Fans of the Kingdom Hearts series have been waiting for the end to the Dark Seeker Saga for a while now and we are drawing ever closer. After 15 years of games spanning several systems, all relevant to the overarching plot line, many are tired of jumping between consoles just to catch up ahead of the climax that will be Kingdom Hearts III. Thankfully, with the release of Kingdom Hearts 1.5 + 2.5 for the PS4, you are now able to catch up on the entire series on one device, and as a plus the timeline is the cleanest it has ever been.
Reliving the Series… Again
Right before we were given our first look at Kingdom Hearts III at E3 2013, the series received its first port/HD remaster. Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD ReMIX for the PS3 included the original Kingdom Hearts Final Mix, Kingdom Hearts Re: Chain of Memories games, as well as Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days as a cutscene compilation rather than a remake of the Nintendo DS game.
Then, one year later in the December of 2014, Kingdom Hearts 2.5 HD ReMIX was released, following the same format as the first with two full games and a cinematic movie from the other Nintendo DS game, Re: Coded. Both of these remasters were very well received from the Kingdom Hearts fandom in general as it was the first time that both Kingdom Hearts Final Mix and Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix were available to players outside of Japan, bringing new content that we had only seen in videos before. That, coupled with all games being in HD for the first time, was more than welcome to fans and newcomers.
But they were not without their bugs and glitches, and, while they’re not quite as apparent, the PS4 ports follow in the same footsteps. The worst being with the final Xemnas fight in Kingdom Hearts II that made it so that reaction commands would not present themselves when they should, making the fight much more difficult than intended. This glitch can still happen in the PS4 port, even with the Day One patch installed, but it doesn’t occur nearly as much. There also still seem to be some issues with Kingdom Hearts II crashing while saving and there cause has not been discovered just yet. However, Square Enix has been looking into these issues and has said that they will put out more patches in the future to make this version of Kingdom Hearts the most complete one.
May Your Heart Be Your Guiding Key… to the next Generation
The largest update to these games being on the PS4 now is the full 1080p and 60fps. If you are playing the collection on the PS4 Pro, you will be able to play in native 4K resolution. And these updates are fully welcomed. Kingdom Hearts Dream Drop Distance HD in Kingdom Hearts 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue was the first taste of 60fps gameplay in the series and it benefited from the frame rate right away. The combat in all of the games feels much smoother with this update and it feels like this is what the PS3 release was missing.
That said, there were and still are some bugs that stem from the 60fps jump on the current release. The engine that the games were built in does disagree with the frame rate at times, with the physics occasionally going awry and not working as intended. Still, most of these problems have been fixed through the Day One Patch.
The Sound of Battle
One of the things that Kingdom Hearts is best known for, other than a severely complicated plot at times, is the amazing music that accompanies you on your journey. While there has been no update to the soundtrack from the PS3 version, Yoko Shimomura’s orchestrated soundtrack never fails to impress and stun. From Bustin’ Up the Beach on Destiny Islands to the Disney boss’ Vim and Vigor and the classic Dearly Beloved, each song sets the mood and feeds any situation exactly what it needs to be the best it can be. Then again, I will never be able to forget Kingdom Hearts II’s Atlantica songs… and not in a good way.
But battle is not just made more exciting by the amazing score alone. The sounds your Keyblade makes when hitting a heartless or when the boss is ramping up to do a big attack create the stereo image of a battle. And it is in these moments where this new compilation doesn’t shine as brightly as the originals. As mentioned earlier, there are some issues that come from the upgrade to 60fps in regard to combat, but there also seem to be some consequences on the audio front. Many enemies have audio triggers to indicate a certain attack that they are about to unleash, which many players decipher into a dodging action or something to counter, as to not take all the damage up front. These audio cues do not always play in the PS4 port of the game.
Things such as Xigbar’s rifle shots during his “ultimate” move do not play at the same rate that they would in the original release, which each shot delayed from the last, not give the full effect that would normally be conveyed. I only encountered this problem with bosses and enemies that attack quickly like Xigbar, but also with Kingdom Heart II’s drive forms, specifically Final Form. With Keyblades attacking so fast, the game does not fully process each sound of the Keyblade hitting the enemy like it would in the original release. This problem does not subtract much from the experience of the games for a first-time player, but a seasoned fan would be able to tell that things are not quite right.
A Heart of Darkness or Light?
The unique premise of Square Enix creating a series combining their homemade Final Fantasy and all of Disney is what brought many people to try out the game way back in 2002. Many of us cannot express how happy we are that we bought into it so many years ago. But, for anyone who feels that they have missed something huge and want to get into the series, Kingdom Hearts 1.5 + 2.5 HD ReMIX for PS4 is the easiest way to take a deep dive in.
This is the definitive compilation for all to enjoy, from fans who own every entry and collector’s edition, to the newcomer who is understandably intimidated by the timeline. Even though it has some glitches, they are quite minor and don’t take away from the gameplay much. Being able to get the entire story on one console is exactly what this series has needed just in time before its first saga comes to a close.
System: PlayStation 4
Release Date: March 31, 2017
Categories: Action RPG
Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Square Enix