Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix comes with the two games, Kingdom Hearts: Final Mix and Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories alongside the remastered cutscenes of Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days. The initial selection of these games for the HD Remastering is rather perplexing as Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep was the prequel to the series. Wouldn’t it make more sense to start off with that instead of including Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories?
While this review will only cover Kingdom Hearts: Final Mix’s restoration, this collection offers up a lot of gameplay and replay value. With 20-30 hours of gameplay for each game alongside many side quests, collectibles and bosses in Final Mix, there is much to do within Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix and is well worth the $40 price tag. For Kingdom Hearts veterans, however, the lack of a critical mode for Final Mix is a let down for those who want a challenge because in Proud Mode, you already know all the major bosses’ moves and methods so it is a breeze to beat.
What shouldn’t be breezed over is the amount of work Square Enix has committed to this HD remaster. With an all new remastered soundtrack by Yuko Shinomura and new character models, the company has taken that extra step in comparison to other HD offerings. Also, unlike Ratchet and Clank and Jak and Daxter’s HD remasterings, every cutscene (even CG) has been rendered as 16:9 rather than 4:3. In addition to that, Sora’s facial expressions have been altered as well to get more emotion out of the character. However, there are a few oversights in terms of Kingdom Hearts’ remastering. First off, the environments, especially in Wonderland, look extremely dated and barely have changed at all. They look blocky, roughly modeled and are ill-fitted in terms of this generation which is a shame because the world design is part of what makes Kingdom Hearts so cherished among Disney fans. Second would be Sora’s face, which at times, looks too flat and low rendered within cutscenes. While there are more emotional facial expressions added to the character during certain points of a cutscene, there is an odd mix between this and the low rendered flat face renderings. Despite the ill-fitted environments and off-feeling face renderings, the new soundtrack, the touched up 16:9 cutscenes, the updated character models, and Sora’s new facial expressions really make this HD remake shine.
Technically, Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix does fit in this generation with a rock solid frame rate but there are some additions they could have added to make this classic even better. Square Enix did add one feature, however, and that is the ability to interact with objects with the triangle button much like Kingdom Hearts 2. However, with this, it is difficult to call your party members to help you out with a particular enemy as the same button is used for attacks such as Ars Arcanum and Sonic Blade. To add to that, this remaster has various camera issues (like the original) in tight spaces as it clips on pillars and corners but these errors happen occasionally, not often.
Square Enix has also overlooked the original AI issues that still plague this HD remastering as your companions keep dying over and over again; it feels like you’re battling by yourself most of the time. In addition to that, there were a few bugs including characters running into walls, trinities not activating or sound effects such as rushing water, continuing on from one citizen to various sections in the game which feel completely out of place.
A few updates to the game that should be mentioned are the skip-able cutscenes, the ability to play the game with no experience, and having the camera being used by the right analog stick. All of these features were very much needed for this generation of gaming as it allows you to play this title in whatever way you would like. You do not have to watch cutscenes over and over again if you fail at a boss battle. You can have an extremely difficult play through or you can have a control system which feels more like this current generation’s third person action games.
For those who have played the original countless times, this HD Remix adds new weapons, items, boss battles, heartless varieties, abilities, synthesis recipes and gummi ship missions so this version will keep the gameplay feeling fresh every once in a while. The new abilities are not just a simple addition, however, as some including Slapshot (a rapid sequence of strikes) Hurricane Blast (a fast aerial finishing move) and Ripple Drive (an area of effect attack) speed up the combat considerably.
With these updates, newcomers can really get into the series and if you are one of these people, here’s a brief explanation of what happens in the game. In Kingdom Hearts, you follow the story of a boy named Sora who tries to find his friends after his world disappeared into darkness. During that search, Sora and company explore various worlds based on Disney franchises. From Tarzan, to Winnie The Pooh, to the Nightmare Before Christmas, there is something there for a variety of tastes.
As previously mentioned, the soundtrack has been beautifully orchestrated by Yuko Shinomura and Square Enix have been able to step the bar in terms of remastering cherished classic games through this. However, the voice work is completely original which is both good and bad. The bad is that the original voice acting for Sora, Riku and Kairi at parts is rather cringe worthy for today’s standards as some of the performances fall flat. On the other hand, this just emphasizes a sense of nostalgia. It’s like meeting someone from your past, who you’re embarrassed about seeing but love to meet again. The voice actors who worked on the Disney characters, however, are spot on and their performance still holds strong.
If you are interesting in trying out the series for the first time, this HD collection is perfect as this is the best version of the game out there, thanks to the remastered graphics and skip-able cutscenes but if you are a long time fan, Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix contains the game you love with completely new content from the Final Mix version. If you were curious or a big fan of the series, you owe it to yourself to check out this title and for $40, it’s truly a steal as you get two huge RPG’s in one package.
Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix was given to PlayStation Euphoria for review by Square Enix