This. Is. The. Re. Mix.
When Kingdom Hearts was first released in 2002 for the PlayStation 2, I was but a young upstart, barely out of high school, writing for free on the backwoods of the Internet (sorry, RPGFan). Kingdom Hearts was either the second or third title assigned to me for review, so I tackled it with particularly impressive zeal, producing just over 1,400 words of glowing praise for Tetsuya Nomura’s directorial debut and scoring it the equivalent of a 9.5. As such, it’s rather fascinating and fun—to me, at least—to be reviewing Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMix.
I can gladly say that Kingdom Hearts is just as special to me now as it was to 18-year-old Chris, though for wholly different reasons.
There are two camps that I think ReMix is best suited for. One of those, obviously, would be longtime fans of the franchise. The other would be anyone who owns a PS3 but missed out on Kingdom Hearts at the height of its relevancy. Maybe they didn’t own a PlayStation 2, or perhaps they weren’t old enough just yet. Whatever the case may be, it’s hard to argue the value of a $40 game that contains a great action-RPG with an HD upgrade paired with Re:Chains of Memories (a fully 3D remake of the 2004 sprite-based GBA sequel) and 358/2 Days (a prequel starring Roxas released on the DS in 2009). Honestly, I maintain that Kingdom Hearts alone is worth $40. The other two are just added bonuses, as far as I’m concerned.
Of course, bonus-material status aside, that doesn’t mean that the content is free of flaws—358/2 Days especially. Porting this DS title to PS3 seems to have been more trouble than the developers at Square Enix felt it was worth, because the prequel isn’t so much played as it is experienced—read, really. 358/2 Days is still equipped with a few cutscenes, but the gameplay portions of Roxas’ origin story have been gutted, replaced with still images overlaid with text summaries. Better than nothing at all, I’m sure, but without a heavy investment in Kingdom Hearts lore—which I seriously lack in my old age—there’s something lost without any Keyblade swinging.
I feel the same way about Re: Chains of Memories—that something is lost in the jump from charming 2D sprites to full-blown 3D models. Settle down, now. I hear your cries of superficiality. This is an exceedingly subjective, personal bit of nitpicking on my part, I admit, and it’s not something that, in any way, adversely affects gameplay or the Chains of Memories experience for players. It’s simply a presentation problem. Hell, not even a problem, necessarily. A preference.
As for Kingdom Hearts proper, it’s just as terrific an action-RPG as ever, made better by HD character models, textures, and assets that look surprisingly great for a decade-old game and a revamped camera system that ditches L2 and R2 steering in favor of right analog stick–controlled free movement. And while there isn’t much need to look up and down, that level of control over the camera feels much more natural and “modern,” let’s say (for lack of a better word). It’s a matter of what’s now instinctual versus outdated.
Outside of that, Kingdom Hearts remains largely the same. Sora may be showing his own age a little in the fluidity of his movements and control, but it’s nothing players won’t acclimate to easily—if they even notice at all. And if I could have my way, the Gummi Ship segments would’ve been tossed to the curb (and seeing how this is something that was tweaked in Kingdom Hearts II, it’s clearly a point of contention limited not just to me).
The rest of the adventure is, I guess, quaint. Convoluted, I realize now. More so than a Disney and Final Fantasy–spanning tale needs to be. (Maybe exactly the right amount, now that I look at that sentence.) Unfortunately, time has eroded my affection for both properties, causing a lot of the magic inherent to Kingdom Hearts to be lost on me. Still, even without that level of appreciation, my continued affection for Kingdom Hearts speaks volumes of how fun the core game itself is.
Despite all my kvetching and lost innocence as an adult burdened by the absence of magic in this soul-crushing world of ours, I still think there’s something delightfully charming and appealing about Kingdom Hearts, something fantastic about the way it spans generations. Shortly before packing my bags and fleeing from Philadelphia out here to California, my three little sisters—Emily, Elizabeth, and Abigail (none of them currently older than 12)—discovered the original PS2 version amidst my belongings. At the risk of perpetuating gender stereotypes with children I helped raise, they naturally wanted to play something with so much Disney branding on it.
And that’s one of the unexpected ways Kingdom Hearts impresses me. My sisters cared far more about the Disney component than I, while I looked forward to the menagerie of Final Fantasy characters contained within Sora’s story. But it was a pain in the ass to dust off the ol’ PS2, hook it up to an HDTV, and expose my eyes to its dated SD ugliness. This PS3 compilation—a year late, unfortunately—could’ve remedied that. Still can, I suppose. There’s always trips back home during the holidays.
Ultimately, that—among all the other reasons stated—is why I still maintain that Kingdom Hearts is a worthwhile experience. I might not feel as strongly about it now as I did a decade ago, but it’s got a little something for everyone, be they newcomers, diehard fans, or lifelong gamers and big bros who just want to plop down on the couch and have something special to share with their idolizing little sisters.
|Developer: Square Enix • Publisher: Square Enix • ESRB: E10+ – Everyone 10 and up • Release Date: 09.10.13|
Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMix successfully brings a PS2 classic to the modern age with a noticeably impressive visual update, improved camera controls, and, for added fun, secondary and tertiary Kingdom Hearts content all contained on one disc (as opposed to spread across disparate platforms).
|The Good||Better visuals, better camera, and as great a game as ever.|
|The Bad||Sora’s controls are starting to feel a little dated. But only a little.|
|The Ugly||The gutting of 358/2 Days from game to visual novel.|
|Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMix is a PS3 exclusive.|