The much awaited Kingdom Hearts 3 is still a little while away, but Square Enix has been gradually bringing the previous games in the franchise to modern consoles. This started last generation with the release of both Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 and 2.5 on PS3, which was followed by the more recent Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue for PS4 that even included entirely new content. Though the timing is a little odd to come after Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8, Square Enix has now brought the previous two collections together for PS3 to the PS4 in one game known as Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 + 2.5 ReMIX.
Kingdom Hearts series has been going for exactly 15 years in Japan and has spanned a number of platforms. The two main games, Kingdom Hearts and Kingdom Hearts II, both released for PS2, while the Game Boy Advance game Kingdom Hearts Chain of Memories was also ported to PS2 as Re:Chain of Memories a little later. The rest of the entries in the series prior to Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 released first on portable platforms as well, including 358/2 Days, Re:Coded, and Birth By Sleep. However, with the release of Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 +2.5 ReMIX, you can finally experience each of these on one single platform, even though some are included in cinematic form instead of an actual game.
This latest collection essentially combines the previous two HD ReMIX releases into one big game, with the game’s main menu allowing you to choose between each of them with ease. From this six game collection screen, you can pick any one of them to start that individual game, though you will have to go through that game’s loading screens as well. While it isn’t that difficult to go back to the PS4 UI to restart the game, you can easily return to the six game selection screen within the main menu of each individual game, which is very helpful.
Square Enix did a phenomenal job with the original two ReMIX collections in how impressive they were able to make each of the games look, each of which now look even better. It’s not a drastic improvement or anything in Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 + 2.5 ReMIX, as they already looked quite good on PS3, though you can definitely tell a little bit of a difference. You definitely won’t be getting anything near the visuals of 0.2: Birth By Sleep here for sure, but you do get to experience it at 60fps.
One of the problems that the Kingdom Hearts series in general has had over the years has been annoyingly long load times, with the PS3 collections also having issues with this. This included cutscene transitions, as well as when changing drive forms in Kingdom Hearts II, but that has been greatly improved in Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 + 2.5 ReMIX. On the downside, the upgrade to 60fps has also led to some bugs, including stuttering at times, especially in Kingdom Hearts II. The Japanese version also launched with some bugs that Square Enix has been quick to patch and have already said they are working on a day one patch for this collection as well, along with working on other potential issues.
Other than the graphical improvements and higher frame rate, the games found in Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 + 2.5 are almost exactly as you found them in their PS3 releases. However, some of the games in those collections featured improvements that have been carried over to this game as well.
Taking a look at the individual games in the collection, Kingdom Hearts is definitely the first that should be played as it introduces you to Sora, Riku, and everyone else, which comes with a number of improvements from its PS2 release that were previously seen in Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMIX. One of the biggest changes made in that collection that is retained here is to the camera, which changes from the system on PS2 that was controlled by the shoulder buttons and instead is controlled by the right analog stick like its sequel. However, this camera control can still be way too sensitive at times to where you’re almost fighting against it to get its placement exactly where you want it.
The method in which you interact with objects is also different than in the original PS2 release, as you now can interact by pressing Triangle instead of having to specifically select an action on the command bar. Where this command previously was now has summons instead, so the experience feels much more streamlined than ever.
Kingdom Hearts Re:Chain of Memories takes place between Kingdom Heart and Kingdom Hearts II and adopts a very different gameplay style from anything else in the series. Rather than the action setup found in the others, Re:Chain of Memories utilizes a card system that can take some getting used to. Some may think that this is a game that can just be skipped, but it really ties in a lot to Kingdom Hearts II and even has a second story mode where you can play as Riku.
Brings the rest of the series to a modern console
Beyond these two games, the one other game that made up the 1.5 collection is the cinematic version of 358/2 Days. Similarly, the other Kingdom Hearts release on DS, Re:coded is handled in the same exact way in this new version of Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5, with neither game having any gameplay at all. The cutscenes that were made completely new for the PS3 releases still look great, with 358/2 Days definitely having the more intriguing story of the two. The only real downside of both games is that rather than it being a straight movie like experience for the three or so hours on each, there are parts that are long text based screens that you have to go through. These kind of interrupt the flow with both of them, though Re:coded does a little better with this than 358/2 Days.
Besides Re:coded in Kingdom Hearts HD 2.5, the other games from that collection were Kingdom Hearts II and Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep, both of which are fully playable. For the most part, Kingdom Hearts II is mostly as it was on the PS2 mechanically, as most changes made to the first game were just to make it more in line with II anyways. The story found in II is a direct continuation of the events found in the first game and Re:Chain of Memories, though it gets much more ambitious with the introduction of the mysterious Organization XIII.
Building off the story found in Kingdom Hearts II in other ways, Birth By Sleep is one of the most unique games in the series as it was a prequel that introduced three completely new protagonists to the franchise including the fan favorite Aqua. Originally releasing for PSP, this definitely saw an upgrade visually along with some other alterations to make it work better on consoles in the original 2.5 release and it still plays very well here.
One of the biggest selling points of the two original HD ReMIX collection beyond just getting an HD upgrade was the inclusion of the Final Mix versions of Kingdom Hearts, Kingdom Hearts II, and Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep. The Final Mix version of each was previously exclusive to Japan, as it came out after the US release, and featured new content. However, these were included in the PS3 releases and are also now a part of this massive collection as well.
Fans already got the partially new Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 earlier this year, but now Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 + 2.5 ReMIX brings the rest of the series to a modern console. The jump to the PS4 has allowed the games to reach up to 60fps, but that has also seemingly led to some performance bugs that Square Enix has already stated will be patched. Even with very few changes from the two previous HD ReMIX releases on PS3, having this many classic games in one definitive collection makes Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 + 2.5 ReMIX a must buy for any fan, while also serving an an excellent introduction for anybody looking to check out the franchise for the first time.