Kingdom Hearts is easily in my top 5 favorite video game series of all time. From the first time I saw the trailer after the credits of the Tarzan VHS, I have been in love with this series. So obviously after hearing that Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix included Kingdom Hearts Final Mix, Kingdom Hearts Re: Chain of Memories, and the cutscenes from Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days I got really excited. But now that it is out does this game series still deserve to be one of my favorite series of all time? Or have I simply been wearing rose-tinted glasses when remembering this franchise?
Kingdom Hearts Final Mix
For those who don’t know what Kingdom Hearts is, Kingdom Hearts is an action RPG that features Final Fantasy and Disney characters. It seems like an odd combination, but it works for the most part. The series is famous for its convoluted plot, and it all starts here. The game starts with the main character, Sora, and his friends, Riku and Kairi, building a raft in order to leave the island they grew up on. After two days of building and gathering supplies, a storm comes and threatens to destroy the raft. Sora leaves to check on the raft and meets up with Riku. A pool of darkness appears, and Riku calmly sinks into it. Sora begins to sink as well, but a blinding light saves him. When Sora can see again, he is holding a weapon that a voice tells him is the Keyblade. He then finds Kairi in front of a mysterious door. The door opens, and Kairi is nearly knocked into Sora but disappears before he can catch her. He is then forced to fight a huge manifestation of darkness. He is victorious, but is sucked up into a vortex. The next thing we know, Sora wakes up in a strange world…
That’s a rough breakdown of the beginning of the game. While the plot doesn’t get too complicated in this game, it is the basis for everything that happens in the series. Sora eventually teams up with Donald and Goofy who then travel between various worlds based on Disney movies, such as Tarzan, Aladdin, and Hercules. Sora is trying to look for Riku and Kairi and then moves onto sealing away the darkness, while Donald and Goofy are looking for King Mickey.
Sora is a huge block of cheese when it comes to his dialog, and you will either find it endearing or annoying. Thankfully the rest of the cast isn’t nearly as bad, though they all have their moments. The Disney worlds roughly follow the plots of their respective movies with Sora included. It’s honestly weird to look at how simple the story is when taking into account the six other games in this series.
Like any good RPG, the combat system starts simple at first but becomes more complicated as you level up. By the end of the game you will be able to throw your Keyblade, use magic, guard, glide, dodge roll, and much more. You really feel like Sora’s combat skills are progressing throughout the game. You will need all of these skills in order to defeat your enemies, manifestations of darkness known as the Heartless. Many different types of Heartless will stand in your way. Some will use magic, others can’t be hit from the front, and others will even ignore you. The difficulty in enemies increases nicely the further you go into the game. Some of the “normal” Heartless in the final world are much harder to fight than some of the bosses.
However, one of my biggest criticisms of this remake is that Square-Enix did not update it with one of the best mechanical changes that came in the later titles. In the later games, the open and examine commands were regulated to the triangle button, which was not used much in the original Kingdom Hearts. In this remake triangle is now used for examine, talk, and open as well, but they also relegated special attacks and combos, such as Sonic Blade and Strike Raid, to the triangle button. This means you cannot use the examine or open commands while in combat, which is extremely frustrating in Hollow Bastion where the only way to move forward is examining several nodes. It also pops up when trying to find all 101 Dalmatians, which are locked in chests. This was annoying the first time I played the game on the PlayStation 2 but was changed in the games that followed it. It might be a minor complaint, but as this is a remake Square-Enix had a chance to make small mechanical changes that would improve the overall enjoyment of the game and simply didn’t.
Overall, I still consider Kingdom Hearts to be great. It is a bit rough at parts, but as a game that marries two very different major franchises it does it well. If you’re a fan of Final Fantasy, Disney, or action games, this is not a game you should pass up. If you play games for the story, play through this and at least Kingdom Hearts 2. The story gets real crazy in Kingdom Hearts 2, but you will be completely lost if you missed the original Kingdom Hearts.
Kingdom Hearts: Re: Chain of Memories
The second game in the Kingdom Hearts series, Chain of Memories, was originally on the Game Boy Advanced. It was eventually remade for the PlayStation 2, and now updated for the PlayStation 3. The game is a huge departure from the original Kingdom Hearts. The story takes place after the events of Kingdom Hearts. Sora finds an odd castle that suddenly appears in front of him. He is compelled to go inside. He begins to ascend the castle, and starts to lose his memories the further he goes up.
The combat in this game is card and action based. In order to make an attack, you will need a card that represents that attack. Rather than getting new weapons, you will get cards that represent the weapon. You can also combine up to three cards in order to execute more powerful attacks. Additionally, cards have a number between zero and nine. The numbers are used to break the attacks of your enemies. You can interrupt an attack by attacking with a higher numbered card. Honestly it sounds really complicated but it makes sense when you start to play.
While I prefer the Game Boy Advanced version, this is not a bad port. Having full 3D cutscenes and actual voice acting is a nice bonus. If you’re looking for something different, check this game out.
Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days Movie
Not much to say about this, as it is only the cutscenes from the game. If you have picked up Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix without having played any other Kingdom Hearts game, I would suggest waiting to watch until after you have played Kingdom Hearts 2. While it does take place around the same time as Chain of Memories, a lot of the characters and story will not make sense without having played Kingdom Hearts 2.
(All pictures taken from the Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix Website which can be found here)