(PlayStation 3)

Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMIX (PlayStation 3)

Game Review

Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMIX Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Katy Ellis

Total eclipse of the heart

When Square and Disney's unlikely collaboration first graced our screens back in 2002, Kingdom Hearts was commended for its fantastic visuals, jaw-dropping cut-scenes, and wonderful animations – all of which still hold up relatively well on the PlayStation 2 today. It must be said, then, that giving the first Kingdom Hearts title a high-definition makeover was a strange choice, but fortunately, it's still a welcome addition to the PlayStation 3's bulging catalogue.

At first glance, Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMIX looks like an absolute bargain, bundling not two, but three games from the franchise's beloved archive. Yet soon after booting up the disc, you'll discover that that isn't actually the case, as the collection consists of two HD re-mastered games and one non-playable, three hour cut-scene sequence featuring various characters eating sea-salt ice lollies.

Previously unreleased outside of Japan, Kingdom Hearts Final Mix edition is by far the best game on offer. The first entry in the series (although not chronologically speaking) tells the story of Sora, Riku, and Kairi, three friends who one day dream to explore the world beyond the tropical island that they call home. The trio are separated one night after a strange storm engulfs their residence, and sends spikey-haired protagonist Sora to a whole new world, inhabited by characters from the Disney universe. Armed with a Keyblade – which is exactly what it sounds like – Sora must venture through different cartoon universes, defeating evil beings known as the Heartless in order to find his friends. At the same time, he needs to help his new comrades Donald Duck and Goofy seek out King Mickey, who has recently vanished from his castle.

It's hard to ignore the overwhelming wave of nostalgia that washes over you as the title screen music Dearly Beloved starts to play, but that's all soon forgotten once you remember how tedious and dull the opening sequence of gameplay was and still is. It takes a good hour or so before Sora even journeys to Traverse Town and is ready to board the horribly outdated Gummi Ship, but not before he's forced to hunt down sticks, coconuts, and other random items in order to construct a raft. It's a slog of monotonous fetch quests throughout the island, which are rendered even more pointless when you discover that there are boats casually moored in the docks near the tree house.

However, once that initial, painful hour is over and done with, you can start to enjoy what the title has to offer: taking on hordes of Heartless at the Olympus Coliseum, saving gorillas with Tarzan, entering the Cave of Wonders, fighting in the Halloween Town graveyard, and generally looking rather odd as a merman in the azure depths of Atlantica.

As previously alluded, much of your time will be spent brawling with the Heartless and numerous tough bosses, wielding only your Keyblade and any magic skills and abilities that you've gathered along the way. Your partners in crime, Donald and Goofy, also lend a hand in battle, and can be manually programmed to act in your defence, as a healer, as a brawler, or even as a mix, depending on your play style. In the beginning, Donald will be practically useless, and will stubbornly refuse to do anything but faint throughout every battle – but after slowly levelling up your party, your team will be able to adequately dispatch the many strong foes that you'll face as you progress.

Sadly, the game is still plagued with the same issues as eleven years ago, namely the awfully clunky camera, which despite being supposedly updated, still remains barely functional and ludicrously problematic. On the positive side, it's no longer controlled using the L2 and R2 shoulder buttons, now opting for a much more modern analog stick approach – but that won't help you when you're trying to jump across a platform that's situated next to a wall. While there is a manual option, it does little to help when you're in the middle of combat and are already attempting to manically sift through menus in order to use items, while also scanning the battlefield to seek out flanking enemies.

As a result, platforming sequences are still an issue. On many occasions throughout the game, Sora will need to precariously hop between different surfaces, but it's almost impossible to leap with any kind of precision. This could be a nod to the character's overly large Mickey Mouse feet, but in reality, it's simply frustrating game design.

At least the high-definition makeover is attractive. The bright settings benefit hugely from the sharp colours, bringing out stronger pinks and red hues. The majority of the character models look a great deal smoother, too, and the edges of items are more defined. However, some textures, namely ground and walls, look unpolished and outdated.

