Game: Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix Developer: Square Enix Publisher: Square Enix Release Date:Out Now Available On:PS3 Version Played:PS3
Kingdom Hearts was originally released in 2002 on the PS2 console. Like the classic games that were on the system (ICO, Shadow of the Colossus, Resident Evil 4 and Okami) I was foolish enough to skip them over the years, having only discovered them recently. The HD update is thusly my first foray into the Kingdom Hearts universe.
Kingdom Hearts employs a fantastic crossing of the Final Fantasy worlds and Disney. It opens on Destiny Islands where Riku, Kairi and main character Sora live. Quickly consumed by the Heartless, dark beasts that plague their world, their only hope lies in the Keyblade, the only weapon capable of harming the Heartless. In the Disney world, King Mickey leaves his kingdom to fight the Heartless, leaving Donald and Goofy to find the ‘key’ that will protect the worlds. The story of Kingdom Hearts draw upon old cliché’s of Final Fantasy, like the power of friendship, good vs evil, and it’s a fantastic tale that tugs at the heartstrings and really makes you relive your childhood. Even though I’m 21 and experiencing it for the first time, the impact is no less diminished. Some of the more child-specific elements may elicit some groans and the themes are as subtle as a brick to the face, but it works.
Chain of Memories takes place straight after the first ends, and focuses again on Sora as the main character, while introducing other characters and shifting focus on different ones. 358/2 Days focuses on the twin Nobody of Sora, Roxas, a Nobody being a vessel (in other words, a body) that does not carry a heart, not quite a Heartless as they keep their human form. All 3 follow each other in chronological order, to the eventual Kingdom Hearts 2.
The redone HD version of Kingdom Hearts looks fantastic. The visuals are cleaned up, the HD touch up is impressive. Other than that the experience remains the same as it was on the PS2 (as this is a HD remaster, NOT a remake). The game comes packed with a wealth of content; for the first time outside of Japan, Kingdom Hearts Final Mix is included, along with Re: Chain of Memories and the DS exclusive (and perplexingly named) 358/2 Days.
Unfortunately, 358/2 Days is not playable here, rather taking the form of a 3 hour cinematic. This is a disappointment, and while all the cutscenes are fully voice acted (something missing from the original DS version) it’s simply not engaging enough to be worth sitting through for 3 hours. It’s a shame, since the DS version was praised for it’s gameplay and derided for its plot, and a further shame we don’t get to experience its greatest strength. It’s a shame that you pretty much HAVE to sit through this if you haven’t played the DS version nor plan to, since the events of the 3 games here all tie into Kingdom Hearts 2.
Other than that, the HD update is very well done. The aesthetic is both a visual splendour and charming and the Disney and Final Fantasy elements are great and work harmoniously with each other. If you wanted to revisit the Kingdom Hearts universe, I couldn’t think of a better way to do so.
Kingdom Hearts can be seen as a mashup of hack-and-slash and Final Fantasy elements. Working with a part of three, you can only maintain full control over Sora, whilst the rest of his party can be customized to an extent through dynamic menus. As per traditional role playing games, XP plays a big part of the game, as is levelling up and gaining abilities. You can focus on either strength, defense or magic at the start of the game which changes the dynamic of the battlefield a little, but mostly it’s just mashing a button to kill Heartless.
It should be noted that this is NOT a remake, and the gameplay has remained untouched from the original. While this can be seen as good, other people may note the lack of progress, the clunky controls, and the godawful camera. The camera is one of the worst things I’ve battled with since the heyday of Ninja Gaiden, and it’s a shame it has to be like this.
Re: Chain of Memories implements a card system mixed with real time combat, where you retain full control of your character yet actions like attacking or using items requires picking up cards and utilizing them. Cards are ranked from 0-9, the higher the number (with the exception of 0, which are more special cards) the more points they need to use.
Utilizing card combos and choosing which cards to use in a battle is surprisingly deep and very fun to take part in. Customizing a deck and buying different cards is intuitive and the transition from Gameboy Advance to the PS3 is smooth.
358/2 Days has no gameplay, and I have no idea why I’m mentioning it here.
Kingdom Hearts was seen as a fantastic amalgamation of Disney and Final Fantasy, and the HD remaster is the perfect way to revisit the universe. The two games are strong, the HD visuals are impressive, and there’s a 3 hour movie if you REALLY love the universe that much. I don’t see much wrong with this pack, and I remain excited for the eventual 2.5 HD Remix.