Man, I simply do not get why Square Enix waited so long to get into the HD remake business. Because man, when they do it, they DO it! Where has THIS Square Enix been?! For real, this HD version of three games has got to be one of the best that I have ever seen. I couldn’t gush the way I wanted to in my review, but here is where I am going to go absolutely nuts. Because there is one part of this HD remake that is almost flawless. For real, with everything they added, it is nearly a perfect game, and I could teach a class on how to design a good video game based on how good it is and how well it is designed. What am I talking about? Well, let’s get down to it.
I am only really talking about one part of the game. The II.5 ReMIX is three games in one. There are the Final Mix versions of Kingdom Hearts II and Birth by Sleep. Not even talking about the third of the bunch, because they only included cutscenes. A retarded decision, by the way. Anyway, not going there. The game that truly makes this collection worth it, that truly shows what this franchise could be, is Kingdom Hearts II: Final Mix.
Oh my god! I played the original game, and it was awesome. But it was lacking on a lot of things. All of those things were wiped away, with this mix. Though the additional changes for the HD version were part of it. This game has one thing that sets it apart from the original – CONTENT! For real, I have logged an insane number of hours looking for all the little bits and bobs in this game. They added so much stuff! There are new missions, new enemies, but my favorite thing – new areas to explore! It’s all secret stuff. No hand-holding here. You find this stuff randomly, and it is awesome. Just when you think you’ve found all that there is to find, they give you more! My favorite thing is a secret area where, after a BRUTAL fight to get there, you reach a place where you can do ALL the Organization XIII battles over again! I loved those fights, and getting to see it again, with difficulty tweaks, makes it better. I love this game so much.
There is a lesson to be learned when you are making a video game. If your game is really worth its salt, you will immerse your players in the world, make it feel like somewhere they could go. The way you do this is by having a lot of content. And it has to be good content, not just stuff to keep players busy. Now, this content can take many forms. It can be story content. If your game is linear, that isn’t so bad, if there is a rich narrative with good characters. Mass Effect 3 might have had very little side-quests, but what it had was so good (aside from the god-awful ending) that it kept your going. It can be a playground, where you have lots of toys to play with, like in Borderlands 2 or Crysis 3. For real, give me stuff to try and you’ve got me. It can be a sandbox, like in Minecraft or EVE Online. All of those are good ways.
With Kingdom Hearts II: Final Mix, it has ways to enrich yourselves in its universe. In a way, it’s the playground approach, with a lot of rich narrative and characters spliced in. That’s good too. You can mix and match. In a game where you have lots of worlds, you want to enrich them by having each world have plenty of ways to make them feel alive to the player. Now, that does bring me to one of the biggest flaws of the Kingdom Hearts franchise.
These worlds have so few NPCs that it can get kind of weird. Like in Disney Town, in Birth by Sleep. You are told that there is a huge carnival going down, yet the entire town is almost deserted. It’s like Dawn of the Dead or something. For the next iteration of the franchise, there is NO excuse for the worlds to be barren. With all the possibilities that lie on the PS4 (which I will be playing it on), there is no excuse for the worlds to not be flowing with personality. There is no excuse for anything less.
Not to mention, can you imagine it? If the level of polish that I saw on this game, where you go from a Halloween outfit in Halloween Town to a Christmas outfit in Christmas Town and a change of music, were applied to every single world on the next game? Those little bits make it feel real. They make it feel alive. They make me want to visit the worlds myself!
But I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about how the characters also make each world come to life. Aside from the worlds that were not particularly interesting (like the Lion King one) or the worlds that were straight-up disasters (like Atlantica or Port Royal. For real, no Marvel and no Star Wars! Learn from your mistakes!), the characters in each world sucked you into that world. They all had personality and charm. Some of them didn’t have the greatest voice actors, but they were still solid. That’s more of what we need! We need even more worlds, even more characters and even more immersion!
Don’t blame me for wanting the world. For the first time, I played one of these games and I was sucked into it. This HD update was so good and added so much that now I want more and more! Give me more! You’ve shown that you can do this along with weaving a very rich narrative.
Which brings me to something that troubles me – I am hearing stuff about Kingdom Hearts III coming out next year. The last article I saw on this was them talking about making worlds for Marvel and Star Wars (No! Bad Square Enix!). That tells me that the game is still in development. We haven’t gotten anything more than a teaser trailer. No story trailers, no dub work. Nothing. Was Tetsuya Nomura working on this while he was pouring all his time into Final Fantasy XV? It doesn’t add up. I don’t want this game rushed to market. I really don’t. I can wait another year or two. Take the time, get it right! Make this next entry into the franchise the best one yet! Make us drool with anticipation with the next trailer. I love this franchise. Please don’t fuck it up.
But yeah, if you love this franchise, buy the II.5 ReMIX. Trust me, you can’t go wrong.
Until next time, a quote,
“It’s like the first time you fall in love. You won’t ever love another woman quite the same way.” -Montgomery Scott, Star Trek: The Next Generation