PAX East 2013: Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD ReMIX Impressions


Away from the busy PAX East show floor was a hotel suite that Square Enix had reserved. For their very special, no one can touch, at least not yet, games. Included in that mix was Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD ReMIX. And anyone who is even remotely familiar with the “Kingdom Hearts” franchise knows two things:

1. It mixes the worlds of “Final Fantasy” and various Disney properties.

2. It’s extremely confusing, even by Japanese role-playing game standards.

The demo session for Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD ReMIX was, not surprisingly, fraught with confusion. Even representatives from Square Enix, those who are personally attached with the upcoming release, couldn’t get certain facts straight. Now, normally that would be a cause of concern, but in the case of “Kingdom Hearts,” it’s not only a given, but it’s also completely forgivable. That’s just how perplexing the franchise is.

As a result, it’s pretty much impossible to accurately sum up the premise, but here goes: you play as some kid who must help King Mickey (Mouse) unite all the various universes that he once ruled, and which are each based upon various Disney movies. Now, on paper, it sounds rather simple. But rest assured, it’s far more complicated than that. And each new installment just piles on the confusion, to an absurd degree.

The end result is a series in which one must start with the very first game, so jumping on in the mid point. A bit of a tall order, given how there’s about seven games thus (actually, there’s way more, but that’s neither here nor there for the time being). Which is why we now have Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD ReMIX. It takes the first three games in the series, at least those in chronological order, and puts them together in a single package, for the PS3.

First you have the original Kingdom Hearts, which originally appeared on the PlayStation 2 (though it technically isn’t the very first canonically; that would be Birth By Sleep, which came out years later on the PlayStation Portable). Actually, it’s the Final Mix version, which was an updated release, just for the Japanese market, and which never saw the light of day in America. It includes additional content and again is the first time it has appeared on American soil.

Next is Re:Chain of Memories, which immediately followed the events of the first game. The original release was just called Chain of Memories and was for the Game Boy Advance. Which was later updated for the PS2 and “Re” was added to the title, which the HD version is based upon.

Finally there’s 358/2 Days. BTW, to say it out loud, simply state “Three Five Eight Days Over Two” (the more you know). Again, it’s the next chapter of the saga, which was originally released for the Nintendo DS. But here’s the thing; the full game is not included, just the cut scenes in the form of one long movie. How come? Could the gameplay of the DS version not be successfully translated to the PS3? Did that game just stink? No one knew the answer.

All three installments sport updated, full high definition graphics. Plus voice acting has been added or completely redone in some instances. Though most welcome of all is how certain parts of the old games have been fixed. In particular, the camera in Kingdom Hearts 1; instead of using the shoulder buttons to swing the camera around, one can simply use the right analogue stick, which makes a thousand times more sense.

Even better is how one can also finally skip cut scenes. Dying during a boss battle used to mean having to watch the preceding cinematic over and over again. But no longer.

At any rate, if you’ve long wanted to see what Kingdom Hearts was all about, this is pretty much the best chance in a long time to see what the fuss is about. Even better is the cost of entry: Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD ReMIX will retail for just $40. Not bad at all. No exact release date has been given, though its expected to arrive later this fall.