Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMIX – PS3 Review

 

 
Overview
 

Genre: Action RPG
 
Rating: PG
 
Release Date: 4 December 2014
 
Overall
 
 
 
 
 
4/5


User Rating
5 total ratings

 

Positives


Crisp, cartoon-like HD update | Wonderful orchestral score | Two meaty and fun RPGs

Negatives


Confusing storyline | Re:coded is pretty average


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Posted December 2, 2014 by

 
Full Article
 
 

Square-Enix fans are still waiting attentively for the latest tidbit of news on Kingdom Hearts III, or for any information beyond the simple fact that it’s happening. We think. But, to tide fans over in the long gap for the next trailer or press release, we have Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMIX with a bundle of upgraded and re-purposed content from the past for PS3 owners.

First – the good news. The games look great on PS3. The HD scrub has come out well, as environments and characters leap off the screen with crisp colour and animation. There are more scenes with facial animation than the last release (which often replaced faces with flat textures), which really sells the 3D cartoon aesthetic . The orchestral music still sounds amazing, and even Hikari Utada’s ‘Simple and Clean’ and ‘Sanctuary’ songs hold up well to this day, despite the series running them into the ground by re-using them in every spin-off release of the series.

Let’s start with Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix, the international version of the last numerical game to be released. It still makes for what is probably the most compelling entry in the series to date, with a number of gameplay improvements and a faster moving story, that nonetheless serves to complicate the series even further.

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Roxas, a boy on summer holiday in Twilight Town, begins to notice strange things are afoot. Odd thieves are about, words themselves are disappearing, and he’s having the kind of dreams you’d normally expect after a Matrix movie marathon. After spending a few hours with the character and getting to know him, he’s suddenly eschewed in a Metal Gear Solid 2-esque switcheroo with our returning hero, Sora. Sora is once again on a mission to defeat darkness, only this time instead of going up against the Heartless and the evil Ansem, it’s the villainous Organization XIII, their ‘Nobodies’ and their leader, Xemnas.

This was the tipping point where the series started to dip into seriously confusing territory, as no longer are the ‘Heartless’ created when somebody loses their heart, but the ‘Nobodies’ as well. Trying to get a grasp on the basic mythology is an ordeal in itself, let alone the goings on in the plot. Nevertheless, the characters are rather likeable, from the aloof yet evil Axel, to some of the folk Sora meets on his journey, which takes him to a larger variety of Disney-themed worlds than before, incorporating live action settings such as Pirates of the Caribbean and Tron.

The battle system feels much more responsive thanks to quick commands and new action prompts, like ‘reversals’ and small QTEs, which create opportunities to parry, dodge and experience more cinematic moments.  Dual wielding keyblades becomes a major factor later on, which allows for some really cool combos. Even the Gummi ship segments, which were long and stilted in the original, have been improved to be faster and more arcade-like. It really does feel like the most complete game in the series so far, and it’s a pleasure to see it in HD.

Birth by Sleep was originally a PSP title, but for the most part feels like a full-fledged console release that stacks up well next to Kingdom Hearts II. It’s certainly a more meaty inclusion than the previous ReMIX bundle’s Re:Chain of Memories.

Serving as a prequel to the series, Birth by Sleep weaves the convoluted tale of Terra, Ventus and Aqua – three keyblade wielders whose destines are tied to Sora, Rikku and Kairi. While the characters themselves prove to be fairly dull, the environments they explore are pretty cool, ranging from worlds pulled from Tron Legacy to Fantasia.

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The combat was changed up once again in Birth by Sleep to accommodate a handheld system, as instead of working through menus to select commands, using the D-Pad, you outfit your character with a ‘command deck’. Replacing your standard combat menu, this allows you to cycle through a small list of commands, like magic or special movies, rather than having access to everything at once. It’s certainly a different strategy to get used to, and while obviously suited to a handheld, still works well on a home console. The odd ‘Command Board’ mode also returns – essentially layering a Monopoly or Fortune Street board game, you read that right, on top of the existing game. It’s strangely compelling, and certainly one of the weirdest parts of the series to date.

The final inclusion in Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMIX is a non-playable incarnation of Kingdom Heats Re:coded, originally a Nintendo DS title, which itself was a remake of a mobile phone game. Of the three parts of the bundle, this is easily the weakest, as the storyline of Re:coded re-hashes old settings and events, is confusingly set up and has some really awkward and stilted moments. It’s only really relevant for its ending, which if you’ve played Kingdom Hearts 3D on 3DS will be old news to you anyway. Still, it’s nice that I don’t have to play through the numbing cube-smashing gameplay this time.

So, the sum of Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMIX’s parts is actually pretty impressive. While I still get confused by the ever twisting storyline, Kingdom Hearts II and Birth by Sleep are solid and lengthy Action RPG experiences, with some pretty cool Disney nostalgia for fans. Re:coded on the other hand is a 3-hour cutscene best left to the hardcore Kingdom Hearts faithful, that has some elements necessary to the overall story, but not many. As a HD upgrade, the games shine, and Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMIX is definitely the best way to own them now.


Adam Ghiggino

 
Owner, Executive Editor of Rocket Chainsaw. I also edit TV, films and make average pancakes.


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