PS3-exclusive Kingdom Hearts II.5 HD ReMIX (ugh, it's hard to make myself type "II.5") is overall a great package for longtime fans and complete newcomers alike. With its HD upgrades, rearranged soundtrack, and inclusion of "Final Mix" content never before seen outside of Japan, it's going to make a lot of folks happy when it's released on December 2.
Yes, Critical difficulty, which is a new addition above Proud difficulty and almost certainly aimed at players who've already cleared this game (perhaps multiple times), still makes players waste their precious time jumping through hoops to "learn" the system. It's not a huge amount in all honesty, but fuck, I'm getting old; death could be at my door and I gotta go, go, go, man.
Honestly, these learning segments add little if any characterization and aren't essential to the story. In a re-release, they should be treated like cutscenes. Story sequences can be skipped, why not tutorial segments as well? Just add a dialogue box:
You're playing on Critical Difficulty. You are probably a badass. Roxas runs up a hill and fights some "boss," the point of which is to teach you to use those triangle commands. You probably already know your shit though. Wanna skip this?-> Yes-> No
Kingdom Hearts II's Botched Opening
Before buying this game, I remembered and dreaded Kingdom Hearts II's opening moments with Roxas in Twilight Town. Nonetheless, I started it up, thinking that it couldn't possibly be as bad as I remembered.
Imagine packing up a car and being told by your parents that you're going to Disney World, but then your parents stopping in Gettysburg and Washington D.C. for days of battlefield and war memorial tours first.
"But if all these wars had turned out differently," they say when you ask impatiently when the promised Disney trip will finally happen, "There might be no Disney and no Final Fantasy at all!"
I understand that Roxas is an important part of the Kingdom Hearts universe, and an interesting one at that. But his gameplay bits are poorly constructed. They could have been structured a lot better. I feel like Square Enix and/or Tetsuya Nomura must have wanted players to like Roxas, so they asked something like "How can we make players care about this guy? More time with him," and then went ahead with making his entire intro into little more than hours of fluff, filler, fluffy fluffy filler filler, which fills and fills the voids with its fluffy flufferificness.
Twilight Town: Embracing the Bare Minimum Since 2005
While Traverse Town felt endearing and a lot like Disneyland's own Toon Town, Twilight Town suffers from a lack of flair. There's no personality here. It's big, wide, and empty — a giant boring place. Having to drag ass around its blandscapes only adds to the chore that is Kingdom Hearts II's opening hours.
Birth by Sleeping Through the First Parts of a Game
More of that tutorial problem shows up in the PSP-gone-PS3 game Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep. Having beaten and loved the PSP version, I'm well aware that you have to get used to each character's different play style. Allowing the players to get a handle on combat is a great, necessary inclusion, but again, I feel this should have been skippable like a cutscene. Yet it's mandatory, even when selecting Critical difficulty.
Yeah, that's the only bad thing I can say about Birth by Sleep though. If you never played it on PSP — and statistically speaking, especially outside of Japan, you probably didn't — then that game is the biggest reason to pick up the second HD ReMIX of the series.
It's Not the End of the HD Milk Man
If Square Enix gonna Square Enix, you can expect that this bundle's release brings fans no closer to Kingdom Hearts III. The popular rumor is that Dream Drop Distance is next in line for HD treatment. Whether that means a playable game or just included as a movie alongside something else is as much a mystery as everything else about the franchise's future right now. Square Enix's pattern, however, tends to push back sequel progress in favor of getting out the ports and remakes first.
Stay aesthetically pleasing, my friends.