Disney, with it’s fantastic animated movies, and Square Enix, with it’s history of great JRPGs, together came up with Kingdom Hearts, this beloved franchise that has spawned a number of games, a few mangas and a large, loving fanbase.
There are a lot of gamers out here who are not familiar with the Kingdom Hearts series and find it difficult to enter it’s magical world as the old games are hard to come by and the number of spin-offs is too overwhelming. Enter Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMIX. This HD collection is your gate pass to the magical world of Kingdom Hearts if you haven’t been there already. For old fans, this is a nostalgic ride that I can bet they are more than willing to take.
The Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMIX contains the first Kingdom Hearts game, the PS2 remake of Chain of Memories (which continues the story from the first game and leads into the second), and all the cutscenes of the Nintendo DS game, 358/2 days, which tells the story of Roxas, a core character in the second game. Both the games and the cutscenes have been completely remastered in HD and look glorious and obviously better than their previous counterparts. Since the assets for the games were not available, they had to be created from scratch. This is quite noticeable and gives the game a fresh feel.
One thing that annoyed me quite a bit was that the cover fails to make it clear that 358/2 Days is not included as a full game but as a long movie. Although I already knew this, there are a lot of people that do not. I do wish that Square Enix had ported the entire game over for players to play instead of including all the cut-scenes that eventually tire them out, especially since you’ll sense some repetitiveness when you see the same popsicle cut-scenes over and over again.
The first Kingdom Hearts game has been slightly modified to make it feel like Kingdom Hearts 2, especially through the change of it’s camera which you can now control with the right analogue stick instead of the triggers back in the PS2. You may take this change for granted since all third person games work this way these days, but it is a change nonetheless that makes the game better. However, this does not mean that the camera in the game is perfect. Some problems have been carried over, such as the quick change of view when you lock on to an enemy. This makes the game seem like it’s moving just a little too fast. Sometimes, when you jump off something and fall down, the camera angle will become irregular and can get annoying at times. Other than that, the combat still remains fun and entertaining, though seems to have aged a little because of some clumsy mechanics that you might just overlook if it’s not your first time playing this. The configuration of the Gummi ship is not a lot of fun, but it’s a good thing that it’s not a pivotal part of the game. Unless you’re a completionist, the boring and difficult Gummi ship configuration should not bother you and you’ll be able to ignore it.
Kingdom Hearts Re: Chain of Memories is not one of my favorite Kingdom Hearts games, but that’s because I’ve never been in favor of card-based mechanics, which Chain of Memories more or less lives on. However, it is difficult to deny that Chain of Memories is not a good game, not to mention holding an important part of the story without which you can not play Kingdom Hearts 2. Just like Kingdom Hearts 1, CoM has been properly upgraded to HD and looks great.
The soundtrack for both games is the same as it was in their PS2 versions. Unlike what is going to happen with Final Fantasy X HD, there have been no changes to the music in the Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMIX. Get ready to listen to Simple and Clean once again as it drags you into the fantastic world of Kingdom Hearts.
Whether you’re a newcomer looking to visit an old gem, or a fan wanting to relive the past, the Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMIX is definitely a great buy. Of course, you’ll have to adapt to the fact that the games are quite old and will not ‘feel’ like something recent, gameplay wise, but everything else is excellent. Both Kingdom Hearts 1 and Chain of Memories are quite long, and easily over 25 hours, with the 358/2 Days (extended) cutscenes around 2-3 hours, the HD Collection will keep you occupied for quite some time.