Video Games Review: Kingdom Hearts 1.5 + 2.5 Remix (PS4, 2017) is Both Familiar and New

In a lot of ways for me, revisiting the Kingdom Hearts franchise is a lot like coming home. The original game was one of my first Playstation 2 titles, and one that’s stuck with me for a long time. From the deep, immersive lore of the series to the unrelenting positivity and charm, Kingdom Hearts has long remained a favourite of mine.

While the series has experienced many highs and lows, repeated delays and numerous frustrations, the Kingdom Hearts 1.5 + 2.5 Remix represents a bright spot in the series. Quite simply, the collection is exactly what it needs to be. It’s no Kingdom Hearts III, but in the absence of this highly anticipated title, the near complete HD Remix will do just fine.

This is the Kingdom Hearts we all know and love, with all its flaws, but with a brand new lick of paint. The first entry in particular is still plagued by frustrating camera movement despite some improvement, and this problem is only exacerbated by the higher frame rate of the HD Remix.

The plentiful boss fights still present a frustrating challenge, and that prick Riku is still there, occupying space that he shouldn’t, but overall, the remix does well to showcase Kingdom Hearts’ best moments. The Kingdom Hearts 1.5 + 2.5 Remix is a great collection for any adventure game fan. It does exactly what a remaster should – keeps the integrity of the original games intact, while freshening up the visuals for a brand new era of fans. I was one of the few people to skip the original HD Remix PS3 entries, so having a complete collection on the Playstation 4 was an absolute delight, and one that I’d been anticipating for quite some time.

The Kingdom Hearts 1.5 + 2.5 Remix selects its games well, showcasing Kingdom Hearts Final Mix and Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix, as well as Re:Chain of Memories and Birth by Sleep, arguably the two most important spin-offs from the main series. Birth by Sleep is particularly worthy of inclusion, given that it acts as a prequel to the entire series, filling in gaps with the lore of the original games.

The biggest appeal of the collection, to me, is the accessibility of this lore. While previously, the Kingdom Hearts story required a Game Boy Advance, PSP, Nintendo DS and Nintendo 3DS to properly complete the story, now every significant entry can be found in the one place. While not every element of the collection is necessary, it does a brilliant job uniting the disparate fragments of Kingdom Hearts. The story of Kingdom Hearts is dense and complex, and for those looking to the eventual release of Kingdom Hearts III, the remix presents a perfect opportunity.

Also included in the collection are the cutscenes of Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days and Re:coded. While I agree with the inclusion of Re:coded as cutscenes only due to its lacklustre gameplay and frankly terrible controls, I quite enjoyed 358/2 Days when I first played it for the Nintendo DS. While sharing camera and movement problems with its fellow Nintendo DS titles, 358/2 Days is a highly essential title, and one that features a genuinely touching story with Roxas, Axel and new character Xion serving as the protagonists. I felt that some of the excitement of the title was lost by including only the cutscenes, as the original final boss was equal parts heartbreaking and surprising. Despite this, the pieces of the collection were chosen well, and coupled with the recently released Kingdom Hearts 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue, nearly the entirety of the Kingdom Hearts catalogue is now available for Playstation 4 users.

The games themselves have aged rather gracefully, though the graphical fidelity of Kingdom Hearts does slip sometimes, with certain faces and textures looking out of place or plain wrong. The remaster works brilliantly in some places, with particular attention to detail in Sora’s face and model, while lesser characters didn’t fare as well. I particularly noticed issues with the faces of Leon, Yuffie and Aerith in the world of Twilight Town, but for a remaster of a Playstation 2 game, problems like these are to be expected.

For the most part, the graphics have been given a wonderfully bright facelift, with the colours and charm of the series shining through the colourful landscapes and characters of the franchise. Traversing the world of Kingdom Hearts has always been truly delightful, but given the remastered treatment, I was greeted by worlds both familiar and new. The remaster truly has reinvigorated the series, updating the graphics and giving the series, the original entry in particular, a technical facelift. The remix particularly does well with the cutscene movies for 358/2 Days and Re:coded, upgrading their original handheld graphics to impressive scale for the collection.

Providing well over a hundred hours of content, the collection is highly robust, and contains a myriad of challenging bosses, great (and sometimes frustrating) collectibles, and experiences that you’ll never forget. While Kingdom Hearts has often sagged under the weight of its own story, the remix does well to disguise it, presenting the best hits of Kingdom Hearts with a great deal of panache. While the collection doesn’t include the complete Kingdom Hearts story, it arguably favours the most important parts, showcasing a series that is genuinely, and sometimes bafflingly, brilliant. Kingdom Hearts is one blockbuster series, and the Kingdom Hearts 1.5 + 2.5 Remix does it absolute justice.

Score: 8 out of 10
Highlights: Remastered worlds; Great collection of titles; Series just as charming and gorgeous as you remember it
Lowlights: Controls and camera movement; some graphical issues
Developer: Square Enix
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: Out Now
Platforms: PS4