There is one word that I want you to get to know in a big way – content. Some games are bursting at the seams with it. Some games got so much stuff to do and so much world to explore that you can’t get enough of it. There are others that focus on one area, and so long as they do it well, that can be enough. But, as a rule, the thing that keeps players coming back is content. The more of it we get, the better. Part of it is good world-building. We want to see the worlds that we are playing come to life. Other parts are telling a good story. The more we can get into various elements, the more it comes to life and feels real to us. Only video games can truly immerse people in there world in a way that it feels real. Books come close, but I can and will argue that video games do it best. So, what does this have to do with this game?
Square Enix’s second foray into HD versions of older games is BURSTING with content! For real, this series of games is fucking awesome! Like the last version, this is three games packed into one. Two parts of this are so cool and I enjoy them so much. The third…well, we’ll get there when we get there. People who saw my review of the last Kingdom Hearts HD game may know what’s coming. As this is three games packed into one, I thought that we would talk about them individually. I can’t judge this title any other way and do it justice.
Kingdom Hearts II: Final Mix
The first thing to say about this game is that it is MILES above its predecessor. I love Kingdom Hearts, but this game is so much better, in all ways that it can be better. The story is better. The characters are better. The villains are better. The combat is better. It is simply better. But I am really getting ahead of myself. Let’s talk about it.
The plot of this game picks up after the original, and it’s sub-sequel, Chain of Memories. You start the game as Roxas, a young man who is enjoying the last days of summer vacation. But he’s having these dreams where he sees the life of Sora, and he just can’t figure it out. Eventually, the mystery is solved, and we see the continuation of Sora’s story. A lot has happened since he disappeared beyond the door to darkness. Him, Donald and Goofy decide to finish their quest and find Sora’s long-lost friend Riku, along with King Mickey. However, a nefarious organization called Organization XIII has decided to come calling, with a plot unknown. Other villains return, and Sora is caught in the middle of a dark battle between all forces. Yeah, it’s epic like that.
Alright, first thing I’ll talk about is the characters. They’re great! You got old favorites returning. Sora is reprised by Haley Joel Osment. Roxas is done by a very good Jesse McCartney. Almost the entire voice case is great, with a few exceptions that are pretty famous among video game buffs. Yeah, not gonna go into that. A lot more of the people in the original films reprised their roles. Same with almost all the people from the various Final Fantasy games represented. They even got the original guy who did the voice of Auron! That was awesome! SO much love. The characters are the greatest thing about this franchise, and this game kept it large.
Then there is the best part of this game – all the new stuff! I don’t know who Square Enix got to add all this stuff, but they need to have them do more work on this franchise. For real, get them involved with Kingdom Hearts III! Especially because of you all seem to want to do the incredibly-dumb decision of making more worlds based on real people. We’ll get to that. But yeah, this game has SO much stuff added. There are bosses from Chain of Memories making an appearance, in some of the most complicated boss fights EVER. There are new minigames and new collectibles and new parts of worlds we’ve already been to. But there are also the little things.
Much like in the last entry, they changed a bunch of stuff. The Heartless are more colorful, which is cool. Parts of the various worlds are more colorful, which is nice. They even did a tune-up on a part of the game that always vexed me. It has to do with Christmas Town and the look of the main characters. They also had better orchestration on the soundtrack. For the most part, it sounds fantastic! Almost all the pieces work so much better and are nice to listen to. Again, I have no idea who worked on this project, but they need more work.
However, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the problems. This game has a lot going for it, but there are some serious issues. Ironically, every single one of them is associated with a level. The first is – the singing Atlantica level was AWFUL! The music was bad, the people singing were bad. It was a mess from the word go and for the love of god, don’t do this again! Next is the level with Simba. Maybe this is just me, but I didn’t like it. Not only were the voice actors for it the worst, but it was short and didn’t do anything. However, all that is meaningless in comparison with the worst level in the game – the Pirates of the Caribbean one. I have no idea whose idea it was to put that level in the game, but it was such a bad choice. Having a world modeled after real people just did NOT fit with the aesthetic of Kingdom Hearts. Although, I will say, the guy they got to do the voice of Jack Sparrow wasn’t half-bad. I am hearing talk that Square Enix is looking into incorporating Marvel and Star Wars into the next game. Did you learn nothing?! Don’t! Don’t do what Disney wants! Don’t whore out their stuff in this franchise! It didn’t work before, it won’t work again.
All-in-all, this game had a ton of TLC in it, and I am so glad that it was updated like this.
Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep Final Mix
Now, I never played the original version of this game. It was on the PSP, which I never had. I wasn’t the only one. So, this was an entirely new experience for me. Parts of this game were great. Other parts were either sad or kind of annoying. Let’s get down to it.
This game has three stories in one. It is interesting because it is a game which has three different perspectives of the same story, each with their own little adventures. That’s clever, and for the most part, it works great. You have Terra, Ventus and Aqua. Ventus is so obviously modeled after Roxas, and voiced by Jesse McCartney too. I don’t mind. I love the voice and the character. The plot of this game goes all over the place, so I’ll keep this short. Terra and Aqua are trained to become Keyblade Masters, but a series of events has the three splitting up and trying to solve their own dilemmas. Each of them reaches the end with rather dark consequences. This is a grim game, for sure, but it’s better for that.
Now, what works? Well, the characters. You have a TON of Disney characters. They decided to have a ton of Disney worlds this time, and you know what – it works. The worlds are short, but sweet. We get to meet some cool people and have some fun adventures. This is very much a story-focused game, but I got no problem with that. There are also younger versions of characters in the previous entries, since this game is a prequel. Interestingly-enough, most of them got the voice actors from other games to reprise their roles! That is nice. Since this game is focused so much on the story, it is good that it works so well.
Next up, there are the worlds. There are more of them, but because this game was originally made for the PSP, they aren’t especially detailed. That leads us to one of the biggest gripes I have with this game – the lack of NPCs. All of the games in the Kingdom Hearts franchise have had this problem, but it is on display in this game like no other. You enter a world where there is a big festival going on, but there isn’t a soul in sight! It’s fucking creepy! It’s like Dawn of the Dead or something. For the next game, on the PS4, there is absolutely NO excuse why these worlds can’t have more characters in them. For real, Square Enix. None at all. I also hope the worlds get bigger and better, but that’s a whole other thing.
Then there is the combat. Combat in this game is…involved. It’s VERY micro-management, as everything, from item usage to skills in battle have to be maintained and tweaked with. It is nice in some ways, because it lets you experiment, but in other ways, it is a GIANT pain in the ass. There are so many abilities that at points, you don’t know what you want to do! Yeah, it’s kind of frustrating.
Overall, this is a very fun game. It’s not as involved as the last one, and it didn’t get all the TLC that that did, but I had a lot of fun with it. I hope to see these characters in Kingdom Hearts III. Or, at least, Ventus and Aqua.
Kingdom Hearts: Recoded
God-dammit! It’s not even a game! Just like the last one, the third game is not even a game at all. It’s cutscenes. More fucking cutscenes! Why?! Why were you unable to make this into a game?! I don’t get it! Just like the last time, it bugs me to no end, and there really is no need to talk about it. After all, it’s not a game.
So, just like the last time, I can’t, in good conscience, give this game a single Final Verdict. It’s going to be one for each game. I will say that, if you love this franchise as much as I do, you owe it to yourself to play this game. It is worth every single penny.
Kingdom Hearts II Final Mix
8 out of 10
Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep Final Mix
7 out of 10
Kingdom Hearts: Recoded
0 out of 10