The Kingdom Hearts series is one of Square Enix’s most popular modern franchises that mash together the best elements of both classic Disney and Final Fantasy. The series had many different spin-offs over various platforms, bringing new characters and new environments from classic Disney films. The first game, in its reworked Final Mix version, was re-released in HD on the PlayStation 3 along with Kingdom Hearts RE: Chain of Memories and the cut-scenes of Kingdom Hearts 358/2. The collection was received well and it was expected that its sequel would also get the same treatment. Enter Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 Remix. An HD collection that comes packed with Kingdom Hearts 2, Birth by Sleep, and cut-scenes from Kingdom Hearts RE: Coded.
Everything that was in the original North America releases of these games is here and accounted for. The main difference that hardcore fans will notice is that this collection includes the Final Mix versions of both Kingdom Hearts 2 and Birth by Sleep. Unlike the original releases of these games, both on the PlayStation 2 and PSP respectively, these versions include new content that was at first only available in the Japanese release of both games. This would include new abilities, items and even special enemies and optional boss fights that are immensely challenging. The real treat from these Final Mix versions are the extra cut-scenes that give more substance to different sections of the games, as well as more insight into the canon of the Kingdom Hearts universe.
Much like the previous Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix, this collection only includes the cut-scenes of Kingdom Hearts RE: Coded, which was originally released on the Nintendo DS. The scenes can be viewed straight through like a movie, and do provide trophies for doing so. However, it is unfortunate that the story it presents is nothing more than a side-story outside of the main plot of the series. Although there is no real loss by the inability to play the full version of RE: Coded, this is a missed opportunity to include a better title for this collection. The most recent game, Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance on 3DS, would have been a more ideal candidate to not only connect plot points to Kingdom Hearts 2, but also lead into the next entry of the series.
The best part of this collection besides the additional content is the visuals. All three titles look fantastically rendered out in HD on the PlayStation 3, with the Kingdom Hearts 2 Final Mix being the best looking game. Character models and environments look more fleshed out with smoother polygons and even more vibrant color schemes. Birth By Sleep Final Mix does look leaps and bounds better than its original PSP incarnation, but it does have a few issues with rough polygons and unusually longer load times. These are small issues that are not too serious, but they are vaguely noticeable. The only other nitpick here is the lack of multiplayer in the Mirage Arena, which was originally included in the PSP version of Birth by Sleep. This was done via Ad-Hoc on the PSP, but has been removed entirely and made for single player use. Why this was done is confusing as the multiplayer mode could have made to work online over PlayStation Network.
For those who are unfamiliar and uninformed about Kingdom Hearts, this is another great spot to get caught up with the series. It is highly recommended that you pick up this collection along with its predecessor in order to get the full story of the Kingdom Hearts universe. It may not be everything that has come out to date, but Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 Remix does provide the most content for two of the best iterations of the franchise. Along with a side-story to check out. There is more than 30+ hours of high definition action RPG goodness here that newcomers and long-time fans of Kingdom Hearts will definitely appreciate.
This review was based on a retail copy of Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 Remix for the PlayStation 3 that was paid for by the person who wrote the review.