Don’t miss our review of Kingdom Hearts 2.5 HD!
HD re-masters seem to be all the rage as of late and Square-Enix definitely seems to be on the train. Their latest release, Kingdom Hearts 2.5 HD Remix, is a blast from the past that may not have been necessary.
Developed and published by Square-Enix, Kingdom Hearts is an action-RPG set in a world made up of original characters, Disney favorites, and even some Square-Enix names. Players follow Sora, wielder of the Keyblade, on an adventure to destroy darkness and protect the myriad worlds from the evil Heartless. This HD re-master features graphically enhanced versions of two games that have never been seen on American shores: Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix and Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep Final Mix. In addition to the aforementioned games, it comes with an HD cinematic collection that tells the story of Kingdom Hearts Re:coded.
Starting with Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix, it’s important to note that everything about the old game has been carried over. Combat is still a well-paced system that prizes offense over defense. The Drive Form transformations are still present. Donald still has a silly voice. This, however, does not mean these systems are great.
Nine years of age are beginning to show on the title. Current-day action-RPGs, like Devil May Cry, have shown us that combat can be fierce, fluid, and exciting. Kingdom Hearts still has a problem with the controls feeling too sticky and heavy, lacking the fluidity that modern games in the genre have brought to the table.
Other annoyances that remain are the confusing item creation system, poor AI partners, and silly “gummi ship” sections. Synthesis is never fully explained, leaving players to collect massive amounts of materials that leave you with very few things to make.
The AI will use items and magic with reckless abandon, regardless of what orders you give them, leading to many moments in which you are stuck in an attack, cannot heal, and your allies have already used every supply in the first minute of the fight.
Finally, the gummi ship sections — the on-rails spaceship shooter sections — return. These segments feel so out of place and mood-breaking that they detract from the action on land.
While the addition of the Final Mix material such as new bosses, keyblades, and cinematics is nice, it all seems to be about nine years too late. The game is heavily dated.
The second game in the collection, Kingdom Hearts Birth By Sleep Final Mix, was originally released on PSP in 2010. Its re-master suffers from more problems than its predecessor.
The combat system featuring the “command deck” returns. This card-like system requires players to equip certain attacks and abilities to use during combat. After an ability is used, it goes on a cooldown timer until it can be used again. However, this makes combat more sluggish than in Kingdom Hearts II.
Basic attacks have a huge delay between when an animation stops and when you can undertake another action such as dodging or blocking. This leads the player to rarely finish a combo so that they can actually use defensive maneuvers. In addition, most command deck abilities can only be used while you are on the ground and not conducting any other actions. Something like chaining an ice-elemental strike into your regular combo is impossible, not to mention early combats where you are left running in circles waiting for your abilities to recharge.
The slowness is remedied slightly by Dimension Links, which take the places of summons, and give you access to a command deck centered on another character’s combat style. However, what’s the point of making your own command deck if you constantly run around using one of the D-Link decks?
Speaking of, making commands and building your own deck is a tedious process that was better served on a hand-held console. Grinding for hours in front of a large screen to make a deck with good abilities is not ideal.
As a final note, multiplayer has been removed and the Mirage Arena world supports only single-player.
Finally, the Kingdom Hearts Re:coded “movie” is pretty much ignorable. It’s an over three-hour long movie based on a game in the series that had little to no bearing on the overall plot. Watch it at your own peril for the trophies.
Both of the games in the collection have their good points, though. For long time fans without access to the Japanese imports, they can finally experience content they have never seen for both Kingdom Hearts II and Birth By Sleep. The games are each long, full of things to do, and have an interesting plot. Despite not being amazing games, they are a great value at $40 for the re-mastered pair, not to mention they do look really pretty.
Kingdom Hearts 2.5 HD Remix earns a 6/10.
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