Kingdom Hearts 2.5 HD Remix

911khmDJL3L._SL1500_Date Completed: October 18th, 2015

Two years and two days before finishing Kingdom Hearts HD II.5 ReMix finished with Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD Remix.  I had vague memories of beating Kingdom Hearts 2 when it originally came out but I remembered almost nothing of it except Sora gets a little bigger, and there was a 6 hour unskippable introduction sequence before the game really gets under way.

The game re-visits several of the (mostly Disney themed) worlds from Kingdom Hearts 1 and throws a few new ones into the mix.  The story this time around is a lot thinner.  I was never entirely sure why I was revisiting the worlds from the first game except I had a space ship and there were places I hadn’t been yet.  After visiting all of the worlds you get to visit all of the worlds AGAIN, then the final area unlocks which you can access from the WORLD YOU STARTED ON.  It all feels a bit like you’re walking in circles.

The game itself plays mostly like it’s immediate predecessor with the addition of ‘Drive Forms’.  Sora can use a ‘Drive’ to transform into a ‘Form’ that has upgraded abilities.  Each form has unique abilities and if you keep leveling up the forms you can use these abilities without transforming.  To make the game more fun attempting to transform will randomly transform Sora into a useless form called the ‘Anti Form’ which almost always results in Sora getting killed by whatever happens to be near.  Leveling up all of the forms is not something you’re likely to accomplish without hefty amounts of level grinding.

I realized something while playing this game.  Kingdom Hearts is awful.  Almost everything playing this game is frustrating from the story to the battle mechanics to the leveling system.  Lengthy cut-scenes had an irritating habit of popping up when I was looking for a save spot so I could turn the game off.  The story doesn’t make any sense and clearly wasn’t meant to be thought about too much.  The only redeeming quality is the lovable cast of familiar characters

My kids loved the game.  It’s very watchable and I think I would have preferred the game more if I was watching someone else play it.  I took several lengthy breaks from playing the game because I was rarely in the mood to put more time into it.  I told my wife while I was playing it that I was ready for it to be over.  I generally feel this way after playing Kingdom Hearts games and I am forced to wonder why I keep coming back to them.

I admit I’ll probably buy Kingdom Hearts III when it comes out but over the last few years I’ve rapidly lost enthusiasm for the series.  I don’t have as much time to play games as I used to and Kingdom Hearts won’t continue to make the cut if it doesn’t do something to shape up real soon.

Pros

  • Cast of familiar, lovable characters.

Cons

  • Insane story.
  • Awful battle system.
  • Repetitive level progression.
Is it fun: Yes
Score: 6/10
Length:  ~40 hours
System: Playstation 3
Genre: Action / RPG
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Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 remix

KHHD COVERDate Completed: October 16th, 2013

I had a pre-order of Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 remix on file at Amazon immediately after I heard about it.  Not only does it come with a HD remaster of the original (and the best) Kingdom Hearts game, but it also comes with Kingdom Hearts : Chain of Memories, and the movies from Kingdom Hearts : 358 / 2 included on the disk.  Plus it was being sold for cheaper than a normal full PS3 disk release so it’s essentially a no-brainer.

Kingdom Hearts is a bit violent than most games I expose my kids to (the main character bludgeons enemies to death with a giant, blunt key) but I figured that since most of the enemies looked more like shadows than cuddly animals it would be safe to let the kids watch.  With the exception of my two year old boy telling me he could fly like Sora and jumping off his bed (which he probably would have done anyway) they appear to have survived the experience unscathed.

My kids were still begging to play more ‘Pikmin’ so I had to force them to sit through the first few hours of the game.  After we made it past the initial world and started visiting locales based on Disney they decided Kingdom Hearts was fun after all.  It’s been a good excuse to re-visit all of the movies that Kingdom Hearts worlds are based on.  We even wanted to watch ‘The Nightmare before Christmas’ which I thought would be too scary but they seemed to enjoy.

The game itself is in HD but the upgrade wasn’t as drastic as other HD upgrades I’ve seen.  Everything looked sharper but besides the higher resolution it was essentially same as before.  Gameplay felt identical to what Kingdom Hearts felt like including crappy camera control and the in-battle menu system.  I consider the biggest benefit of the HD remake is that I can now run the game natively on my PS3 (which sadly can not run my old PS2 copy of the game).  Plus all that other crap on the disk.

