After a couple of years of releasing various Kingdom hearts spin-offs across plenty of different platforms, Square is stringing the story together into two nice collections that give you the whole story in one convenient place in tasty HD. Today I am reviewing the second collection, Kingdom Hearts HD II.5 ReMix, which consists of: Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix, Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep Final Mix, and Kingdom Hearts Re:Coded. This collection included a few new features from the original including: Full Japanese voice-overs (for KHII:FM and BbS:FM), re-rendered character models, new scenes in Coded, a trophy set for all 3 titles, and a wonderfully rearranged soundtrack by Shimomura. For the Western audience, even more content is there to sweeten the deal as this is the first time that the Final Mix content will be available on UK/US consoles. This includes an array of new enemies, weapons, mini-games, and insanely challenging Boss-Fights.
Lets Dive In:
Generally speaking, Kingdom Hearts is a great series as a whole. The story is complex, but not hard to grasp (for the most part), the characters are well written, the gameplay is fast and smooth, they’ve always been great looking, plenty of content, and an ever-gorgeous soundtrack from Yoko Shimomura. Rest assured, all that is here and well.
To me, as a gamer, gameplay is absolutely the most important thing when it comes to judging the quality of a game. A game can have lots of great features and plot elements, but when it comes down to it; if the game is boring to play, it’s not a good game. Fortunately, Kingdom Hearts delivers! As this is an HD collection, I will have to talk about both playable games when judging the quality of the overall product.
So first off, Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix (hereon, KHII). One comment most people have, and I tend to agree, is that KHII lost some of the complexity of the first game and was reduced to a button masher. Well, this is a bit exaggerated but there is a striking gap of complexity between the two. Where Kingdom Hearts relied on quick strategical thinking, KHII relies on grinding a quick time reflexes. This sounds a lot worse than it really is though… KHII is still, in my opinion, pretty damn close to the original. It retains that signature KH combat that no one else can seem to emulate, the signature smooth/fast hack-n-slash action RPG goodness. KHII’s combat is a lot faster and flashier than its predecessor, giving it an almost Devil May Cry style to it. On top of this, KHII reminds us that games actually used to be challenging! Secret Bosses aside, (*cough* sephiroth *cough*) even some vanilla cannon fodder can wipe the floor with you if you aren’t careful, which is great! Along with the combat being as good as always, KHII is filled to the brim with extra content! Like always, you have tons of hidden items to explore for, a challenging tournament mode (in Hades), a variety of fun minigames, and an alchemy system run by a glowing Moogle. With KHII alone, you’re looking at an almost bare minimum of 30 or 40 hours of gameplay, and this can get well up near 100 if you really want to get everything completed.
Secondly, we have Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep Final Mix (hereon BbS). BbS is a really cool game in general, but it strays a bit from the KH formula (not necessarily in a bad way, though). BbS has 3 different story modes, one for each main character, and each play fairly differently. Terra plays a bit slower, and deals heavier damage (like a Tank), Aqua is mostly magic and skill based (like a Mage), and Ven plays more like Sora/Riku from the other games (at a normal pace, you can tell he was the first character they made for the game). The 3 story modes gives you a nice variety, which keeps the game nice and fresh. The combat is still at the same pace as KH is normally, but borrows elements from Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories‘ card system. Instead of having all of your skills available at will, you build a deck of different skills, which are used as your commands during battle. It differs from CoM in the sense that you still have a dedicated “regular attack” button and also each skill recovers individually (so you don’t have to recharge your whole deck periodically, once you use one skill, it automatically begins to recharge). This definitely brings back a bit more of the quick strategic feel of the first game. The one major downside to BbS, though, is the lack luster world(s) you play through. Normally, KH’s worlds have a lot of depth, hidden items, open-feel, and enemy variety. BbS really fails to do so, the worlds are small and straight forward and forgettable…
Overall, the gameplay gets a nice big 8 out of 10
Kingdom Hearts’ story is a little complex, and can seem hard to follow at times. This was more of an issue when the games spread as many systems as there were entries, but now that you have them in one nice little package it is a lot easier to follow. Assuming you’ve played Kingdom Hearts HD I.5 ReMix first you will have gotten the base story, and all the background on the Organization XIII. In this entry you will learn the intent of the Organization and the outcome of their cause (in KHII), you will learn the origin of Xemnas/Xehanort/Ansem and the Keyblade war which started the whole chain of events (in BbS) and then some weird recap in coded. The stories complexity is really quite captivating, and each entry adds to it without seeming like they’re milking the series or anything.
One particular aspect about the KH story is that the Disney aspects really compliment the Square aspects well. The Disney characters are darkened just enough, and the Final Fantasy characters are lightened just enough, to keep each respective properties distinctness, but creating an original world all of its own.
