A Kingdom Worth Revisiting
When Kingdom Hearts first came out, it was a title that I, admittedly, was only fleetingly interested in. Not that I didn’t want to play, I wanted to play everything back then, but rather, I felt like it was going to be beneath my awesomeness of RPG gaming skills. However, when I began my journey, my opinion quickly changed for the better. Unfortunately, karma would have something else to say. A little while after starting, I went to the kitchen for a soda and returned to find my girlfriend had stolen the game from me and refused to give it back. It was her first RPG, and her entire gaming world changed.
Even though she clearly stole my game, I still married her.
While there have already been several HD remakes, some good and some not so much, this one was special. It was one that helped, in many ways, to define a new generation of RPG gamers. Expectedly, this one was carrying some high expectations up to its release. In all honesty, it surprised me.
Kingdom Hearts is the story of Sora, a young boy with a destiny beyond anything he could imagine, desperate to save his loved ones. In the process of saving his friends, he must also race to save an entire universe’s existence. Players will embark from the safety of Sora’s island to discover fantastical Disney-inspired worlds and characters. This is not all, though. In addition to the heavy influences from the Disney realm and characters, players also encounter versions of fan-favorite Final Fantasy characters. However, the characters feel more like fan-service versions of the characters than the known representations, but I, and several others, have always been okay with this.
Sora is not alone in his journeys, either. Donald Duck and Goofy join Sora in trying to save the worlds that are blinking out of existence, as well as help Sora find his friends. It’s here that the story of Kingdom Hearts tricks you, and before you know it, you are knee deep in the experience and caring more about the characters than you ever thought you would. While most of you already know all there is to know about the game, I won’t spoil it for the handful of people out there wanting to experience the magical journey many of us have repeatedly taken.
The bonus this time around is the extra games packed into one disk.
Having extra games packed into HD remakes is nothing new, either. In addition to the first Kingdom Hearts and Re: Chain of Memories , there is also 358/2 Days . However, you won’t get to play this entry. Instead of being able to play through the game, you are presented with a lengthy collection of cutscenes derived from the game’s narrative.
It’s not that I don’t understand the cutscene-focused entry to the game, it just seems a little odd and out of place. After all, if the card-based combat of Re: Chain of Memories doesn’t make you want to throw the controller, not much else will. Even saying this, though, doesn’t mean it is a bad addition to the overall package. It does, however, have its own set of problems, the biggest being the card-based combat system.
It is fun to setup your deck for combat, but, at the same time, the game seems disconnected whenever you encounter a new enemy. Instead of running up and unleashing your brutal card attacks, you find yourself transported to a different battlefield to do battle. While this is not horrible, it does distract from the overall experience of the game and may leave more than a few standing out in the cold.
While this is an issue, the main draw with this collection is clearly Kingdom Hearts Final Mix . As stated earlier, this is the first time it has been available outside Japan. New additions include new weapons, cutscenes, and story elements that many fans missed. (Well, those that didn’t import it.) With this being the herald of the collection, Square needed to make it fire on all cylinders, and it does…mostly.
There is no denying that the entire package is gorgeous. The bump to HD really helps capture the beauty of the game without harming the integrity of the gameplay. The textured backgrounds also make everything in the world feel more alive. Even with this overhaul, there are occasional moments in which certain features of the characters will look flat and thus remove you from the overall richness of the game. This is not a huge thing, but it is noticeable and may be too distracting for some.
In addition to the graphical upgrade, a few other features were upgraded as well. The most notable is the camera. Moving it away from the L2/R2 controls to a right-stick control scheme certainly helps the camera’s functionality and removes a lot of the frustration. You will still, at times, find yourself cursing at the game, though. Couple this with the persistent platforming concerns from the first time around and you have in store for you a “fun” time. This will never make you want to just stop playing the game; it’ll just compel you to take an extended break every now and then.
A lot could have gone wrong in the delivery of this title. It could have been a cheap cash-in on the HD craze, and though that might be part of the motivation, the results are sincere, and Square clearly made this with the fans in mind. It could have easily done nothing to alter the game except slap on a few layers of brighter colors, but as I said earlier, Kingdom Hearts is special. The HD collection may not contain everything we want in a Kingdom Hearts collection, but it gives us enough to remember why we continue to love the series just as much today as we did years ago.
Square Enix sets the bar on HD collections. Whether this and its upcoming Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD collection will be the beginning of the end for HD collections, I don’t know, but if the industry starts looking at this as an example for how to restore the magic of the original games, then we are all in for a pleasant treat. I’m just glad I can finally play Kingdom Hearts without my wife taking the game over…well, maybe.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.5 Graphics
You will fall in love all over again with the world of Kingdom Hearts . 3.5 Control
While there are some necessary, new adjustments, there are still some the ball was dropped on, again. 4.3 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Crisp, clean, and wonderfully annoying in parts. Just like I remember. 4.4 Play Value
Just like in the first go around, there’s a lot to do in this game. 4.2 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend|
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid||2.5 – 2.9 = Average||3.5 – 3.9 = Good||4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy|
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor||3.0 – 3.4 = Fair||4.0 – 4.4 = Great||5.0 = The Best|