Kingdom Hearts is an acquired taste in the sense that you wouldn’t think that a Final Fantasy and Disney crossover could ever work, but it does. I’ve never played the series at all so I’m going in with an open and impartial mind to avoid a biased opinions for this review. Compared to a lot of people out there, I’m not a die-hard fan of Final Fantasy which made it even more surprising how much I loved this game. It is a colourful and vibrant adventure which features a vibrant story line without taking itself too seriously, particularly in light of the humorous dialogue between classic Disney favourites Donald Duck and Goofy.
This HD remaster doesn’t just feature one game but three, absolutely complete titles. You get the first Kingdom Hearts game, the sequel, Chain of memories which picks up where its predecessor left off and the final game, 358/2 days originally a title on the DS. 358/2 days leads up to the events of Kingdom Hearts two so if you want to get into the series this collection is a good start. You really can’t knock the price just over £20 because you get a lot for your money that’ll keep you occupied for days, or even weeks.
The HD remake of the first game was originally released on the Playstation 2 back in 2002 and hasn’t aged badly considering the game is 11 years old. The way I see HD remasters is that the more colourful and cartoony games are, the better they tend to age because of the bright and vibrant aesthetics. Compared to other HD revamps like Hitman and Metal Gear Solid, they’ve started to show their age a bit because they were going for the realistic look at the time.
The game sees you playing as the protagonist Sora, starting off on your tropical island home with friends trying to build a raft to explore the rest of the world. Later on you are greeted by a shadowy figure that tells you that there more worlds than Sora’s and then he is later on attacked by the heartless creatures that want to consume all living creatures and beings’ hearts. I very much enjoy the story, which features a curious, fairy tale-esque, child-like charm.
Throughout your quest of saving the world from the heartless you’ll meet a plethora of characters from both Disney universe and the Final Fantasy ethos. It’s a strange but delectable mix up because although you think that it wouldn’t work, it does because the characters seem to co-exist as if they were suited for the same universe. One example is that in the first hour or so in the game you’ll meet Squall from Final Fantasy 8, Goofy and Donald, they are talking to each other as if they have been the same universe for years and it is a cohesive bond between the characters.
You’ll think this set up would be completely silly and mad, but you can’t help but like it because these characters get along with each other with elements of serious context and humour. The voice acting can be a bit embarrassing and laughable at times but you can take it with a pinch of salt, but when I was playing it I did think to my self “what the hell am I playing”.
The gameplay is simple and easy to get used to. When you first start the game up you’ll be greeted with a brief tutorial on how to jump and attack etc. It will also let you choose your main skill such as warrior, mage, etc. your standard fair in RPG’s. Throughout the game you will have a tiny side bar that has several different sections which are titled Attack, Magic, Items and Summon. You can switch to any of these options by using the d-pad during battle or when you are exploring the environments. You will gain more magical skills as you progress through the game and cause some devastating effects in battle such as causing a lightning barrage to rain down upon your enemies. Similar to magic, you will learn more attacks with your sword as you progress through the game.
There are various segments in the game when you have to travel to different worlds, here you’ll find yourself in a space ship shooting enemies and collecting materials for your ship. I loved these segments because it gave a sense of familiarity from games such as StarFox because you are constantly trying to dodge ships and colourful space debris.
The main problem that I had with the gameplay when I started the game up I found the hack and slash combat a bit sluggish, but I got used to it and I can’t really complain that much because the game is over a decade old and the controls are bound to be a bit dated. Another aspect that annoyed me was the camera angles, it didn’t always service your needs especially when you are fighting in tight spaces and when you are controlling the camera it feels really lose and slippery, but again you will get used to it after a substantial amount of play.
The platforming segments got on my nerves too because when Sora jumped it felt like he was floating and the part of the game that this was prominent was the Deep Jungle level when you are swinging on the vines because you can’t really judge how far he is going to jump and you end up falling and get sent back to the start. This segment took me at least 30 minutes and I just got frustrated doing it. Eventually I went back to it later on and managed to finish it.
On your epic adventure you will gain new party members similar to Final Fantasy and they all have their unique abilities to help you in different combat situations. The first two party members you will gain are Donald Duck who specialises in magic and Goofy who acts as a warrior/knight character. You’ll find allies from both the Disney and Final Fantasy universe to help you along the way from Cloud to Tarzan they are all there to give you knowledge and aid in the midst of battle.
This game is a beautiful and charming adventure, but the controls and graphics in some parts feel and look a bit dated. Overall it’s a must play if you are new to the series or if you are an old fan that wants to return to it in stunning HD. This is a perfect way to get ready for the highly anticipated Kingdom Hearts 3 for the PS4. I look forward to play more of this series and see what else there is to come.