We have to admit that we are huge fans of Kingdom Hearts at Gamestyle. The original release on the PS2 was something of a wonder. In the days before we were living on internet forums, the source for information came from magazines and it was very rare you knew everything about a game ahead of release. So Kingdom Hearts was a massive unexpected surprise and a game that has a crossover that shouldn’t work, but just does.
Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD was a Kingdom Hearts dream, allowing them to play through the best versions of the games once again. It also meant there was rumours and leaks of Kingdom Hearts III, which were later confirmed.
Now we don’t really want to delve too much into what the games are individually, such as their story and characters, because either you are a returning player and know what to expect, or this is your first foray into the Kingdom Hearts world, thus you want nothing spoiled. But know this, for the most part the games play as they did upon their original releases.
Now we are lucky enough to still own original copies of Kingdom Hearts 2 and Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep so are able to compare this Remix with the originals and instantly we can say that some work has gone into these and they are very, very competent updates. Playing the original Kingdom Hearts II on a HD TV doesn’t quite hold up and shows how far visuals have come in recent years.
However the ‘Final Mix’ HD version is clean and crisp, whilst still maintaining all the character you’d expect. It is purely on a visual side that work has gone, as all original gameplay options remain, for good or bad. Including an overly long introduction that seems to go on forever before letting loose on the game. But like Persona 4, don’t let that stop you, because it is a fine game once over that initial opening.
Birth By Sleep is also remastered for this release, but coming from an original PSP version see the HD upgrade not look quite a well done as you’ve seen in Kingdom Hearts 2. It isn’t bad, but it does appear it would have needed a full blown remake built from the ground up to make it work on a big TV.
So that is where we will do our only bit of port begging. Birth By Sleep would look stunning on the PS Vita’s OLED screen and is a wonderful handheld title, that just fits better for a handheld console than it does on a home console. It feels like a huge missed opportunity, especially for one of the better Kingdom Heart releases.
It is the tweaked gameplay elements that make Birth By Sleep standout, as it adds a more strategic element to battles, but one that feels easy to get a grasp of. We won’t lie, RPG titles tend to get played through once and once only here, but Birth By Sleep is a game that we are happy to go back to time and time again, especially on the battered old PSP we have laying around. it is just so satisfying to play.
Those aren’t the only two releases on this compilation, as just like 1.5 there is a release that has had all the gameplay removed, to leave you with nothing but a collection of cut-scenes to tell a story. Much like 358/2 it feels a shame that it has been stripped down, as there seems no real rhyme nor reason for it.
If you are fully into the Kingdom Hearts lore, then this is still a worthwhile addition as it helps you understand where certain aspects of the story are going and how things all link together, but again, it would have been nice to have a proper release of Re:Coded, despite the mobile origins.
If you weren’t a fan of the series though, there is nothing here that will change you mind. The story which starts off strong in Kingdom Hearts, becomes more and more convoluted and nonsensical as the various games split away from the main arc.
Overall Kingdom Hearts 2,5 HD Remix is a game that fans of the series will love, it compliments the release of 1.5 HD and sets up the anticipation for Kingdom Hearts III. It is also the perfect excuse to keep the PS3 plugged in and hooked up to the TV.