Kingdom Hearts 1.5 + 2.5 Remix is out now, and although the story of Sora and his gang is quite predictable, the game will easily capture the attention of anyone with a passing interest in Disney characters past and present, as it interweaves these iconic figures with an epic tale with incredibly high stakes.
The basic premise is that there are millions of different universes, but the vast majority are unaware that there are others because they have never been interconnected. However, evil forces are making mischief, and different worlds need to be visited and restored by our 14-year-old hero, Sora. These worlds are drawn from different Disney classics and, of course, they also contain iconic characters like Jiminy Cricket, Mickey Mouse, and Donald Duck.
Recurring characters from the Final Fantasy world are also included, such as Cloud Strife, Yuffie Kisaragi, and Sephiroth to name a few. The tone is serious in essence, but at the same time, it's pretty laid back and interesting throughout, and topics such as friendship, discovery, and coming of age are treated nicely throughout, keeping us constantly entertained. The character gallery is expanded and through the two main games too, and we got to know lots of interesting characters (including both protagonists and villains).
Gameplay wise, Kingdom Hearts 1.5 + 2.5 Remix is intuitive if not a little barebones, as these days it feels somewhat simplified and outdated, even if it is still responsive. The iconic sword Keyblade is a recurring element, being used together with a selection of magic attacks to help defeat the invading bad guys across both games, and as more enemies bite the dust, you're rewarded with increasingly powerful attacks and abilities. The difficulty level is toned down on the game's normal setting, but that didn't stop us from dying quite often, even when we met the game's easier opponents. However, this isn't because we suck (at least, it's not just that), but rather the horrible camera that diminishes the experience a bit.
It really doesn't matter how the environments are setup; if there's something that the camera can get caught behind, it'll find it, leaving us standing around and waving our sword around blindly. This becomes extra difficult during the game's boss battles (which otherwise are quite cool), as the camera moves inside the boss instead of behind us. It ruins so many moments that would've been really entertaining otherwise. Sure, it's better in the remixed version of the second game, but still we don't think it's good enough.
Another aspect of the game that makes it feel horribly old is the forced platforming sections. Your character can jump relatively high, but when you land you always come to a stop. It feels strange because it's not possible to run, jump, and keep running without losing the speed you've built up, and it also takes a second to get moving again too, effectively eliminating the precision needed for us to enjoy the platforming.
Kingdom Hearts 1.5 + 2.5 Remix contains four games and two films, all on the same disc, where it's basically the main game from the PlayStation 3 remaster that has been remastered... again. It also includes Kingdom Hearts Re: Chain of Memories, the first game with a new card-based combat system and the Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep PSP game. All of this content is remastered at 60 frames per second with full 1080p support, and if you're playing on a PlayStation 4 Pro it scales all this up to 4K. More work could have been made to revitalise the graphics, though, as during video sequences the game changes in terms of both resolution and frame-rate, creating an uneven flow that could have easily been fixed. The films included in the package, however, are more for those who really want more on the story.
Should you play this collection, then? Kingdom Hearts 1.5 + 2.5 Remix is intended for those of you who haven't played any games in the series, but it's also for anyone who played it on PlayStation 2 and then skipped the last-gen collection. Also, it's best when combined with the second collection, Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8: Final Chapter Prologue, as it helps you keep track of the many characters and stories. This is a lovely collection that despite a handful of age-related and camera-based shortcomings, still feels good to play even after all these years. It's also the best way to prepare for the much-delayed Kingdom Hearts III, which should be released sometime before judgment day arrives. We hope.