January 7, 2019 at 6:07 AM #894
Kingdom Hearts HD I.5 + II.5 Remix
Rating: 4.5 – Outstanding
Faster Loading Time Over PS3 Releases
Kingdom Hearts has been one of my favorite series since the first title came out for PS2. In fact, I knew it from my friend who visited my house and played the original Kingdom Hearts. At first, I just watched him playing the game because I was still playing Final Fantasy X, but eventually its unique gameplay caught my eye and soon led me to play the game myself. Squaresoft really performed an excellent job in developing a whole new concept and incorporating both Final Fantasy and Disney characters into the final product.
Kingdom Hearts quickly became a huge hit, and over the years Square released multiple games within the series. After finishing the first title, I couldn’t wait and bought Kingdom Hearts II immediately, and a chain reaction started from there. I remember having played that game during summer vacation, spending hundreds of hours just on completing it. Re:Chain of Memories was released some years later: that was my third completed title. Birth By Sleep was released for PSP, but a lack of PSP console forced me to delay playing it until a few years later. When I got a DS, I also played 358/2 Days and Re:Coded, two spinoffs within the franchise, thus having completed six titles over the course of ten years.
Now all of them have been remastered for the PS4, as of course Square Enix didn’t forego the idea of making a quick cash grab. The remastered version for PS4, a combination of two bundled releases that had been remastered for the PS3 three years previously (Kingdom Hearts 1.5 ReMix and Kingdom Hearts 2.5 ReMix), contains huge improvements over the previous releases, particularly in eliminating serious problems with lagging which had been a disappointment to many of the people who played the PS3 bundles. In combining 1.5 and 2.5 for the PS4, they fixed the previously-mentioned loading speed issues, and, combining this with other adjustments (details of which will be covered later in this review), have made it truly magnificent; simply the best game in the series so far.
Aside from the enhancement in general speed, is the game really worth playing, or playing again?
The short answer is yes, undoubtedly.
Let’s find out…
(Please note that due to the nature of my review, sometimes I will compare between versions to provide additional information, especially for those players who have beaten some previous titles in the series.)
Kingdom Hearts tells the story of Sora, a boy who lives in the Destiny Islands, along with his best friends, Riku and Kairi. One day, the trio wonder about the existence of other worlds, so they plan to explore and find out whether these other worlds exist. Unfortunately, their plan never succeeds. An unexpected event occurs, and creatures called Heartless eventually destroy their original world, separating the three characters. Sora awakens in a place called Traverse Town, and he immediately plans to track down Riku and Kairi. Shortly afterward, he meets Donald and Goofy, who will accompany Sora throughout his journey in this game.
Their adventure resumes in Kingdom Hearts II, but this game starts with Roxas in Twilight Town, which also serves as a tutorial level for the player. Roxas has multiple dreams about Sora night after night, and his lack of recognition bothers him. After some time, he finally manages to run into Sora and accepts his own fate by merging his heart with that of Sora. Sora regains consciousness, meeting his two loyal companions, Donald and Goofy; they are all surprised to find that none of them remember anything about what happened after the final battle. The journal only says "Thank Namine", and so, they begin a second quest: to uncover the truth.
Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories takes place between Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II, and it explains why Sora, Donald, and Goofy were asleep at the beginning of Kingdom Hearts II. After defeating the final boss of Kingdom Hearts, they appear nowhere in the field, and a mysterious figure somehow leads them to locate the Castle Oblivion. Inside, that suspicious person reappears, informing them that there are worlds created from Sora’s memories within the castle. The trio lose all of their previous abilities inside this place, but they can gain something only by forgetting all of them. Sora wants to find out, and that becomes his main objective in this game.
Unlike the first 3 titles, Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep has no direct bearing upon, or connection to, the story of Sora. The plot kicks off with three Keyblade wielders in the Land of Departure. Tutorials play as Terra, Ventus, and Aqua spar with each other. Later, Terra and Aqua enroll in the Mark of Mastery exam to become Keyblade Masters, and Aqua passes the exam. Terra is deemed unfit because he can’t control the darkness within himself. Worse news follows, and both exam entrants are ordered to destroy the darkness in all surrounding worlds. Each character eventually finds their own reasons to begin an exploration.
Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days retells the stories of both Chain of Memories and Kingdom Hearts II from the perspectives of the members of the villainous Organization XII. Roxas is born after the decisive events at the Hollow Bastion in the first Kingdom Hearts. The leader of Organization XII, Xemnas, finds Roxas in Twilight Town some time later, and invites him to join the group. He accepts. Since Roxas can wield the Keyblade, Xemnas then orders him to start collecting hearts. Shortly after this, he befriends Axel and Xion; they always spend their free time chatting atop the clock tower, while eating ice cream, in Twilight Town.
