It's been over a decade since Kingdom Hearts was first released and in that time we've seen it grow considerably in both its universe and its ever so dedicated community. Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMIX carries on the game's legacy by including three of the series' more recent titles, Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix, Birth By Sleep Final Mix, and re:coded. With 1.5, Square Enix succeeded in recharging the magic from the series' earlier titles, but it was still uncertain whether or not they could do the same with these next three, as two of them in particular are believed to be the series' best.
Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep originally released on the PlayStation Portable and served as a prequel title for the series. It focused on worlds that had disappeared by the start of the original Kingdom Hearts. The stories within these worlds are very simple and don't last very long, which is unlike the worlds in the original Kingdom Hearts where you would spend a great deal of time in many of the worlds. However, this is likely to be because this title was originally for the PlayStation Portable and therefore was meant to be digested in smaller chunks. Regardless there's still plenty of other content to take part in aside from the Disney world stories.
In Kingdom Hearts II there's a lot more story within each of the worlds and it's complimented by more story that is specific to the Kingdom Hearts universe. You start out following the story of a young kid named Roxas who is struggling to find out who he is and where he belongs. This is short-lived however, as you will rejoin Sora and company for yet another Disney world adventure.
Revisiting the worlds from the original Kingdom Hearts and then exploring the new worlds as well offers a nice stroll down memory lane for those who have already played the game. And for people who are new to the series, but know the Disney films, there's a ton of content available. So be ready to set aside a hefty amount of playing time.
Despite being ported over from a handheld device, Birth By Sleep's gameplay is relatively solid. Much like how Re:Chain of Memories was compared to the original Kingdom Hearts, it's not your usual Kingdom Hearts combat style. This game offers timed abilities and command decks. What we mean by "timed abilities", is that with every move you do, there's a countdown timer for when you're allowed to use it again. It keeps you from spamming moves and makes the game a lot more difficult as a result, which for some of you it might be a good thing, but for others, it could be rather annoying. You have to really plan out when you want to use certain moves and be focused on when those moves will be reset especially when it comes to curing abilities.
There are also D-Links in Birth By Sleep. These are kind of like the "Drive Forms" from Kingdom Hearts II. You unlock D-Links as you work your way through the game and the different links offer different abilities, should you take the time to level them up. For example, if you level up your D-Link with Ventus, you'll be able to use abilities like Auto-Haste. This is very helpful when you're in a sticky situation. Unfortunately, there are a few boss battles where you're unable to use these which is a bit annoying, as the game makes you reliant on them to some degree.
Unlike Birth By Sleep, Kingdom Hearts II pretty much is an upgraded, more polished version of the original Kingdom Hearts. There are a lot more combos to use in this one compared to its predecessor and, of course, the drive system which allows Sora to take on various forms offering new abilities to help Sora and company to take out enemies. With the updated HD graphics, you can bask in how gorgeous the gameplay looks. There is also some new content to explore in this version as it's the Final Mix version of the game.
The character models look seamless and smooth. It's a pity though that in some of the more serious scenes in Birth By Sleep, they chose to keep the lower quality looking models. You could have a scene where all of the characters look really high quality and then suddenly you notice that the characters look a bit rough and then suddenly they snap back into their more high quality selves. It's something that the Kingdom Hearts series has dealt with since the initial games and unfortunately it's still lurking within the HD remakes.
The remastered tracks from both Kingdom Hearts II and Birth By Sleep are overall clearer and crisper sounding than their originals, although that's not to say it's entirely perfect. There are some tracks like Tension Rising that unfortunately don't make the same impact as their original, but then there's tracks like the "Keyblade Graveyard" which offer a lovely haunting update to the original.
One of the things that really plagued Birth By Sleep compared to Kingdom Hearts 2, was the fact that in most of the areas, you and a couple of NPCs are literally the only people around. This probably has to do with the fact that this was a game meant for the PSP, which meant the system didn't have the capacity to hold that much information. But scenes like the ball in Castle of Dreams just felt so empty. It was supposed to be a ball full of people, and yet the only people you could see at the event were Cinderella, Prince Charming and the Grand Duke. You couldn't even see the evil step mother and her two little brat children snarling at the pair dancing. Coming from a game like Kingdom Hearts 2 where the areas have a bunch of NPCs walking around, to one that doesn't - it's a bit jarring.
This HD collection offers a great deal of content for what it's worth. Both of the games featured offer hours of gameplay as well as additional content on top of that with the Final Mix editions packed in. Then finally, there's re:coded which, like 358/2 Days in Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMIX, offers fans a chance to watch all of the cutscenes from the title in a special film format. Very useful for getting up to speed with the story.
Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMIX definitely sets the bar high for other HD collections. It offers tons of new content along with some gorgeous updated graphics and remastered music. There are some wonky points in there due to the transitions, but we have come to expect that with HD collections. Still, for anyone on the fence about getting Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMIX, we definitely believe that this is one collection you won't want to miss out on.
|Lots of new content.|
|The character models are gorgeous in HD.|
|The stories are engaging and fun.|
|Worlds in Birth By Sleep feel empty.|
|Some trouble with the analog stick in Birth By Sleep.|
|Still using low quality models in pivotal cutscenes.|