Tuesday 20 January 2015

Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 Remix

In the past few years I've been starting to realise that now, more than ever, how I'm getting older when stacked up to the release dates of games I've played in the past. The memory of playing Final Fantasy VII for the first time is still fresh in my mind, but when I begin to realise that it was released 17 years ago I want to vomit into my Sugar Puffs. 17 years. That's crazy. Granted I was still pretty young at the time, but by that point I was already at the tipping point between being a typical nice kid and a hormone filled spotty shut in. However, during those years where I was in the puberty trenches, one game helped me see it through- Kingdom Hearts. Originally released back in 2002, it was a fantastic game that spawn a whole bunch of sequels, prequels and spin-offs. So far they've all been pretty great, despite the story throughout the series being overblown, nonsensical and downright confusing. But while we may have to wait a bit longer to get our hands on Kingdom Hearts 3, a high definition release of Kingdom Hearts 2 have finally arrived. Aimed at both pleasing  gamers who played the original and gamers completely new to the series, this HD remaster is one of the best I've seen so far.

Developed by Square Enix and out now on Playstation 3 comes Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 Remix; a game that offers a whole lot of great content on one little disc. The hook of the series is that it merges many Disney characters and worlds together, while also sprinkling in a few well known Final Fantasy characters for good measure, cause why not? From worlds based upon situations, characters and locations in Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Pirates of the Caribbean, Tron and many more, Kingdom Hearts is a wonderfully bizarre, different and exciting concept. Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 Remix contains Kingdom Hearts 2: Final Mix, Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep Final Mix and Kingdom Hearts Re:coded. Originally only released on Nintendo DS as Kingdom Hearts coded, Re:coded remasters the original games cut-scenes, and plays them out like a movie. Birth by Sleep Final Mix is a prequel to the original game, and contains new characters, worlds, scenarios and gameplay. Originally out on PSP back in 2010, Birth by Sleep Final Mix is almost as long as Kingdom Hearts 2: Final Mix, the main focus of this HD remaster (as well as the focus of this review). Kingdom Hearts 2: Final Mix is an updated version of Kingdom Hearts 2, and is the first game in the series to go bat shit insane with its plot. From Sora, Donald and Goofy in stasis at the start of the game, you taking control of an entirely new (and boring) character, the mysterious Organization XIII and enough references to “Nobodies”, “Heartless”, “Ansem” and “Diz” to put anyone to sleep, it's a good thing the gameplay itself is top notch.

Once again taking control of Sora and armed with his Keyblade, you'll spend the game venturing to various Disney themed worlds, interacting with both Final Fantasy and classic Disney characters alike, and taking part in various missions that will ultimately point you in the direction of Organization XIII. The worlds and the characters that inhabit them are wonderfully realised and beautiful rendered, with each one looking and feeling utterly unique. Both visually and narratively each Disney world feels like it was plucked right out of the movie it was based on. Winnie the Pooh's house is here in all its charm the Tron world is presented in all its neon-lit beauty while stepping into the world of  Pirates of the Caribbean essentially plays out like the film, instead with Sora's presence throwing the story a curve ball. It may not be a hardcore RPG like Square Enix's Final Fantasy series, but there's enough world building here to captivate almost anyone.

Combat comes in a mix of melee attacks, magic use and summoning powerful characters and creatures. Compared to the Final Fantasy series, Kingdom Hearts' combat plays out in real-time. From taking on hordes of enemies at once with your Keyblade, or building up a powerful thunder spell and unleashing it, or even calling on Genie from Aladdin to bash multiple enemies at once, Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 Remix has some of the most enjoyable, free form and fun combat outside of Prince of Persia: Sands of Time and Arkham City. It's easy enough to master, but over the course of the game it never gets old, feels tired or runs out of steam. This is in part both thanks to the diverse enemies you'll go up against, but also due to the fact that Sora has different “forms”. These forms essentially change Sora's play-style, how he uses his Keyblade and what type of attributes he'll focus on. To the Valor Form that allows Sora to wield dual Keyblades and focuses on physical strength to his Anti Form that transforms him into a shadowy Keyblade-less creature that excels at combos, there are enough forms here to suit any play-style and situation.

Overall Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 Remix is perfect. Sure, the story is complete bullshit and at times you'll often find yourself cringing at the dialogue, but whenever a beloved Disney or Final Fantasy character turns up it'll no doubt bring a smile to your face. With its convoluted story overshadowed by its genuinely fantastic gameplay both in terms of combat and its RPG aspects, Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 Remix is a roaring success. It's the perfect package for fans and newcomers of the series alike.

Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 Remix improves an already perfect game and gets a 5/5.


Denis Murphy

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