Kingdom Hearts Coded occurs after the end of Kingdom Hearts II. Jiminy Cricket identifies a strange entry at the end of his journal, which he has not written. King Mickey analyzes the problem, and tries to resolve it by digitizing the whole journal. Although the data results look fine, red blocks referred to as "bugs" pop up all over the place, corrupting the data. Data-Sora is then created and ordered to restore the journal and remove the bugs.
Overall, the stories of each title are well-written and easy to follow; even though Square Enix includes some complexities in them. Some stories happen concurrently within the Kingdom Hearts chronology, but the developers did a great job of developing a simple series in a way that prevents the story as a whole from becoming overly convoluted. When looking at the timeline in its complete form, the links between each of the games are completely clear and the complicated material can still be grasped without difficulty. Kudos to the developers.
All of these games employ an action RPG system, so the player controls the main character, and if there are party members, they will be controlled by the game’s AI. Since all directly-playable characters wield a Keyblade, enemies must be approached manually before one can land a strike to deal damage. Basic combos can be executed by pressing the X button several times. The camera can also be adjusted to observe the surrounding field. Defeating enemies yield EXP, money, and sometimes loot. However, each game has different details. Outside of battle, the player can collect chests and undertake some objectives while exploring the whole area.
In Kingdom Hearts, attacks, spells and items are selected from the menu in the bottom left corner. Spells utilize MP, which appears as blue bars above the health bar. Items can be used to heal your HP and MP, but most players cast Cure spells to recover HP instead, and only use MP-restorative items if needed. Summons are later unlocked and to use these will also consume MP. Jumps are performed with the circle button, and the square button can be used to execute support commands like guarding or dodge rolling. This game adopts basic commands to defeat the boss, and the player isn’t required to execute any new or confusing combos to emerge victorious.
All of those controls are revisited in playing Kingdom Hearts II, with some additional features. Drive Forms enhance Sora into a stronger form at the cost of temporarily unused party members. Limits enable Sora to unleash deadly moves by consuming all of his MP. There are also special commands made available called Reaction Commands when fighting certain enemies or bosses. When the necessary conditions are fulfilled, the player can press the triangle button and use this to their advantage.
Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories introduces a completely new card system. All attacks, spells, items, and summons use cards. Basic combos are performed by using some attack cards several times. Three cards can be stacked to carry out special attacks called Sleights. If all command cards have been expended, the player must recharge the deck to restore their cards. Button bashing isn’t recommended in this game, as it may mean that the player will run out of cards very quickly. Even unlocking the world and exploring the area require cards.
The original concept returns, with a few modifications, for Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep. Attacks, spells, items, and even movements are represented by Commands. These commands are put into Command Decks, which have limited slots. When fighting against enemies, the player can select their chosen command by pressing up or down, and using the triangle button to execute it. Shotlocks are the replacement of the Limits system, and these can deal a lot of damage by depleting some Focus. D-Link is a unique feature, wherein the character can borrow a friend’s deck to potentially obtain exclusive abilities.
Unfortunately, Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days and Kingdom Hearts Re:Coded are unavailable in the PS4 edition. Selecting either title from the main menu only shows collection of remastered cutscenes from the original titles. I believe that, had the developers really put in sufficient work, they would have been able to include both of these as full games. Since the graphic enhancements had already been done, they would simply have needed to reallocate the face buttons and polish up a few details. If you are a little bit disappointed with this, you are not alone.
Overall, I’m impressed that the action RPG system has been implemented differently for each game in the series. Even the original and least complex Kingdom Hearts still shows its own uniqueness and isn’t made obsolete by the newer games. The only drawback is the absence of Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days and Kingdom Hearts Re:Coded. However, I am able to simply overlook those when I consider the collection as a whole. It is an absolutely fantastic collection you shouldn’t miss.
Observing based on the original games, the graphics have been amplified to accommodate the higher resolution, and widescreen has been added, allowing the player to have a broader field of observation. Most of the visuals appear to have been rebuilt from scratch. The cutscenes are definitely spectacular; some of the best things I’ve ever seen in the entire series. Even though you control Sora for most of the games, each game provides different details and a different color palette. The developers have really made astonishing upgrades to these games.
There are some smaller elements I’ve found per title:
In Kingdom Hearts, HP and MP balls have sharpened textures compared to the originals, which were pretty bland. Now these balls are brighter in color, as are their outer coatings. Keyblades have been thoroughly redesigned in appearance and look marvellous.
Drive Forms in Kingdom Hearts II have additional traits added to each costume, and enhanced visual effects during attacks or simple movement in the field.
Most of the cards in Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories have had their attributes improved, even for the basic Kingdom Key card. Spells and summons (as expected) have better-quality animation sequences, with more diversity of color.
In Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep, some enemies have altered tints. Flood looks blue in the original version, but now it’s purple; Scrapper appears green rather than blue. If you play as Terra, the first boss in the game has been completely changed in appearance, with white coloration instead of red.
