Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMIX Review: A gorgeous love letter to Kingdom Hearts fans
- Posted September 10th, 2013 at 09:01 EDT by Kyle Prahl
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Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMIX is the best HD collection yet produced, a passion-fueled love letter to patient fans, and a visually arresting introduction to characters, worlds, and gameplay that deserve every beautiful pixel.
- Gorgeous in 1080p
- Attention to detail in remaster
- Final Mix content
- 358/2 Days: Why is it here?
- Chain of Memories remaster is less impressive
For example, my preferred playstyle has, for dozens of playthroughs, always been a magic-physical hybrid and an early-game decision that sets my level-ups on the path to decent damage in all disciplines by level 50. When I made the same selection in Final Mix, I thought I'd ultimately be greeted by the same, comfortable leveling experience I'd grown accustomed to. Not so. The change of order in which abilities unlock as you level up, and the new abilities sprinkled amidst those, radically changed my leveling experience and made for a playthrough that felt altogether different. It was refreshing, invigorating--feelings I didn't anticipate going in to a game I've beaten literally dozens of times. New players won't notice; it's the veterans who will get the most mileage out of these surprises.
In some respects, Final Mix HD is easier. Improved controls and new Heartless like the Pink Agaricus make leveling up a bit quicker and more enjoyable. In other ways, like the unfamiliarity of what unlocks at each level-up, the game is made harder for old dogs like me. In that sense, I have trouble declaring Final Mix to be the "definitive" version of Kingdom Hearts. It's not better so much as it is different, and that means first-time players won't be getting the exact same experience that the rest of us did in the PS2's heyday. Is that a bad thing? I'd argue not, but I lament that there's no option to play one or the other. Then again, including what amounts to an additional game on this collection's single disc might have been a practical nightmare for Square Enix.
No matter. What's here, representing the series' first installment, is excellent, as it ever was. As Sora, the Keyblade-wielding protagonist, players journey to several worlds based on Disney properties, which comprise an original universe that frames Sora's mission--to defeat creatures called Heartless and save these worlds from their wrath--as a conflict between light and darkness. There's platforming, harmless puzzle-solving, crafting, and other RPG tropes. Final Fantasy characters and icons poke their heads in for copious amounts of fan service, and A.I. partners Donald Duck and Goofy provide backup in real-time, mostly button-mashy combat. What's always been so engaging about Kingdom Hearts' gameplay is, for me, the emotional charge and thrill of what JRPG battles look and feel like in real-time. Sora smashes opponents with stylish swings, gravity-defying combos, and eye-popping magic. These are elements we're used to seeing after waiting 15 seconds for a meter to recharge, or after letting enemy monsters take their turns. Here, you dodge, block, think, and decimate in an environment where you can be hit from any angle at any time. It's what's really happening behind the methodical mechanics of turn-based RPGs.