Kingdom Hearts 1.5 ReMIX Impressions By Erren Van Duine on July 16, 2013 at 6:57 PM

For many, the original Kingdom Hearts represents the height of a golden age of Japanese RPGs. Bolstered by the incredible success of the PS2 and a post-FFVII Squaresoft that was still on a roll, Kingdom Hearts was an explosive hit that became a series that even threatened to potentially eclipse its cousin Final Fantasy.

It’s strange, then, that it feels like we’ve had to wait so long for a ‘proper’ new Kingdom Hearts game. There have been spin-off handheld titles, sure enough, but the series has as good as skipped this entire console generation, with the newly announced Kingdom Hearts III heading to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

PS3 users do get some late-generation love from Square Enix, though – in the form of Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMIX, a high definition visual remaster of the original seminal game. Also included are story sequences from 358/2 days and the fully playable PS2 version of Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories; it’s a value package.

It was an easy decision for me to drop the cash on the Japanese version after Square Enix made clear that the Western release would lag some six months behind the Japanese one. Now I’m approaching the end of my play through, I can offer some thoughts – and while it’s still the game at first glance, it really is worth noting that there’s quite a bit past that first glance that sets it apart from your typical HD upgrade.

KH1The result of the resolution upgrade is simply stunning – a true testament to Square Enix’s visual design work. They’ve gone and updated many of the original textures, character models and even remastered and re-recorded the entire soundtrack. The gameplay systems – while mostly identical – have been revised to be a little more like Kingdom Hearts II with the camera now mapped to the right analog stick instead of the original’s R2/L2 placement.

The game runs at 720p at 4xMSAA, an impressive generational jump that pairs with a new widescreen presentation to give the game a truly modern sheen.

The only graphics not directly upgraded in a real sense are the merely cleaned-up CGI FMV sequences – and they still look great ten years on. Everything looks stunning and quite honestly could visually pass for a PS3 title on its own thanks to Kingdom Hearts’ unique art style scaling comfortably into HD.

The original Final Mix version of Kingdom Hearts released in Japan with English voice acting intact, but this Japanese release only features Japanese voice over work. There was much confusion ahead of release following reports of dual audio inclusion, but unfortunately that is not the case.

That’s not to say the Japanese voice cast is bad by any means; I just prefer the familiar English Disney flair. The English language voice cast remains a reason for me to be excited about the Western release come September even having completed this version.

As mentioned previously, the game’s soundtrack has seen a complete overhaul. Shimomura and team really went the extra mile to fine-tune all the classic themes, which really helps differentiate this from your typical HD port, which is usually a simple texture and resolution upgrade. The user interface has also been completely redone – not simply upscaled and stretched out. There’s no pixelated menus here!

KH2The title’s signature gameplay is relatively untouched outside of a few tweaks here and there. The combat menu is scaled down to three options – Attack, Magic, and Item – and reaction commands from KHII appear as a Triangle command over enemies in order to execute certain abilities.

Some gripes still remain, however, such as slight input delays, the occasional camera hiccup and some encounters that really require nothing more than hammering on X repeatedly.

Like any repurposed PS2 game, KH 1.5 will include trophies – three sets, including two Platinums. Those who complete each game will also gain access to special Kingdom Hearts PS3 themes. They’re nothing special, but still a nice gesture from Square Enix to fans who trek through Sora’s adventures once again.

Of course, the biggest draw to this release is the chance for western fans to play Kingdom Hearts: Final Mix for the first time. Not only does this release include an extra boss, but new cutscenes and a new difficulty as well.

European fans will also get their hands on Kingdom Hearts: Re: Chain of Memories for the first time, the original outing having skipped that region originally when it made its way westward in 2008. Rounding out the bundle is the inclusion of Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days, adapted into a nearly three hour cinematic experience – useful to stay on top of the series’ twisting-and-turning plot.

