Kingdom Hearts is one of the most beloved modern RPG franchises to come from Square Enix. In the days of the PlayStation 2, RPG fans fell in love with the mash-up combination of Disney and Square all-star, along with the awesome soundtrack that included Utada Hiakru’s “Simple and Clean” track. Since its initial release, the franchise has grown to include 9 different titles over various platforms, each title bringing a genuinely good RPG experience. In the wake of a Kingdom Hearts 3 reveal, long-time fans and newcomers of the series will now be able to experience some of the original PS2 titles, and a neat extra, in fully remastered HD.
Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix is a collection of three titles from the acclaimed series. Gamers will be able to experience the Final Mix version of the original Kingdom Hearts that was previously exclusive to Japan in fully HD. Also included is Kingdom Hearts RE: Chain of Memories, a 3D remake of a title originally on Nintendo’s GBA, and re-mastered cinematics from the DS title Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days. Each part of the collection has full trophy support and displays in beautiful HD along with completely remixed soundtracks. The collection even comes with some neat unlockable themes for the PS3 dashboard when you complete each title.
Diving into the Final Mix version of Kingdom Hearts is both nostalgic and refreshing, as the game still holds up pretty well today. For those unaware, the Final Mix release of Kingdom Hearts came with newly added content that enhanced the overall experience playing the game. This included new cutscenes in certain parts of the game, new items and moves, as well as other extras that fans will appreciate.
The visuals and audio of the game are fantastic, making Kingdom Hearts look and sound better than it ever has before. For this version of the game though, some changes have been made to the camera controls and interaction with the environment, making the game feeling similar to the PS2 sequel, Kingdom Hearts 2. While still a bit wonky at times, the changes are a big improvement over its initial release. Some familiar gripes with the Gummi Ship mini-game missions are still present, but they aren’t enough to detract the experience of revisiting this beloved game in full HD.
The other two titles in the collection are just as great in the visual and audio department, but with a few differences in how they were handled in this collection. Kingdom Hearts RE: Chain of Memories is a direct sequel that ties in the events of Kingdom Hearts 1 and 2, and uses a Card Battling system that has similar elements to the real time fighting of the first game. With HD visuals and remixed audio, as well as trophy support, gamers will love trying out something a little bit different from the first game that ties into the Kingdom Hearts storyline very nicely. Some people may be detracted by the Card Battle system at first, but those who give it a chance will have fun battling the Heartless in RE: Chain of Memories.
The least inspired part of this collection in the inclusion of Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days. Unlike the initial impression from the packaging, 358/2 Days is not the full game that was original on Nintendo DS, but instead is only the re-mastered cinematics from that title, making it more like a 3 hour movie than anything else. While it is cool to be able to get trophies just from watching the cutscenes, there are a few issues that arise from having 358/2 Days as part of this collection.
Even though most of the events in RE: Chain of Memories do include some of the characters and highlighted events that appear in 358/2, one would really need to play through Kingdom Hearts 2 to truly understand the importance of them in the overall story of the series. This generally makes watching 358/2 Days confusing for anyone who never played the first two games back when they were released on the PS2. What’s more is the original gameplay sections are replaced by short burst of text cutscenes that give a very brief description of what occurs had players been playing the actual game. This can be a little bit annoying at times since their inclusion can come off as a bit random and all too frequent in the earlier portions of 358/2 Days, with a lot special parts from the DS game glanced over or missed. It would have been a lot better to have the full game of 358/2 Days included in this collection, or not include it at all in favor of another title instead (Birth By Sleep anyone?).
As a total package, Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix is almost everything one could ask for in a collection for the series. Not only is there a completely revamped version of the original title that started it all, but a few neat extras that will make anyone who dives in become a fan of the series. Trophy support will adhere to both those who love to be completionist or just want another reason to revisit the story of the Disney universe crossing over with Square. For any fan of the Kingdom Hearts franchise, this is a must own, especially if you are eagerly awaiting the next installment of the series. Those who are newcomers will find an experience that really holds well and stands up with some of the best RPG titles of all time.
This review was based on a retail copy of Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix for the PlayStation 3.