Eleven years ago Square Enix announced Kingdom Hearts, which was the unlikely cross over of Final Fantasy and Disney. Despite sounding awful on paper, Kingdom Hearts went on to be one of the most celebrated series on the PlayStation 2 and lead to a number of spin offs over the years. Naturally, with a number of Xbox/PS2 titles getting HD ports/remakes, we saw a lot of fans requesting and waiting for an update of these titles. These requests went unanswered for a few years, but ultimately lead to Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD Remix. With the inclusion of the Japanese only Final Mix (Directors Cut) version of Kingdom Hearts, Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories and a cinematic version of Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days, is Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD Remix a must for fans or is it an over priced mess?
Kingdom Hearts starts with Sora and his two friends, Riku and Kairi, working on a boat to start an adventure to see the world. After a number of weird things happening before they can leave the island, these shadow creatures called “heartless” attack. Despite obtaining the power to vanquish them via the keyblade, Sora is unable to save his friends and ends up in Transverse Town alone. From here Kingdom Hearts tells the story of Sora trying to find his missing friends, while also saving various worlds from the heartless. The story also touches on a lot of concepts like friendship, love and togetherness, which really makes it a story worth experiencing.
The story continues in Re:Chain of Memories, which acts as a bridge between the first and second game. Since this game is mostly about memories, a lot of the story is simply a retelling of the first game, though it also formally introduces Organization XIII and some important things for later.
At the same time of Re:Chain of Memories we have 358/2 Days, which tells the story of Organization XIII member Roxas and Xion. Similar to Re:Chain, this title is also meant to bridge the gap, so it’s a must if you want to fully experience the story. Keep in mind that this game is merely a cinematic retelling of 358/2 Days and is about a three-hour movie. Thankfully, you can pick up whenever you want, skip chapters or rewatch scenes, so this doesn’t need to be done in one sitting. After finishing all the videos, you’ll unlock some journal entries to fill in some more blanks. Please keep in mind that playing these games out of order can and will result in spoilers, so please play them in order if you’ve never played these games.
In addition to having a good (but confusing) story, Kingdom Hearts also has some very enjoyable gameplay. The first game plays like an action rpg, which means you’ll randomly have enemies spawn as you’re trying to explore/do objectives. These enemies can be dispatched by using your keyblade, having your partners take them down, using magic or simply running away. You can also customize your character with different blades, keychains (accessories), skills or magic to have whatever experience you want. For instance, if you don’t like magic, then you can use a high damage keyblade with the evasive roll to defeat your enemies. On the other hand, you can also use a high magic keyblade with some strong spells to avoid direct combat or simply find an acceptable middle ground.
The only real downside is that the controls are still fairly loose, so you can easily mess up the more precise sections a few times. Things like the camera are also a little wonky and can easily result in you messing up because of it. This can be frustrating, though you will probably get use to it after a few hours. You can also exploit the lock on to remove some of the difficulties.
Contrary to Kingdom Heart’s action RPG gameplay; Re:Chain of Memories is more of a traditional RPG with cards used to attack. Similar to the first game, you’ll still see heartless randomly spawn and roam the world, but engaging them will result in you being warped elsewhere to battle them. Before being warped you can attack first for a preemptive strike, which will result in the first wave of enemies being stunned. This is a great tactic if you want to level or simply use some more flashy cards.
Since this game uses cards for combat, it’s a lot more technical than the first one. Every card has some sort of action, but mindlessly spamming them will result in less than tactical results. These might include wasting a summon, using a potion mid combo or something similar to this. To further add to the depth, you must “reshuffle” your cards when you run out of moves you want to make. Each reshuffle takes longer than the last one, so your goal is to use it sparingly. This will take some time to master, though really just boils down to doing more than mindlessly attacking.
Unlike a lot of the HD collections we’ve seen, Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD Remix shines next to the originals. This is especially impressive, since a lot of the worlds are very bright and vibrant. While this is most apparent with flashy cutscenes and character models, it still has some sign of age too. A lot of the backgrounds look flat and lifeless, some spots have some pixilation and other minor things like this. This doesn’t detract from the overall experience, though it’s something to keep in mind prior to playing.
Despite Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD Remix being a little rough around the edges, it’s still one of the best HD collections around. Things like the controls do take away from the overall experience, but these are fairly minor next to the value you’re getting. The updated graphics make it a must for fans or eager newcomers to experience.
Platform: PlayStation 3