best lineup of cards for every battle. Overall I found the combat in Re:Chain of Memories to be very entertaining and thought it too held up well over time.
At first I thought the inclusion of 358/2 Days as a cinematic experience only was going to be a bust, but after playing through the other two games and watching the story unfold I found that the three games form a nice trilogy of events: Re:Chain of Memories follows directly after Final Mix, and 358/2 Days occurs at the same time as Re:Chain of Memories, leading right up to the start of Kingdom Hearts II. It might seem like you’re getting jipped out of a game since 358/2 Days largely amounts to nothing more than a Kingdom Hearts movie, but taken as a whole package the contents of HD 1.5 Remix go well together and are sure to please any Kingdom Hearts fan, as well as series beginners.
Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix wears the high definition moniker well. These versions of the games are the smoothest, brightest, and most crisp they’ve ever been. 358/2 Days seems to have benefitted the most from the visual facelift and enhanced screen size over the Nintendo DS handheld.
The musical soundtrack for Final Mix and Re:Chain of Memories is a fine collection of recognizable Disney tunes and inspired epic themes to accompany each battle. Voice acting is hit or miss, with some characters delivering their lines with believable emotion while others drone on like robots. There are also a lot of long, awkward pauses between words, particularly in 358/2 Days, which is a bit off putting. But as a whole the three games look and sound good.
Still, the biggest complaint I have about the compilation is that problems that existed in the past are still present. I already mentioned the sluggish camera and sometimes non-responsive combat, but then there’s the Gummi Ship sections of Final Mix that are still more of a nuisance than gameplay enhancement. Boss battles will test your skill and patience later in the games, and the adjustable difficulty level can only do so much to alleviate the pain.
Then there’s the overarching story; now I can say with a bit more certainty (although not complete confidence) that I understand the overarching plot of the series, but for a first time player the game’s story will be a confusing mess of names, places, sub-plots, and references to events that have happened in other games.
Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix is a fantastic collection of three of the earliest Kingdom Hearts games and stories. There isn’t a mountain of must-play new material here, but the updated visuals, bonus content, adjustable difficulty, and trophy support for all three games should make a repeat playthrough of the games as satisfying as the first. The diverse gameplay between Final Mix and Re:Chain of Memories will keep RPG lovers engaged throughout the 40+ hours it will take to complete both games. Coupled with the story of 358/2 Days, the overall package is a great retelling of the series so far and the best way to play these classic RPGs.
+ The best looking versions of the games to date
+ Gameplay for each game is varied and holds up well
- Camera issues persist
8 / 10