The legacy of Kingdom Hearts spans nearly two decades, and it’s remained in the hearts of many as one of the most iconic franchises in gaming. It’s also remained in the minds of many as a series that takes far too long to release new titles. Sure, there’s a lot of Kingdom Hearts games, but many of them are handheld/mobile spinoffs. While Kingdom Hearts 1 came out in 2002, and Kingdom Hearts 2 dropped in 2005, Birth By Sleep didn’t come out until way into 2010. Seven years later, and Kingdom Hearts 3 still isn’t here.
Luckily, Square Enix realised years ago that this game likely wouldn’t be released until the death throes of our universe, so they began putting together HD remasters of past Kingdom Hearts games to enjoy on PS3. Now, with the release of the PS4, Square has bundled those first 2 HD collections into one package, and delivered it unto the newest Sony home console. For a lot of people, this will probably just be another opportunity to dive back into a long-time favorite video game series. For many others who were late to the party or too young for the original releases, though, this may be their first opportunity to try out the series at all. I’m incredibly jealous of that group, because this collection is by far the best way to experience the magic of Kingdom Hearts.
If you don’t know what this collection contains or what these games are called, please put on two pairs of reading glasses and sit five inches from your screen for this paragraph. 1.5 + 2.5 Remix collects six big and beefy Kingdom Hearts games – admittedly two of these games are actually just a collection of cutscenes. You get Kingdom Hearts 1, 2, and Birth By Sleep, which are considered the mainline entries most relevant to the overarching plot. Each of these is also the Final Mix version which contains extra boss fights, difficulty levels, and secret ends.
On top of that, you’ve got Re:Chain of Memories, a full remake of a GBA card-battle game that adapts that gameplay into a full on action-RPG style Kingdom Hearts game. Finally, you have the cutscenes and story text from Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days and Kingdom Hearts Re:Coded, which were 3DS and DS games respectively.
The main menu lists all of these titles in their order of release, with gorgeous promo-art from each game and the wonderful iconic Kingdom Hearts piano medley playing in the background. It’s totally fine to play these games in the order of release, too. Although there’s some quality and gameplay jumps between each game, a lot of it won’t be too jarring unless you immediately jump from the middle of one game to the next one.
The four playable games are all just as stunningly gorgeous as each other, though. Even Birth By Sleep, which first dropped on the PSP, has sharp and colorful visuals that match up exactly with the other 3 games. Most of the work to make these games crisp and HD was done back on the PS3 re-releases, so between that release and this one, not too much has changed. However, the stuff that has changed is pretty noticeable.
The texture quality, for example, has only gotten sharper. There’s a noticeable difference between a lot of the textures on PS3 and PS4, and it really helps make the games feel at home on a PS4. Minor characters and some environment pieces still look a little fuzzy, but it never takes you out of the experience.
Perhaps an even more significant change is that, for the first time, all of these games run at a full 60FPS. It’s a pretty major change, and it really benefits the frenetic, flashy action of the series. While cutscenes still run at 30FPS, the doubled framerate makes every boss encounter feel just as insane and fast-paced as you’d hope they would be. Despite reports of major frame-drops and crashes on the US release, I never experienced any drops, hitches or crashes during my time with all six parts of this release.
It’s a shame that same visual flair wasn’t applied as thoroughly to the 2 non-playable pieces of the release. 358/2 Days and Re:Coded are featured on these HD releases with all gameplay elements stripped away. That in itself is a huge bummer: while both were kind of clunky adaptations of the regular Kingdom Hearts gameplay formula, they both had a lot of unique environments and encounters in them, and to see that stuff discarded is a shame. Even worse, though, is that the cutscenes and dialogue screens that remain are noticeably lower quality than the playable games in this package. Re:Coded is almost on a par with them besides some muddy textures, but the cutscenes of 358/2 days all have a noticeable fuzziness to them that makes them look dated compared to everything else on the disc.
All in all, this package has a place in the home of every PS4 owner. If you’re a long-time fan of the series, you get almost all of the titles for one great price, and they’re all remastered and sharpened in a way that either matches your memories from childhood, or blows the quality you experienced with our previous playthroughs out of the water. For anybody new to the series, this is insane value, and barring the chopped down versions of 358/2 Days and Re:Coded, it’s the absolute best way to experience these iconic games.