PlayBack: Kingdom Hearts 1.5 Remix

The Kingdom Hearts series has been going since the early days of the PS2, and it’s evolved a lot since its outset. When it began, Kingdom Hearts offered a whole new world to explore, with a cast of characters containing faces both fresh and familiar. It took the beloved worlds of the Disney universe, then combined them with real-time RPG elements and a nonsensical plot: a recipe for success, it turns out.

If Kingdom Hearts is known for anything other than being ‘that Disney/Final Fantasy crossover ‘, or perhaps ‘the one with the key’, it’s for its impenetrable story. New players are compelled to play from the series’ beginning to its end, dancing around the spin-offs for any hope of understanding the overarching plot.

Even after playing all seven releases, delving into the KH wiki page can be the difference between complete bewilderment and knowing enough to feign understanding. And 1.5 Remix is the perfect entry point for any wannabe player.

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If you’re unfamiliar with the series, the initial story goes something like this: there are three kids who like to play on an island just off the coast of their home town, until disaster strikes. An evil force is travelling from planet to planet, consuming the hearts of worlds and making the stars in the sky blink out one by one.

Equipped with only an oversized key and an equally oversized pair of shoes, it is Sora’s job to save his island friends, slay the evil Heartless, and keep Maleficent from prying the hearts out of young girls. With the help of Donald and Goofy, he travels through the soon-to-be destroyed worlds in an effort to lock the keyhole to each planet’s heart and protect them from their local villains.

Kingdom Hearts 1.5 Remix is the HD bundle of almost half of the Kingdom Hearts series. It contains Kingdom Hearts 1: Final Mix, RE: Chain of Memories (a.k.a. KH1.5) and the cutscenes from 358/2 days, a DS release set between KH 1.5 and 2. The two playable games are, arguably, not the most exciting of the series, but jumping straight into the soon to be released 2.5 would result in tangling yourself in too many plot threads at once.


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Best Bit

It’s the most Disney influenced game I’ve ever played – more so than Epic Mickey, or any cookie-cutter movie game Disney has published. It’s not just the characters and the stories, but the worlds themselves. Each is designed perfectly – the music, the enemies, occasionally Sora and co’s outfits – and every detail is tailored to feel like you’re part of that world.

When I wasn’t playing the game, I found myself whistling Under The Sea or This is Halloween while I worked, because I’d been farming for synthesis materials the day before. The game’s charm, and feeling of levity despite the dire in-game circumstances, meant even the most old-fashioned of game mechanics, like farming or grinding, could be excused.

Kingdom Hearts manages to feel fun from beginning to end, even when run-of-the-mill RPG elements kick in. After a day of grinding because Ursula had been one-hit-KO’ing me, it was the spoonful of Disney that helped the mythril go down.


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Worst Bit

Oddly, the best bit is also the worst bit. Kingdom Hearts relies on its Disney background as a crutch. In places, its questionable whether the game would be worthwhile if it didn’t have the Disney element to distract you. In some areas (Deep Jungle), the player is forced to backtrack repeatedly between two areas, and levels become directionless.

In others, mundane objectives are thrust on the player,  like ‘protect the area for X minutes’, which, next to escort missions and ‘oh no, the lift stopped!’ is the least imaginative or effective way of capturing a player’s attention. I’ll admit that I enjoyed these moments nonetheless, and possibly thanks to more than just the Disney element.

Where waves of enemies are thrown at you, the catchy background music, the personality of the enemies (flailing around with their hands in the air or cart-wheeling around you) and the strategy in the fighting itself combine to help abate the tedium.

The HD re-release has helped these matters with its increased variety in enemies and abilities, but the grittiness of some mechanics remains. Chain of Memories is the worst for this, feeling a lot more stale than Kingdom Hearts 1, and doing little to improve on its GBA version.


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I haven’t discussed Chain of Memories much. The truth is, it’s not really worth a long discussion. CoM feels like a half-hearted revisit to the worlds of KH1. The fighting mechanics are reduced to card based attacks, where all attacks are in a deck you must scroll through for those that have completed their cool down. The story of Chain of Memories is important to understand for later games, but it felt like a remake of 358/2 days and a video for Chain of Memories would have been a better idea, despite the porting implications this would result in.

At any rate, Kingdom Hearts 1.5 Remix is worth a play, especially if you’re wanting to try out KH3 when it comes out in the next year or so. It’s fun, it’s challenging and it’s the perfect entry point to the series. 2.5 is due for release later this year, so you’ll have more than enough time to play through the first six games before the next main-story instalment. Of course, if you want to skip the rest and dive straight into KH3, you can be our guest.

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1 Comment

  1. Currently playing through this now after playing the originals years ago. In my personal opinion, this HD remake has a lot more to offer than most games on the market today, it is good to play a game that is actually a challenge.

    The art is a thing of beauty and the characters (even though I do not like Final Fantasy) are so loveable.

    Looking forward to finishing it and picking up 2.5 HD in December.

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