Review + Giveaway: Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 Remix enhances a triple blast from Disney’s past, with Sora and friends back and better

in Disney, Merchandise, Reviews, Video Games

In September 2013 Square Enix and Disney Interactive released Kingdom Hearts HD I.5 ReMIX where they offered HD versions of the original Kingdom Hearts game along with a HD copy of Kingdom Hearts Re:coded, and HD version of the cinematics from Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days for Nintendo DS. It was a great addition to any KH fan’s collection.

Now, approximately one year later, Kingdom Hearts HD II.5 ReMIX has been released and I believe it calls for just as much fan fare.

If you’ve been following Inside the Magic you probably know that I did a review of Kingdom Hearts HD I.5 ReMIX last year. It was my first ever review and thanks to some feedback, and the new game, I’m back to try again. Not only am I back, but I’m taking a more systematic approach to it. Let’s jump in with game #1 on the disc: Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix.

For Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix I dusted off my PS2 and popped in my Kingdom Hearts II disc. I wanted to see side by side the changes, upgrade, and overall experience. Now having played Kingdom Hearts HD I.5 ReMIX I expected to be a little numbed to the initial HD impact, but I, just like before, found myself calling out to friends raving about how the upgrade looks. Let’s just take the intro as an example. The PS2 version looks great and back when it came out it looked better than great. With the HD upgrade that greatness has been brought back up into place. One thing that stuck out for me was that the last few shots on the intro in the HD version looked almost KH3 in quality making me wonder what happened for those shots and why the whole intro was not given the same detail.

This HD upgrade stays fairly constant throughout the game. The only times I noticed that they either cut corners (or maybe ran out of time/resources?) if for some of the scenery shots. One big example I can give is when Roxas, Hayner, Olette, and Pence are eating their sea salt ice cream on the top of the clock tower. When the camera is angled to show the buildings in the surrounding area they are all very blurry. It’s like if they had just blown up the original graphics to fit. There were also some posters around town that looked less than perfect, but these did not take away from the experience at all. If I was just playing the game without picking out little details as I am for this I wouldn’t even mention it. I did also notice that in order to make this version widescreen they did a zoom-to-fit instead of rendering more of the world to fill the extra space.

A major difference between the two versions that makes this game playable all over again is the additional scenes. Now these scenes are not entirely new. Just like the first HD ReMIX they upgraded the final mix version of the game not the original. For those of you who don’t know already the final mix versions of the Kingdom Hearts games are version that are only released in Japan with additional scenes and even gameplay elements. These games make there way to the US and other countries in combo pack such as this. The first additional scene one encounters during gameplay is during the struggle tournament. I won’t spoil anything for anyone who hasn’t already seen it, even for a short cutscene like this one, but I will say these extra scenes make these game a little bit more like an interactive movie than a game. The kingdom hearts games are very cinematic oriented in there original form so these only pushes that experience forward.

The gameplay itself is the same. There are tiny little variations to the game such as the default potion magic command is now X and not O, and there are always little interface changes that make things look cleaner and easy to use, but all in all the actually mechanics to play the game feel the same. I actually noticed a difference in the background music more than I did the gameplay. The music in the updated game features a wider dynamic range which I greatly appreciate. The PS2 version is louder and slightly harsh compared to what it is now.

(The next two games are portable Kingdom Hearts games. I’m not sure why but whenever a Kingdom hearts game goes portable the developers have the need to come up with some obscure fight system that is different from the core games, Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II.)

The second game on this disc is Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep. This was a PSP (Playstation Portable) game that although I own I never played. So, this was my first time playing the game at all when I played it in this HD form. I only have one word for this game: WHAT? Although it is tied into the Kingdom Hearts story line (it is actually a prequel) the gameplay, worlds, and over all feel of the game felt really foreign. In this particular game you can choose to play as one of three characters Ventrus (also known as Roxas), Terra, and Aqua. Each character when you choose them has their own story.

The game itself has one universal story, but you play through that same story with each character and his or her role in that. The game mechanics are what really threw my off. Unlike Kingdom Hearts I & II where you have have attack, magic, and items and you use them at will. This game is more like Kingdom Hearts Chain of Memories, but instead of cards you have a “Command List”. You scroll through the list using L2 and R2 and then activate it using triangle. This commands include, but are not limited to blizzard, quick blitz and thunder.

Thats is not all though. This list has a secondary feature and it is called D-Link (anybody else having Gameboy flashbacks?). Using the right directional button you can link to one of the other characters you’ve connected with and use their commands as well. Needless to say this is a lot more complicated than the core games. For me this made for a very unpleasant experience just like Chain of Memories did. Will I still try and play my way through the game? Yes, but simply because I want to know the story leading up to the first Kingdom Hearts game.

Finally, Kingdom Hearts Re:coded is the third title on the disc. Just like the HD cinematics for Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days on Kingdom Hearts HD I.5 ReMIX, Kingdom hearts Re:coded can only be described by calling it a DS-to-Movie conversion. I have never truly been a portable Kingdom Hearts fan, as I previously expressed. So titles like Chain of Memories, Birth by Sleep, 358/2 Days, Re:coded, and Dream Drop Distance (Which was for 3DS! Awesome!) all have been on bottom of my “things to play” list.

However, this is a wonderful way to experience these games without having to deal with weird gameplay and all new mechanics. When I first started watching the cinematic I instantly wrote down all of the voices that were not right or sounded weird, but as I continued watching I realized that with time things change and one can not always expect voices to be the same.

Rest in Peace Eddie Carroll (Jiminy Cricket) and Wayne Allwine (Mickey Mouse).

Once I was further into the story I found myself rather captivated. This game is all about how something happened to Jiminy’s first journal contain the entire first games story and how everyone goes about fixing it. You get to revisit all of the old worlds, but with a new twist. They call them bugs, but these blocks and other various darkness have taken over the story and Sora must restore them. There is a whole concept involving data version of all of the characters vs the real characters that I won’t get into.

I cant say too much more without giving out part of the story, but what I can say is I thoroughly enjoyed watching this cinematics. I do have one small complaint about it though. Because this is all of the cinematics from the game, if they would have just left it at that there would be huge holes in the story. So, whenever actually gameplay is supposed to occur you receive screenshots of the game with scrolling text and a narrated explanation of what you would have done/learned playing that section. It made me kind of lose connection with the story briefly each time it happened.

All and all I still really enjoy these games being upgraded and brought up to HD standards. I would highly recommend this combo disc to any Kingdom Hearts fan.


Square-Enix has graciously offered two fantastic Kingdom Hearts prizes for us to give away: 1 copy of Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMIX and a Kingdom Hearts II Sora Play Arts Limit Form figure!

To enter to win both the figure and game, comment below with your favorite Disney character from Kingdom Hearts games!

You have until the end of the day on December 12 to enter, after which we’ll randomly choose 1 winner. Only one entry permitted per person.

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