High-definition remakes have become fairly common in the current generation of videogames, with Square-Enix jumping on the bandwagon with HD ports of Final Fantasy X and X-2 not to mention the original Kingdom Hearts and Re:Chain of Memories. Before releasing the first HD Kingdom Hearts series collection, Square-Enix had advertised that the second game would receive an HD version in anticipation of the forthcoming third main entry of the franchise, the selection receiving the name Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 Remix, including HD remakes of the Final Mix iterations of Kingdom Hearts II and the franchise’s first and only sequel, Birth By Sleep, not to mention HD-remastered cutscenes from Re:coded, the second collection being on par with the first.
The HD remix of Kingdom Hearts II as part of the collection comes roughly nine years after the original PlayStation 2 iteration, and is still the latest official numbered entry of the franchise, building upon its predecessor’s hack-and-slash battle system, although there are some new features such as Reaction Commands and Sora’s ability to fuse temporarily with Donald, Goofy, or both in a more powerful form. The sequel is great for the most part, although the narrative could have been better, given the absence of discernable humor in spite of some comic-voiced characters including protagonist Sora’s allies, although a daring retcon of the first game’s storyline spices up things a little.
The franchise’s first and only prequel, Birth By Sleep takes place a decade before the original game, with the player controlling three different Keyblade Masters, Terra, Ventus, and Aqua, each with their own unique attack style, the player forming a deck whose capacity sporadically increases with various commands for attack and healing, each of which increases their command gauge alongside normal attacks and can occasionally evolve their current form for more powerful attacks, with a strong finishing move that ends each character’s special mode, the process of building up their gauges restarting afterward. The prequel is among the strongest entries of the franchise, particularly with respects to its narrative, although there are some rare turnoffs such as mandatory minigames.
Rounding out the collection are high-definition remastered cutscenes of the first entry of the franchise to occur chronologically after the events of the second game, Re:coded, which follows King Mickey and company’s quest to make sense of a pair of mysterious messages appearing in Jiminy Cricket’s journal, with everything else erased, and one of which the player will already pretty much know the meaning of, especially if they’ve played Chain of Memories. There is a bit of a rehash of worlds from the original Kingdom Hearts, and there’s still no humor in spite of the cartoony-voiced cast (although the voices are still well above-average, the only real blemish being the noticeable difference in Aladdin’s Genie’s different performer), although the conclusion of these cutscenes is good and ties into the second game occurring after the first official numbered sequel, Dream Drop Distance, ultimately being a worthwhile experience.
Finally, the collection will run players around sixty hours, with thirty necessary to complete Kingdom Hearts II, twenty-five to finish Birth By Sleep’s three character modes and epilogue, and almost three hours to view all of the remastered Re:coded cutscenes. In the end, Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMIX is for the most part a solid high-definition collection that hits many of the right notes, particularly with regards to the gameplay, although the plot throughout the ports is somewhat hit-or-miss, having its share of weak points in II and the Re:coded story scenes, although the narrative in Birth By Sleep is among the best in the collection alongside gaiden game 358/2 Days. Those that missed out on all the games during their original releases definitely owe it to themselves to try out this enjoyable collection.
+Kingdom Hearts II and Birth By Sleep are enjoyable.
+Great music and voicework.
+Nice remastered visuals.
-Noticeable lack of humor.
-Some story issues in II and Re:coded cutscenes.
The Bottom Line:
A superb HD collection.