Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMIX: As We Play

As we play offers the thought strands of the reviewer as they’re going through the game. This offers unique content for the reader so they can come to understand the conflicting feelings of the reviewer as they’re playing a game for the very first time.

All feedback on this concept is welcome.

This is the ReMIX

I was all but a young child of adolescence when the first Kingdom Hearts graced us with its presence. Being a lover of the Final Fantasy series, I had my faith that Square Enix (back then, under the name Squaresoft) would produce nothing short of an amazing game, and better still, it was packed to the brim with my favourite childhood Disney characters. Eleven years on, and I finally have in my hands the game that we’d spent years crying for, a HD version of the previously Japan-exclusive Kingdom Hearts Final Mix, alongside remastered versions of Re:Chain of Memories, originally released for the Game Boy Advance, and a ‘Theatre Mode’ version of previous DS title Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days. Although nostalgia plays a small part here, after spending some time with the gloriously remade Kingdom Hearts, I can honestly say that it speaks volumes for itself at simply how much of a truly fantastic game it really is.

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Beautiful all over again

At first glance, you can truly tell how much work Square Enix have put into making Kingdom Hearts look as visually impressive as they possibly could. They truly have outdone themselves on appearance, with the high-definition graphics of the original polished to the most outstanding quality possible. Though the original Kingdom Hearts was released on PlayStation 2, even then it was beyond its years, and further still, Square Enix have outdone themselves once more, with the new HD version so squeaky clean that it barely resembles a game over ten years old. The opening cutscenes are gobsmackingly beautiful, the colours exuberant, and in-motion, Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD ReMix is seamless.

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Back to Traverse Town

Unfortunately, upon first gaining control of our dear protagonist Sora, it came to my attention that either I had forgotten how to operate the controls, or they had just become more frustrating than before. Where there is now an option to manually control the camera yourself with the right thumbstick, I found this quite cumbersome at first, and it took some sweet time to get used to. The camera movements are simply not designed for tighter environments apparently, as this became exceedingly awkward to work with. The platforming sections have clearly been designed with tighter controls in mind, but it becomes more apparent as to why this is so when Sora gets a new ability a little further on in the game. However, this is a little disappointing at first, as such annoyances so early on could have done well to have been avoided.

It’s nice to see Sora in action again however, and to be greeted by the usual array of familiar faces from the original classic.

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Those pesky Heartless

Further still, alongside the tricky camera maneuvers that hold us back from really getting to the grind, frustratingly so, it hinders the combat from being as fluid as it really should be. It’s particularly problematic in the early stages, as the camera somehow manages to hinder more than help, regardless of whether it is set to automatic or manual. Healing potions becomes your greatest ally in the first few stages, as Sora cannot take as much punishment in battle, and it’s increasingly difficult considering the initial lack of spells for cure or defense. Locking-on to your target can sometimes resolve the issue, but even then, managing to lock onto the right target at all times in the midst of an overwhelming mass of Heartless is not as simple as it sounds.

That said, this is a fairly minor issue compared to the bigger picture, and it only really affected me on the smallest of occasions, so it didn’t detract hugely from the playthrough, and was still highly enjoyable.

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The missing link

Gamers who didn’t benefit from having a Game Boy Advance, or who preferred to stick to the larger console, would have certainly missed out on the first ever Kingdom Hearts game that made its way onto the handheld console. A direct sequel to the first game, those who skipped playing it entirely would have struggled with some of the plot-points that graced Kingdom Hearts II as a result of it. The GBA game eventually made its way to the PS2 in the form of Re:Chain of Memories, and now that version has been tweaked further still. Thus, there are story elements and art assets from the Final Mix PS2 version that have been reworked into this remake, but combat and exploration have been given a worthy boost.

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Gameplay in Re:Chain of Memories follows the real-time tactical card combat system from the original game, and though fans of the original hack-n-slash combat in the first Kingdom Hearts were turned off by this feature, I grew somewhat intrigued by just how much depth and strategy goes into a system like this. Admittedly, it does sound somewhat complicated at a glance, and before playing it, I can certainly concur with this. A lot of thought has to go into the placement of cards outside of battle in order to form a successful combo attack, and the cards also come into play when navigating the world. You can connect between rooms by placing your most expendable cards, which then determines what is specifically on the other side of the door. Though the new system is daunting, and overly awkward to get your head around at first, it certainly is a much more enthralling system than in the previous Final Mix itself.

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A Cinematic Adventure

The final game in the compilation, Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days, is not so much a playable game as more a retelling of the previous Nintendo DS adventure shown through a cinematic viewing mode, presented in a series of reworked cutscenes interlaced with art stills and brief informative text summaries. Roxas is our star of the story in this one, an important character from the Kingdom Hearts II world, and nice though it is to see him in high definition, it feels more like you’re watching a series of dialogue than anything else. Nothing short of just clicking play and watching them through, one can also quit and pick up from exactly where they left off. In my opinion, this is the most advisable way to watch it, as some of the cutscenes can run terribly long or seem somewhat redundant. An assortment of journal entries and reports to read are unlocked as you watch to add something extra to the mix, and whilst this ‘movie’ contains little action therein, the HD visuals are still an impressive touch compared to the previous scenes in the original game.

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In addition, voice-work has been added to the mix to make it feel more like a visual tale rather than a series of texts. Enjoyable to watch overall, it’s a worthy addition for fans who never got the chance to invest their time into the 358/2 Days title, and expands on the Kingdom Hearts universe in an interesting fashion.

The final Re:MIX

Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMIX doesn’t fail to impress and presents some of the earlier titles in the series in the best light possible. Personally, I would have been satisfied with just Kingdom Hearts Final Mix HD had it come to it, but I have to admit to some excitement when I heard that Re:Chain of Memories was part of the compilation. Obviously, the nostalgic teenage feelings from a decade long past had something to do with my undeniable excitement, but even without that the game has matured in such a way that it felt like I was playing through the adventure for the first time. Both Re:Chain of Memories and the cinematic scenes of 358/2 Days made it possible to enjoy and experience both of the titles in a different means entirely, and they round up the compilation nicely.

There’s a magic to Kingdom Hearts that is likely to stay with us through to the next generation, as the announcement of Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMIX and Kingdom Hearts III is certainly keeping us locked tight under its spell. I, for one, cannot wait to see what Square Enix have next in store for us, and am already anticipating the next chapter in this exiting adventure.

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