Geek culture loves a good crossover, and seeing two previously unrelated worlds collide, with well-known characters who would otherwise never meet often creates some excellent stories. Just look at the multitude of crossovers between DC and Marvel, and how popular these stories are.
Video games are no strangers to this, with high profile crossovers like Nintendo’s Smash Bros series successfully mashing up various series, and then there’s Kingdom Hearts, one of the most ambitious, and initially strange ideas for a crossover.
For the uninitiated, Kingdom Hearts comes courtesy of Square Enix and Disney, and it fuses together the many worlds of Disney and Final Fantasy, with a helping of new characters, into a sprawling and complex tale of light and dark. Beginning with the original Kingdom Hearts, which introduces us to main protagonist, Sora, we’re taken on a long, winding journey that consists of four games and two movies. This is the first time, however, that the entire saga (except the more recent 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue) has been found on one platform in one collection. Needless to say, it’s quite the package.
The compilation includes the four games: Kingdom Hearts Final Mix, Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories, Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix, and Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep Final Mix. The two movies are Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days and Kingdom Hearts Recoded. That’s a huge amount of content, and easily represents around a 100 hours of content for the average player.
The games are third person action RPGs with a heavy emphasis on combat, which is fast-paced and very smooth, especially now that these remastered versions are running in full HD and at 60fps. The end result of this is the very best way to play the already excellent series of RPGs, and it just as good today as it’s always been.
After playing these classics again, I’d still have to stick to my opinion that the very best game in the series is the superb Kingdom Hearts II, but all games here are great titles in their own right, and the way in which the worlds of Disney and Square have been melded together creates a wonderful, and almost overwhelmingly charming experience. The love for the subject material here is as evident as it’s always been, with Disney stars and their worlds being recreated with the utmost care and attention to detail. It’s impressive how well the two totally different universes of Disney and Final Fantasy have been melded, along with the overarching Kingdom Hearts universe and story of the Heartless and Organisation XIII binding it all together.
It never feels odd to be fighting alongside the likes of Hercules, Aladdin, Tron, Captain Jack Sparrow, Jack Skellington and more, or going up against fan favourite FF characters like Cloud, Squall and Sephiroth. It all just fits, and has its own unique feel, creating a world that leaves an impression on you. After playing the games, you’ll no doubt watch Disney films a little differently, wondering when Sora and Co. are going to turn up.
Each game has been given the HD, 60fps treatment, as mentioned earlier, with a few little tweaks here and there, such as some minor interface and control tweaks to bring the first Kingdom Hearts up to date, and more in line with the later titles. Other than this, though, there’s very little here that veteran fans won’t have seen. The games are all pretty much as they were when originally released, so don’t expect the ‘Final Mix’ subtitle to reflect any reworked content or altered locations.
In fact, not all games have been given the same love and attention. Specifically, I noticed a marked lack of attention paid to Chain of Memories. This just didn’t appear to have the same level of effort put into the remaster the other games had, and although it’s still a fine game, I was disappointed to find that it had been largely overlooked during the remastering process. The other games all fared well, though, with Kingdom Hearts II being the stand out, with the best overall visuals. This is no surprise, as it’s the most complex and involved game of the set, and already benefited from an advanced engine over the original. That said, I still had a blast playing through the HD original too, and the minor tweaks really helped make it more enjoyable.
What I didn’t enjoy, however, was the one feature Kingdom Hearts has always suffered from, and that’s an occasionally remarkably bad camera that can often leave you staring at walls, or anywhere else but where you need to look. The lock-on system is also just as annoying as it always was, often targeting the wrong enemies to the point where it can even get you killed. Situations like these are not rare, either, and although you learn to live with it, I was hoping work would have gone into making it a more useful, and competent system.
Issues aside, Kingdom Hearts has been, and still is a brilliant universe-fusing action RPG that offers a ton of content and some fantastic moments that you’ll never forget, as well as two movies to help flesh out the storyline. With so many iconic characters from the House of Mouse starring alongside video gaming legends, it’s hard not to be drawn in, and with so many games in one package, you’ll be drawn in for a very long time, indeed.