What do you get when you cross giant shoes, big white gloves, talking animals, spikey hair, strange zipper locations, and ridiculously over-sized weapons? Kingdom Hearts: a game straight out of a Hot Topic catalogue. The worlds of Disney colliding with the worlds of Final Fantasy. When I first heard of this concept, I thought “Man… thats the dumbest thing I ever heard of!” But then I went to party where a friend of mine was playing one of the battles in pretty much every top 5 hardest boss lists, the Coliseums Platinum Match of Sora vs Sephiroth. Thats when I decided to check the game out for myself. #hooked.
I haven’t played through Kingdom Hearts since 2003 when my friend Mark and I would stay up until all hours of the night, armed with a Prima’s Official Strategy Guide, acquiring all 3 characters ultimate weapons, opening every treasure chest, rescuing all the Dalmation pups, and defeating the optional/hidden bosses (Sephiroth, Ice Titan, Scarab, and the Wraith). This became one of my favorite games.
Since then I also played through Kingdom Hearts II, which I definitely skipped a few college classes to play through. But somehow, after that, the franchise slipped from my attention until we were teased Kingdom Hearts III at E3 in June 2013. Consider my interest re-peaked. I did hold out revisiting the series for a full collection of the games to be released. Sure enough, this year I received my wish and I purchased the PS4 Final Mix collection.
This collection features:
Kingdom Hearts Final Mix
Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories
Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days (HD Remastered cinematics)
Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix
Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep Final Mix
Kingdom Hearts Re:Coded (HD Remastered cinematics)
So now I have begun playing through these games, and I’ve already played through KH1. I’d like to talk about my experience coming back to this masterpiece.
Right off the bat I had forgotten about the amazing theme song “Simple and Clean” by Hikaru Utada which I definitely remember starting the game over several times just to hear it in the gorgeous opening existential cinematic. During the gameplay tutorial you are given weapon options. These choices affect your starting stats and the order in which your abilities are unlocked. I chose the sword and ditched the shield. Literally the reverse of my previous play through.
I was also reminded about the A-List cast in this game. Fronting the ensemble is Sixth Sense star Haley Joel Osment as the lead Sora, with 7th Heaven’s teen heartthrob David Gallagher as Riku and Heroes Hayden Panettiere as Kairi, Soras companions. The supporting cast features the vocal talents of Billy Zane, David Boreanaz, Mandy Moore, Lance Bass, Sean Astin, and James Woods. And of course no major animated project would be complete without an army of voice acting power throats such as Dan Castellaneta, Jim Cummings, Jess Harnell, and Kevin Michael Richardson who are well known as some of the official Disney voices. In fact, the majority of the Disney characters are the original or current legacy voices from the Disney roster.
Visually, the HD Remix looks amazing. While the game is ported from a version originally intended for PS2, it still looks great. Obviously not current generation graphics but the cartoony feel still holds up. The animations are fluid and faces are beautifully expressive. You cannot beat those massive, piercing, anime eyes. I did however notice that some changes. I had always remembered the first boss battle in Traverse Town being against a giant-purple-segmented-knight so I was confused when I was confused when I was fighting a giant-clown-colored-segmented-knight. It wasn’t until I hit the chameleons in the Deep Jungle that I was certain that some of the enemies had been re-skinned. This trend continued throughout the game with some enemies being a little off from what I remembered.
The gameplay is also still a blast. Very simple and straight forward. Dodge roll, cast spells, summon powerful allies, and of course mash that sweet sweet X button to dispatch of the enemies with your main weapon, the Keyblade. Fun fact: my first time through KH1, I beat 1/2 the story not knowing that you could change out the Kingdom Keyblade for a more powerful one. This time around, I was older, wiser, and much better equipped. Those first few worlds were significantly easier.
And the story. With so many different IP’s smashed together in one game, this could have been an incredibly disjointed romp through mediocre mini showcases. But the main story line effortlessly weaves each world together with an overarching theme of going to the ends of the universe to rescue your friends from the darkness. I still get misty eyed at the ending cinematic of the game after defeating all 11 stages of the final boss. Which brings me to the most important added feature to this collection: THE ABILITY TO SKIP CUT SCENES!!! Even though the controls are simple, there are some very difficult moments in this game. All of these battles are partnered with cut-scenes that build us up to the big showdowns. And if you lose the battle, you had to shame-watch these relatively long cinematics over and over. It’s worth watching them once, not 12 times in a row.
So I beat the story line. Eager to move on to the other titles, I cruised through the main story line pretty quickly. I do have a few gripes: I still hate Atlantis, I still hate Monstro, and I forgot how much Donald straight up refuses to survive encounters. I do like that Goofy keeps attempting to take bullets for Sora, but never quite makes it and I still love the story.
Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories