It never fails to amaze me that some of my most beloved games are now 10 and even 20 years old. That is rarely more obvious than when an HD collection is released, and I learn how long ago the original game dropped. Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix may have one of the most obscure titles, but this port of the PS2 classic is everything I remember the original being and more. Spruced up now for PS3 gamers, this first entry in the beloved series still holds up. The adventure of Sora and his Disney pals is just as charming and colorful as it was when it was released on the PS2 11 years ago.
While the original game is the obvious focal point of the package, there is much more here. This collection includes Kingdom Hearts Final Mix, which is a sort of spruced-up version of the original game that contains additional content and cutscenes. It was never released in the US. It also includes the direct sequel Kingdom Hearts Re: Chain of Memories as well as the story pieces and cutscenes from the DS release of Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days.
That is one impressive collection for $40 for sure, even if the story takes a somewhat peculiar path after the original outing. I was a bit disappointed that the final game isn’t playable, but considering it is a DS title, I imagine the port would have taken extra time that simply wasn’t viable.
Jumping back into the Kingdom Hearts world reminded me of just how much I enjoyed the original. The drawn out opening sequence is full of classic Square-Enix design. The elongated cutscene, the peculiar choices I had to make and the fantastic music all flooded me with nostalgia. This is one of the few titles that defined that generation of gaming, and it has never looked better.
Every character and world looks exactly like I remember it. This may have been a PS2 game, but bringing it into HD has done wonders for the style. The expansive color palette really showcases just how much design matters in a game like this. Each world has its own look and feel, and the animations hold up surprisingly well. The voice acting is still great with much of the Disney characters carrying their original voices. Square-Enix has tweaked a few pieces of the menu system to modernize the game, but for the most part this is the exact same experience that was released 11 years ago.
This means that the biggest issues are still prevalent; the biggest offender of course being the camera system. Locking onto enemies is still the best plan of attack, but the system is flawed with the way the camera works. Sometimes it locked onto enemies that were behind Sora, causing me to swing wildly into the air, or simply miss and take a hit. I wish this had been ironed out, but once I got used to it, it wasn’t a major hindrance on my enjoyment.
Ship sequences also remain trying. The Gummi ship interface is still a hot mess. This was something I can remember moaning about in the original, and once I got to it in the HD version, my eyes started to roll back in my head. The space travel is also frustrating. Constantly having to deal with technical limitations that aren’t viable anymore makes me appreciate how far game design has come. These small portions, much like the camera, don’t ruin the experience, but they do show the age of the title.
One of the more impressive pieces of this package though is the full 3D interpretation from the PS2 of the sprite-based GBA game Re: Chain of Memories. This was already an interesting title to toss in, simple because it introduced cards into the mix. Using cards to attack changed the Keyblade combat mechanic just enough to make it interesting. I liked that they included this entry, as I imagine a lot of people probably never played it. It is also impressive they managed to remake the entire thing in 3D. As for 358/2 Days this is just three hours of text reading and cutscenes, which is great for the lore, if you can follow it that is.
Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix is a solid collection that brings back some of the magic Square-Enix created on the PlayStation 2. For those like me who had forgotten most of what made it special, this package is more than worth your time. The original game alone remastered in HD is worth checking out. Once you get past the camera and control issues there is an amazing adventure here just waiting to be tackled. For those that have never played the series, this is starting point you should take. Now it is only a matter of time before Square-Enix pushes out the 2.5 HD remake we all know is coming.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.