Review: Kingdom Hearts 2.5 HD Remix


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The stragglers of 2014 are inching across the finish line to make a little bank this holiday season.
Kingdom Hearts 2.5 HD Remix (yep, that’s the game’s title) attempts to market itself during this rush to buy new games while pushing those with around a decade of shelf-life.

Kingdom Hearts is a series of games that crosses over classic Disney movies such as The Lion King, Peter Pan, Pirates of the Caribbean, etc. with the Final Fantasy game franchise, and in doing so, it has created its own story line with an extensive mythology. The main heroes of this series are original character Sora and his two companions, Donald Duck and Goofy. 

Kingdom Hearts sounds ridiculous, but it has allowed developer Square Enix to use many iconic Disney films and characters as levels and party members. Teaming up with such characters as Mulan or Aladdin to fight evil has proven to be a marketable concept, because folks my age are still quite attached to films that defined our childhoods.

Unlike the borderline experimental first game, Kingdom Hearts 2 still stands out as an amazing game with colorful combat, great music, and welcome appearances from many beloved characters (barring of course the return of Ariel from The Little Mermaid, who opted to initiate a sing-along in this game instead of doing anything remotely useful as she did in the previous entry).

Also included in this HD Remix are extra levels, bosses, and cut scenes once exclusive to Japan.

Beyond Kingdom Hearts 2‘s bonus content, the once portable title Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep (yes, that is the title of the game, and I don’t know what it means, either) is also remastered for the PlayStation 3. This game is the first chronological entry in the Kingdom Hearts series, so that may be the only good reason for a non-fan to buy this game.

Another feature that is nothing to get excited about is a movie version of yet another game starring Mickey Mouse: Kingdom Hearts Re: Coded — another strange title.

I hate to harp on the titles, but they make these games vulnerable to being judged by their covers. As intriguing as it is to see Mickey, Donald, and Goofy sitting around with strange animé characters, this belies the real draw of the game: itself. The Disney characters offer familiar faces and references to their respective films, but they aren’t the star attraction. 

Aside from an early plot involving the Disney princesses, all of the familiar characters that will grab the layperson’s attention will be drowned out by plots involving the melodramatic newcomers and the Final Fantasy cast that inspired them, which — to paraphrase Jack Sparrow — makes the Disney elements seem a bit superfluous, really.

Bottom line, Kingdom Hearts 2 isn’t for everybody, perhaps not even for the Disney fan on your Christmas list. If those people didn’t pick this game up nine years ago when it was brand-spanking-new, I doubt they’ll do it even if you hand them a polished version today. 

Kingdom Hearts 2.5 HD Remix is available now for PlayStation 3 at $39.99.

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