Review: Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMIX (PS3)

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Title: Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMIX
Format: Blu-ray Disc
Release Date: December 2, 2014
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix
Original MSRP: $39.99
ESRB Rating: E10+
Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMIX is exclusive to PlayStation 3.
The PlayStation 3 disc version was used for this review.
A copy of this game was purchased by the reviewer.
PS Nation Review Policy

Golden Minecart Award Winner 2014:
– Best Compilation/Remake (PS3)

Kingdom Hearts has one of the most dedicated fan bases in all of gaming and the two games included in Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMIX are a big reason why this series has such a dedicated fanbase. This is a wonderfully put together remaster that features two of the best games in the franchise along with the cutscenes of a third game that originally released on the Nintendo DS presented as a three hour cinematic retelling of the story.

Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix and Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep Final Mix are the two playable games in this collection with Kingdom Hearts II being the classic PS2 game and Birth by Sleep the PSP game but now in high definition. Kingdom Hearts II is very well known, but it is Birth by Sleep that may have been ignored due to the fact that it was released on the PlayStation Portable and that is was released in 2010 which was pretty late in the PSP’s lifecycle. The game was also not not released digitally making it harder for people to get their hands on it. With that in mind this review will focus primarily on Birth by Sleep while just touching on Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix.

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Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep tells the story of Terra, Ventus, and Aqua; three friends and aspiring keyblade masters that must track down Master Xehanort when monsters known as the Unversed begin plaguing the universe. This will bring the three protagonists across the universe into the worlds of famous Disney properties such as Snow White, Cinderella and Peter Pan. I will not go into specifics so as to avoid spoilers and protect newcomers to the franchise that are thinking of jumping in with Kingdom Hearts III which is expected to release some time in 2015. I will say that the Birth by Sleep is the most straightforward story in the franchise which works heavily in the game’s favor.

Kingdom Hearts as a whole has a complex and sometimes confusing story that spans half a dozen games, but Birth by Sleep stands nicely on its own being a prequel to the first game and having the tightest story to tell making it the most approachable game in the franchise. The game has three stories with each told from the perspective of the three protagonists. Each character’s story connects and intertwines with the others since they visit the same worlds. To avoid players feeling like they’re retreading the same content the game masterfully sends them to different sections of the world or has them interacting with completely different characters. This technique helps add depth to the story and builds up the Kingdom Hearts universe in a good way. In my run of the game I played Terra, Ventus, and Aqua in that order and found Terra’s story to be the biggest and most intriguing of them all. However all three of them were excellent viewpoints on the epic overarching story.

… Kingdom Hearts II runs smooth and has never looked better as does Birth by Sleep …

Gameplay:
Gameplay is definitely a strong point for Birth by Sleep which builds on the solid mechanics of the earlier games that include the basic jump, block, melee and magic buttons which control various special attacks. The new addition to the gameplay is the Shotlock which is an attack that puts the player into a first person perspective allowing them target multiple enemies and go into an automatic attack. This changes the approach to combat in Kingdom Hearts and makes for a much more fluid experience. It can be used as an overpowered way to get through multiple enemies or as a last ditch effort against a more powerful boss.

Another tweak is in the Special Commands which combine with melee attacks to form Style Commands. These unleash powerful and stylized attacks that become key to handling enemies as they become stronger throughout the game. Overall Birth by Sleep has the deepest gameplay mechanics of the series and in my opinion the most fun. There was enough of a variety in the gameplay that level grinding did not feel as much of chore as it did in the past.

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As for Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix, the game still holds up well even though it does not include the gameplay improvements of Birth by Sleep. It has an overall improvement in gameplay over the first Kingdom Hearts and the it’s helped greatly by the steady framerate and graphical improvements.

Kingdom Hearts Re:Coded is comprised entirely of the cutscenes due to the fact that it was originally released on the Nintendo DS so translating the dual-screen game to the PS3 would have been a heavy task for Square-Enix. The story still plays an important role in the Kingdom Hearts universe and it is presented in a nice three hour movie which was a pretty entertaining watch.

Visuals:
Square-Enix continues their trend of beautifully remastering their games as this collection is another example of their stellar work. Kingdom Hearts II runs smooth and has never looked better as does Birth by Sleep. Visiting the worlds of Disney in HD is great since they are bright and vibrant and the game’s visual style shines on the PS3 in high definition. All the characters, from the protagonists to the enemies, stand out with their creativity and design and Square’s ability to blend them into the iconic Disney settings.

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It is remarkable how the game is able to mix all the different environments into one aesthetic that blends the different iconic worlds into one coherent universe without compromising either Disney or Final Fantasy. That is a mighty challenge to tackle, but Kingdom Hearts takes the challenge seriously and is able to build its own world that works within the confines of Disney. Fans will appreciate the fresher looking games and newcomers will have the best possible visual experience that can be had with Kingdom Hearts.

… this is the best opportunity to see why people freaked out when Kingdom Hearts III was announced …

Audio:
The score of Kingdom Hearts, like the visuals, is a good combination of Disney and Final Fantasy that mixes just enough of both universes to find its own sound in the process. The music of Yoko Shimomura is a cornerstone of Kingdom Hearts and sounds fantastic in this update.

Voice acting of the Disney characters all in all is well done with Square-Enix being able to grab decent to great voice actors to play the iconic Disney characters. The non-Disney characters have solid voice work too with some good performances from notable names in video gaming voice acting.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is a single player experience only with no online play.

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Conclusion:
It is hard to knock this package with the two playable games being two of the best entries in the franchise so far. Kingdom Hearts II is a treasured title to a lot of people and this is now the best version of the game so it’s sure to reach their nostalgia filled expectations. This could also mean that fans of the series that never owned a PSP can finally get their hands on what I consider the best game in the franchise, Birth by Sleep.

Square-Enix has put together a great remaster of this beloved franchise and have wet the beaks of the fanbase as they wait impatiently for the release of Kingdom Hearts III. With all the main Kingdom Hearts games now in high definition this is the best opportunity to see why people freaked out when Kingdom Hearts III was announced for the PlayStation 4.

Score:
10

* All screenshots used in this review were provided by the publisher.

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Written by Michael Cwick

Michael Cwick

Just a nerd from the Windy City. I’m actually really bad at describing myself because I get all self-critical and self-conscious. Follow me on Twitter, @The1stMJC, to see my borderline insane rants on tv shows and other non important subjects. If I’m not tweeting I’m probably just watching Buffy or Firefly for the millionth time.

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