The production of HD re-releases is showing no signs of slowing down, with the videogames market ever growing, there’s never going to be a shortage of people who have never played a game from years back that’s part of a franchise that’s still going, and considering the multi-game and platform spanning Kingdom Hearts series bringing all the disparate parts together is a task that no-one really envied.
Both Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts 2 were released in 1.5 and 2.5 HD ReMIX forms on the PS3, and now Square-Enix has brought them to the PS4 in a single title giving you four playable titles, and two DS games that have been reduced to their cutscenes. Here I’d normally go into some sort of summation of the story for people who aren’t au fait with the series universe, but with such a convoluted and messy timeline it’s not really possible.
The four games on offer here are Kingdom Hearts, the PS2 version of Game Boy Advance title Chain of Memories (here prefixed with Re), Kingdom Hearts 2 and Birth by Sleep. There’s a lot of game here for you to get through, with each title spanning tens of hours; heck, Birth by Sleep tasks you with playing through the game three times with different characters just to give you a whole load more exposition that makes very little sense. KH, KH2 and BBS all look great with a lot of higher resolution textures and a rock-solid framerate. CGI video is a different matter though, with a considerable amount of macro-blocking and oddly choppy presentation; some of the more detailed textures in game are decidedly ugly up close too, but this is to be expected from games that are in theory over ten years old.
Chain of Memories however hasn’t been as lucky as its three stable-mates, as it just hasn’t been given the face-lift that’s been its brethren were granted. It’s a rather muddy looking presentation, with poor aliasing and texture work that has gone untouched. It’s also the weakest of the games on offer as the card based fighting system just doesn’t sit quite as well with the action oriented style of the other titles in this collection.
Perhaps unsurprisingly it’s Re:Coded and 358/2 days that see the biggest changes to their structure(s). The games were originally DS titles and have not been granted to privilege of being remade in the PS2 KH engine, as such the gameplay elements have been completely removed and replaced by still picture vignettes. Essentially you’ll be sitting down to watch a couple of movies, not great, but a change of pace from the actual games, and it’s not like there isn’t a lot to play here anyway.
Kingdom Hearts has always been a bit of a weird combination; Square-Enix’s penchant for angsty kids was always going to be an awkward fit alongside Disney’s roster of colourful and charming characters, and it’s a feeling that sticks throughout any of the games playtime as the likes of Donald Duck and Goofy twaddle on about Nobodies and the Heartless with funny facial expressions, while the likes of FFVIII’s Leon are furnished with personalities that have less dimensions than any Disney cartoon; FFVII’s Aerith chimes in with a voice that’s worse than the Zelda one from Breath of the Wild that everyone’s going on about.
In fact, even the camera that finds itself used from game to game has more life than Square’s characters; the damn thing is terribly twitchy, regularly not pointing in the direction you want it to be pointing in, while at other times moving itself back when you’re adjusting it to give yourself a better view of your surroundings. Because of this you’ll find yourself zipping past enemies you were trying to attack and flailing at air while getting slapped in the back by a rogue Heartless, not so bad against the garden variety enemies, but a harbinger of death against bigger, more powerful foes.
Thing is, for all the bizarre Disney-fied anime styling, ludicrous story, poor voice acting, dodgy controls and erratic camera the Kingdom hearts games exude a lot of charm thanks to the Disney factor. It’s hard not to like the game when you can visit Winnie the Pooh, summon Aladdin’s Genie or watch Donald Duck throw one of his trademark hissy fits, Chain of Memories you can safely ignore (provided you don’t mind missing what the game brings to the series story-wise) and still have three lengthy games to play through making this an excellent value proposition.
There’s a lot of the DNA that eventually became Final Fantasy XV here as well, so if that was your first entry into that series then you’ll probably find that you’ll be right at home with Kingdom Hearts, especially if you’re a fan of Disney. There are dark undertones to the plot, but the friendly face of everyone’s favourite family entertainment company gives a friendly veneer to an otherwise incomprehensible series; don’t try to follow it all too much, boot it up, turn your brain off and have some fun.
A huge amount of content
Everyone loves Disney
Controls could have been tightened somewhat