Many have fond memories of Kingdom Hearts. Some have disputes regarding the choices made with each new game. Some have yet to experience Kingdom Hearts at all, unsure of a perfect entry point. Enter: Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMIX, a high-definition collection with many a purpose. Those of you who haven’t experienced Kingdom Hearts now have a fantastic means to do so. And…there are a handful of incentives for series veterans to pick it up and play. Without further ado: this review shall focus on the integrity of the HD Collection itself, not on my opinions of each individual game. But before I draw attention to the collection as a whole, here is a brief look at the three Kingdom Hearts experiences it houses:
Kingdom Hearts: Final Mix is essentially a Director’s Cut of the first Kingdom Hearts game. It’s exactly the same as the first game many experienced on PlayStation 2 ten years ago, except it has… new enemies (each with its own trick to defeating), new items (including weapons, armor and accessories), a new area or two, and new (or extended) scenes. It’s the original Kingdom Hearts with a little more to enjoy…so it’s definitely the definitive experience for newcomers. The draw for veterans: this is the first time we’ve seen Final Mix released outside of Japan, so there are plenty of new things for longtime fans to enjoy.
Kingdom Hearts: Re:Chain of Memories is the PlayStation 2 remake of Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, originally released on Game Boy Advance before Kingdom Hearts II was completed. It features (mostly) the exact same worlds and environments as Kingdom Hearts, but the gameplay is switched up in favor of card-battling. The overlaying story is new, despite environments often being recycled from the game before it, so there are still plenty of new experiences to be had. Both Final Mix and Re:Chain of Memories are filled to the brim with side-quests, unlockables, and hours of replay value.
Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days is effectively, an extremely long feature film with trophy support. There’s no gameplay to be had when watching 358/2 Days, but there is definitely plenty of story to take in. 358/2 Days was originally released for the Nintendo DS, but it wasn’t exactly a critical darling. Methinks this is what led Square-Enix to include the game in the collection, but not making it something playable. The story is all that matters, and…it’s all here in the (over two hours of) scenes they chose to show in Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMIX.
Each of the three experiences is fully “remastered”. The graphics/visuals are extremely impressive. Each model and environment has been given “new life”, so to speak. I don’t suppose I can describe the graphical overhaul in a way that will do it justice, but suffice to say…this is not a simple up-rez. The care and attention put into this collection is immediately apparent as soon as you see it. But you can definitely hear the difference as well.
The soundtrack has been remastered. Stuff that sounded like MIDI compression before now has flutes, violins, even a chorus. Songs I couldn’t stand from the original game(s) are now a pleasure to hear. More or less, each individual experience is exactly as you remember, but its presentation has been given a new coat of paint and a little audio flair. It’s effectively like refurbishing your favorite old vehicle…the three experiences in Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMIX have been “made new”. All three experiences have trophy support, which turn a meaty 30 hour game like Final Mix or Chain of Memories into something you can pour hundreds of hours into collectively, attempting to 100% the entire collection. This isn’t a simple “port games to new system and charge $40”. I think the price-tag is completely worth it for those experiencing the franchise for the first time, and perhaps worth it for series veterans.
But, I do have problems with it. I want to get something kind of big off my chest. Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts Chain of Memories are the first and second entries in the franchise. 358/2 Days came out after Kingdom Hearts II, despite taking place in the “Days” before it. To watch Days is to majorly spoil newcomers regarding some twists in Kingdom Hearts II. I don’t think that’s fair. While the polish given to Days is fantastic, its inclusion is not to the collection’s credit. Newcomers, beware! That aside, I also took slight issue with the only “Screen Options” being to re-size the games as they appeared on your screen. I had to experiment a little bit before I found what was ideal for my television. The “Screen Options” could stand to be slightly more user-friendly. A clearly defined screen boundary would have saved some trouble on my end, at the very least.
Suffice to say, Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMIX is a solid collection, worthy of praising (to a certain extent), and definitely worthy of creating. To newcomers: run, don’t walk, as this is the perfectly ideal way to enter into a long-running franchise with many a devoted fan, and fantastic games to take in (even if Kingdom Hearts II, Birth by Sleep, and Re:Coded will probably be featured in a Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMIX sometime soon). And to series veterans, I offer this: the presentation is amazing, but… you’ve definitely seen all of this before. It may be in a new, more impressive package, but how much you take away from this “old is new again” HD Collection is not up to me to determine for you.
Review copy purchased by author.