Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 + 2.5 Remix
After many years of lying dormant, the Kingdom Hearts series was revived with the announcement of Kingdom Hearts 3. This led to the creation and release of Kingdom Hearts 2.8, which combined all of the content that wasn’t yet available in the Kingdom Hearts collections on PS3 into an all-new PS4 release. The goal with the release of 2.8 was to eventually release the 1.5 and 2.5 compilations so that when Kingdom Hearts 3 finally hits shelves, every single part of the Kingdom Hearts storyline would be available on a single console.
The 1.5 Remix gave players the definitive version of the original Kingdom Hearts (KH) game and marked the first English-language release of the Final Mix version of the game. It streamlined the menus, improved the camera to some degree, and also included a remake of the franchise’s GBA game, Chain of Memories. This card battling-centric version of the game changed up the combat quite a bit, and was initially re-released on the PS2 to give it a 3D revamp before then getting an HD remake to add even more detail to the graphics.
Chain of Memories kept things in the usual Squaresoft/Disney crossover, while the third-included KH game expanded the lore quite a bit. 358/2 Days greatly-expanded the actual Kingdom Hearts lore apart from the Disney characters and added a slew of characters to the Organization while shining far more light on the world of the Nobodies that inhabit the world. Xion, Roxas, and Axel are given a great amount of depth and showed that you could swap the cast from game to game and still wind up with a compelling story.
358/2 Days was the beginning of the storyline as a whole growing into a giant mass of characters, plots, subplots, and a great many things going on. Going game to game can make the timeline a bit of a mess to keep track of. Fortunately, by having so many entries compiled into one collection like this, it makes it easier to keep track of things. Experiencing the events out of order would normally hurt the narrative, but by eventually seeing everything, you can piece it all together as it would logically happen in your head later.
358/2 Days went from being a playable DS game to an interactive movie, and given its repeated locations with the original game, this was a wise move. It keeps the story’s pace quick, and makes me wish that every game in the series just had a storyline-only option for those who already played the mainline games before and simply want an extended refresher. It might be a bit needless given that fans of the series can already see things like this via online creation, but it would be nice to have an official summation of the storyline presented in a movie-like way.
2.5 Remix brings with it even more content, including with it the Final Mix version of Kingdom Hearts 2, that version of the PSP game Birth by Sleep, and another cinematic collection of a DS game in Re:coded. The overall game selection here is better, with KH 2 being a better overall game than the original – with far snappier pacing and less busy work. Birth by Sleep remains one of the most unique games in the franchise – and one of the best, with a far different overall feel than any other. The game’s prequel nature mixes up the usual cast quite a bit, and expanded the stories of Aqua, Terra, and Ventus from KH 2.
As individual collections brought together, 1.5 and 2.5 does what it needs to. Those looking for massive upgrades from the original PS3 compilations won’t find it here, but will still get a healthy assortment of games that share a formula that is a bit well-worn to say the least if you try and marathon the games. For newcomers, Birth by Sleep is probably the best one to start with plot-wise, but the original game was the initial vision, and everything else came after it as a reaction to it, so you really can’t get a perfect “first” game. You also can’t go wrong choosing to play either game first. Kingdom Hearts 2 is probably the best overall entry in the series, but is hurt a bit by busy work and the beginning of the plot getting a bit too convoluted for its own good.
Visually, this collection is the best overall way to experience the games – with a caveat here and there. The framerates have gone up for the playable games, but that does lead to some wonkiness because they were designed with 30 FPS in mind, so you can have some stuttering and issues where attacks don’t quite look correct to the eye. The core graphical fidelity of everything looks outstanding, though, and is a solid showcase of just what the PS3 was capable of, with a bit more texture smoothing that helps it look better than the PS3. It’s not a radical difference, but if you missed out on either collection on that console, then this is still a solid buy just for the increase in graphical fidelity.
There isn’t much to be gained musically when comparing this collection to the PS3 originals. The audio was already revamped impressively there, and having every game use higher-quality music does help a bit – especially for the epic intro music video sequences. The voice work is crisp and clear, and if you’ve missed out on the series until now, this is easily the best way to experience its excellent soundtracks – which have been some of the best in action RPGs for quite some time.
Kingdom Hearts 1.5 and 2.5 Remix does exactly what it needs to do and little more. It combines the franchise’s PS3 compilations into one package and is both the perfect entry point for newcomers while also a great way for series veterans to experience the best overall versions of the games that have been created so far. There are some rough edges to be sure, and part of that can be blamed on trying to modernize things a bit too much when dipping a toe in the past and keeping it there is sometimes better than trying to fix something that isn’t broken.
Fixes were made for things that needed it, like the camera, while the graphical upgrades are going to be huge for fans going from the PS2-era games to these – they won’t dazzle anyone who already enjoyed them on the PS3. If you missed that generation, but love the series, then you should absolutely get this alongside 2.8 and experience the entire story from the beginning until Kingdom Hearts 3 comes out. If you own them on the PS3, then re-buying is tougher to recommend – although the slight bump up in graphical fidelity, as well as better optimization for modern 4K TVs, means that it might be worth buying again if you have a 4K TV and want to see the series look its absolute best.
Reviewed By: Jeremy Peeples
Publisher: Square Enix
This review is based on a digital copy of Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 + 2.5 Remix for the PlayStation 4 provided by Square Enix.