I told myself I wasn’t going to write a Kingdom Hearts related article—full of things dealing with the plot, characters and other going-ons in the Kingdom Hearts universe. Mostly due to the HD collection that’s set to come out this Fall, Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD ReMIX. I figured, for those people that intend to pick up the collection and jump into the series for the first time, it’d kind of suck to stumble upon the random, spoiler-filled ramblings of a Kingdom Hearts fan. I mean, I’d certainly be upset by it. Not that Kingdom Hearts has this amazing story that could be completely ruined by one out-of-nowhere, strategically-placed spoiler, but because, if you’re going to get into a series with a long (ish) running plot like this, you kinda want to discover things at your own pace; put the pieces together when you see fit to do so.
Besides, I’m the kind of person who hates spoilers related to things he really enjoys or plans on getting in to. So who am I to go screwing things up for other people? No one, that’s who. Well, I’m somebody, just not the guy who should clear up what’s what in the Kingdom Hearts series; maybe leave that to someone over at Square Enix. Tetsuya Nomura? King Mickey? No, Yen sid, most likely.
Anyway (see, random ramblings) I’m not going to go into the plot and other nonsense, and I’ve instead decided to discuss the games contained with the 1.5 HD ReMIX, and why they’re there. It would have probably been easier to say that a bit earlier, but hey….actually, no, I didn’t have a good excuse. Did this intro drag on? I think it did; almost like [insert Kingdom Hearts joke about length here].
Kingdom Hearts Final Mix
Square Enix tends to release some of their bigger titles a second time in Japan, but with new story elements and gameplay changes. They’re called ‘International’ versions, despite being exclusive to Japan, and can include anything from new areas, to new weapons, to new, even harder, bosses. Kingdom Hearts Final Mix is like that where, compared to the NA/EU versions of the game, it includes a few flashback scenes, some new stuff between side characters like Cloud and Sephiroth, different colored enemies and a new hidden boss; a cool hidden boss too, when you consider who it actually is, but we won’t dwell on that.
Now, with regards to the 1.5 HD ReMIX version of the game, I know that the camera controls have been change to reflect modern gaming controls. Back when Kingdom Hearts released on the PlayStation 2, you controlled the camera with the L2 and R2 shoulder buttons; the right analog stick was used to…I don’t remember. Did it do anything, or did it just sit there and cry out desperately for a reason to be used?
The Triangle button gets a little more use too, as, I believe, your ‘super attacks,’ like Sonic Blade, Strike Raid and Ragnarok, are assigned to it, as opposed to it being assigned to the fourth section on the command list; which has been permanently assigned as the Summon command.
This is the first time the Final Mix version of Kingdom Hearts has seen an official release outside of Japan. And to huge Kingdom hearts fans like me, we couldn’t be happier. Imagine playing a game you’re really into—you do everything in it— and then discover that Japan gets the game you just kicked the crap out of and another, more awesome version, full of more stuff. You’d probably want it. Sure, you could import it and a Japanese PS2, but who really wants to do that? Crazy people, that’s who.
Kingdom Hearts Re: Chain of Memories
In a perfect, easy to follow world, Kingdom Hearts 2 would be the first sequel to Kingdom Hearts, but nope, Chain of Memories! Gotcha!
Re: Chain of Memories is actually a full on remake of the Game Boy Advance title, Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, for the PlayStation 2. It basically brings Chain of Memories up to console level quality (in terms of visuals and audio) but keeps the gameplay of the GBA game; which was a card battle, high vs. low, kind of thing. It’s also a direct sequel to Kingdom Hearts, as it picks up right after the ending to that game, so you can kinda understand why it’d be in this HD collection. Chain of Memories also served as something Kingdom Hearts-y to play during the, seemingly long, wait for Kingdom Hearts 2.
I have to admit, I haven’t played Re: Chain of Memories due to having already played its GBA predecessor, but it always sort of bothered me to know that Square Enix kept the card battle combat. Even when I was younger and playing the GBA game, the card battle mechanic seemed to be more of a hindrance than anything else; having to scroll through a deck of cards that serve as your attacks and magic, while also trying not to die, felt like something that could really bring down the experience, so to speak.
