All your favorite Final Fantasy characters thrown together with the magical world of Disney – so much nostalgia! The original Kingdom Hearts was released in 2002, and now it’s been tarted up for an HD update. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, apparently quite a bit. I’m going to start with my biggest pet peeve about Kingdom Hearts HD – that camera! Look, they tried to fix it – the camera is now mapped to the right analog stick instead of L1 and R1. However, it is still so bad that it actually gets in the way of gameplay. You can’t always see where you’re jumping, it swivels randomly in a really disorienting way, and it simply feels sluggish. I felt like I was kicking a fat camera man while trying to play, instead of simply viewing the game. Seriously, I know the game is still supposed to feel like the original, but they should have fixed that.
The game still follows the same course as the original. You play the part of Sora, a young teen hanging out with his friends Riku and Kairi on Destiny Island. However, after the island is invaded by the Heartless (strange shadowy creatures) during a storm, he is separated from his friends and ends up in Traverse Town. There he joins up with Donald Duck and Goofy as they try to find King Mickey and defeat the Darkness.
Just like the original, the opening hour of the game feels a bit pointless. The game becomes fun once you get to explore the Disney-Themed worlds – the fetch quests on Destiny Island could have been “reMIXed” out of the game, or at least turned into a nice opening cut scene. It felt unnecessary and didn’t fit in with the originality displayed in the rest of the game.
Unfortunately, the mists of nostalgia simply did not sustain Kingdom Hearts for me. The game is still great, and I would highly recommend it to any Disney or (old school) Final Fantasy fans. Unfortunately, I’m just not seeing where the HD reMIX went, particularly when it comes to the graphics.
I know, the game is now in HD and looks better. But to be honest, it doesn’t really look like it. It still has the look and feel of a PS2 game. Sure, I’m guessing they want to play on that nostalgia, and they weren’t exactly about to remodel the whole thing. However, it just seemed like parts of the game could have gotten more attention – at least reMIX some of the water animations or environments. I was honestly unimpressed with the visuals on display.
At least the sound design was on point – the game sounds fantastic and the voice acting is spot on. I loved hearing the Disney characters, it felt like a walk down memory lane. It’s funny how you forget which characters you love until you see them again – from that first moment I saw the Queen of Hearts, I remembered all those movies and thoroughly enjoyed playing through her world.
Combat, for the most part, is pretty fluid. Unlike the turn-based Final Fantasy approach, combat is in real time. So be prepared for plenty of key blade swinging. You can lock on with R1, but don’t expect that to improve the camera during combat. It seriously has a knack for focusing on everything except what you need. Combine this with some jumping required in battles, and you can end up with a rather frustrating experience. Perhaps we were used to this ten years ago, but it’s just not enjoyable now.
In the end, while I enjoyed playing Kingdom Hearts – it’s whimsical and silly and reunites the players with all their favorite characters from the Disney and Final Fantasy universes – it was probably better left to my nostalgia.