Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMIX Review

The Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix compilation makes beautiful magic, but is still flawed in familiar places.

On paper, the idea seems just a little bit too fantastic to actually work: take a handful of Disney characters and worlds, mix them with some Final Fantasy heroes and a brand-new universe, infuse everything with light role-playing game elements, and hope for the best. It takes little imagination to envision such a formula producing any number of disappointing outcomes, but instead, the idea was realized as Kingdom Hearts and went on to become a beloved and popular franchise. Now, years after that initial triumph, Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix is a good reminder of the series' great joys and occasional frustrations.

Though it's not entirely clear from the title, Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix is a compilation of two separate games in the franchise (the Final Mix versions of Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts Re: Chain of Memories), and a semi-interactive retelling of a third (Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days). Kingdom Hearts Final Mix is the gem in the compilation's crown, the game most likely to entice returning fans to take the fresh plunge and the starting point for any new arrivals. It introduces the hero, a young boy named Sora who lives on an island and regularly meets with friends Riku and Kairi for adventures. The members of that happy trio long to leave their peaceful tropical home in search of adventure, and one day they get their wish. Nothing goes as planned, though, and their friendship is inevitably tested as they are forced to make their way through a universe full of memorable new allies and scheming villains from various Disney films.

If you're familiar with the original release of Kingdom Hearts in North America, you'll discover that there are subtle changes to the Final Mix presentation, including new weapons and different item locations. In spite of those modifications, the game plays largely as it did in the past, which is a great blessing and an occasional curse. Sora and friends often wander through interconnected and mostly barren environments, talking to various characters and frequently battling a few of the same enemy mobs on their way to trigger another cutscene so that they can backtrack and keep the story moving. Along the way, an uncooperative camera likes to get hung up on the architecture, and there are occasional platforming sections that seem to have been designed with tighter controls in mind. The latter issue is eventually alleviated once Sora gains new abilities that improve his agility, but such annoyances put a damper on the action..

It's relatively easy to tolerate occasional tedium because there is always something unexpected but delightfully familiar around the next turn to make up for it. For instance, you are greeted upon arrival in Wonderland by a scene in which the frantic White Rabbit rushes off to his audience with the Queen of Hearts. The events that follow that introduction largely mimic those seen in the classic animated feature Alice in Wonderland, and as you visit more such worlds, you influence the outcome of well-known stories and witness key characters in a new light. There's also a satisfying character progression system that lets you equip favored abilities, and whaling away on enemies with your keyblade is cathartic once you get used to monitoring Sora and his companions all at once.

Over time, the graphical impact the original releases once had has faded, but Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix applies a fresh coat of paint with modest success. Environments are still rather barren, but the backdrops are usually presented sharply, and the character models and action are animated beautifully. Presentation isn't entirely consistent, and some areas look more spectacular than others, but Remix doesn't feel antiquated, and the widescreen aspect ratio makes it easier to follow the combat.

Re:Chain of Memories, for its part, has gained the most compared to its original release. Square Enix at one point reworked the Game Boy Advance game for the PlayStation 2, and now that edition has been further tweaked. Many of the art assets from Final Mix are thus reused, and the story elements are similar (because Sora is now working his way through memories of his previous time spent in those worlds). If you've just played through Final Mix, jumping into its successor feels overly familiar, though combat and exploration are given a boost. Instead of simply running around and striking foes with his keyblade, Sora must activate cards from a deck he has built.

There's a lot of depth to the system, since you can form combos (at the risk of temporarily losing access to the first card in a series of three) and must consider placement of cards outside of battle. The process of navigating the world is also different. You connect rooms by placing expendable cards and often can determine what you find on the other side of a door. For instance, you might lay out a card that causes the ensuing area to be full of drowsy foes, or treasure. Though the new system is intimidating and awkward initially, the deck building eventually becomes more enthralling than anything featured in Final Mix.

The final game in the compilation, Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days, is presented only in a viewing mode. Instead of participating in an interactive fashion, you watch reworked cutscenes stitched together using art stills and brief text summaries. It's primarily an exercise in listening to dialogue as characters sit around eating ice cream on a clock tower, and the star of the story is now Roxas, an important figure who appears in Kingdom Hearts II. The story's structure works well to expand the Kingdom Hearts mythology beyond its apparent boundaries, though the lack of action leads to waning interest.

Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix presents a couple of the earliest games in the beloved series in their best light and makes a revealing cinematic experience out of a third one. The three experiences complement one another with unique elements and welcome context that is a treat for longtime fans and newcomers alike; plus, there's enough variety to keep everyone engaged for the 50 or 60 hours it can easily take to absorb everything. There was a time when the mixture of Disney and Final Fantasy characters felt magical, and this new compilation capably proves that the magic has not yet dissipated.

'

The Good
Beautiful all over again
Lots of adventuring, with surprises around many corners
Varied combat systems
Involving storyline
The Bad
Uncooperative camera
Imprecise jumping
7
Good
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Jason Venter has finished hundreds of video games since discovering the hobby in the late '80s, and he hopes to play and write about hundreds more before they bury him.

Discussion

389 comments
migalis
migalis

can someone mail me the theme, pleaseeee ?

