Kingdom Hearts 1.5 + 2.5 ReMIX is a remastered collection of remasters consisting of the first and second game and 4 spin-offs (2 playable with the others being a movie of all the cutscenes only). I can’t deny that replaying Kingdom Hearts again was a complete blast from the past, filled with a nostalgic romp through my childhood. If you would ask me if Kingdom Hearts is a good game, the answer will most definitely be yes, it’s actually a great game is what I would say. As a long-time fan, charting back to my younger days, it’s literally impossible to detach nostalgia from objectivity, thus it was really interesting to see for myself if it was one of those cases where nostalgia is nothing but a brand of rose tinted glasses. Thankfully, Kingdom Hearts is still fantastic, but it’s not without one major sticking point, its story.
Now before the Keyblade Masters of the internet take up their weapons, let me just say that the plot itself is not bad, in fact, the narrative is incredibly interesting, but it’s presented in such a convoluted and badly paced manner that it’ll take weeks of research to unravel this web of plot points. I know you’ve heard it before, but it’s just the plain hard truth and there’s a reason why this series has such a bad reputation when it comes to its story. It’s a downright shame though because the blend of Square’s JPRG design with Disney is nothing short of wonderful. Even after all these games, you can still feel the sense of respect and love put into both universes.
It all started with a sweet tale of a young, wide-eyed boy named Sora on a journey to save his friends. He joins up with Disney’s Goofy and Donald Duck who is looking for their king, Mickey Mouse. From there they visit different Disney themed worlds, meeting various well known characters along the way such as Tarzan and Jeff Bridges from Tron (yes, actual Jeff Bridges). It’s a beautiful love letter to both the Square of old and Disney and I still can’t help but be drawn in by its powerful innocence. The jolly adventuring is always prevailing over the course of the many games, but nothing is ever that simple. There’ll be many run-ins with villainous figures obsessed with the darkness as well as a mysterious, shadowy organization.
It’s all really intriguing stuff, and though it may seem contrived a lot of the times, I’d be doing the game a disservice if I would simply brush it off as JRPG nonsense but like I mentioned before, it’s needlessly convoluted and the pacing, especially in the second game is so unbalanced that you’ll have a hard time following it, thus I can’t blame anyone for ignoring the story, just, don’t be hasty in your judgement as there truly is something great underneath it all. The one true saving grace of the plot, throughout all the games, is the characters, and boy, is it a huge bunch of loveable idiots.
I mean idiots in a good way, in the best possible way actually. I mentioned that I’m drawn in by this game’s innocence and that’s the underlying tone for most, if not all of the characters. Each one of them is driven by such pure motivations, that a lot of their actions borders idiocy, but never to the point where they’re unlikeable; actually it’s quite the opposite. Aqua is the best example of this. Her unwavering dedication to her friends is truly inspiring. It’s a trait that doesn’t just come from her character design but you feel that it truly comes from a point of love and as such, would happily sacrifice herself to save those close to her. I ended up falling deeply in love with many of these characters and I just have to mention how much this feeling is intensified by the haunting and emotional character themes. Yoko Shimomura just has this way of perfectly translating a character and their story into music.
What’s much easier to digest than this series’ story however, is the gameplay. Kingdom Hearts was a cool experiment for its time, combing turned based menus with a real time combat system. The end result was a really fun and addictive system even though it should have theoretically ended up us a mess of incompatible ideas. You run around the battlefield while cycling through menus to select an action, ranging from normal attacks, magic and using an item. You’re accompanied by Donald and Goofy who act as your Ai partners in battle, attacking enemies and healing you (or not, if you’re familiar with this game, you’ll know what I’m talking about) when necessary. Using menus in real-time feels weird at first but it soon becomes second nature and in some ways, it feels like a natural evolution of turn-based combat. There’s also various magic spells, special moves and abilities you can learn to spice things up.
With 4 playable games in the collection it was interesting to see how the combat has evolved over the years. The original game is undoubtedly the weakest as it was the first to try out this system, but that’s not to say it’s not fun, it just lacks depth. Kingdom Hearts 2 and Birth by Sleep are on a whole other level than the first. 2 was much faster, more combo focused with a variety of new combat options whereas BBS used a deck command menu and introduced the Command Style system which alters your combat moveset with various modifiers. Birth by Sleep is my personal favourite as it had 3 playable characters, and the combat seemed to have hit that perfect balance between flash, strategy and tight controls. There is one last game that I didn’t mention, and that’s Re:Chain of Memories. It’s kind of the black sheep of the series as it featured a really weird card battle system. I remember really enjoying it back when I first played it, but after playing BBS and 0.2, it felt really jarring to go back to it. Still, you get used to it, and the game itself is really interesting and it introduces a lot of key characters as well.
The Kingdom Hearts package is a fantastic and definitive way to play and experience all the Kingdom Heart games before 3 arrives. I played it on PS4Pro and seeing this game running at a smooth 60fps at native 4k is quite the dream. I have seen reports about some bugs popping up in the game, but I haven’t personally seen any of it. The game was riddled with numerous issues, but the day one patch seemed to have fixed the majority of them. One thing that is timeless when it comes to this series is the soundtrack. This is some of Shimomura’s best work with iconic tracks such as Dearly Beloved still pulling at my heart strings after all these years.
There is nothing quite like Kingdom Hearts out there. It might have an incredibly convoluted story, but it’s also the only series where you’ll find a JRPG and Disney mashup which has addictive real-time combat and endearing characters. There’s also a ton of content in this collection that could easily last you well over 200 hours with a plethora of mini-games, secrets and insanely hard super bosses. If you’re even the slightest bit curious about this long running series, then I highly recommend you pick this up.
Last Updated: May 5, 2017