The second game in the bundle, Re:Chain of Memories – which itself is a three-dimensional polygonal remake of a Game Boy Advance title – is the oddball of the pack, opting for a completely different gameplay style altogether. Instead of real-time brawling, it uses a card combat system, yet allows players to run around the battlefield actively dodging attacks and cornering enemies at the same time. While this does make the action a bit more dynamic than simply selecting cards in a yawn-inducing turn-based system, sadly it hinders your ability to strategize and plan out critical moves.

The game acts as a direct companion piece to the conclusion of the original Kingdom Hearts, which links the end of the first game to the beginning of Kingdom Hearts II. The storyline explores Sora's recreated memories while he is in Castle Oblivion, and his ongoing struggle against the mysterious forces of The Organisation. By retracing his steps and battling his way through the same Disney universes from the first game, the hero begins to lose his memories the further that he descends into Castle Oblivion. Still in search of Riku, the star discovers more about The Organisation, the Heartless, and the Darkness which follows him.

While it's not considered an essential entry in the Kingdom Hearts timeline, the game does help to clear up any confusion that players may experience when greeted with completely new protagonist Roxas at the beginning of Kingdom Hearts II. It's also probably the most visually impressive transformation of the group, considering its humble two-dimensional sprite origins, as many fans outside of Japan and North America never got to enjoy the PS2 remake in 2007. Yet although its inclusion is justified, it's disappointing that the title recycles the exact same in-game locations as the original release, even if you can progress through them in a different order. It feels like a stunted card-based version of the original game, with an even more convoluted story.

Last and arguably least is Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days, a non-interactive three hour movie, created using cut-scenes from the Nintendo DS original. Many of those who pick up the bundle will be disappointed to find that despite the menu screen giving the option to 'Play' the game, this simply functions like a DVD, allowing you to watch the cinematics either in full or by chapter. While the HD clips are impressive, and nearly each scene is fully voice-acted, you can't help but feel disappointed that this isn't a fully playable remake of its portable counterpart, especially considering the back of the game's box fails to make it overtly obvious that the bundle does not include the full game.

Nevertheless, the cut-scenes revolve around Kingdom Hearts II's protagonist Roxas and his time as the thirteenth member of what is now known as Organization XIII. The story provides more background on the events of Re:Chain of Memories, such as the role of Axel at Castle Oblivion, Roxas' ties to Sora, and more information about the history of Namine – but for the majority of the time, you'll feel like you're watching a strange soap-opera, where the main cast simply sit around watching the sun go down, eating ice lollies while casually discussing a bit of Kingdom Hearts backstory.

As a result, the inclusion of the cinematics is a little strange – especially when it would have made more sense chronologically to bundle series favourite Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, as the popular PSP title acts as a prequel, set ten years before the events of the PS2 original.

Conclusion

While Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMIX is certainly not the perfect introduction to the series that newcomers may have expected, it does a decent job of recapturing the magic of the original release in glorious high-definition. There are still some clunky mechanics, and the addition of 358/2 Days' cinematics rather than the more chronologically appropriate Birth by Sleep is disappointing – but fans will be able to overlook these shortcomings due to the inclusion of the definitive Final Mix version of the first game.

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User Comments (20)

Lionhart

#1

Lionhart said:

I wish that Square Enix and Disney would work with someone like Viz Media or Funimation to create a Kingdom Hearts anime.

Munkyknuts

#2

Munkyknuts said:

I rate Kingdom Hearts as my favourite game of the PS2 generation...maybe equal 1st place with Okami. I haven't played the HD PS3 version but I hyped up KH so much to my girlfriend that she bought it when it came out. She loves it and I'm happy to watch her play, offer her Yoda like advice and assist her in the clunky creation of Gummi Ships. The camera is indeed still appalling.....but bearable most of the time. The start of the game is slooooow, but I don't find it as much of a grind as the start of Okami. Good review, well written and I agree with it all :)

MadchesterManc

#3

MadchesterManc said:

@superconsole I think your review is absolutely spot on! Good job :) Picked it up a couple of weeks ago myself n found it a little clunkier than I used to remember. Looks wonderful though, SE did a good job with the remaster in that regard

odd69

#4

odd69 said:

I have played the series and enjoyed them very much, weird how i never actually bought or owned any of them. Its almost a shame to say i havent played any of the handheld games as i hear they are the best.