Erkball55
Erkball55

Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMIX has been announced.

  • Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix — previously on PS2 and exclusive to Japan
  • Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep Final Mix — previously on PSP and exclusive to Japan
  • Kingdom Hearts Re:coded (HD remastered cinematics)
  • Coming in 2014 for the PS3!!

    h2dude69
    h2dude69

    I would've bought it if they did KH and KH 2

    Torvar72
    Torvar72

    the only game worth playing is the First KH the other two game just plane suck. They should of did of HD version of KH 2

    racerxgundam
    racerxgundam

    yaknow reading this review reminds me why this package is sort of a rip off. 

    if this were, KH: final mix 1 + chain of memories + KH final mix 2, then yeah. take my money. 

    to ask for full price just for KH final mix with COM is not good enough IMHO. i have played every kingdom heart to date.I sometimes don't know what to think of the series as a whole, yes lots of action and fun....also the WORST support A.I. i can think of for any role playing franchise in the PS2 iterations, and they criminally reuse the same environments and assets it almost feels like your playing the same game over and over again. 

    my take is that if ur completely new to the series this is where to jump in, and to everyone else its just better to pass. 

    i would criticize the story and mythos as the rantings of a meth-ed out schizoid hobo hiding out in disneyland...but this is square and this is essentially  their take at an ARPG, you have to give them a pass on this. A universe where their FF characters are talking to anthropomorphic animals, wormhole exists, alternate realities, gummi bear designed space ships, shadow people, and secret organizations all co-exists was prolly on the table BEFORE they got the disney license. They prolly were happy they signed the paperwork because using the disney universe as a baseline for this nonsense would cut down the need for a tie-in manga or "perfect" guide books to try to justify the hallucination.

    > wii u 


    The_Last_Ride
    The_Last_Ride

    i need to try this game, never tried any of the games in the series. I have heard a lot about it though

    StarSfrife
    StarSfrife

    This review is spot on (no pun intended lol). The camera controls for the 1.5 Remix are actually worse at times than the original game. Sure, R1 does help alleviate a lot of the issues, but Square Enix actually adjusted the camera angle for the game by like 10-20 degrees. Assets in the game frequently obstruct your view of battle, and the change in camera controls gives you less precision and accuracy than the original game, without the increased speed that KH2 offered.

    grin89
    grin89

    why doesnt the picture have a play button? if i wanted to read id go to a library.

    hellpolice
    hellpolice

    The camera issue is true , but if you press R1 to lock on enemies should make battles more bearable because it reposition the camera to where the enemies are.  

    nicecall
    nicecall

    i only played Kingdom hearts way back at its release, im tempted to buy this and play it again with better graphics... not sure if its worth my time though 60 hrs is pretty rough.

    Makoto03
    Makoto03

    Sad to see there was no digital release, so i'm out of luck. All because of a stupid licensing deal with Utada, preventing her music in the games to be released digitally. I don't even care about Utada's generic jpop opening track. I wish they would just replace it with something else so they could release it digitally, similiar to what Namco had to do with DBZ Budokai HD collection.

    lordnarmo
    lordnarmo

    old memories ! lol its been a long while since I played KH1 and KH2. Will definitely buy this.

    wrestlemaniaw
    wrestlemaniaw

    I will waste my money on this instead of GTA....

    wizardboyus
    wizardboyus

    not getting this as i'm already playing kingdom hearts 2 final mix in english on my ps2, as well as chains of memories. oh the joys of free mcboot :]

    save my cash for gta 5

    mr_squibble
    mr_squibble

    Received my Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix limited edition on Tuesday. Really nice value for $40. Still need to find some time to play it, though.

    Horndawgie
    Horndawgie

    Still have my PS2 and saw the game the other day for 5 bucks. Yeah I never played it, so I think it's time. 

    jrb363
    jrb363

    Fuck you GameSpot and your review system. A 7.0 for a game that's been completely remade, looks BEAUTIFUL for an eleven year old remake and plays just as good as it did the day it originally came out? Screw that noise. I mean the jumping I can maybe understand (although, after HOURS of game play I have yet to experience a problem) but for you to LIE and claim you have camera problems?!?!


    Seriously, what the hell? Is the RIGHT JOYSTICK broken on your PS3? Or are you just too stupid to READ and follow the TUTORIAL??? I'm guessing the latter. Morons!

    younginflavor18
    younginflavor18

    Looks like an interesting must-by for newcomers and verterans alike since I never got a chance to play the original. And I might buy this collection since it's worth 3 games bundled in one.

    AccursedGamer
    AccursedGamer

    The score should be higher than a 7/10. It honestly should.

    SirApathetic005
    SirApathetic005

    Wind Waker HD sets a good example on what an HD remake is that game's like this should follow...

