I’ll admit when the first Kingdom Hearts title was announced back in 2002 that I thought it was all one big joke. I mean seriously, Square Enix teaming up with Disney to create a J-RPG? It smelled of disaster. Clearly I was wrong as more than a decade on and multiple releases on multiple platforms, the series is still going strong with a fan base of dedicated gamers clambering for their next fix.
With that in mind, it isn’t all that surprising for Square Enix to put out Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMIX, a high-definition compilation of arguably some of the best titles in the series so far. The 1.5 ReMIX includes Kingdom Hearts Final Mix, Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories, and lastly Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days. Despite the success Kingdom Hearts has garnered over the years, Kingdom Hearts Final Mix and Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories have never been released locally in Australia, until now.
Developer: Square Enix 1st Production Department
Publisher: Square Enix
Platform: Playstation 3 (Reviewed)
Genre: Action Role-Playing
Release: (AU) September 12th 2013, (EU) September 13th 2013, (JP) March 14th 2013, (NA) September 10th 2013
Kicking things off is Kingdom Hearts Final Mix, the first title in the Kingdom Hearts series where it all began. Final Mix is the original Kingdom Hearts, however contains additional enemies, cut scenes, and weapons developed for the North American release, and later re-released on the Japanese market as Kingdom Hearts Final Mix. Think of it as the definitive experience to the first Kingdom Hearts, so even if you played the original Playstation 2 release way, way back, there’s still something new for you to explore a second time around.
Players take on the role of teenage boy Sora as he rebuilds his home world after its destruction by the sinister creatures known as the Heartless. You’ll cross over universes and encounter fan favourite characters from Final Fantasy and classic Disney movies. Although the game is over a decade old, the HD graphics thrust things back into the modern day with its crystal clear sharp visuals. Not everything is perfect but given it has nostalgic appeal at its core; it’s a pretty darn good job.
Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories is a direct sequel to the original game. It again follows the exploits of Sora, Roxas and his friends as a tale to bridge the gap between Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II. Kingdom Hearts:Chain of Memories was released in 2005 on Game Boy Advance, but later received a remake for Playstation 2 in 2007 with polygon graphics, additional cut scenes and battles re-packaged as Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories to differentiate itself between the two.
Lastly is the most recent title of the bunch, Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days. Released in 2009 for the Nintendo DS, the game is set in between Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II. Centering on Roxas, 358/2 Days follows his story from his early beginning, on to his time at Organization XIII, right through to his final meeting with Riku.
Gameplay varies over the triple titles from action, to card game mechanics, to mission-based battles. The mix of gameplay provides plenty of diversity, without losing its role-playing heritage. Although Kingdom Hearts Final Mix can feel more action heavy than J-RPG players may be use to (at least when it was first released), it’s a welcome change when you consider the broader appeal the series now has and the constant re-invention of the franchise. The story line remains fairly linear in progression, yet the improved and updated cut scenes spectacularly elevate the franchise to a new level in storytelling. All the newly created cut-scenes are fully-voiced for the first time, something I really enjoyed as it gave the quirky characters personalities that I felt was lacking in their original format.
Having three full titles to explore which connect each story to one another so well is not only exceptional value for money for all the hours of game play you get to enjoy, but it really is gaming at its highest calibre. It’s surprising just how quickly you can become immersed from one title to the next, as the stories dissolve into one massive saga within the Kingdom Hearts universe, even before it touches on Kingdom Hearts II. Thankfully 1.5 ReMIX has proven popular enough that a 2.5 ReMIX is already in development so fans can continue their full ReMIX experience.
Although a remake, Square Enix have done a brilliant job to make it feel less like a cash grab and more as a dedicated and thoughtful update. All three titles now feature trophy support, as well as a custom theme to unlock for each game. 1.5 ReMIX also includes a Theatre Mode for viewing the full HD cut-scenes at your own leisure, as well as a story and character encyclopedia if you want to learn more about colourful cast and back story. The memorable melodies haven’t lost their sparkle thanks to the carefully crafted tunes that have aged well with time, a true testament to the music maestros, and how much of a classic the Kingdom Hearts series has become to so many role-playing fans.
If you haven’t experienced the magically world of Kingdom Hearts before, 1.5 ReMIX is a perfect start to what will undoubtedly transform into a love affair, or possibly even an obsession. The blend of role-playing ingenuity with some of Disney and Square Enix‘s most unforgettable characters leaves an unmistakable mark on you that won’t easily rub away.
9.0 – Excellent. Fun, enjoyable, engaging, and memorable but is missing that little something that will make it exceptionable. People will fondly talk about this for generations to come.