Donald and Goofy were also downgraded from being party members to being cards in your deck. I could understand this on the GBA (how would you fit all that on one screen?), but with the PS2 I expected the return of having an actual party. Donald and Goofy show up in cutscenes, and then disappear during the ‘game’ part. You can add their respective cards to your deck and bring them into the fight that way (where they’ll do 2-3 actions, then disappear again), but it’s not the same as having people by your side. I suppose this is what they call a ‘nitpick.’
Future handheld Kingdom Hearts games got better when it came to giving you a deck to fill with your attacks and such, as well as giving you a party, and those are, arguably, more fun. Say this for Square Enix though, they like to experiment.
Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days
Read as ‘Kingdom Hearts Three-Five-Eight Days over Two,’ this final part of the 1.5 HD ReMIX is a little odd because it’s not a game, so much as it’s a series of cutscenes edited together to tell a, hopefully, coherent story. In the ‘game’s’ defense, they are HD-ified cutscenes and, I believe, some new scenes have been added to make up for the fact that you won’t be playing this one, in the usual sense. Chronologically, 358/2 Days takes place during Re: Chain of Memories and deals with characters you’d have no prior knowledge of, save for one.
I didn’t play 358/2 Days because I didn’t have a DS at the time of its release and, even if I did own one then, probably wouldn’t have picked it up because it seemed to be a side story that dealt with parts of the Kingdom Hearts series I had no interest in. I’ve since looked into the plot of the game (remember that ‘putting the pieces together at your own pace’ part from the beginning of this article?) and realized that it did have an interesting story to tell. It could have very well been the fact that it was on the DS and not another console Kingdom Hearts title that initially resulted in me waving it off.
Still, I wonder why Square Enix didn’t decide to remake this one for the 1.5 HD ReMIX, considering their experiences with bringing Chain of Memories from the GBA to the PS2. I mean, time was probably a huge factor, but Square Enix knows all about taking their sweet time, right? [insert hilarious ‘oh snap!’Square Enix joke here] To be fair, the story of 358/2 Days may be better from a movie perspective than a game one. And it’s not like the DS game is nowhere to be found anymore. Though, I suspect that if you wanted to play 385/2, you’d have done so by now.
You could probably watch all of the ‘important’ cutscenes on Youtube or something (not to say I did that!), but why rob yourself of experiencing the story in glorious HD and edited so that you don’t have to mentally put the story together? Because, and trust me on this, the less brain power you have to put into following the plot of Kingdom Hearts, the better off you’ll be. Less insane too.
Future Kingdom Hearts Collection
As soon as the 1.5 HD ReMIX was announced, roughly 80% of the gaming community went, “Where’s Kingdom Hearts 2? Or that surprisingly good PSP game?” Then we all stopped asking questions and thought about it for half a second: they’re going to drag this out and release a Kingdom Hearts 2.5 HD ReMIX. Why? Because money. Despite living in a time when you can get five God of War games in one box, we still get things like this. And can we really blame Square Enix? Yeah, probably, but we’re going to buy that 2.5 HD ReMIX, or whatever they call it, when they put it out. Where else are we going to get Kingdom Hearts games on the PlayStation 3?
As for which games will be contained within that inevitable collection? Well, some keen people were watching the credits for 1.5 HD ReMIX when they noticed that scenes from Kingdom Hearts 2, Birth by Sleep and Re: Coded were playing. Why else would they be there? It’s not like Square Enix to allude to something and not follow-up on it, right? Right.
Now, when can we expect this sequel collection? Who knows; Square Enix takes a long time to put out games people actually want.
[Writer’s Note: I got through this without going into the plot. Woohoo!]
Kyree didn't have an N64 or Dreamcast as a kid (so sad) and he doesn't remember finishing any of his PlayStation games, but skip to the PS2/GC/Xbox era and everything changed. He hasn't been outside to play tag in forever, but he can recall playing way too much Smash Bros. and even more Kingdom Hearts; seriously, he can recite lines from it. I think he may have a problem.
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