    Infinite_713
    Infinite_713

    @racerxgundam Thank you for this. I'm 25 and have never played a kingdom hearts game before. I'm at the end boss on ni no kuni. I beat final fantasy xiii and xiii-2. How does this game feels compared to some other popular rpgs? I see that this game is on ebay for 35 bucks

    nokia4512
    nokia4512

    @grin89 reading is good my friend, it will help you expand your brain. 
    PLUS! you will not write stupid comments anymore! Cheers! 

    hellpolice
    hellpolice

    A combination of the R1 and joystick, is part of the gameplay system in fact. 

    soulless4now
    soulless4now

    @nicecall You can beat it in less than 20 hours and do just about everything in the game during that time. 

    StarSfrife
    StarSfrife

    @nicecall KH isn't a 60 hour game. You can probably make it through most of the game in 30. I suppose a 100% might take 60 hours, but honestly I think the original version of the game is better on the PS2. 

    feared4power
    feared4power

    @nicecall main story is only about 25-30 hours if u take your time you could rush it in about 10 easy.

    MasterDonGero
    MasterDonGero

    @Makoto03 While it is stupid that it can't be released digitally due to this, for me, Kingdom Hearts without "Simple and Clean" wouldn't be the same.

    hellpolice
    hellpolice

    @Makoto03  Oh thats why DBZ Budokai was only available on disk format, I see.

    Promised_Trini
    Promised_Trini

    @Makoto03  

    I think the reason why there was no Digital release also has to do with Disney.Don't hold me to that I am not sure.

    Drilbit777
    Drilbit777

    @Makoto03 Seriously? Thats why they didn't want to release the game digitally? I always thought it was because of licensing issues with disney so that kinda sucks that PS4 Owners won't be able to get it.

    nokia4512
    nokia4512

    @wizardboyus The use of free mcboot on non-legal copies of games for the ps2 is still penalized. Do gamespot a favor and stop posting your illicit activities.    

    StarSfrife
    StarSfrife

    @Horndawgie It's better on PS2 anyway. Square messed with the camera controls on the remake, and personally I think they're worse. The camera is still a little odd in the original game, but after you get used to it it's no problem.

    StarSfrife
    StarSfrife

    @jrb363 You clearly either didn't play the original game on PS2, or haven't played 1.5 yet. The camera controls are worse in the remake than the original, not that the vanilla controls were that bad. I'm a HUGE KH fan and have probably spent 1000+ hours in the game. High resolution textures tend to look a little strange on generally low poly models, and there are a decent number of small graphical mistakes. The camera in 1.5 doesn't offer nearly as much control or precision as vanilla KH did. I'd give the original KH a 9.5 personally, but I agree with this review. The camera controls on 1.5, combined with the far more annoying fact that the camera is actually 20 degrees farther back behind Sora, almost broke the game experience for me. It's an okay remaster of an amazing game, thus the 7.0.

    KokutenNagaki
    KokutenNagaki

    @jrb363 For a game that has been re-released about a dozen times a 7 a is a pretty decent score. And Kingdom Hearts and Chain of Memories are pretty weak titles in comparison to other games in the series.

    ElementalSoljer
    ElementalSoljer

    @jrb363 A 7 is a decent score. I do agree with him in regards to the camera though: it sucks during battles. Also, the packaging for the limited ed. sucks: it's another terrible excuse for an "artbook," and not to mention that the friggin' artbook doubles as the game case so if you have a shelf that only fits the standard PS3 cases you're pretty much boned. It's also pretty weak that KH: 358/2 Days is pretty much cut scenes though. I'd knock off whole points on that alone. 

    The game does look and sound great though.

    ravenfan7x7
    ravenfan7x7

    @jrb363 The camera is still problematic.  I mean I love the KH series and I'm loving 1.5 but don't pretend the camera isn't insanely annoying at times.

    Runnin_Mike
    Runnin_Mike

    @jrb363 That's the thing it wasn't completely remade... It was really more of a remaster.

    StarSfrife
    StarSfrife

    @AccursedGamer The camera controls are actually worse in the remaster than the original game - as a huge fan of the original game, the new camera angle almost breaks the game experience for me. 

    Leboyo56
    Leboyo56

    @SirApathetic005 I dunno, I definitely loved the original WW's polygonal semi-cell-shaded graphics compared to HD's smoother, more conventional look. This is a remake in its simplest and, imo, best form. It keeps the original graphics style and doesn't try to hide the fact these games, no matter how classic and fondly remembered they are, weren't perfect.

    WolfGrey
    WolfGrey

    @SirApathetic005  

    Ramek...ramek.......Namek?

    So Wind Waker takes place on Namek?  Is Ganondorf Freeza?

    Orga777
    Orga777

    @KokutenNagaki @jrb363 

    Er. The first game is probably better than all the other titles with MAYBE the exception being Birth by Sleep. KH1 has better gameplay mechanics that make the game more challenging than KH2 which tends to be extremely easy even on the supposed hard bosses. :/

    Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMIX More Info

    Follow
  • First Released
    • PS3
    Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMIX is a collection that contains the classic original game redone in HD along with the immediate continuation of Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories and HD enhanced cutscenes from Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days.
    8.2
    Average User RatingOut of 153 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMIX
    Developed by:
    Square Enix
    Published by:
    Square Enix
    Genres:
    Compilation
    Content is generally suitable for ages 10 and up. May contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.
    Everyone 10+
    All Platforms
    Fantasy Violence