I remember the original Kingdom Hearts releasing in 2002. I remember being so excited as a huge fan of Square Enix (then Squaresoft) and previous Final Fantasy titles, but wondering if a mash-up of my favorite ideas and characters with the cartoon childishness of Disney would really work. Well, work it did, and nearly 12 years later, work it still does. I feared that nostalgia would get in the way of my review of this HD collection. Perhaps I wouldn’t see flaws that others would. Maybe 10+ years had given me quite a distorted view. After over 60 hours spent with Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMIX, I can safely rave about this series once again and say that nostalgia has very little to do with it.
Speaking to the nostalgia factor, fans of the original game will want to go out and pick this up immediately. You might be thinking that you’ve already played it through 20 or more times on PS2 and have no reason to go through it once again. I know that I personally had a save on the PS2 right before the final boss so that I could watch the ending over and over again. When I finished the review playthrough of the HD version, I recalled every line of dialog as I watched it again last week and not once did I regret spending the time to play Kingdom Hearts as a much more mature person than I was a decade ago.
But Kingdom Hearts is not all that’s included and players will get a larger taste of the overall saga that began with that first game (and let’s be honest, with the convoluted and crazy story, we all need this bit of catch-up). Let’s break down each one of the games that is included on the Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMIX disc.
Kingdom Hearts Final Mix HD
The entire package is worth it for this title alone. The stunning HD visuals are done beautifully and this is far and away the best HD remaster that I have played on the PS3. There were times I would forget that I was playing a game that came out near the start of the PS2’s life. It looks that good in motion. This marks the first time that North American gamers will get to play the Final Mix version of Kingdom Hearts, with added scenes, abilities, secret bosses and a variety of other small changes that really set it apart from the game that many of you may have played years ago. Don’t worry though, everything that you remember fondly about the original is still intact.
Unfortunately some of what is still intact causes a bit of a downside. While there is now an option to choose to manually control the camera with the right analog stick, I still found myself with some frustrating camera movements in the tighter environments. I also had some trouble with the clunky platforming. It lacked a smooth feeling and sometimes it would seem that the jump action would come slightly too late, so I had to train myself to jump earlier than I would in most other games. This is remedied later with a particular ability that Sora gains, and complicated platforming is not a focus, so this flaw doesn’t detract much from the overall package.
The major focus in the gameplay is the action RPG combat. I am a huge fan of Kingdom Hearts‘ combat system (and as such, am eagerly awaiting Final Fantasy
Versus XIII XV). I did run into a few issues with the auto targeting not wanting to agree with me, and sometimes wound up attacking signs, walls, or not the Heartless that I intended to. This is easily resolved most times through locking on to your targets, but sometimes trying to lock-on the the right target amongst the teeming masses of Heartless can be a pain. Once again this was a fairly minor issue that presented itself on rare occasions, so most of my playthrough was unblemished.
Overall my playthrough of Kingdom Hearts was filled with a magic that few other things can compare to. Kingdom Hearts is made up of moments, from Goofy and Donald
meeting landing on Sora for the first time, to seeing Cloud in the Olympus Coliseum. These moments are what stick with Kingdom Hearts players, and whether you are revisiting these moments again, or experiencing them all for the first time, there is no better way to do it than with Kingdom Hearts Final Mix HD.
Kingdom Hearts Re: Chain of Memories HD
Gamers who only had a PS2 and went straight from Kingdom Hearts to Kingdom Hearts II were left very confused with certain plot points. The missing link was actually an entire chain; a Chain of Memories that is. This GameBoy Advance game eventually made it’s way to the PS2 in the form of Re: Chain of Memories which is what’s included in this collection. While the HD version of this is not quite as impressive as Final Mix, it’s actually quite stunning when you realize that this is an HD remaster of an HD remake of a GameBoy Advance title, and it’s actually quite close in quality to that of Kingdom Hearts Final Mix HD.
The magic and moments found in the original game aren’t quite as prevalent here, with many environments and characters being reused from the original title. These are Sora’s memories after all. The story is intriguing enough for anyone who missed this chapter of the Kingdom Hearts saga, and is actually quite a key in introducing characters and ideas that will come to fruition in later games.
Gameplay in Re: Chain of Memories HD follows a real-time tactical card combat system. Many players may be turned off by this following Kingdom Hearts’ fairly hack’n’slash mentality and I know that I did not care for it at first, however, by the end I came to appreciate the complexity and level of strategy and depth that must go into this system if you are to succeed. Some may find card collecting and organizing boring, while many others will fill their days with trying to build the ultimate deck. What began with me button mashing through a random deck of cards eventually became a very thought out and tactical deck that I took quite a bit of pride in creating. The cards do actually play a role in the story as well, so if you haven’t played this game, don’t worry, it does end up making sense.
While it may not be the crown jewel of the Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMIX package, Re: Chain of Memories is a very worthy addition with just as much care taken to ensure that it fits in with this beautifully done collection.
Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days HD Cinematics
Said “Three Five Eight Over Two Days” or “Three Five Eight Days Over Two“, depending on who you ask (the literal translation of the Japanese writing is the second one), Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days HD is not a game insomuch as it is an extended HD cutscene of the game’s story, running nearly three hours long. One simply clicks play and watches them through. When you quit the title, you can select continue the next time you boot it up and pick up at the beginning of the scene that you left off on. There are also journal entries and reports to read that are unlocked as you watch to add a little bit of flavor and supplement the main
The visuals are HD remasters of the scenes from the Nintendo DS version of the game, and while these are the least impressive visually in the collection, the difference between the original scenes to the remastered scenes is amazing. They also feature new voice work for scenes that previously contained only written text to ensure that you are actually watching something rather than having to read through a novel. There is still a small amount of reading to be done, but I found this to be enjoyable to watch overall, providing further story and details for the Kingdom Hearts universe that some fans may not be aware of.
There was one particular odd scene that stuck out in which the various angles of a character had what seemed to be a continuity error of her hood being both on and off, back and forth. This is actually in place because of a certain plot point revealed later on, but the animation of it may seem jarring to some, especially those unfamiliar with the game’s story. If you want to dig up more info on this after playing, simply do a Google search for “358/2 days hood on and off”.
I’d recommend watching this in smaller pieces rather than sitting down to watch the entire thing as a movie. While it does seem to run a bit long and some of the scenes feel a bit redundant (there is a lot of talking), the final scenes of Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days ultimately had me itching for what comes next in the Kingdom Hearts saga.
Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMIX
I would have been satisfied if the only thing included in this collection was Kingdom Hearts Final Mix HD. The nostalgic kid in me was excited to play this again, and my mature adult self was excited to pick up on aspects that I had never picked up on before. Nostalgia and maturity blended as well as Disney and Final Fantasy to fully enjoy this classic reborn. Re: Chain of Memories HD and the scenes from 358/2 Days were welcome additions and icing on the cake to expand on the world and give me a chance to experience the games and stories that I didn’t have the opportunity to before.
There is a certain magic present here that a decade has only made stronger. Newcomers and fans alike will find enjoyment in this collection and you won’t able to help smiling at plenty of moments, even if you’ve seen them play out before. Whether it’s the blurred slow motion after finally beating that difficult boss, unlocking the secret ending, or just the antics of the characters, Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMIX is the near perfect way to kill the wait and catch up on the story for the heavily rumored follow up HD collection and ultimately, Kingdom Hearts III.
Review copy provided by the publisher.