Despite being games of the past, Kingdom Hearts and Chain of Memories have both never looked better – and it’s a fact you can’t help but notice in gameplay. Square Enix has clearly put a great amount of care into this remaster and despite a few frustrations with controls, both titles hold up rather well. Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMIX is one of the best HD remasters to date; it’s simply a shame Western fans are having to wait so long to experience it.

Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 HD ReMIX arrives in Europe and North America in September and is available for pre-order now. The Japanese version is available now via import, but features no English Language options.

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  • TheCandyGiraffe

    I cannot even begin to fathom how good the Disney worlds will look in KH3!

    Brilliant article! Now I’m even more excited to get this. Final Mix, Re:CoM and a new take on 358/2 Days! A lot of new content for a UK player like me :D

  • Sapientia

    I’m glad you decided to do another opinion type of article, Erren. After the harsh feedback from the Lightning Saga opinion piece, I figured you would never do something like that again (not that I really agreed with anything IN it, but as the site owner, you have every right to post your opinion on what YOU update). So!
    I agree. KHI was my first Square Enix title, and I’ll never forget it. Seeing it in HD? Might as well just slap me with nostalgia. it’s a shame we had to wait so long for a proper continuation of the series – not sure if the countless spin-offs count – so I’ll be picking this up with FFX’s HD remake…both of which I hope will be just as good as Team ICO’s HD collection. :D

  • Sapientia

    I can’t wait to see Hollow Bastion and Twilight Town, my personal favorites. :)
    Twilight Town IS in KHI, right? It’s been probably six years since I played the first one.

  • Aly Hesham

    “the original Kingdom Hearts represents the height of a golden age of Japanese RPGs. Bolstered by the incredible success of the PS2 and a post-FFVII Squaresoft that was still on a roll” ِAbsolutely true! Not only was square soft successful with hit after hit in the golden era of FF series ,but they went on to give life to a brand new ip that was so influential , successful and quite independent of FF.

    Over a decade later , both FF and KH are back in action under Nomura’s name.I believe that he, along with the support of many others, are capable of bringing a new golden age of both FF, KH and whatever new surprises he may have!

    GoodLuck Nomura-San!

  • Storm

    I finished Kingdom Hearts yesterday, and simply can’t wait to play the HD remaster.

  • Anime10121

    I agree, while BBS and DDD were FANTASTIC entries in the series, they lack some of what makes the numbered entries so full of heart. While the gameplay has been the best its ever been on BBS (and although close, but not as fluid DDD), the lack of Sora, Donald, and the Goofs silly antics is missed. DDD was close, but it was far too short. I cant wait to see if the Osaka team can manage to make a numbered entry that mirrors what 1 and 2 did (I’m sure they can)!!!

    While Team ICO’s HD collection housed some great games, NO HD collection so far has done what Square is currently doing with its remasters. Square has went above and beyond what other “remasters” have done and actually improved these classics with MANY upgrades. While Shadow of the Colossus upped its framerate from 30FPS to 60FPS, Square has added far more improvements to its entries :)

  • Anime10121

    Nope. Twilight Town was revealed in CoM and I wont say why as it may be a spoiler for any of our European friends who’ve yet to experience it ;P

    However, Hollow Bastion is in the first game, and it ties with KH2 as my favorite visits to that world (KH1 would be my favorite, but that one part in 2 after Tron’s world is just TOO EPIC) :P

  • Sapientia

    Oh, alrighty. I couldn’t remember anything but Roxas’s segment in Twilight Town at the beginning of KHII (still my favorite part of all KH games to date) so thanks for that.

  • Sapientia

    Shadow of the Colossus is my favorite game. Period. So I’m going to have to disagree with ya there as a result of my biased opinion! Don’t get me wrong, I think SE’s got its head in the right place with that they’re doing with their HD remakes, but since I’ve only played the Okami, ICO, and SotC HD remakes, I can’t compare it to anything else, ya know?

