Summary : Excellent concept, but not such a hot execution for the latest addition to the Kingdom Hearts series
If you haven’t been following the story of what is going on in the Kingdom Hearts series, the first game was an orgasmic success, as Final Fantasy producers Square Enix and Disney teamed-up to produce an amazing game with vocal actors like David Boreanaz and Hayley Joel Osment. It spiralled off to produce a sequel: Chain of Memories for the GameBoy Advance, before returning to the PS2 in Kingdom Hearts 2.
The success of Kingdom Hearts 2 ensured the series’ continuance, and a third edition was always on the cards from the UK release, as the trailers were already being produced. The three sequels to that were coded and 358/2 Days for the Nintendo DS and Birth by Sleep for the PSP, with Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance being released after extra versions of Kingdom Hearts 2 were released.
But there was never a game for the next-gen – until now.
To introduce the Kingdom Hearts series to those unfamiliar but enticed by the sneak-peek trailers for the PS4, or for fans who want to see the difference between the platforms, HD 1.5 ReMix is perfection. It combines the games Kingdom Hearts 1.5 Final Mix – the special edition version of the first in the series; Chain of Memories, but using the Sony-based gamer platform; and 358/2 Days, but without the gameplay – just pure film sequences. Three games in one.
Only hardcore fans of the series will be able to tell you the difference between Final Mix and the original, because mostly cosmetic changes to enemies and additional content are included. But it is a much neater game and you can tell the difference between the HD and original non-HD versions in the graphics. Chain of Memories is a really interesting concept, where battle sequences are determined by drawing cards, but is a piece of the storyline that is essential, as it explains the role of Naminé in the overall plot, as well as Marluxia’s evil scheme. The planned takedown of the keyblade wielder is alluded to in Kingdom Hearts 2, but not really explicitly discussed elsewhere. Meanwhile, 358/2 Days is included because Roxas’ history needs explaining, and it is the only game to really tackle the plot fragments left over from Organisation XIII.
Honestly, making Kingdom Hearts in HD was an excellent idea, but the execution is lacking in some areas. The graphics have not been stepped up to HD standard, and comparing Final Mix with an established PS3 series like Mass Effect or Assassin’s Creed highlights the contrast. Square Enix could have really gone to town with Chain of Memories, but the gameplay style suited for a portable device does not translate well to console use (and we are not just saying that because we got stuck at the boss on the Wonderland level!). And, frankly, if you are going to dangle the possibility of playing a truly excellently designed game like 358/2 Days, you need to do it with more than just the movie sequences. The way the keyblade was powered up up was unique, and while the back history of Roxas, Xion and Axel is interesting, only fans will be interested at this point.
Harsh critics will be saying that Square Enix have made Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMix as another way of exploiting an already expansive collection of games, taking advantage of foolish gamers with promises of additional content. But this is not the case here: we truly believe that this adds to the series, allows access for gamers who jumped from Playstation to PS3 when it came out and in doing so missing the original series, and allows a friendly access to the Kingdom Hearts Universe before the most legendary game, Kingdom Hearts 3, comes out in the near future.
But if this is truly the case, then we shall be expecting Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMix, and for it to contain a PS3 version of Birth by Sleep (current leaked footage of Kingdom Hearts 3 hints at the possibility of more Keyblade War material being included). We shall see.
You can purchase Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMix on Amazon now