Graphics in both Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days and Kingdom Hearts Re:Coded are top notch for sure, and now they have full voice acting. I have played both games in the past, so watching the FMVs all in one go is slightly disappointing. Cutscenes shouldn’t be viewed all at once, without any game content in between – the results are very awkward. Its very noticeable that something has been missed out between the scenes. However, it’s not ultimately a big deal, compared with the rest of the bundles content.
When compared to the PS3 versions, I couldn’t find any noticeable visual difference. This game essentially just repackages two PS3 bundles into one and displays their graphics using the power of the newest engine. However, gameplay now runs at 60FPS and loads much more quickly than it did on the PS3, eliminating the lagging issue that many people had complained about. You won’t need to waste your time watching those black screens with a spinning Kingdom Hearts logo again!
Overall, I have no complaints about the graphics, which are composed excellently. Running 60FPS and enabling faster loading times are huge bonuses for the player. It is, without a doubt, eye candy.
The voice actors are still superb. Haley Joel Osment landed the role of Sora in 2002, and his voice acting has definitely improved in the intervening years. David Gallagher reprises his role as Riku for this edition, while Alyson Stoner replaces Hayden Panettiere in the role of Kairi. Of course all the other voice actors, as well as the original Japanese seiyuu, are also incredible, managing to truly express the soul in each character. However, I sometimes chuckle when hearing Donald or Goofy, as their voices are now hilarious.
The soundtracks are what you might expect from Square Enix. I really love "Simple and Clean" and "Sanctuary" in the original titles, as well as "Hikari" and "Passion", their Japanese versions, but for this game Square have produced remixed counterparts, which I feel are somehow slightly inferior. Background music is done well, and Roxas theme is one of the best BGM pieces I’ve ever heard, sparking a sincere melancholy in me as a listener.
However, some of the sound effects have unnecessary flaws. Many sounds don’t play as they should. If errors in the field and in random battles’ sound effects are forgivable, in boss battles they are not. Now it becomes harder to dodge the enemies attacks that usually require hearing to notice, especially those one-hit knock-out moves. Some video clips also have missing sounds, reducing the enjoyment of watching those cutscenes. I hope that these issues will be corrected by a patch in the future.
Overall, Square Enix performs an outstanding job in producing a masterpiece soundtrack, as ever, but here they miss the mark with the sound effects. I believe they have done their best to deliver what they should, but the execution remains a little bit off. Hopefully, a patch will be issued to deal with these problems.
The Advantages and Disadvantages
Like I’ve said above, one of the main advantages of this game is the 60FPS running speed. Now you can approach and strike enemies more quickly than before, which also means faster kills. However, all of the original titles were created in 30FPS, and they aren’t really supposed to be played at 60FPS, making this remarkable shift unfortunately have a negative effect on a considerable amount of the games functioning. This transition ruins some of the boss strategies in the earlier games, as some deadly moves were originally able to be countered or avoided easily, but now this is very difficult, and you have to devise new plans to tackle them.
When this game bundle was launched, crashing issues became the biggest letdown. Many people have reported this problem, experiencing save crashes, loading crashes, and many more. I think that these are probably connected with the broken physics as a side effect of the 60FPS modification. However, patches have been issued and most of the problems have been resolved, thus enabling true enjoyment of this game. Occasional crashes do persist at the time of writing, so hopefully Square Enix will continue to release patches for the bundle to completely eliminate these issues.
One very positive factor is the faster loading time. If you had played either of the PS3 titles, you might have experienced lagging loading screens, when simply moving to an adjacent area, or when watching multiple cutscenes consecutively. In PS4, most visuals follow on from each other in quick succession without pause. Another infamous issue from previous versions: the Drive Forms in Kingdom Hearts II. In the PS3 version, changing into a form took three to four seconds, during which period Sora was vulnerable to attack. Now it requires less than one second to activate each form. Definitely a big plus.
Kingdom Hearts HD I.5 + II.5 ReMIX is truly epic. If you are waiting for Kingdom Hearts III next year, but you have forgotten all of the previous stories, definitely buy this game to refresh your memories.
And now, to answer the very first question of this review, is the game really worth it? I can answer that with 100% certainty: yes. Story, gameplay, and graphics are truly fantastic. The initial version of this game had some major issues, but now most of them have been fixed to deliver true satisfaction. It is absolutely the best Kingdom Hearts release to date.
Side Note: If you are really a huge Kingdom Hearts fan, you may also want to buy Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue, released just a few months ago to cover the entire timeline. It contains three more games: Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance HD, Kingdom Hearts 0.2 Birth By Sleep ~A Fragmentary Passage~, and Kingdom Hearts chi Back Cover, all of which also serve as prologues to Kingdom Hearts III.
Final Score: 9.25/10
GameFAQs rating: 4.625/5, which rounds down to 4.5February 22, 2019 at 11:53 PM #1576
emm…. KH series should be named “Sora and his friends”
You must be logged in to reply to this topic.