Published on January 6th, 2015 | by Jordan King0
Review: Kingdom Hearts 2.5 HD Remix
The long and arduous wait for Kingdom Hearts 3 is a painful one for dedicated fans, and the light at the end of the tunnel is potentially still a long way off, with no release date in sight for the long awaited third entry. Thankfully Square Enix have hatched a plan to keep us salivating in anticipation whilst simultaneously appreciating how far the series has come through a number of re-releases. Kingdom Hearts 2.5 HD Remix is not only a nightmare to say but also the latest in this string of releases, and includes the full versions of Kingdoms Heart 2 and Birth By Sleep as well as a recollection of cutscenes from the DS release Kingdom Hearts:Re:coded. All of these are beautifully enhanced in HD for the PS3, and for the most part, they look fantastic.
I always saw Kingdom Hearts 2 as the best entry in the series, whether this be because of its genuine excellence or my long term nostalgic connection to this particular story. But I cannot deny how it shaped my taste in role-playing games, and revisiting it has been a bittersweet joy. Kingdom Hearts 2 expectedly takes up the bulk of the package here, and deservedly so. This particular version is the Final Mix edition, containing a number of features such as equipment, areas and bosses that before now have never been playable outside of the Japanese release. That alone will likely be enough to sway the hardcore amongst us, but newcomers are also in for a treat if they’ve yet to experience the wacky yet sincere adventures of Sora and his Disney comrades.
Kingdom Hearts 2 embraced all of the mechanics of its predecessor and refined them in such a way that everything just feels better and more enjoyable, replacing the irritable elements of the first with more innovative and enjoyable features.The real time combat feels smoother and more cohesive and no longer leads to moments of clunky frustration like the original. The addition of subtle QTEs and more advanced combo patterns allow Sora to freely maneuver around enemies and the environment itself, and the arsenal of abilities at your disposal make this feel like a genuine successor to the original instead of simple rehash like it easily could have been. Platforming is still a frequent nuisance however. The movement controls combined with an inconsistent camera simply means that this isn’t a game suited to tightly confined and specific platforming. This hasn’t stop Square from throwing them in wherever possible though, fortunately once you have mastered how the camera movement behaves it becomes much less troublesome, especially when seeking out hard to reach treasures.
Birth By Sleep, the previously PSP exclusive title feels inherently different when placed alongside Kingdom Hearts 2. This is partly due to its smaller size and more fragmented narrative. You now have the choice to play of one of three main characters, each of which plays and possesses slightly different abilities than the other. Terra, Aqua and Ventus are the heroes in question. Their personalities and motivations are enough to see you through till the end, even if they fall into the cliched archetypes you’d expect from a protagonist in this genre far too easily. The size and scope of Birth By Sleep is comparably muted when pitted against the other title on display here, but as a result it’s more suited for short bursts of play, which makes perfect sense when you take into account its portable origins. The immense variety found within the combat system here is a worthy substitute for smaller game world, even if at times you miss the locales previously available to you in other Kingdom Hearts games. Having three replayable characters to choose from lends Birth By Sleep some brilliant replay value, more so if you’re the completionist type of player. The scenarios of each character run parallel to one another, so the narrative rarely runs out of steam even if it remains as convoluted as ever, being absolutely ruthless to the uninitiated.
The combat systems of Kingdom Hearts 2 and Birth By Sleep are fundamentally identical when analysing their base mechanics, but certain features allow both of them to stand out. For example the “Command Deck” is the crux of Birth By Sleep’s combat system. It gives you a selection of abilities assigned to individual button prompts as well the ability to summon absent characters into the fray to assist with difficult battles. The noticeable absence of Magic Points may seem a bit daunting at first, but you will quickly adapt to these subtle changes if you are at all familiar to the series. Kingdom Hearts 2 plays much the same as its predecessor, but simply builds upon the established formula than changing anything critical. The addition of a “Drive Meter” sees you utilising different outfits that boost your attack or magic power for a limited duration, as well as being absolutely badass in their own right.
Kingdom Hearts has always been the bearer of a beautiful and fondly remembered art style, and having to opportunity to oogle certain titles in HD for the very first time is a joy. Character models and environments have been given a noticeable improvement, and have never looked better. Certain enemies have completely different colour schemes as well, and the outfits you and your party wear in some worlds have changed completely. Ironically sprucing up the environments and vistas of each world have made the ugly side of each game all the more noticeable. Some textures look horrendous up close, and are unsightful when put up against the revised character models. In the midst of combat they aren’t too noticeable, but are a blemish of what is otherwise a stellar upgrade of the original titles. The soundtrack has been faithfully remastered as well, and is an unmistakable step up from the original. Everything sounds sharper and more immersive, and surprisingly some themes have been completely revised to closer resemble their Disney originals.
Kingdom Hearts 2.5 HD Remix is a remarkable compilation of three top tier role playing games with additions that stay faithful to the original content whilst making each game look and sound better than they ever have. There is a phenomenal amount of content available here, and when combined with the previously released remaster of the first game there is more than enough to tide you over for the eventual release of Kingdom Hearts 3. This is also the perfect opportunity for newcomers to immerse themselves in the series if they haven’t done so before. Kingdom Hearts 3 may still be a long way off but at least we will be prepared when it arrives.
Summary: A stellar compilation of three exceptional JRPGS, great value for money too!