Commenting specifically on BbS: The game is split into three stories, which gives you three different perspectives on the same series of events. Some games do this really poorly, but BbS does it just right. Each character has exclusive events to their stories that you just can’t miss if you want the whole picture. You never feel like you played a character for no reason, there is always something new to be discovered. Although each individual story is fairly short they do a great job sucking you right in. Part of the exchange here is that even though the story is shorter (per character) there is never really parts of the story that are “dragging on needlessly,” it gets right to the point! (in a good way) On the other hand, the whole setting of BbS was really cool, and the characters were great so I couldn’t help but wish that they would have expanded it just a little.
As for coded: This game was fun on the DS, but it has been reduced to just the cutscenes for this release. Coded was one of those games you played for the gameplay, and could have easily ignored the story.The added cutscenes are nice, and the fights are well done, but you would be much better off just going back and playing through the DS version.
Coded aside, KHII and BbS have great stories! 9 out of 10
I literally have nothing bad to say here. The soundtrack in Kingdom Hearts is amazing, and was amazing already! But Square went a step farther with this entry and Yoko Shimomura actually updated and rearranged the whole soundtrack, and it did nothing but make it better!
The soundtrack, even originally, had so much personality to it. Every world has music inspired by the original disney property mixing it with the epic fantasy style she’s know for. Then the original worlds have the nice classic feel to them, and the boss fight music tracks are purely majestic! The rearrangements add a whole extra level of sound clarity, while retaining the level of personality the series is known for.
The soundtrack isn’t the only part of the audible experience that makes the game great. The games voice actors are top-notch! I am playing the game in Japanese, and hearing some of your favourite Disney characters in Japanese can be a little strange, but they hit the mark right on. Particularly I was impressed with the fact that Hades’ VA sounded JUST LIKE a Japanese version of James Woods (same goes for Genie, he sounds more like Robin Williams than the American VA, Rest in Peace). The English VA is handled in part by Disney, also, so that almost makes the English voice sound perfect by default.
Now go buy all the soundtracks! 10 out of 10
When KHII and BbS originally came out on the Playstation 2 and PSP, respectively, they looked great! Square always has a way (especially when it comes to Final Fantasy and Kingodm Hearts) of pushing the system’s boundaries, and delivering a visual masterpiece. A cool part here is that even though the games are getting old, they still move fluidly and look great! I did have a small beef with this collection though.
The first collection, Kingdom Hearts HD I.5 ReMix, looked absolutely breath-taking! The same can be said for Final Fantasy X|X-2 HD Remaster. In those games, the character models were re-done to look smooth and more vibrant, as well as give a better rand of facial expressions. On top of that every little aspect of those games were given a pretty huge overhaul, complete with some new lighting effects and texture replacements. Unfortunately that attention to detail was not given here. I think is can be excused because KHII and BbS already looked good, but I can get over some of the laziness seen here. While the character models were updated, and look outstanding, almost none of the environments got the same treatment. All to often, the world’s textures are reminiscent of MS-paint GIFs, and look stretched or blurry. Which really contrasts the masterful character models. It’s very off-putting sometimes. Most of the time, as long as you’re not actively looking for it, it will kind of fade into the background. Another reason that this bothers me, though, is that the first collection (released last year) looked REALLY good, so I suppose the standard was set a bit high, but I digress.
Another thing I noticed here was that Coded looked especially bad in spots. The character models in coded are especially rough, and have very jagged edges. Which is odd because Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days in I.5 looked as good as the playable games, and both games were originally DS titles so I expected the quality to be at least similar.
I do imagine that a lot of the content in 1.5 was built from scratch because of various reason (mostly, the lost a good amount of the data from Kingdom Hearts) and the titles in II.5 were simple HD up-scales from the originals.
All that being said, even though this is the weakest category, the graphics should NEVER inhibit you from enjoying a great game! It’s also not like it looks bad (except for maybe coded), it just doesn’t quite fallow up to I.5 as well as it could have.
a lofty 6.5 out of 10
Overall, Kingdom Hearts HD II.5 ReMix is an outstanding collection of real classics! What it lacks in the graphical attention to detail, it makes up for with its gorgeous and majestic soundtrack. The combat is a fun and flashy as ever. The story is still interesting, and the characters are great. Ultimately, though, the real appeal of Kingdom Hearts is that, despite its age, it is a fast, responsive, and well put together as any game released in the last year: It doesn’t feel old! Kingdom Heart’s longevity is proven here. It is completely worth the purchase!
Overall Score: 8 out of 10
If you haven’t already, you can still pre-order it at all major retailers and it will release on 2 Dec 2014 in the States and 5 Dec in the EU. For you Japanese speakers, the game came out earlier this month in Japan and Asia.