SquareEnix breathes life back into the beloved franchise Kingdom Hearts.
2002 seems like it was eons ago, doesn’t it? Sony’s PS2, Microsoft’s Xbox and Nintendo’s GameCube were ruling the roost as far as video game consoles were concerned. Square Enix’s reign as the top developer/publisher of JRPG’s became even more solidified when they created and released the unthinkable – Kingdom Hearts, an action-RPG that combined the best of Final Fantasy’s cast with Disney’s beloved roster.
Square Enix knows just how revered this series is, so they answered the prayers of hardcore fans with two announcements – the ongoing development of the official third entry in the series (FINALLY!) and an HD revision of the first couple of games. That HD collection is finally here and it can be referred to as Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix.
The “1.5″ in that title alludes to the three pieces of Kingdom Hearts history that’s compiled in this nostalgia fueled collection.
The first and most major portion of this HD remake is Kingdom Hearts Final Mix. This version of the game was previously exclusive only to Japanese gamers, but now our American shores have finally been bestowed the honor of playing this release…IN HD! The addition of cleaner visuals, new weapons, items and bosses plus the streamlining of the camera/menu makes this the ultimate version of the game. As for the gameplay itself, the first Kingdom Hearts still holds up today. The graphics and technical side of Kingdom Hearts was never the game’s selling point, rather it was the story that brought gamers back for more time and time again. Following the sometimes hopeful and somber journey that young Sora is set on, it is still enjoyable to play through. The mash up of Final Fantasy heroes and Disney’s most popular characters and worlds is still amazing to witness in person.
The added-on keyblades, extra tough bosses and rare items make the trek through each world a more substantial one. The main campaign is still as memorable and highly addictive as it was back in 2002. The fast-paced, button mashy gameplay seems repetitive, until you get the ability to summon Disney animal avatars and cast all manners of magic. Having Donald Duck and Goofy as your co-party members during huge scuffles with Ursula or Hercules’ Ice Titan is still a trip to watch in action.
Everything is still as fun as gamers may remember it. The worst parts of this upgraded entry (The Little Mermaid’s terrible musical interludes, the Gummi Ship building mechanics and the slow beginning) are still present, but that shouldn’t come as a surprise to longtime fans.
The second part of the package, Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories, is the lesser of the two playable games. The card based battle system seems like an awesome concept, but its execution is off-putting at times.The introduction of Castle Oblivion is the freshest portion of this title, but the rehashed sections and characters from the first game aren’t as fun to play here. It’s worth making your way through this double upgrade (it made its way from a GBA/PS2 update to the HD version that’s currently playable) if you’re looking to understand who and what Organization XIII is. Other than that, a repeated playthrough will prove frustrating for players who’ve already struggled through it once before.
The final part of this HD package is the newly retooled cutscenes from Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days. There’s nothing to really play here since you’ll spend the majority of your time watching 2 hours worth of HD cutscenes. It would have been way more fun to play through this DS adventure instead of sitting through a video summary of its events. The lack of a playable HD version of this title is puzzling, to say the least.
Hardcore Kingdom Hearts fans will certainly have a ball with the games they love. Each game’s chronological order perfectly represents its solo quality. Kingdom Hearts Final Mix is still an awesome action-RPG, Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories tends to be a frustrating experience and Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days’ focus on nothing but cutscenes is disappointing.
This HD collection is strengthened by the presence of the first game, but the entire package is worth revisiting for longtime followers and newfound fans.
Developer: Square Enix 1st Production Department
Publisher: Square Enix
MSRP: $39.99 Find it at Amazon!
Images: Square Enix