Kingdom Hearts as a game doesn’t really manage to do anything particularly well.  The game play sucks, camera control is terrible and the plot is completely unintelligible.  I’d have given up on any other game with these failings however Kingdom Hearts is able to make up for its failings with liberal use of cut-scenes and cameos.  Every time the boys recognized a new character they’d be bouncing all over the room cheering (especially for Peter Pan).  I must admit that when Sephiroth drops into the Coliseum I feel like bouncing around the room myself.  The characters in the game manage to make up for any failings the game has and as a whole Kingdom Hearts is a very enjoyable experience.

Since finishing the game my oldest boy has been asking when we can play Kingdom Hearts 2, which is the highest praise he can offer any game.  I don’t intend on telling him about the other games on the disk.  KH : Chain of Memories is fun exactly once, and KH : 358 / 2 day is never fun.

I intend to put a little more time into the game to finish off the final few super-bosses but I’m not going to play it around the boys any more.  The level grinding and synthesis ingredient farming was way too boring for them.  They’ll have to wait for Kindom Hearts II HD 2.5 remix.

Pros

  • HD remake of Kingdom Hearts.
  • KH : Chain of Memories and 358 / 2 Days are also on the disk.

Cons

  • Same crappy camera and controls as the original.
Is it fun: Yes
Score: 8/10
Length: 30 hours
System: Playstation 3
Genre: Action / RPG

Kingdom Hearts : Birth by Sleep

Box ArtDate Completed: July 10th, 2013

The last Kingdom Hearts game I played was Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days (which is my worst rated game ever) and I despised the experience so much that it took two years before I was ready to play a Kingdom Hearts game again.  I probably would have stayed away even longer except Kingdom Hearts : Birth By Sleep is the last PSP game that I have left to play.  Now that I’ve finished it I can retire my PSP.

I was prepared to hate this game from the very beginning.  My only goal was to finish the game as fast as possible and I didn’t want to put up with any of the tutorials, spend time leveling up my characters or learning how to use the melding system to create more powerful skills.  HowLongToBeat.com indicated that the game could take up to 66 hours to complete and I was not looking forward to sinking that much time into a game.  Since I hadn’t spent the time to play the game properly I was constantly too weak to win any battles.  I would have to replay boss battles dozens of times and I ended up wasting hours and that game probably took me longer than it would have otherwise because of it.

The game follows the exploits of three different main characters as they travel through various Disney themed worlds in search of the source of monsters called ‘The Unversed’ (Not to be confused with the Heartless or Nobodies).  Each character’s storyline must be played separately and after all three story lines are completed a final chapter becomes available.  This means you have to beat the game four separate times and watch four different endings before you’re done with the game.  Hardly a recipe for a speed run.

Each character visits the same worlds but they experience different parts of the story.  For example in Cinderella’s world one character helps the mice gather the materials to craft her ball gown, another character serves as a bodyguard to get her to the ball and the third character helps the Grand Duke locate Cinderella after the ball.  After completing each world you forge a ‘D-Link’ with a character which allows you to call on them to assist you in combat.  I took a certain pleasure calling Cinderella into battle with me.

Kingdom-Hearts-Birth-By-Sleep-kingdom-hearts-33930960-476-267

Cinderella, Warrior Princess

KH:BBS plays almost identically to the Kingdom Hearts games on the PS2.  You lock on to enemies using the L+R buttons and use the remaining buttons to whack at your foes with your unlikely weapon (a giant key).  The button combinations can be very uncomfortable to press due mostly to the size of the PSP, and the lack of a second analog stick.  I often cramped my hand after an extended game play session.

Abilities can be melded together to create more powerful abilities.  During a melding operation you can attach an extra component that will also grant you a new passive ability, such as more hit points or a faster attack speed.  The melding system is very involved so I recommend consulting an online FAQ for finding the best melds.  You have a limited number of ability slots so choosing powerful abilities is very important.

The overarching story is a prequel to the Kingdom Hearts series and it attempts to tie up many of the loose ends in the other games.  Unfortunately none of it makes a great deal of sense and only ended up confusing me more.  I’ve often wondered if it’s a translation issue, and that the game makes complete sense in its original Japanese, or if the game represents the mad ravings of a lunatic.  Either way, it’s a compelling sort of nonsense that is at least entertaining, if not entirely understandable.

There are tons of extras thrown in such as a networked arena mode, various mini games and collectables.  I didn’t find any of these to be particularly compelling, although some of them do yield up prizes and are worth at least a look.

By the time I got to the end of the game it had won me over.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and I’m a little sad to see it go.

Pros

  • Three main characters with three different story lines.
  • Complex melding system.
  • Lots of extra content.

Cons

  • Takes a significant time investment to learn how to play.
  • Uncomfortable button mashing.
Is it fun: Yes
Score: 8/10
Length:  35 hours
System: PSP
Genre: Action

Kingdom Hearts : 358/2 Days

Date Completed: September 24th, 2011

HOLY BORING GAME BAT MAN!!!  As a Final Fantasy collector and Disney fan I was compelled to pick this game up shortly after launch but I did not finish it until now, over two years later.  I’ve been playing it off and on since 2009 but the game is so horribly boring that I only played it when I didn’t have any other options.  Sometimes when I did have other options I chose to sit alone in the dark and cry rather than play this game.  I finally got far enough into the game that I was able to power through the ending so that I could retire the title.  That joyous day has finally come.

Kingdom Hearts 358 / 2 Days starts off with a series of tutorials designed to make the player hate the game.  Each of the tutorials is a mission that the player must embark on.  These missions can not be skipped and all teach your completely trivial actions (such as how to jump, how to move) that you could find out in a matter of seconds by mashing buttons or reading the manual (I know, no one does that).  After wasting several hours going through tutorials you can finally start on the real missions of the game.

The game is entirely mission driven.  You choose a mission from a menu and then you are sent to one of the Kingdom Hearts worlds to fulfill some objective.  You may be killing a certain number of enemies, breaking pots, exploring, whatever.  You don’t have full access to the worlds you visit during the missions.  Areas that are not relevant to your current mission are blocked off so there is no open exploration.  After completing your mission you ‘RTC’ or ‘Return to the Castle’. 

Between missions you can save and change equipment.  Changing equipment involves you putting equipment panels on your panel grid.  As you progress through the missions you unlock additional spots for the panel grid.  You are required to update the panel grid to get access to abilities as well as level up.  Your level is calculated based on the number of ‘level up’ panels you’ve positioned on your panel grid.  To make things even more fun you can link certain panels together to increase their power.  You can create and save multiple configuration of panels to take with you in the missions but since you have to update your panels after each mission I never bothered to do this.  I found the panel system to be unnecessary busy work and I avoided using it any more than I had to.

Camera control is predictably awful.  You can lock on to enemies but the camera never seems to be facing the enemy you’re locked on to.  Worse, once you get locked on you can never look at anything else.  If you’re not locked on to something your chances of hitting it in battle are pretty slim.  Combat missions were always miserable time.

You can only save between missions and there is no quick-save feature.  Often there are cut-scenes or other dialog heavy interactions between missions or during missions that can extend your game play time beyond what you intended on spending.  After getting 20 minutes into a mission with no end in sight I often had to make the choice – Force myself to complete the mission or put the game on the shelf for another three months when I can bear to go through all of this again.  More often than not not I chose to quit playing the game.

So, what about the selling point of the Kingdom Hearts series?  Disney characters and Final Fantasy characters all mixed together?  There are no Final Fantasy characters that I can remember and the Disney characters only appear in passing.  You won’t be interacting with them much at all.  LAME.

Not only do I hate this game, but this game has burned me out on the Kingdom Hearts series completely.  I still have two more games in the series backlogged and I have no desire whatsoever to start on them at all.

Pros:
 -None-

Cons:
* Boring game play mechanics
* No exploration
* Panel System
* Camera Control
* Awful Story
* No Quick-Save

Is it fun: No
Score: 1/10
Length:  ~30 hours
System: Nintendo DS
Genre: Action/RPG