  • Sapientia

    IMO, FF has always been “in the action.” I know that’s your opinion, and that’s fine, but I still wonder why people have to label the series as having some type of “golden age.”

  • Anime10121

    No prob, oh and one more thing, the original Hollow Bastion song remains my favorite, I mean, listen to how chillingly amazing it is :P
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xHKAU2w1Dj0

    Same for Twilight Town, I like the original from Chain of Memories (preferably the GBA version) better than its use in 2.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1RJmleeI3w

  • Anime10121

    I Understand how favorite game opinion bias works, so yeah I’ll leave you to it:P But yeah, most HD “remasters” have been incredibly lazy, with many even playing WORSE than the original games.

    Bad Remasters- Slient Hill and Resident Evil

    Standard remasters that only HDify everything and do nothing else (well they also add 3D if thats your thing)-Ratchet and Clank, Jak and Daxter, God of War

    Good HD remasters with small bonuses- MGS’ (revamped controls for Peace Walker) Okami (converted Wii controls for move + 1080P), and SotC (1080P, 3D, upped to 30FPS)

    Then you have the Square remasters-

    KH1.5- Completely redone OST recorded by a live orchestra, gameplay tweaks to make it play similar to its sequel, almost 3 hour’s of brand new newly recorded cutscenes for Days, New cards for Re:CoM,and newer better looking character models.

    FFX|X-2- Brand new Character models and redone textures, a new 30 minute long drama, and International content releasing for the first time in NA (and in X-2′s case, a first time everywhere)!

  • Sapientia

    I don’t remember what the name of my favorite is…”Sinister Sundown,” I think…UGH, you know what?! Tomorrow, I’m getting out KHII and playing the damn thing all over again! All this talk about the worlds and music makes me want to play it all over again!

  • Anime10121

    I meant favorite as favorite version of the theme, but yeah, if we include battle music, that version of TT’s battle theme is second right behind CoM’s TT theme, and then it would probably be The Afternoon Streets :)

    I’m trying to keep from re:playing KHII again in the hopes that I may finally be able to play KHII FM in English in the currently unannounced HD version!

  • Aly Hesham

    Its not an opinion its a fact acknowledged by SE themselves. This image came up in a presentation by SE about the series.The series was at the hight of its popularity during PS1/2 time period. And its safe to say that this is not an attack on modern FF at all,but rather an acknowledgment of true greatness at a certain time in the past. I look forward to the future and a reclaim of that throne. http://img.gawkerassets.com/img/17ybu9tj3bre2jpg/ku-xlarge.jpg

  • Sapientia

    SE: “Hi! My name is Square Enix! We don’t think that what we’re doing now is as good as what we put out ten+ years ago! Sayonara!”
    Sapientia: “I think you guys have always been golden!”
    See what I did there? Just an opinion, bro, no need to tell me if it’s right or wrong. SE can say that all they want, that doesn’t make it a fact. I don’t want to go down an already-traveled road, so let’s just leave it there.

  • Aly Hesham

    XIV 1.0 was not as good as what they put out before ,no ? I think that’s the only reason SE thinks that. I think they are proud of XIII-saga as evident by their continuous support. XIII isnot at all the reason for a drop in quality.Not at all.(despite hater protests) They have taken sincere steps to fix it 14.That’s why I think FF is “back in action”.

  • Sapientia

    Whatever you say, my friend, whatever you say.

  • Jang Ddokjin

    I just can’t wait to play this. Kingdom Hearts was -beside FF X- the game that got me totally into video games and i’ve been a hardcore fan since i played the first game..Even if i’ve played KHI thousands of times already, the hd remaster will definetely worth the another play! What i’m anticipating the most though, is RE:CoM since i’m european and sadly couldn’t get or play the game…i’m sure all of this game will be really enjoyable, can’t wait!

  • LittleDoom

    Septermer is gonna make me broke! so many good games!