Kingdom Hearts is an oddity.
It is an action role-playing game that is a crossover between two properties (Final Fantasy and the Disney universe) that do not seem that they would blend well together. However, game developers at Square-Enix have found a way to develop Kingdom Hearts into a joyous game that successfully fuses these two properties into an enjoyable game. With this latest release for Playstation 3, Kingdom Hearts 2.5 ReMIX, Square-Enix released a game with incredible value. This package includes two games, Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix and Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep Final Mix. Also, this game gives you the chance to view all of the game’s cutscenes as if you were watching them as a movie with Kingdom Hearts: Re:coded. What makes this game such a great value is that you get all of this content for $39.99. This is less than the typical price for a game, which usually is $59.99. For this review, I will mostly discuss Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix because I spent the vast majority of my time playing that facet of the release.
The basic premise of Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix is that you play as Sora, a loveable young boy who teams up with Disney icons Donald Duck and Goofy to fight multiple enemies such as the Heartless and Nobodies who threaten each world you visit. Along your journey, you get to spend time in worlds that are based on a Disney franchise and team up with that movie’s protagonist to help vanquish the evil in their world. Some of the worlds you will have the opportunity of visiting are the Pride Lands of Lion King, Port Royal from the Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, and the Olympus Coliseum from Hercules. It is fun to interact and fight alongside classic Disney characters such as Simba, Captain Jack Sparrow, and Hercules. In addition to Disney characters, there are many favorites from the Final Fantasy universe that make an appearance in the game. However, the game does not do a great job of explaining who these characters are to people who have never played a Final Fantasy game. This may leave a player a little confused about their significance. Fortunately for those players, these instances do not occur that frequently. The developers of this game did a great job balancing the art styles of the Disney and Final Fantasy universes. For example, Donald, Mickey, Sora, and Goofy’s outfits take cues from each universe to create a style that is unique. One thing that I did enjoy was how Sora, Donald, and Goofy’s outfits would sometimes change to fit the motif of the world that they would visit. My favorite example of this is in the Nightmare Before Christmas level. As you can see in the screenshot above, their outfits fit the art style of that world but has a flair that compliments both franchises.
Kingdom Hearts II was released over ten years ago. Sometimes it is dangerous to revisit a game from the “good ol’ days” because some games do not age well. (I am looking at you Mario Kart 64 and Goldeneye.) What makes an older game hard to play is that its graphics and gameplay mechanics look and feel outdated. Kingdom Hearts II does not suffer from this problem. Square-Enix has done a great job reworking the game’s graphics. When I was playing this game, I was quite amazed on how sharp, colorful, and detailed the character models and the environments were. The game’s actual gameplay has aged very well. The combat portions are fun. The enemies you fight look unique and are tailored to the artstyle of the world in which you are playing. The highlights of the action sequences are when you get to team up with a Disney hero to do a powerful move and wreak havoc onto your enemies. Even though Kingdom Hearts II’s gameplay holds up well against Father Time, it is not perfect. Some of your objectives, especially in the beginning of the game, can be repetitive and tedious. One aspect that I found to be cumbersome were the sequences that you have to visit a new world for the first time. In these sequences, you basically have to fight your way into these worlds in your spaceship. These sections play similar to other games like Star Fox and Kid Icarus: Uprising but these sequences are not as well executed as those games. I feel like the developers added these sequences to have a change of pace from the normal gameplay but these sequences did not really add anything meaningful to the overall experience to the game.
This game features a lot of talented people in the voice cast but the standout performer is Haley Joel Osment as Sora. Osment does an excellent job giving Sora life. The chemistry between Sora, Donald, and Goofy feels extremely natural and their interactions are one of my favorite parts of this game. All of these characters play well off each other and with the other people that they are interacting with and it is a joy to watch. However, some of the actors in the game do not do a satisfactory job voicing their characters to the point that it is painful to listen. For example, in the Pirates of the Caribbean level, the actors who replaced the original cast of that movie do not do a good job trying to replicate the characters from the movie. When these actors delivered their lines it seems that they did not put their heart into it. The worst offender is the person who played Barbosa. It seems that this did not sound like Geoffrey Rush and he seemed bored while he was delivering his lines. Luckily, the good voice acting out weighs the bad.
It is hard to remember that this release comes with an additional game, Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep Final Mix. This game serves as a prequel to the events of Kingdom Hearts II. This game takes an interesting approach. Instead of playing as one character throughout the game, you get to play as three different people. Although I spent the majority of my time playing Kingdom Hearts II, Birth by Sleep seems to play in a similar manner to other Kingdom Hearts games. If you like Kingdom Hearts, then it goes without saying that you will enjoy playing this game.
Square-Enix gave us the collector’s edition of this game to review. This edition of the game comes with a cornucopia of goods that will make any Kingdom Hearts fan excited. In addition to Kingdom Hearts 2.5 ReMIX you get Kingdom Hearts 1.5 ReMix in a beautiful steel case along with a cool collector’s box, a limited edition Kingdom Hearts pin, a Heartless push, and a 30 page artbook. However, to acquire the collector’s edition of this game it will cost you $99.99.
If you have never played a Kingdom Hearts game or you are a longtime fan then this will provide you with a great deal of content that you will enjoy playing. However, if you are thinking of getting the game for a person who is a non-gamer or a younger child then I would reconsider because this game might be a bit too difficult for them. As we all patiently wait for the release of Kingdom Hearts III, Kingdom Hearts 2.5 ReMIX is one of the best Disney-themed games you can play and it is well worth your money and time.
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Our thanks to Square-Enix for sending us the game for review and inviting us to their launch event today!
Will you be buying Kingdom Hearts 2.5 ReMIX? What do you think of the franchise? Are you looking forward to playing Kingdom Hearts III more? Tell us in the comments!