Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMIX, Not quite as magical as you remember - Games Weekly

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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMIX, Not quite as magical as you remember

Keeping up with the plot of Kingdom Hearts feels like running blindfold through a maze of shrieking series lore. “It’s an HD remake of Kingdom Hearts 2 Final Mix, okay?” Now you’re juggling eels, too. “And you also get an HD version of Birth By Sleep Final Mix (originally a PSP prequel) and Re: Coded, but you can’t play that one. It’s been made into a three-hour cutscene for you.” And now the eels are on fire.

This is the problem. Kingdom Hearts is a series that’s gradually buried the good stuff under the weight of convoluted plot lines and ridiculous spin-offs. This second HD collection brings all those frustrations into sharp relief. You have to work the fun out of these games, grab it with pliers and wrench it from the sticky clutches of goodness-knows-how-many cutscenes.

For instance, I’d happily forgotten Kingdom Hearts 2 had a  three-hour prologue. In that time you’ll run forwards into loading screens, skip too much dialogue and bash the same enemies over the head with a cartoon club. You’re not even controlling Sora at this point. Good Lord game, just let me play you Because when KH2 is finished smothering the life out of itself, you’ll find a game that’s warm, deep and brilliant. The Disney-by-way-of-Final-Fantasy visuals pop beautifully in HD, so much so they barely look out of place against most of today’s releases. Seeing some of the most iconic Disney characters and their respective worlds so lovingly and faithfully recreated will send your inner eight-year-old skipping down memory lane.

There’s a particular black and white sequence that wonderfully evokes Steamboat Willie the very first Mickey Mouse cartoon from 1928 with other highlights including the castle from Beauty And The Beast (there’s an ace boss fight inside the ballroom) and the gaudy neon of Space Paranoids from ’80’s cult favourite, Tron.

The combat system has barely aged either it’s  fast, reactive and stuffed with context-sensitive moves that add much-needed variety to the obligatory RPG grind.

Sight for sora Eyes
This is especially true of Birth By Sleep. The combat here is deeper, with a system of interlinking abilities shared by three playable characters giving you greater tactical range. Playing it with dual analogue sticks instead of PSP’s notoriously awful sliding nub is a liberating treat.

Across both KH2 and Birth By Sleep, the combat feels  as fresh and exciting as some of today’s best action games. Sora can even fuse with either Donald or Goofy and ramp up his power while dual-wielding keyblades it’s just cool.

But the biggest thrill still comes from seeing all your favourite Final Fantasy and Disney characters battling it out together. Auron from FFX makes an appearance alongside Hades in an underworld ripped straight from Disney’s Hercules, while FFVII arch-nemesis Sephiroth pops up as an optional boss complete with his iconic One Winged Angel theme tune. If you’re not a fan you won’t care, but if your desk is full of FF action figures then these cameos are a huge thrill. 

Taking the mickey
Less thrilling is the lack of any notable added content. The ‘Final Mix’ versions of each game come with additional story scenes, but aside from that all I notice is a series of collectible puzzle pieces that unlock something special if I grab them all. Gee whizz.

Visually and mechanically then, Kingdom Hearts feels right at home in 2015. It’s the execution that frustrates, barrelling you unceremoniously back to 2007 like a malevolent TARDIS. The whole package creaks under the burden of clumsy exposition, with both KH2 and Birth By Sleep peppered with cutscenes and load times that seem determined to remind you just how old these games are.

Combine this with a real lack of any substantial additional content and you’re
left with an HD collection  that magnifies Kingdom Hearts’ flaws as much as it highlights its many unique qualities. It’s always nice to revisit old memories, but sometimes I wish they would stay just that.

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