Kingdom Hearts Final Mix

Many videogame companies such as Square-Enix have a habit of releasing special editions of their high-profile releases after their original versions, with the two main entries of their Kingdom Hearts series receiving director’s cuts that remained in Japan. However, in 2013, Square-Enix released in both Japan and North America the Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix, which included alongside an HD version of Re:Chain of Memories an HD port of Kingdom Hearts Final Mix, proving to be a solid title in spite of its flaws.

Like the original version, Final Mix features hack-and-slash combat utilized by protagonist Sora’s keyblade, with allies completely controlled by A.I. Although navigating the battle menu in the middle of battle can be tedious, the player can assign three shortcuts to three different magic spells (but no shortcuts for items), and keyblade combat is fairly enjoyable for the most part. The A.I. for Sora’s allies can be incompetent at times, particularly when enemies make themselves invulnerable to the player’s attacks but Sora’s allies attack anyway, and since Sora bounds around while slashing his weapon, there is a possibility that the player can fall from platforms and have to retrace their steps in some dungeons. Still, a solid combat system for the most part.

The game’s dungeon design sometimes doesn’t mix well with combat, and some maps for a few dungeons would have definitely been nice, given the ability to get lost easily in a few, and save opportunities are sometimes far apart, with some areas having no saving right before boss fights. Granted, the menus are generally easy and the game allows players to pause most anytime except during normal exploration (although the game clock doesn’t stop while the game is paused). In the end, interaction isn’t terrible, but isn’t great, either.

Kingdom Hearts’s low point, like before, is its narrative. The main goal of Sora, Donald Duck, and Goofy searching for King Mickey is basically forgotten once the player enters the first of many Disney movie-themed worlds, which in many instances rehash the plots of their respective films with the main antagonists, the Heartless, worked in somehow. Donald and Goofy also had the potential to be good comic relief, but barely try in that regard, and there isn’t even the slightest hint of a Parental Bonus to appeal to older gamers. The appearance of various Final Fantasy characters serves little narrative purpose as well, and while what original content the game does have is half-decent, it represents a hackneyed battle between light and dark, and good versus evil. In the end, the plot is more of a hindrance than a help.

In spite of the clichéd dialogue of light, hearts, and darkness, the localization is actually a pretty good effort, given the lack of any noticeable errors in the dialogue and decent lip syncing with the various characters’ voices, although there are some points where the localization team didn’t bother at times.

The aural presentation, however, is still one of the game’s highlights, with composer Yoko Shimomura’s original music for the most part shining, and battle music being different in each world, resolving the typical JRPG problem of redundant combat themes. The voice acting is good as well, though the voices of characters such as Donald and Goofy feel horribly out of place in a game devoid of comedy. In the end, a nice-sounding game.

The HD graphics look pretty as well, with believable character models and environments that only show a slight hint of blurry textures when seen up-close, and superb FMVs. As with before, however, the Gummi ship graphics are perhaps the low point of the visual presentation, given the fade-in when traveling through the space between worlds. Even so, the game looks great.

Finally, finishing the game takes somewhere under twenty hours with a straightforward playthrough (this reviewer managed to finish in about fifteen), and the different difficulty settings and trophies very much enhance replayability.

Overall, Kingdom Hearts Final Mix is for the most part a solid director’s cut that hits most of the right notes with regards to things such as its gameplay, aurals, and visuals, although it definitely leaves room for improvement with regards to some parts of the battle system and the infantile story. Despite these faults, the game proves to be a solid portion of HD 1.5 Remix, and kids in particular, given the appeal of the plot to lower age demographics, might just eat the first Kingdom Hearts title up.

The Good:
+Good hack-and-slash battle system.
+Great aural presentation.
+Crisp HD visuals.
+Solid localization.
+Adjustable difficulty and trophies enhance replayability.

The Bad:
-Navigating battle menu can be hard in the middle of battle.
-Platforming can be difficult when in combat.
-Infantile storyline.

The Bottom Line:
A good director’s cut.

Score Breakdown:
Platform: PlayStation 3
Game Mechanics: 7/10
Controls: 6/10
Story: 5/10
Music/Sound: 8/10
Graphics: 9/10
Localization: 8/10
Lasting Appeal: 10/10
Difficulty: Variable
Playing Time: Less than 20 Hours

Overall: 7.5/10

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