I dont know,maybe this is the one for me to purchase. Plus all the extra care put into the visuals i cant help but to feel I'm missing out. I wouldn't say I'm a newcomer to the franchise but it sounds like this is aimed for the newcomers of the franchise as well. I think i may just get it, i dont see any wrong.

Faustek

#6

Faustek said:

@Munkyknuts I love how everyone dislikes the camera. I never had any problems....then I played games with good control....yepp even that brought back the lovely nostalgia.

Munkyknuts

#7

Munkyknuts said:

@Faustek if you never had camera issues during the playing of Kingdom Hearts then clearly just have a higher level of ability than most other gamers. Yay for you. You could however have replied to the reviewer rather than me since she commented on the dodgy camera, a fault of the game most people agree on.

Faustek

#8

Faustek said:

@Munkyknuts sorry thought it was implied when I wrote "then I played games with good control"
When you only play games with bad controls or isometric views you don't know what "good" is. And that was me :)

Munkyknuts

#9

Munkyknuts said:

Ah well, with that clarification I'd have to agree with you more. I still had issues with the camera when I played the game back in 2003 but a dodgy camera was more usual back then. However witnessing the HD Kingdom Hearts being played highlights just how clunky it is compared to newer games. I don't recall if the camera was any better in Kingdom Hearts 2 than it was in the original.

get2sammybAdmin

#10

get2sammyb said:

This franchise has never really appealed to me, to be honest. I can definitely see the draw for others, but it's just something I've never been interested in. @Superconsole, do you think they'll bring Birth by Sleep over in another compilation - Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 Remix, perhaps? It would make sense with KH3 on the way.

Stuffgamer1

#11

Stuffgamer1 said:

@Munkyknuts: Oh yes, KH2 had a vastly improved camera.

I think the biggest and best reason they did NOT put Birth By Sleep in this set is that its story relies on knowledge from KH2...after all, the teaser cutscene from KH2 was for BBS. True, 358/2 Days also released after KH2, but it's still a HECK of a lot easier to follow without playing KH2.

I don't recall ever having particularly huge issues with the camera even though I readily admit it was inferior to what came later. It's not so much that it was outright BAD as it was designed strangely and took getting used to. This is mostly because the game started development on PS1 and they couldn't guarantee DualShock ownership, otherwise they probably would have made better use of the right stick.

Gemuarto

#12

Gemuarto said:

I wanr digital realease of this crap. LOL... I think it is first HD PS2 game not available digitally. SE is always glad to dissapint me these days.

Big_Gamer

#14

Big_Gamer said:

Ive never been able to get into the original ps2 game. Its honestly one of the most boring games Ive played, so I'll be skipping this.

Jairo_MC

#15

Jairo_MC said:

Is there any chance for this port to come to Vita? I like Kingdom Hearts a lot, but I only could complete the portable ones... To this day I'm still in the middle of Kingdom Hearts 2 on my PS2.

irken004

#16

irken004 said:

I felt the camera was much better tuned in KH1 in this release, but maybe I just ended up using lock-on more often than I used to :P Still a very solid collection, and beautiful

ztpayne7

#17

ztpayne7 said:

I'm having a lot of fun on it this time around, although I must say it's been challenging at parts playing on proud mode.

I cannot wait until 2.5 because I think kh2 is even better than 1. This collection would suck without birth by sleep, though. I played one of the three storylines when I temporarily had a psp, and I really want to see all three sides of the story.

divinelite

#18

divinelite said:

I got all consoles (except ps3) that kingdom Hearts ever come and the story is so great for me. Oddly, the best emotional one is 358 over 2 days, while for battles it's kingdom Hearts 3D take the most favourite

banacheck

#19

banacheck said:

I've played the originals and got the 1.5 HD Remix when it released, love KH cannot wait for 2.5 & KH3.

Knux

#20

Knux said:

I'll be buying this once I have enough money to do so. Just being able to play Final Mix is worth the purchase alone, in my opinion.

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