I’ve missed Sora, Donald and Goofy. Sure, there have been plenty of Kingdom Hearts installments over the years. Some good, like Birth By Sleep and Dream Drop Distance. And true, Re:coded and 358/2 Days leaned more towards mediocre, but there’s something special about the main, numbered installments of the series. While other games may be good, they’re never nearly as good as an official Kingdom Hearts game, and I’ll admit, it took Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix to help me remember that.
Think of Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix as the cadillac of Kingdom Hearts games. It’s a package encapsulating Kingdom Hearts beginning’s, following Sora and his companions through Kingdom Hearts Final Mix and Kingdom Hearts Re: Chain of Memories. I’m hesistant to also say it goes through Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days, but I’ll get to that later.
The best place to begin is the beginning, and Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix has a splendid one. All HD adventures begin with a tweaked and perfected romp through Kingdom Hearts Final Mix, the better version of Kingdom Hearts that was, until this collection, locked in Japan. If we had just gotten an HD remake of that alone, this collection would have been worth purchasing. This is the upgraded tale of Sora’s start as a keyblade master, as he first came to Traverse Town, befriended Donald and Goofy, and became a hero in the hopes of saving his dear friend, Kairi.
It’s notable because Kingdom Hearts Final Mix had a bevy of additional content that we originally didn’t get to see, and now we can. There are new bosses and enemies, two more ultimate weapons for Sora, Donald and Goofy, new abilities and accessories, and a few extra cutscenes. I’ll admit, the first few I didn’t really notice. I figured that my memory was playing tricks on me. (It happens, after you turn 30.) But no, there were new scenes that I hadn’t experienced before. They weren’t revolutionary, but it was a welcome addition.
More welcome were control scheme adjustments. Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix‘s version of Kingdom Hearts now plays more like Kingdom Hearts II. The battle menu is identical to the one used in Kingdom Hearts II onward, with summons available at the bottom and special actions triggered with the triangle button. I would recommend manually locking onto targets during important battles, like boss fights, as the auto-target can be a little troublesome sometimes, but the fact that the camera is now tied to the right analog stick coupled with the summons menu slot and reaction action reworking makes that easier to live with.
Naturally, Kingdom Hearts Re: Chain of Memories couldn’t receive such an upgrade in Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix, what with its card-based battle system. As a result, the only modifications here is that the PS2 game now looks a bit prettier on the PS3. It isn’t the shining jewel in this collection, as Kingdom Hearts Final Mix is. I wouldn’t say it’s a bad thing. The game has actually aged quite well, and I’ve found I appreciate the card-based battle system and finer nuances of deck building more entertaining now, than I did when I played the game on my Game Boy Advance.
Though really, it isn’t fair to compare Re: Chain of Memories to the original Kingdom Hearts. The latter is, iconic, and while the former isn’t as glorious, it does bridge a rather expansive gap between Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II, telling a necessary tale. The fact that it’s looking much better when it does it, this time around, is enough to merit a playthrough from those who are buying Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix just for Kingdom Hearts Final Mix.
The only thing that does give me pause about Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix is the “inclusion” of Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days. It’s almost three hours of HD remasters of cutscenes from the DS game, with a few new, additional cutscenes, thrown in for good measure. It isn’t that they’re bad. They look beautiful, and far better than they could ever hope to look on the DS, but I wonder if Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix is the best place for them. Yes, Organization XIII is introduced in Re: Chain of Memories, but Roxas never really comes up there.
If it were me, I’d think this segment more at home in a Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 Remix collection instead, since that installment would focus more on Organization XIII and have more players searching for Roxas and Axel’s backstories. Still, if people do feel like spending about three hours, watching the movies and poring through the 358/2 Days texts, they are there to enjoy.
One thing is for sure. Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix is beautiful. It was a pretty game when it was on the PS2, and now that it’s been upgraded to HD glory, it looks even better. Moreover, it isn’t like some HD PS3 ports, I’m not going to name names, where the upgrade doesn’t go too well and you’re tempted to grab your old disc and system to play the first game because it somehow looked better back then. Both Kingdom Hearts and Re: Chain of Memories look markedly better.
In short, Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix is the game someone who loves Kingdom Hearts should own. Yes, they’re games we’ve seen before, but they’re better versions of games many of us grew up loving. Square Enix did a lovely job with these HD remasters, and the fact that the incarnation of Kingdom Hearts included is an updated version of Kingdom Hearts Final Mix makes everything even better. It’s as much fun to play as it ever was and, considering we’re getting two games in one, it’s well worth replaying and reminiscing about what once was as we wait for Kingdom Hearts III.
Food for Thought
1. I like how Square Enix has made the control scheme for Kingdom Hearts Final Mix in Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix feel more like Kingdom Hearts II. It’s much smoother.
2. Yes, there is trophy support, if you go for that sort of thing. There’s a platinum trophy for both Kingdom Hearts and Re: Chain of Memories. Even the 358/2 Days movies and reports have trophies, which seems pretty ridiculous.