A Hands-on Look at Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMIX (Final_v2_FINAL3_Honest)

Remixed and remastered, KH2 has gotten a full HD overhaul - and has hours of cutscenes to prove it.

Nestled in a corner of Square Enix's off-site media suite at New York Comic Con was a single system and screen devoted to Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMIX

Getting to this point required a plane, an airport shuttle driven through New York rush hour traffic, some last-minute venue address changes, a freight elevator, a dark staircase with a few broken windowpanes, and a rather confused-looking makeup artist that said "oh yeah, there might be some kind of event going on through those doors over there somewhere..." 

Worth it.

While the majority of hands-on demo stations were staffed with local talents and developers to guide press through the short sequences of gameplay available, I caught the Kingdom Hearts booth in between demo sessions. The upshot of which meant that I got to experience it without the benefit of development rhetoric.

This may have allowed for an unbiased experience, but it also meant that I had very little idea what would be the most efficient use of my time.

The history of Kingdom Hearts is not exceptionally long (the first game was originally released in 2002 on the PlayStation 2) but it has become rather tangled. The unlikely mating of Square Enix's Final Fantasy with Disney canon raised eyebrows the world over, but no one was prepared for the title's critical success - as a game, and later as a series. 

Unsatisfied with producing all of the games for a single platform, subsequent titles were featured on the PlayStation 2, the Gameboy Advance, the DS, and the PlayStation Portable, and mobile - nearly all of which have been remade and released on the main console platforms since then.

In this age of HD remakes and anniversary collections, Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5 ReMIX follows in the similar vein of Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMIX which included remastered versions of Kingdom Hearts Final Mix and Re:Chain of Memories with cutscenes from Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days.

A PS3 exclusive, KH2.5 is a remastered version of Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix, Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep Final Mix, and Kingdom Hearts Re:coded

(a shot of the KH2.5 station at Square Enix NYCC off-site media suite)

Hindsight is always 20/20. 

With only the long-ago memories of KH1, KH2, and KH: CoM to guide me, I was tumbled headfirst into the cutscene extravaganza of KH Re:Coded by virtue of the fact that that was where the previous player had left off.

At once both like and unlike the original Kingdom Hearts, I watched with blank fascination as what I knew meshed with what I didn't, and a whole new story (of King Mickey's corrupted histories, and Sora as a save file) grew out of the loose framework that was KH1

Little did I know at that time that KH Re:Coded is to KH2.5 what 358/2 Days was to KH1.5 - essentially one long series of HD cutscenes featuring an adorably young Sora whose voice has already broken a la KH2

15 minutes of low volume back-and-forth between King Mickey, Chip and Dale, and a computer-generated Sora, the only participation I managed to eke out was moving Sora a few steps forward - and even that might have been the sleep-addled additions of an exhausted mind. 

Only once it finally occurred to me that this was no mere story-building segment but all I was going to get out of KH Re:Coded, I actively switched out to the main menu, dabbled briefly with Birth By Sleep, and then started in on KH2 proper. 

And we all know how long the opening cutscenes are in that one. It felt like I scarcely had time to make approving noises at the sight of the crisp edges and to pick out minute details in the opening cinematics before the moment ended, and all too soon.

Paving the way for a new group of journos eager to check it out, I ventured forth with Roxas for a few scant minutes before relinquishing the controller to other hands - and not without a twinge of regret.

I daresay my half hour of KH2.5 did not leave me noticeably wiser in the ways of the upgraded gameplay tweaks - I glimpsed only a little of the work that went into overhauling the backgrounds and textures to change the game's original 4:3 ration to the 16:9 HD, and I did not get to experience nearly enough of the near 80% of original audio that was remixed for KH2.5. However I did get to reaffirm that just like KH1.5, this completionist's dream comes equipped with a sumptuous set of visuals for all three games bundled into the collection, and hits just the right tone of PS2 nostalgia by preserving all the original scores, cutesy sound effects, and musical tones from the original titles. 

I think this one will turn out just as well as 1.5, and is going to be a proud addition to any collector's shelf. Look for it later this year on December 2 in North America.

Published Oct. 28th 2014
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