At long last the sequel to Disney and Square Enix’ critically acclaimed Kingdom Hearts is finally out. Sora, Donald and Goofy (in that order) return in this wonderfully updated and remastered game, bringing more joy, laughter and heart to the franchise and our consoles.
For those of you unfamiliar with the franchise, Kingdom Hearts (both the first and second games) follows the story of Sora – a little boy who is chosen as a keyblade master. The keyblade, which he later finds out, is a powerful tool capable of defeating the heartless, unlocking doors to other inaccessible worlds and helping people who have lost their heart. It’s quite a convoluted story, but written beautifully and well-paced. Early on Sora bumps into Donald and Goofy, who serve as King Mickey’s royal wizard and guard, as they look for their king. Together, the trio set off to find King Mickey and help various troubled Disney and Final Fantasy characters. The amalgamation of the two franchises works really well, despite all odds. It’s also really funny and cute to see Squall, Aerith and Yuffie in the same room as Donald, Goofy and Merlin. My only criticism of the two is that the game is far more reliant on Disney characters than that of Final Fantasy (FF) – and even then, most of the FF cast is found in VII, VIII and X. However, all of this happens in the first Kingdom Hearts game.
Advice: It’s crucial that you play the first game before attempting this one.
Kingdom Hearts 2
Kingdom Hearts 2 (KH2) kicks off after the events of Chain of Memories. However, you start the game playing a young boy named Roxas. It’s almost the end of summer holiday and he intends to spend it with his friends. However, weird things keep happening after each day. Roxas’ story arc ends after a few hours, and this is where you’ll be reunited with Sora, Donald and Goofy. Unlike the first game, where the heartless were the main enemies of the game, this one actually includes a new and greater threat: the nobodies. The trio finds out that nobodies are created the same time as the heartless and are controlled by powerful nobodies who have created an order called Organisation XIII. Now it’s up to the three heroes, who are still looking for King Mickey, to help them stop both the heartless and the nobodies.
It’s very seldom that a sequel surpasses its predecessor, and KH2 is definitely a prime example. It exceeds the first game in both scale and story. While it is technically shorter, a lot more happens in the game. The length is probably due to the ease of the game and the fact that there’s little-to-no grinding involved. I was initially concerned that the game would be too dated, seeing as it was released so late in the year and that many people have moved onto the PS4. However, the cartoonish vibe of the game fits well and I often forgot I was playing a PS2 game. Now and again I’d be reminded of its age when I see an oddly textured wall. The worst has to be the Princesses vacant expressions , especially Ariel when she’s serenading Prince Eric. In terms of action, the game is as fluid and responsive as I remember and equally as epic as the first time I played it. It also features top-notch voice acting from Hollywood celebs such as Christopher Lee, Hayden Panettiere, Haley Joel Osment, Brittany Snow, Bruce Boxleitner (Yip, Tron’s even part of your team!), Gilbert Gottfried, James Woods and loads more.
Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep
The second game that comes in the package is the prequel to the franchise. Birth by Sleep is as important to the series as the first and second game. It follows the story of three keyblade wielders; Ventus, Aqua and Terra. Unlike the other Kingdom Hearts games, you get to play each of the three main heroes and see the game through their perspectives. The game also answers a few questions about the main villain in the series and you get to see how it all started. It does a great job of filling you in on the back story.
The best part of this game is how it mingles with the combat system. While it’s still a third-person hack ‘n slash with a few RPG elements added to it, it shakes things up by including something called the D-link. While there are no summons (which I always thought was a useless feature), the D-link allows you to “summon” the gifts of people you’ve encountered, be they good or evil. For example, you can link powers with Aqua, Ventus, Cinderella, Maleficent and Stitch. Each character has a unique “finishing move” that can be used to great effect and the attacks are very pleasing to the eye. Although the game was originally on the PSP, the visuals hold up really well and the optimization is very good. I had a small framerate issue when there a lot of enemies on the screen, but other than that, I have very little to knock down. My biggest peeve of the game is the erratic difficulty, or rather the erratic placing of strong and weak enemies. The bosses also feel very over-powered and I had to grind quite a bit just to finish them off.
Kingdom Hearts: Re:coded
The final addition to this package is Kingdom Hearts: Re:coded, which is a remastered version of KH: Coded. The only difference is, there’s no actual game. All the cutscenes from the game have been spliced and edited to make it look like a movie. It’s pretty long and even though it’s meant to be a movie, it’s dead boring if you watch it in one sitting. The best I can equate it to is that it is like watching someone play a game, but instead of skipping the cutscenes, they keep skipping the “game” sections. Sort of like a body without a central nervous system. Good news is, you get trophies for watching it and a nice theme for your PS3.
Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMIX is massive. It includes two very good and lengthy games. Altogether, including Re:coded, you’re looking at a 70 hours. There are plenty of collectibles to keep you busy after you’ve finished the game, and it’s fun for people of all ages. This is definitely a game for fans of the franchise and for those who want to play Kingdom Hearts III when it releases.