When reviewing a title like “Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix,” a bit of context seems required. Just as players who know the entire “Final Fantasy” saga by heart are going to approach a title like “Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn” with a completely different attitude than those new to the franchise, how one appreciates an HD upgrade repackage like “Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix,” now available exclusively for the PS3, will be altered by the history and appreciation they already bring to this series beloved by so many. Being a film critic, I DO have a long history with Disney and a love for the Mouse House that some might call abnormal. I’m not an “expert” on Disney, but I’m close (which could be one of the reasons I so disappointed with "Disney Infinity
"). Certainly more than I’m an expert on Japanese Role-Playing Games (JPRGs for short). And so I always greeted the “Kingdom Hearts
” games from a Disney fan’s perspective more than a gamer. I don’t think they really work in that direction. The inclusion of Disney icons often feels clunky and inconsistent creatively. My kids love Disney. I could never see them getting into these games. And yet when you stop trying to fit them into the Disney legacy, they work better on their own. And ”Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix” can be truly appreciated as a value purchase, offering gamers a ton of gameplay time for little money. The HD upgrades aren’t the best this subgenre (the remastered hits of the last generation and/or handhelds) has seen and some of the controls/gameplay have really not aged well but fans of this series or those who want to introduce it to another are unlikely to be too disappointed.
- Publisher: Square Enix
- Developer: Square Enix 1st Production Department
- ESRB Rating: T (Teen)
- Genre: Action Role-Playing
- Pros: Beloved Games, HD Remasters, Value For Dollar
- Cons: Dated Gameplay, Some Clunky Mechanics
Return to the world where Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and “Final Fantasy” characters Sora & Riku interact with what is essentially a combo pack release. You’ll get a fully remastered HD edition of “Kingdom Hearts Re: Chain of Memories” and “Kingdom Hearts Final Mix,” which was previously exclusively available in Japan. The package is rounded with HD cinematic story videos from “Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days” and the whole package has enhanced gameplay mechanics and trophies designed for the PS3 system. Graphics have been upgraded throughout along with some improved controls, although you’ll never forget that these are old games. It takes a few minutes to get adjusted to the clunky controls, especially after playing a fluid JPRG like “Tales of Xillia” so recently.
Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 RemixImage © Square Enix
The “Kingdom Hearts” games take place across the worlds of fantasy intermingled with the Disney universe. Players to travel to worlds like Agrabah (“Aladdin”), Atlantica (“The Little Mermaid”), Halloween Town (“The Nightmare Before Christmas”), Monstro (“Pinocchio”), Never Land (“Peter Pan”), Olympus Coliseum (“Hercules”), 100 Acre Wood (“Winnie the Pooh”), and Wonderland (“Alice in Wonderland”). The games are massive adventures, the kind of titles that one could plug not just hours but days into exploring, grinding, and conquering. When “Kingdom Hearts” hit the market in 2002, it was a monumental success. It is one of the bestselling PS2 games of all time. Consider the “Final Mix” something of a director’s cut with no scenes and even different gameplay options. The mechanics now share more in common with sequels “Kingdom Hearts II” and “Re: Chain of Memories,” so the series flows. It was a hit in Japan but never before available here. It’s an extended version of a game that you may already know and love, now in HD. If you fell in love with “Kingdom Hearts” in 2002 but haven’t really kept up with the series, this version will feel familiar but also new at the same time.
“Final Mix” is the real draw but Square-Enix is smart to supplement with the excellent “Chain of Memories.” Less interesting to me is the nearly-three-hours of cinematics from the 2009 DS game, “358/2 Days.” That’s for hardcore fans. “Chain of Memories” was originally released as a GameBoy Advance title. So, if you’re keeping track, “Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD Remix” compiles a GBA, PS2, and DS game into one PS3 package. That alone has value and is something that will surely happen more and more as the gaming market continues. Before we know it, PS3 games will be upgraded for the PS4.
Graphics & Sound
“Kingdom Hearts” in this iteration doesn’t look like an 11-year-old game. Now, it doesn’t look like a 2013 game either. It’s kind of caught somewhere in the middle as the backgrounds and environments were clearly developed on the previous generation but the character models have been more easily upgraded to the current one. The audio is strong throughout, especially the music, which is always a key ingredient in JPRGs. I wish more genres placed such an emphasis on score.
Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 RemixImage © Square Enix
Once again going back to my movie roots, “Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD Remix” is like a Special Edition Blu-ray release of an old film that you once loved. The movie itself – “Kingdom Hearts” – has been remastered in HD complete with deleted scenes that could be compared to a Director’s Cut of a hit film. The other two additions – “Chain of Memories” and “358/2 Days” – are like extended bonus features, not the actual meat of the title. All of it plays directly to the fans of one of the most internationally popular series of the last decade.
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